Team eBird Michigan- who we are

Welcome to the Team eBird Michigan blog; your place for all things eBird in Michigan! We are very excited to announce this blog, which will serve to help all eBirders better understand how eBird works in the Great Lakes State. Although the idea of eBird is pretty simple (enter your bird sightings!), there are many twists and turns to using eBird correctly, and it is our job to make sure everyone knows how to do that. As eBird reviewers, we also need to ensure that eBird records are vetted for accuracy, so that the database maintains its highest possible level of quality. There are lots of very neat tools for exploring the eBird dataset, and we aim to make sure you are aware of them all. As time allows, we will update this blog with all kinds of interesting content, and we hope you will check in often.

Following eBird’s inception in the late 1990s and early 2000s, its first Michigan reviewer, Adam Byrne, was brought on board by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Adam has singlehandedly nursed the Michigan eBird dataset since then, until the addition of a second reviewer in 2013 (see below). Team eBird Michigan is in the process of making some big changes to the review process and eBird filters in Michigan, and we will update you here as these changes occur.

But we wanted to start with a simple introduction of who we are currently:

Adam M. Byrne, DeWitt, MI (originally from Davisburg, MI)

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Adam is a Cornell University  & Michigan State University graduate with a lifelong interest in birds. He is a plant pathology research assistant at Michigan State University, and has been involved at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory both as waterbird counter and as a member of the board of directors. Adam is Michigan’s top lister, having recorded 398 species of birds in Michigan in his lifetime, and a longstanding member and current secretary of the Michigan Bird Records Committee. Adam has statewide review responsibility for all MBRC Review Species, and for all bird species in 77 of Michigan’s 83 counties.

Caleb Putnam, Kentwood, MI (originally from Lapeer, MI)

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Caleb is an Alma College and University of Montana graduate who became obsessed with birds around age 8 and hasn’t let up since. Caleb is the Michigan Important Bird Areas (IBA) program coordinator for National Audubon Society, and has worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service & Michigan Audubon as Kirtland’s Warbler tour guide, and for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and frequently gives presentations to state Audubon chapters and leads tours for Michigan Audubon. Caleb reviews non-MBRC review species for Muskegon, Montcalm, Newaygo, Kent, Ionia, and Barry Counties, and is currently overhauling the Michigan eBird filters for the entire state (more on this topic in a future blogpost).

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7 thoughts on “Team eBird Michigan- who we are

  1. Fantastic!! eBird has become an obsession of mine and I’m happy to say I’ve been an enabler for some very active birders to become addicted as well. I will check in on the blog very often!

    Steven F. Kahl
    Refuge Manager, Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

  2. Thank you Steve! We are very excited about this opportunity to interact with users more often. It is worth mentioning that we are attempting to create a filter which will be unique to Shiawassee NWR, given its extraordinary concentrations of marshbirds, waterbirds, and shorebirds. This way, other locations in Saginaw County will not be subject to such lenient filters. I’ll get back to you as this gets closer.

    Take care,
    Caleb

  3. I love eBird and use it to record all my sightings and to research what birds are being seen in my area and beyond. I sometimes get very frustrated with the process of birds being accepted. Some people get confirmed sightings without even an explanation and others have to provide photos, descriptions, etc.. for the same bird. So if this blog answers many of those questions and makes us all better eBirders, I am all for it…. I have included a link to this blog on my own birding blog…

    Paul Poronto

  4. Paul-

    Thanks for your comment. Please resist the urge to get frustrated with the review process. I assure you it is not arbitrary, nor do we approach it with any negativity to any specific observer. We are doing our best to make judgment calls on records which are ‘flagged’ by the filters, and our actions are just our opinions of whether documentation provided meets a minimum standard for the species claimed. They are not a commentary on the reputation or skills of the birder. Adam and I are both quite religious about leaving observer out of the equation, and focusing on the quality of the documentation provided. The filters for MI are admittedly in rough shape still, and fixing this problem is the focus of my free time right now (and has been for months). As this gets better (watch for a blogpost on this as soon as I have time) you will see fewer unnecessary observations flagging. As for your own documentation, whenever anything flags, even when you don’t feel it merits flagging, please just put in all of the field marks you observed that led you to your ID. Let on to your awareness of the rarity level of the bird you are claiming. And above all, please trust that we are doing our best even when we invalidate records. We really don’t come at this with a judgmental or negative tone, and we want to help everyone, not hurt them.

    Finally, the observations you observe to have been approved without explanation, may have snuck through a lax filter, rather than having been validated. Again, as the filters are improved, this will decrease. Thanks for your comments, and we look forward to more observations of yours!

    Caleb

  5. One thing worth remembering with the review process is that it’s the list after list of mundane birds we enter (that don’t even raise a flag) that are making eBird a more valuable repository of data by the hour. I’m planning to enter about 500 lists this year, and I guarantee at least once I’ll be certain of a sighting and either Adam or Caleb will disagree that I’ve provided enough evidence and invalidate that record. Who does that really hurt? It’s one datum that is excluded vs. the thousands of observations of mine that are accepted to the data base. I’d encourage everyone to remember that the negative of a rarity denied is far outweighed by the positive of piles of lists of common birds accepted. As with any database, eBird’s strength comes from volume of data. Let’s all keep stuffing the database full of observations even when we hit a bump or two in the review process.

    There are a lot of topics I hope to see here as time goes on. The importance of turning a rarity twitch into an effort based list. (No one-species lists with only a King Eider!) The pros and cons of using a hotspot for somewhere like Shiawassee vs. multiple personal locations within the refuge. The importance of visiting under-ebirded sights at under-ebirded times. (Road trip to Presque Isle County!) Etc. This should be a great resource coupled with Cornell’s stuff on the actual sight.

  6. This sounds like a great opportunity for birders of Michigan to learn the eBird system. PLEASE start by explaining, for those who haven’t mastered the eBird system, the basics. I enter my observations regularly but I realize I do not know how to realize the full potential of eBird. Often new internet programs fall short because its managers are convinced that their use is “intuitive” to all. Please start at the beginning, rather than assuming we are all computer mavens. Thank you very much!

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