Promoting the enjoyment, study, and conservation of Wisconsin's birds.

By Nicholas M. Anich
Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator

The Steering Committee for the second Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas commissioned illustrator Luke Seitz to paint the cover for our upcoming Atlas book. Luke is known for his works arranging species to form a state outline — which recalled for us the process of atlasing, where all of your disparate observations combine to form a coherent product.

Here you can see the northwest corner beginning to be painted, where the Black-throated Blue Warbler forms the Bayfield Peninsula, and the tip of the Common Tern’s bill meets the tail of the Sharp-tailed Grouse in the city of Superior.

We hope to send you a few more previews of the work in progress!

Meanwhile, major quality improvements are underway on the data gathered over five field seasons from 2015 to 2019. We're deep into data review. It’s not the most glamorous part of this process, but with the help of many volunteers we're making steady progress:

  • Review of WBBA I data for consistency is complete (Thanks to Aaron Stutz and Tom Prestby).
  • Review of data from 16,500 10-minute roadside point counts is complete (Thanks in part to undergraduates from UW Madison and Northland College, plus Matt Berg's class at Grantsburg High School).
  • Main review (code-level and date-level for each species) from 2015–‘18 is complete (Thanks to Tom Prestby).
  • New screening tools have been developed to further catch outliers (Thanks to Nick Walton).
  • We’ve finished compiling records from many other datasets, including Breeding Bird Surveys, Atlas Point Counts, data from WDNR, and other partners on dozens of bird surveys.
  • eBird has developed new data quality tools to allow us to edit breeding codes, which are expected to go live shortly.
  • Atlas county coordinators are at work screening records from problematic eBird hotspots that cross block lines (Thanks to Jack Coulter)

Our remaining to-do list includes the main review for 2019, and screening for a few straggling protocol errors. After that, we can proceed towards the finer end-stages of error screening: examining temporal outliers, range maps and priority blocks. In those final stages, there will be an opportunity for principal atlassers, county coordinators and local experts to review the maps (we're not quite there yet!).

Hundreds of thousands of new atlas records will be added to eBird next week! With the work listed above completed, we've sent eBird a large batch of records to edit and add to the Atlas database. They are nearly done with the technical developments needed, so we are anticipating that by the time you read this the following changes should be live on Atlas eBird:

  • 50,000 records with edited codes: Four seasons of Atlas data screened for incompatible species–code combinations or early/late dates; plenty of records up-coded based on comments
  • 4,000 additional checklists into the Atlas portal: Mostly Priority Species from non-portal eBird checklists ; a few checklists moved out of the portal due to crossing block lines
  • 397,000 new observations uploaded to Atlas eBird: Data from WDNR and partner organizations, including rare species and general bird surveys; 16,500 point counts uploaded into surveyors' eBird accounts: 5 years of data from federal Breeding Bird Survey routes into surveyors' eBird accounts