Procedures for Expedited Review of Eligible eBird Records

I. Introduction

The Virginia Avian Records Committee (“VARCOM”) has reviewed an eBird memorandum that discusses the manner in which eBird and bird records committees such as VARCOM may work together to eliminate duplication in the review process, keep pace with increasing records of rare birds and ensure that reports of significant birds are filed in eBird and submitted for review by VARCOM. VARCOM also has reviewed the procedures adopted by the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (“MARC”) in 2013 to implement an eBird/MARC cooperation program and the successful experience of MARC thereunder.

Based on the foregoing reviews, VARCOM believes that an eBird/VARCOM cooperation program of the type contemplated by eBird and successfully implemented by MARC will result in benefits to eBird, VARCOM and the greater birding community. Accordingly, VARCOM has approved these Procedures for Expedited Review of Eligible eBird Records. These procedures provide for an expedited review process that defers to local eBird reviewers for straightforward eBird records that are documented by a photo, video or audio recording. Under these procedures any Voting Member of VARCOM may require that any eBird record accepted through the expedited review process be submitted to VARCOM for a formal review. In addition, sight-only eBird records, eBird records of species that are particularly difficult to identify and certain other eBird records will continue to go through formal review by VARCOM.

In order to authorize the new procedures VARCOM approved the following addition to the section of its By-laws that deals with review and acceptance of records by VARCOM:

“VARCOM may have a process for expedited review using a compatible bird record review system (e.g., eBird) for certain records such that they are presumed accepted if they have passed that process. However, prior to publication in the annual report or such other time as may be established by VARCOM any Voting Member can require that any such record go through the full voting procedures outlined in Section VI.”

In accordance with the VARCOM By-laws, the Board of Directors of the Virginia Society of Ornithology (“VSO”) also must approve this amendment.

II.  Criteria for Determining eBird Records Eligible for Expedited Review

A. Except as provided in Section II.B, an eBird record shall be eligible for expedited review by VARCOM (an “eligible eBird record”) if it:

(i)   contains an adequate photo, video or audio recording of (x) a VARCOM review list species, or (y) another species in circumstances (such as unusual seasonality, etc.) that make the record significant to VARCOM in the judgment of the Chairman of VARCOM (the “Chairman”) and a Voting Member of VARCOM designated by VARCOM for purposes of these procedures (the “designated Voting Member”); and

(ii)   has been validated in eBird by an eBird reviewer pursuant to the eBird  review process.

B. An eBird record shall not be eligible for expedited review and shall be subject to formal review by VARCOM in any of the following circumstances:

(i)  it does not meet each of the criteria set forth in Section II.A;

(ii)   the subject species is new for the state;

(iii)  there are fewer than threerecords of the subject species in the state (or such other number as may be established or agreed to by VARCOM) ;

(iv) the subject species or subspecies is deemed by VARCOM to be particularly difficult to identify (e.g., Thayer’s Gull, Empidonax flycatchers, Tropical/Couch’s Kingbirds, etc.);

(v)   in the judgment of an eBird reviewer the record deserves formal review by VARCOM;

(vi)  in the judgment of the Chairman or the designated Voting Member the record deserves formal review by VARCOM; and

(vii) any Voting Member of VARCOM submits to the Secretary of VARCOM (the “Secretary”) a written request (which may be by email)  that the record undergo formal review by VARCOM and the reason therefor any time prior to the conclusion of the next annual meeting of VARCOM (or such other time as may be established by VARCOM).

C. To facilitate identification of eligible eBird records, VARCOM may maintain a list of species referred to in Section II.B(iii) and/or particularly difficult-to-identify species that require full review. VARCOM shall regularly review and if appropriate modify any such list. 

III.  Process for Determining Eligible eBird Records

A. The Secretary and the designated Voting Member shall regularly (i.e., every 2-4 months) review eBird records for Virginia to help identify and provisionally accept eligible eBird records on behalf of VARCOM. Potential eligible eBird records may be identified by any member of the Committee, an eBird reviewer for Virginia or any other person through review of rare eBird alerts and other current or historical eBird records for Virginia or in any other manner. The Secretary and the designated Voting Member shall develop such procedures for the timing of such reviews, exchange of information, meetings, etc. as they deem advisable to enable them tohelp identify and provisionally accept eligible eBird records. 

B. The Secretary and the designated Voting Member may discuss any eBird record with the Chairman, any other member of VARCOM and any eBird reviewer for Virginia in connection with their evaluation whether such record is an eligible eBird record that should be provisionally accepted and subject to expedited review by VARCOM.  

C. Any record of a review list species not submitted to eBird by an actual observer may be submitted by such observer or the Secretary to VARCOM for a formal review.

IV. Expedited Review of Eligible eBird Records

A.  The Secretary shall regularly circulate to Voting Members eligible eBird records that have been provisionally accepted on behalf of VARCOM pursuant to Section III.A. In connection therewith, the Secretary shall advise Voting Members that each eligible eBird record is eligible for expedited review, and that: 

(i)  Voting Members need not vote or comment on any such record;

(ii)  any such record will undergo formal review by VARCOM if a Voting Member provides the Secretary a written request (which may be by email) for such review and the reason therefor any time prior to the conclusion of the next annual meeting of VARCOM (or such other time as may be established by VARCOM); and

(iii)  in the absence of objections (which shall be archived) or a request for formal review by a Voting Member, each such record will be formally accepted by VARCOM.

B. If a Voting Member does not timely request formal review of an eligible eBird record or otherwise object, the Secretary shall submit such record to VARCOM through DOVES (Database for Ornithological Verification and Submission) if it has not already been so submitted by the filer of such record in eBird, and accept such record in DOVES. A submission of an eligible eBird record through DOVES need only include:

(i)  the name of the bird, the name of the observer if known, the number of bird(s) and the location at which these bird(s) were observed, in each case as reflected in the eligible eBird record; 

(ii)  a link to the eligible eBird record in eBird; and

(iii)  to the extent applicable, the Macaulay Library identification number for each photo of the bird and any other item of rich media relating thereto included in such eBird list.

C. If a Voting Member timely requests that an eligible eBird record be formally reviewed by VARCOM, the Secretary shall prepare and file a submission for formal review of such record by VARCOM through DOVES. A Voting Member who requests formal review of an eligible eBird record shall help the Secretary compile a submission of such record to VARCOM for formal review and write a statement for inclusion therein that explains such Voting Member’s reasoning for requesting a formal review of such record. 

D. As it gains experience with the expedited review procedures for eligible eBird records, VARCOM may shorten the period during which a Voting Member may request formal review of an eligible eBird record, provided that any such period shall in no event be shorter than 30 days from the date such eligible eBird record was circulated for review by Voting Members.

V. Publication of Accepted Eligible eBird Records

 Eligible eBird records accepted by VARCOM through an expedited review process shall be published annually by VARCOM in the same manner as other accepted records by VARCOM are published under the By-laws of VARCOM, except that each such published record shall contain (i) an appropriate designation (e.g., “eB” or “eBird”) to indicate that it was accepted by VARCOM through an expedited review process via eBird and (ii) a link to the applicable eBird record(s). 

VI.  Reversal of Accepted Eligible eBird Records

Following expiration of the period during which a Voting Member may request a formal review of an accepted eligible eBird record, such eligible eBird record may be reversed or affirmed in the same manner as any other record accepted by VARCOM may be reversed or affirmed under the By-laws of VARCOM.

VII. Submission of VARCOM Database to eBird

It is the intention of VARCOM to work with representatives of eBird to upload the VARCOM database to an account established by VARCOM in eBird and to periodically update such account.

VII. Effective Date

These Procedures for Expedited Review of Eligible eBird Records shall be effective upon approval by the Board of Directors of the VSO of the authorizing amendment to the VARCOM By-laws adopted by VARCOM on March 19, 2016, which is set forth in Section 1 above.