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Rare Bird Alert System for the Cayuga Lake Basin

- by Paul Anderson, updated from a version by Dave Nutter (thanks!).

If you are interested in a free, automatic, text message, rare bird alert (RBA) system for the Cayuga Lake Basin, keep reading. It allows any participant who finds or learns of a rare bird to send out a phone text message to all the other participants.

The alert system is managed through GroupMe. This is a web- and phone-based application that allows free group messaging. 

TO JOIN:

Due to abuse in the past access to this is now strictly controlled. If you wish to join, please contact Jay McGowan at jwm57@cornell.edu.

You can elect to receive alerts over as texts to your phone. Alternatively, if you have a smartphone, you can install their app and the alerts will show up there. The GroupMe ID is 5957736.

NB: when you first join the group your membership is considered temporary and you will be dropped unless you confirm it. A message to the group will suffice, but note that this will go to every member of the group so if you don't have a rare bird to report, it is best to text #stay to the group instead. Other commands for GroupMe can be found here: http://groupme.com/sms.

Thereafter when someone sends out a rare bird alert, you should receive their text pronto.  

TO SEND A RARE BIRD ALERT

There are several ways of doing this:

TEXT
Send a text message to the group phone number. This number appears to be different for each subscriber, so check with the website to be sure.

APP
Launch the app on your smartphone, select the group and enter the message.

WEB
Go to http://groupme.com and login. Go to the chat and enter the message.

For more complete help on GroupMe see here: http://help.groupme.com/home.

WHAT TO SAY

You have about 100 characters for your entire message, so be concise.

What to include:
  • the BIRD SPECIES NAME spelled out  - abbreviations can be surprisingly confusing
  • the NUMBER of individuals of the species, if more than one
  • the PLUMAGE, if helpful
  • the LOCATION OF THE BIRD, perhaps with directions
  • WHO found the bird, if not yourself, so others can ask follow-up questions 
  • WHEN the bird was found or last seen, if you don't know for sure whether it's still being seen
  • YOUR NAME. Note that your message will automatically start with your GroupMe Username, so if you have already gone to the website and changed your Username to a version of your name that others will recognize, you can omit or delete your signature elsewhere and use more characters for bird info.
  • The TIME and DATE of the message will be automatically included, just like any text message.

CROSS-POSTING

Note that this system does NOT automatically send to the local birding email list serve CayugaBirds-L so be sure to either copy to that listserv if you are able to do so from your phone (contact list manager Chris Tessaglia-Hymes cth4@cornell.edu if you want to set that up) or send a detailed message there as soon as you get the chance.  Also this RBA system is not connected to eBird. Please also report to eBird as soon as you have a chance. A rare bird which is reported to eBird may show up on their Google Gadget, but not everyone has that service. If you see something on the eBird Google Gadget that seems to qualify for this RBA system, but has not been shared yet, please send that info in an RBA to our group.

CRITERIA

The LOCATION of the bird should be either in the Cayuga Lake Basin. This includes all the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, plus the land south connecting to the lands which drain directly into Cayuga Lake.

OR the location should be nearby the basin (say, within a 2 hour drive from Ithaca). The rarity of the bird and the chance of it being seen by others or re-found are good reasons to stretch the boundaries. Even if you are near the edge of the Basin toward the end of the day, it may still be worth sending an RBA because other birders may be out nearby and have a chance to see it. Plus, the sooner others find out, the sooner they can make plans for the next day.

The BIRD should be a species which is not regularly found in our area (e.g Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, or Western Grebe)
OR a species which is typically only here as individuals for brief periods and tough to find (e.g. Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Willet, Clay-colored Sparrow).
NOT birds which are normally found here but simply out of season (e.g. Eastern Phoebe in January) or are first arrivals for the year of relatively common birds. They are interesting and should be posted to Cayugabirds-L and eBird but NOT to the RBA, even though eBird flags the out-of-season birds, and I keep a list of first Basin arrivals of the year here.

MAJOR MIGRATION PHENOMENA may be worth posting as an RBA if they are time-sensitive and others could easily observe, such as large numbers of migrants attracted to lights at the stadium or the mall, or an unusually large movement of raptors.

Suggestions for improvements to these guidelines are welcome.
 

ONLINE INFO

You should be able to read and possibly send RBAs from this site: http://groupme.com.

Feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, advice, etc.  I want this to work for the group. Are there birds you wish there had been an RBA for? Are there too many RBAs for birds not interesting enough for you?

Thanks are due to Tom Johnson and Dave Nutter for setting up the old Textmarks RBA, and Jay McGowan for setting up this new GroupMe one.