Friday, April 5, 2013

eBird Hides My Way!

Last weekend I went to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge again, as it is my new favorite place to go birding. It is a nice place, a nice walk that is a bit long for good exercise, and it has a lake, wetlands, and forest habitat that gives a nice range of birds. Of the four times I’ve visited in the last week and a half (including a really short visit), I recorded new species each time. It is a nice spot and lots of birders go there because there are lots of birds there.

So I woke up last Saturday before the sun and got to the park a little after sunrise. It was a nice day with not much wind (though it gets windy near the lake), and I was heartened to see a red fox using the long foot bridge to cross the lake. Not a bird, but red foxes are great indicators of wildness in the area. I did see a brown creeper finally, but then I saw another one on the other side of the lake (you see, once you see something once then you will constantly see it). I also met up with a photographer who was lining up a good picture of a great blue heron and we chatted for a bit and looked for the owls together (we saw the Great Horned Owl nest, but the Saw Whet Owl apparently has gone). The lower wind and nicer temperatures brought out a bunch of photographers and birders, and I was happy to be there on such a perfect day even though I only added three new birds. Hey, three birds isn’t bad, especially since one was an owl

One of the other birds I saw last Saturday was a Marsh Wren. Oh, it was a Marsh Wren, there is no doubt, and I stood there and stared at that damn thing through my binoculars for a good five minutes, even following it as it flew across a dry stream bed. That last part is important, because I could see its color very vividly while it flew, and I looked at its markings around its eyes, breast, rump, and tail. It was a no doubt identification, and I was happy because this would be my third wren of the year (after the ubiquitous Carolina and the Winter Wren from the previous week). I was reveling in wrens!

So I went back and put my bird observations for that trip in eBird (because I am now an eBird user) when I was surprised to find that the Marsh Wren is a rare sighting for this area and time of the year. Score! I am helping with my observations! I inputted my observations (what I saw, why I thought it was that species) and waited for an email for confirmation like the previous woodpecker sighting. I joked with Paul in an email that eBird wouldn’t believe me.

So on Sunday I was chatting with Paul and checking the rare bird sighting for my county and the ones around it (I live in Delaware County, the refuge is officially in Philadelphia County) and saw only two rare sightings for both Delaware and Philadelphia counties. The Delco (that is what us cool kids call our county, at least I imagine so) listing had a laughable “black capped chickadee” sighting (again, that person didn’t see one and wouldn’t be able to tell if they did) and the Philly one had a hawk and my marsh wren (unconfirmed). Pretty boring rare sightings, especially as compared to the listings neighboring New Castle County in Delaware that were full of Anna’s Hummingbirds, Brants, Crossbills, and Red Throated Loons.

The next morning I had four hours of free time (!) so I prepared to go birding by checking the rare bird sightings around me. Nothing new, though in Philadelphia County they only had one sighting: the hawk.


There wasn’t anything in my email with questions about it and when I searched on the map for Marsh Wren sighting in March it was nowhere to be found. Sure, it was tucked away with my trip list, but for all intents and purposes my sighting of it was wiped away from the site.

So basically, the person in charge of Philadelphia County looked at my sighting and just said “nope, they didn’t see that, I’ll just discount it” despite my description and without even contacting me.

Does eBird often do this? Do they just discount sightings ‘just because’?

You know, I previous joked about eBird not believing me, but it sure appears that they actually didn't believe me.

This is off putting.

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