How do Hotspots differ from Personal Locations?
Most of our eBird checklists are pinned to locations on a map – and these can include Personal Locations and Hotspots. These both appear in the public database, and observations still appear on maps regardless of the location type.
So what are the main differences between these?
1) Personal Locations are only available for use by the person who made them (or to birders they have shared lists with from that location). This makes them useful for ad hoc sightings (e.g. raptor flyovers while driving). You can also generate bar-charts directly from the main EXPLORE page in eBird from personal locations (or groups of personal locations).
2) Hotspots are created by eBird users and made available for use by everyone as shared locations. This builds up a broader set of observations – which allows more information for bar-charts, illustrated checklists, leaderboards, etc. These hotspots are the ones that appear to everyone when selecting a location to pin a checklist to, and it makes sense that these are well-defined, publicly accessible locations that people regularly visit for birding. They are preferably small, precisely-defined locations of one habitat type, but larger hotspots representing areas of particular interest to birders such as national parks are also available.
Our plan for Hotspots in Australia
Hotspots within Australia are currently being reviewed to ensure that they meet these general guidelines. The ultimate aim is to create a complete directory of good birding locations across the country.
Locations that make good hotspots include national, state and regional parks, private conservation reserves, state forests, lakes, wetlands, game reserves, beaches, headlands and well-defined sub-locations within the larger areas. Constructed environments such as botanic gardens, water treatment plants, recreation reserves, playing fields in parkland, golf courses, cafes and hotels with large gardens, country lodgings with gardens, cemeteries, airports, military bases, historic sites in parkland, caravan parks with habitat, farms and vineyards open to the public, and schools and universities with habitat all make good hotspots. Creek crossings, substantial roadside vegetation, large farm dams visible from public roads, lookouts, historic markers on country roads and ferry crossings also make good hotspots. The list is almost endless, but what all these places have in common is that the they are places of interest to many different birders for the purposes of birding.
Hotspots are also available for seabird-watching trips, however eBirders are encouraged to follow the pelagic protocol for these trips if possible.
Many groups use eBird to record regular surveys at project sites, and often recommend these sites as hotspots in order to make them available to all members of the group. If the project is private, then project sites are best left as personal locations owned by the project.
Many existing hotspots in Australia have been inherited from legacy systems. Not all of these fit the eBird concept of a good hotspot. For example, large towns, city suburbs and broad rural localities are generally unsuitable as hotspots because they are large and sometimes ill-defined. These will be reverted to personal locations. Similarly places such as suburban streets, sports stadiums, shopping centres, railway stations and random points in the landscape not used by multiple birders are generally unsuitable as hotspots and are likely to be reverted to personal locations, particularly if they currently have very few existing checklists.
How does this make things better?
The net result of this adjustment will be a gradual de-cluttering of the hotspot maps. This will leave us with an amazing directory of birding locations across the country of immense value to local birders and visitors alike.