Carpinteria CBC Instructions for Group Leaders

COVID-19: For the 2020 count, CBC participants are required to read and follow the COVID-19 guidelines listed on our Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count page. Please review those guidelines and let me (John Callender) know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you for participating in the Carpinteria Christmas Bird Count (CBC). As a group leader (or as a “freelance” participant birding on your own), please read through the instructions below so you know what is expected of you.

You will be assigned an area or areas to cover on count day. If you are able to scout those areas ahead of time, that’s great! You will also be given a list of people assigned to participate in your group. Please contact the people assigned to your group and coordinate with them as needed in terms of where to meet, how long you’ll be birdwatching, and any other relevant details. The main goal for the Carpinteria CBC is that everyone who participates has a good time.

If you are covering an area near the edge of the count circle, please familiarize yourself with the count circle map so you know where the boundary is. We should only report birds within our circle.

As group leader you are responsible for submitting three types of documentation:

  • species list: a list of all the birds your party was able to identify within the count circle on count day, including species seen and an estimate of the number of individuals of each species.
  • participant and effort forms: a list of the participants in your party, including name, city, and contact information, as well as an “effort form” describing your party’s “party hours” and “party miles” (see the link below to download detailed instructions on how to fill out the effort form).
  • rare-bird documentation: photos, sound recordings, and/or detailed written descriptions for all rare birds reported

Details on preparing and submitting each of the three kinds of documentation are below.

Species list

As group leader you don’t have to personally keep the species list for your group; it’s fine if you delegate that to another group member. You are responsible for reviewing the list of species reported, however, and for making sure the submitted list is as accurate as possible.

I’m a big fan of eBird. If you submit your CBC sightings as eBird lists it will make my job easier. From within eBird, either in the mobile app where you keep and submit your list or at the web interface where you can see the list after it has been submitted, just share the list with the “CarpCBC” ebird user. From eBird’s perspective, this is like sharing the list with another member of your party who birded with you. That’s all you have to do to get me your list(s).

If you prefer, you can keep a paper-based checklist. See the download links below for a copy of our checklist. Again, please do your best to report both the species you were able to identify and your best estimate of the number of individuals of each species.

Note that some locations may be covered by more than one group in the course of the day. If you bird at multiple locations on count day, please prepare and submit a separate species list for each location. This will make it easier for me to dedupe overlapping species counts.

Important note: The species list is the only thing you need to submit quickly. As described below under “Real-time updates on count day”, we hope to use that information to help us look for any missed species in the afternoon. That makes it important that you submit your morning lists quickly, ideally by 12:00 noon.

For all the other forms of documentation described below, please try to get your documentation to me no later than one week after count day (that is, by Saturday, December 26).

Participant and effort forms

For these you must fill out the paper-based form. See the download links below, including detailed instructions for filling out the effort form, and then follow the instructions described below under “Submitting paper-based documentation”.

Note for the 2020 count: I’m looking into creating a way to submit this information online. Check this page closer to the day of the count for updated information about that.

Rare-bird documentation

Species that require extra documentation are marked with an asterisk on the downloadable checklist. Basically, any bird that is especially unusual in our area should be accompanied by rare-bird documentation. (Rare-bird documentation is also required for any species not listed on our checklist.) The best documentation is a photograph or sound recording. A written description is also acceptable; it is important to include sufficient detail so that reviewers can be confident about the identification. See this article at eBird for advice on how to supply rare-bird documentation.

Every year there are rarities reported on the day that end up not being included in our official submission. While it’s hard not to feel disappointed when that happens, you shouldn’t take it personally. Your efforts to find and report birds in our circle are very much appreciated. If a particular bird was too far away or too briefly or poorly seen to be solidly identified, that in no way diminishes your contribution. We’ll get that bird next time. :-)

Submitting paper-based documentation

As described above, species lists kept as eBird lists can be submitted simply by sharing the list with the “CarpCBC” eBird user. All other forms and documentation can be submitted in any of the ways below:

  • Photographed and emailed: A relatively easy way to get your paper-based documentation to me is to photograph it with a smartphone and then email the resulting images to
  • Handed in in-person: You can drop off your paper-based forms and documentation at my home: 4466 Mesa Lane in Carpinteria. I’ll have a dropbox on my front porch; you can just leave it in there.
  • Mailed: As a last resort you can send in your documentation via conventional mail: John Callender, 4466 Mesa Lane, Carpinteria, CA 93013.

Real-time updates on count day:

We’ll be using a shared Google Docs spreadsheet on the day of the count to keep track of which species we’ve seen and which species we still need. The spreadsheet can be accessed here:

[“Day of” spreadsheet link to come]

  • The sheet lists every bird on our checklist. For certain species there is also a column with scouted locations where the bird has been seen in the last few months.
  • There also are columns to be filled in with the name of the person reporting it, where the bird was seen, and (for rarities) whether photographs or recordings were obtained. Permissions for the spreadsheet are set so that anyone can enter data in these columns.
  • On count day, you are encouraged to fill in those columns for any bird you see that has not been previously entered. That is, if the entry for a particular species is blank, feel free to add your name and location (and for rarities, which are starred with an asterisk in the “Name” column, “yes” or “no” to indicate whether you have photo documentation). That way everyone in the field will be able to tell quickly if a particular species has been found.
  • This real-time spreadsheet is separate from the other documentation described above, and is completely optional. If you are unable or don’t want to edit the spreadsheet that’s fine. In that case, please try to submit your species list, either by sharing it with the “CarpCBC” eBird user (for eBird lists) or by handing it in in person or by photographing and emailing it, in time for our 12:30 p.m. Zoom tally meeting.

Useful links and downloadable forms:

Questions? Contact John Callender,, or call 805-455-0053.