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A Lesson Learned is a Lesson Earned

It’s back-to-school time, NestWatchers! We thought this would be a great time to welcome you back to NestWatch if you haven’t been online this summer, encourage you to get those data sheets out, and log on. We learned a few lessons this month about common data entry mistakes people make, and we wanted to share them with you to help make the process easier. So, have a seat, get out your pencil, and take a note:

  • One common mistake is not ending the nest attempt at the appropriate time. You should create a new nest attempt each time a pair begins a new clutch. Once the nest fledges or fails, you should end the attempt by entering the summary information, and clicking “End This Attempt.” Once you have done this, you will again have the option to “Add an Attempt”, which will allow you to create additional attempts for subsequent nestings. Please do not record multiple consecutive nestings under the same attempt, or your number of nest attempts will be under-counted. Remember, the unit that we study is the individual nest attempt (eggs to fledglings), not the box or nest site itself.
  • Another common mistake that people make is forgetting to declare a “Nest Fate” when summarizing an attempt. When you’re finished summarizing your attempt, you are required to select a nest fate so that we can categorize this attempt as successful, failed, or unknown. Last year, 14% of nest attempts had no fate declared, or had a fate that did not match the nest visits. Without this piece of information, your data may not be usable for many kinds of important analyses. Be sure to check that your entries match the outcome you selected.
  • Don’t forget to set the species for each nest attempt. The main reason that a Species Summary Download doesn’t match the Quick Summary is that the Quick Summary counts unidentified species, but the Species Summary Download does not. If some eggs or nestlings seem to have “gone missing” when you review your spreadsheet, check first for unnamed species. Without a species name, all of your hard work might be impossible to interpret.

Your homework for this month is to check out our list of how-to videos that we created especially for you. They cover a range of helpful topics and will walk you through the entire process step-by-step. If you still have any questions about how to enter your data, please feel free to ask us. Keep up the great work, NestWatchers! In our opinion, you all deserve a gold star.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Cornell Lab of Ornithology