[wisb] Re: Counting after the fact birds

  • From: Danny Akers <birdmandan1231@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: WISC Listserv <wisbirdn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 12:34:06 -0500

Tom Erdman and Wayne Rohde both bring up excellent thoughts and arguments, so I 
figured I'd comment again on both.
I don't disagree with Tom on the importance of photographs for identification, 
in fact I'm in agreement with him. The question that springs up in my mind here 
is whether or not the original observer(s) can "ethically" count the birds on 
their list when they were identified after the fact. It boils down to a state's 
list versus an individual's list; sure, if it really IS identified after the 
fact (such as picking that Stint out of a massive flock of shorebirds in 
flight), that bird really WAS present and should be treated as such with the 
photographic evidence for the state checklist. But I still don't feel the 
individual should count the bird on their personal list, seeing as they 
couldn't identify the bird in the field. On a side note, I guess that would 
cause a conundrum with eBird to report the bird but keep it off an individual 
As far as Wayne's scenarios, I didn't see anything there that would make me 
lean towards NOT counting any birds.... all the scenarios seemed acceptable for 
counting to me at least, except perhaps 1), where on a Big Day you need to 
follow the rules for counting (certain percentage of members have to see the 
bird, yadda yadda yadda....)...  2), I don't see an issue with, because the 
birds were recognized as possibly being something different and needed a closer 
look (via any means necessary). Because they were noted as being odd in the 
field, I feel those are entirely countable. 3), being sticky, and perhaps 
getting a little philosophical ;), I see no issue with snapping a picture of 
the bird in the field and using the camera zoom to look for field marks or 
characteristics to aid in the identification. You're in the field, still 
observing the bird, and apparently feel that the bird is "off" enough to snap a 
picture of it (or you have a hunch of what the bird might be). 
I idea of a reverse identification poses some thought for myself, however. You 
identify a bird in the field as such, take a picture for idenitification and 
later see that you were mistaken and additional field marks pop out. As such, I 
think one wouldn't have a choice in retracting that identification unless 
additional observers feel that such a discussion is warranted from additional 
observation or additional photos..... man this weather is making us nuts....
I see an addendum from Wayne regarding mirrors, I've often used the mirrors of 
my vehicles to look at a bird on a power line or fence post behind me. 
Technically the bird is still present, you're just observing it through a 
mirror.... or mirrors, just like a scope!
Bottom line, in my opinion, it all boils down to whether your recognize the 
bird in the field, regardless of the aid.... scope, binoculars, camera, etc. So 
long as you're in the field and you can still view that photo you took, to look 
for the identifying field marks, behavior, and characteristics, I see no issue 
with counting a bird. But when you get home and see that Red-necked Stint in 
the background and you didn't notice it earlier, you better get back out there 
the next day to try and find it!
One more final thought..... where are we going to draw the line when someday we 
have the technology that tells us..... "you are looking at a first-fall female 
Pine Warbler"...... just THEN where do we draw the line?
Danny Akers
Iowa City & Ankeny, IA

> From: wsrohde@xxxxxxxxxxxx
> To: wisbirdn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: [wisb] Re: the Counting Question!
> Date: Wed, 20 Apr 2011 11:56:20 -0500
> Just because it's another dreary day...
> I'll chime in with my own (tentative) thoughts:
> 1) As for my own practice, I don't do much competitive birding either, 
> though I do enjoy a Big Day Count or so each May. And for the record, I 
> don't count birds that, for example, I see in a photograph "after the fact" 
> but not in real time. I appreciate the fact that those who compete should 
> do so according to the prescribed set of rules. No argument from me on this 
> matter!
> 2) On the other hand, I personally think (subject to correction) that it was 
> OK to record the Red-necked and Western Grebes I found on a CBC ... even 
> though I needed some "enlargement help" to (at least initially) confirm ID. 
> This was made easier by the fact that later that same day I returned to the 
> site, saw the grebes at much closer range, and could (I take it) identify 
> them perfectly alright at that point! And of course I had no qualms about 
> alerting other birders to the presence of the grebes once I knew about them. 
> (To frame this another way, what if prior to viewing my images I was 50% 
> sure of the grebes' ID? What if I were 90% sure? Where is that line???)
> 3) But here's where things get a bit more sticky. It seems to me that we 
> have a couple of different sets of variables with which we're trying to 
> deal. One has to do with the initial "observation" situation (e.g., was a 
> camera employed in the field to augment magnification for ID purposes? ... 
> or was a bird later discovered in a photo back at home? ... etc.). These 
> are differing situations. The other has to do with the reporting of such 
> situations (i.e., is it fair to use alternative methods for one's own 
> purposes? ... or for a CBC? ... or for alerting other birders? ... or for 
> competitive purposes?). These are also differing scenarios!
> To really go out on a limb, I'd like to combine a couple of the above 
> situation/scenarios, and state my opinion (again, subject to correction).
> So here's my example. What if I'm birding and using a scope, and simply 
> don't have enough magnification to ID a bird. So I slip my digital camera 
> in place and digiscope and image of the bird, and then magnify it to view it 
> on my LCD - in the field. What if I then can ID the bird - in the field? 
> Here's my questions: First, can I count it on my personal list? I would 
> say yes. Second, can I report it to, say, the CBC? Again, I would say yes. 
> The bird was there, and the data is important. (But some may disagree.) 
> Third, can I count this bird on a Big Day? Hmmm... It's getting more 
> difficult to say, is it not? (Here's where I think people would disagree. 
> While most folks would not think it appropriate to add a bird to one's list 
> that's later discovered in a photo, I sense that this business of using 
> digiscoping as an aid to ID while still in the field is harder to guage.)
> Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that it is OK to use such a 
> process on the spot out in the field ... even for competitive birding. 
> (Again, just for the sake of argument.) But what if I couldn't see my LCD, 
> so I walked to the car to view it in better conditions? Would that be OK? 
> (If the car was right next to me? Or within 20 feet?) If so (just for the 
> sake of argument), what if I still couldn't tell, so I transferred the image 
> to my laptop in the car for a better look-see? And (for the sake of 
> argument) if that's OK, what if I didn't have the laptop in my car, but 
> drove home to view the same image on my computer at home?
> And... What if I did all of this, then went back and looked at the bird 
> again. Could I count it then? (But what if it hadn't moved? Could I be 
> objective about the degree of my ID ability at that point? Or would I just 
> be reading into the situation what I learned from my LCD or monitor? Then 
> again, what if the light was better later on???)
> Or, to further confuse everyone, we all know that every single one of us has 
> erred in bird ID (at least once or twice!). I would imagine that we are 
> most prone to mistakes when birding at the limits, at greater distances. 
> What if someone truly thought, via a scope view only, that a certain bird 
> was "bird A." But what if I did the camera thing, and discovered that my 
> friend had erred in his or her judgment? Could my image disprove the 
> initial ID? Could it or should it overturn it?
> I have a hunch that all these speculations are more than just academic 
> questions to ponder on rainy days. New technology may very well challenge 
> our ability to determine what's fitting and what's not fitting for 
> observations, reporting, etc. What if, for example, some super duper scope 
> was invented that allowed one to peer into places no traditional scope could 
> venture?
> Just where do we draw these lines???
> Wayne Rohde
> Walworth, WI 
> ####################
> You received this email because you are subscribed to the Wisconsin Birding 
> Network (Wisbirdn).
> To UNSUBSCRIBE or SUBSCRIBE, use the Wisbirdn web interface at: 
> http://www.freelists.org/list/wisbirdn
> To set DIGEST or VACATION modes, use the Wisbirdn web interface at: 
> http://www.freelists.org/list/wisbirdn
> Visit Wisbirdn ARCHIVES at: http://www.freelists.org/archives/wisbirdn
You received this email because you are subscribed to the Wisconsin Birding 
Network (Wisbirdn).
To UNSUBSCRIBE or SUBSCRIBE, use the Wisbirdn web interface at: 
To set DIGEST or VACATION modes, use the Wisbirdn web interface at: 
Visit Wisbirdn ARCHIVES at: http://www.freelists.org/archives/wisbirdn

Other related posts: