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David McQuade — September 24, 05:21PM

Pelagic Birding

Thanks for reading my email. I live in Fort Myers, FL, USA. I have started using my boat to run offshore in search of birds. My boat has a 300 mile range, so a typical palegic trip will be between 150-250 miles with 4-6 people.
SW Florida is pretty different from the Atlantic and EXTREMELY different from the pacific ocean. The quantity of birds in the Gulf of Mexico off SW Florida is modest compared to these other locations.
So my question is, I recently started using approximatley a 1 hour time block for most of the legs of the trip. We are typically running between 25-35mph scanning for birds. That means I could be making an ebird report with my "mark" 20-30 miles from where I actually saw the bird! It is too difficult and time consuming to make 15 minute reports, with my typical crew, since I am the captain, ebird reporter, and I typically find a lot of the birds by visually scanning the horizon. Consequently, I'm stretched pretty thin from a multitasking standpoint.
Previously, I had been just making reports at the actual location of the sightings of the birds. I was chastised by a "pelagic expert" for not putting in the dead zones too, and having blank reports. They said the blank reports are just as important.
From my point of view, I want to see where we are actually seeing the birds consistently, not a 30 mile range!. So my question is, would you consider it reasonable to have an hour long report with the occasional mafr, or rote reported, then do a 5 minute report for the specialty or rarer bird so the location is more pinpointed? Obviously, I want to make the information as valuable as possible to the scientists, as well as my self. Thanks for your help.

Mark Stevenson — September 24, 06:16PM

Have you read the eBird page "eBird Pelagic Protocol"?

http://help.ebird.org/customer/en/portal/articles/1375503-ebird-pelagic-protocol?b_id=1928

The protocol specifies traveling counts of one hour or less, which sounds like what you were doing. Note that it specifies where you should plot the position and other items. (The data will analyzed under the assumption that you followed the protocol.)

Does that help?

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David McQuade — September 24, 11:04PM

Mark, I have read the pelagic protocols a couple times. They recommend putting the coordinate in the notes for the bird. What im trying to determine is whether it is ok to a 1 hour time periods followed by a 2 minute time interval when we see rare birds?
On a different note, it would be nice if eBird could distinguish between locations as to whether a bird is rare or not. For example our local eBird reviewer has Sooty Terns marked as rare for our county. They are extremely rare with in 30 miles of the coast. However, when you go out 40-60 miles offshore theyre fairly common. It would be nice if eBird could make allowances for different locations such as way offshore.

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Mark Stevenson — September 25, 08:11AM

The article mentions the option of entering an incidental checklist for a rarity mapped at the exact location of the observation of the rarity.

On land, a 2 minute stationary is sub-optimal in duration, with a 5 minute duration being the recommended minimum. At sea, I don't know what the optimal minimum would be. A stationary count is defined as covering 30 meters or less distance. How easy is it to maintain a position that accurately at sea?

Re: eBird filters and Sooty Terns: A single "filter" probably has to apply to the entire county. I live in a county that has altitude related habitat variation that is the equivalent of a trip from Mexico to Canada. You can imagine the compromises required by having a single filter for the entire county. Moving forward, the filters will be more finely divided.

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