Ottawa in the rain

Yesterday Sandra had to do a lecture in Ottawa and so I tagged along, dropped her off and then went on a short tour of the north shore of the Ottawa River. I started at Andrew Hayer Park and quickly found one of the Brent Geese that had been seen there recently. It fed on the grassy bank of a small lake and was only slightly discombobulated by my waving the camera at it. The light was awful and it was raining but I still got a record shot of what appears to be a pale-bellied type immature. Also there were a few Hooded Mergansers and I snapped both American Herring Gull and Ring-billed Gull, it was quiet otherwise.

IMG_5370 IMG_5386 IMG_5394 IMG_5407 IMG_5412 IMG_5419

Moving on I went to Shirley’s Bay. This time last year (roughly) it was pretty good there with scoters and rafts of duck which included a female Tufted type. Not this time though although I did see two Red-necked Grebes, a few Common Loons and a male Northern Harrier but it was very slow otherwise. With another couple of hours to kill I went along to the various lookouts off the Macdonald Parkway and stared at distant ducks.  There were lots of Common Goldeneye around and a few smart males were displaying to a lone female, she seemed uninterested though no matter how much they threw back their heads, kicked their feet and croaked. Perhaps they’ll have more chance in better light.

We had hoped to get out to the Navan area east of Ottawa to look for Sandhill Cranes after the lecture had been delivered but Ottawa traffic took care of that, it took over an hour to get out of the city with the only entertainment being traffic lights that change to green and give pedestrians the crossing sign at the same time, boy can some of those people move quickly when faced with an SUV! I can only think that the idiot that designed Québec’s roads is moonlighting at Ottawa traffic control.

I put my stuff into eBird as usual but I don’t like the Ontario listings that come up, they load it with various sps (merganser sp) etc, all junk that that really annoys me and largely irrelevant as a recording device which, after all, is what eBird is.


4 thoughts on “Ottawa in the rain

  1. ctrl-j is your friend for Ontario posts. Let`s say you put 29 in the Bufflehead box. The next thing on your list is Song Sparrow. You don`t want to scroll through sps that occur between bufflehead and sparrow. Hit ctrl-j and type in song and it will take you right to it.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Ebird is indeed a recording tool, not simply a twitcher’s recording tool, or lister’s corner, or rare bird alert although it gets used by everyone. The data collected is used for some analysis so people should strive to make their lists as useful as possible. So here’s where I’m going to have to disagree with you on the sp. thing. It serves various purposes be you a twitcher or not.

    Placing an x in the species numbers probably of less value than putting 100 blackbird sp. x is what twitchers and lazy people do ( I’m guilty of both of these so I’m not criticizing), if you put x in the observation someone analyzing population trends probably think “this list is irrelevant and pointless” and probably thinks that x shouldn’t be an option because people should be able to count. There could be 1 bird or 100000000, x offers no information other then presence absence. I just had a look at your checklist and noticed the x for greater and lesser scaup, from that I have no idea how many birds were there. Depending on how many birds were present it might be hard to get a breakdown of the numbers of each species is present but by adding an estimate of greater/lesser scaup to your list we would still be able to know that there were both species because you x-ed them, additionally we’d have an idea of the size of the mixed flock. Someone looking at trends in scaup migration might lump these anyways.

    Another example would be a large flock of blackbirds in the distance, odds are grackles, red-winged blackbirds, maybe a few rustys and cowbirds thrown in. If they are close enough you might be able to put x for one or several species but again it gives no indication to the number of birds there. Saying 10 000 blackbird sp. is probably more valuable data to some than x grackle and x red-winged blackbird. Having the sp. option allows people to put the them on their list rather than ” well odds they were grackles so I’ll list them as grackles”, it’s better to put sp. than make up data, sp. should help remind some that you can’t always ID everything. If they are too far for ID that’s 10 000 birds which weren’t included in the checklist, just because you can’t ID them doesn’t mean they were there. In addition a keen birder might go try and find such an aggregation and try and spot a less common species mixed in. If the people at ebird didn’t want the sp. to be reported I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t allow it as an option…

    Then there are situations where the species ID is difficult/impossible at the time of the observation. For example if an Empidonax flycatcher were to show up at this point Empidonax sp. might be the way to go for the ID. Odds are that the bird won’t be signing so calling it a willow or an alder based on looks alone would be questionable at the very least. Nonetheless it would be a noteworthy observation.

    The sp. also lets novices have an option other than making a call which they might not be comfortable with while still contributing to ebird; a distant flock of scaup, mixed blackbird flock,distant female scoters, or ibis ? Although you might not care for the blackbirds I’m sure you’d be distraught if someone saw a flock of Ibis sp. at the pits and didn’t report it because they weren’t sure if it was white-faced of glossy.

    • Hi Greg

      I’d have to disagree with you about the value of X Greg. X is used to denote a presence and is therefore useful when assessing range if not the number of birds present. It is not always practical to count the birds every time, as you know, but with reference to the scaup, there is a slightly earlier checklist with counts, a baseline if you like.

      The sp. issue is only an issue if the sps appear in the basic view and that is one of the points I’m making. The basic view should only be the seasonally filtered species list and anyone wanting to add sps should be able to get them the same way you do when entering, for example, hybrid geese. Back in the mid 1980s when I was recording and writing bird reports I made every effort to expunge sps from the official record except in the case of ‘issue’ species, ibis would certainly fall into that category here. I don’t think people who habitually report sps do themselves any good as I would always be suspicious of an individuals identification capabilities if each eBird report they filed was littered with sps. I myself average over 290 bird days per year and have done for the past 30 years, had I reported every bird I saw but didn’t identify due to range of view or whatever then the data would need its own server!

      Ebird will improve in many areas and I think the sp issue is one that can be improved upon quickly (and I’ve mentioned that in constructive comments to them), I’d also like to see the patch section refined for very much the same reasons you make regarding counts. You know my patch, it is a relatively small and defined area and I don’t record outside that area (well I do but as a new location) and that, to me, is how a patch should be defined. There are patches listed in the stats that extend for many kilometers or cover xKM circles. They are not patches but places you bird because you simply cannot cover a patch that size accurately, something eBird would prefer you to do I’m sure.

      I’m pleased that you felt stimulated enough to comment and I accept your comments to a point.

      Incidentally, have you looked at the Bubo listing site? It is just a listing tool and a very public one too for those willing to enter their lists. Trivial they may be to some but I would say that listing, in whatever form, is a required motivation for many people to get out and contribute.


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