As you may recall, I recently took over as editor of NJ Birds for Region 2 (basically the northeast portion on NJ). I finally wrapped up my first report over the weekend for Fall 2008. (Yes, I'm a wee bit behind!) Here are some observations on being an editor of bird records:
- It's more work than I originally thought! It took me about 8-10 hours of work over the weekend to compile everything. Granted, I hadn't had the opportunity to log the sightings from the fall as they were reported. Also, using my background as a programmer, I was able to build a small program that takes a spreadsheet of records and formats them to the standard publication format. That accounted for a few hours.
- I now have an even better appreciation for eBird and REALLY wish every birder used it (I'm guilty as anyone). It would make my life a whole lot easier. Cornell sent a data dump from eBird for the state. I was able to glean tons of sightings that weren't reported to me or to the Jerseybirds mailing list.
- You obviously can't include every record due to space, but you wish you could. Sorry to all my friends out there whose records may not have made it into the final report.
- I have a better appreciation and understanding of the bird distribution in my region. For the fall specifically, it was interesting to learn more about typical arrival/departure dates, popular staging areas for waterfowl, high counts of species, and seasonal anomalies. For example, a Bobolink was observed on 10/13 which is pretty late for this species in NJ.
- The reports give an in-depth seasonal view of bird activity at less well-known birding spots thanks to some dedicated birders. Areas like Baldpate Mountain and Mehrhof Pond may not be on every birder's list of top locations, but the list of sightings would make any birder think twice. Baldpate hosted great warblers and other fall migrants, while Mehrhof held a hefty 1800 Ruddy Ducks at one point among other goodies. Must be a big pond. These sightings help motivate me to step away from my more comfortable birding locales.
- You never know where you'll find birds. One regular contributor stopped off at a random plowed field in early September and found a host of shorebirds including American Golden-Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and an Upland Sandpiper (rare in migration in NJ).
- There are rarities such as a November Bewick's Wren that was not reported publicly, but was well-documented and reported only to the editor and records committee.
So, it's on to my winter records now which I hope to finish up this week. I have about a zillion Siskin and WW Crossbill sightings to weed through. Snowy Owls made a nice appearance this winter too. I'll let you know when the Spring 2009 (with Fall records) issue is published online so you can see my report.