eBird Reviewer Spotlight: Pankaj Gupta

By Team eBird 29 Apr 2024

Did you know there are over 2,000 volunteer eBird reviewers around the world? Volunteer reviewers play an important role ensuring the eBird database remains reliable and accurate for science and conservation (learn more about the eBird review process). eBird is incredibly grateful to our volunteer reviewers for their dedication to eBird’s data quality.

The eBird Reviewer Spotlight helps you get to know eBird’s volunteer reviewers a little better. These articles are written in the reviewer’s own words and reflect their experiences as reviewers, eBirders, and members of the birding community. In this spotlight, Pankaj Gupta, eBird regional reviewer for the Delhi National Capital Region in India, describes how he became an eBird reviewer, his efforts to improve eBird data quality in India, and how he contributes to the India birding community.

eBird Reviewer Spotlight: Pankaj Gupta

I am a former Chef from ITC Hotels who transitioned into entrepreneurship, running my own food and beverage brands successfully for the past 20 years. My birding started from a family trip to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, where I took a small point and shoot camera. The park yielded many birds which I couldn’t name, and many opportunities to photograph which I couldn’t click. So, I returned home and bought my first DSLR camera. Back then, the main forum for birdwatching in Delhi was the Delhi Birds email group; I joined them for a few walks and the hobby stuck with me. The post-birding breakfast buffet was an additional attraction.

This Greater White-fronted Goose was a rare visitor to the Delhi National Capital Region. © Pankaj Gupta / Macaulay Library

How did you become an eBird Reviewer?

Using eBird provided structure to my birding and gave the hobby a slight scientific touch. eBird also helped a lot during our legal battle to save Basai Wetland. Basai was a large wetland and a part of a larger wetland complex. We were pleading to the National Green Tribunal (India’s Green court) to turn this vulnerable wetland into a protected area. Our plea relied a lot on the bird diversity data provided by eBird. This showed me the importance and usefulness of accessible data and documentation. eBird also provided a venue through which casual birding could be something more than just a hobby. I became an eBird reviewer when a member of eBird India that I knew reached out and offered me the position.

What work do you do as an eBird Reviewer?

The responsibility of a reviewer is to vet the flagged sightings in the review queue. To achieve that, one must be well informed about the birds in and around your region. Their migratory patterns, past records and current trends also help us manage the filters for the region. Handling the flagged sightings comes down to the basic knowledge of what has been sighted and what is currently being sighted. Unusual records usually require me to ask for additional information. Another job of a Reviewer is to promote events like the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) and Campus Bird Count. Campus Bird Count is part of the GBBC where we coordinate birding activities in various schools and colleges. 

eBird Reviewing is completely volunteer-based. How do you balance your reviewer responsibilities with your job and other aspects of your life?

Reviewing is actually not a very time consuming or straining process; it takes less than 5-10 minutes in a day if you don’t let the review queue pile up. Keeping a tab on the local sightings and visiting those locations and hotspots does provide me with a few pleasurable mornings.

As a reviewer, what is your relationship like with birders in your review region? How do you maintain a positive relationship with the birding community?

I was lucky to be a part of the seasoned birding community (pre-Facebook and eBird era) as well as the new generation of birders. As a bridge between the old guard and the new hip birders allows me to have a unique perspective on the problems birders face. As a reviewer, being in the field and attending social gatherings opens communication channels and allows you to bond with the birding community. It is my belief that reviewing should not happen behind a curtain.

I understand that there are national and state level data quality meetings in India. Can you describe what these are like and why they are important?

These meetings give us an opportunity to understand what is expected of us and how other reviewers work. We improve the current process and try to find the ideal way to work. These meetings give validity to the time and effort put by reviewers and also act as a way for the reviewers to get to know each other. These reviewers carry a wealth of information that we can call upon in times of need, like when a bird’s identity or behavior is particularly confusing. 

What is your favorite thing about being an eBird reviewer?

My favorite thing about being an eBird reviewer is the opportunity to contribute to a cause and turn my hobby into something that could help conservation. It also gives me a front row seat on all birding activity happening in the region.

The Najafgarh Wetland is a floodplain of the Shaibi River and is a haven for migrating shorebirds. © Pankaj Gupta

What can eBirders do to help with the review process?

To help the review process, eBirders should write detailed ID features seen in the field when prompted by the app to provide comments. Simply writing “seen”, “flying”, “sitting on a branch”, “photographed”, or “heard” are not helpful descriptions of a bird. Similarly, “identified by Merlin/guide/experts” does not provide any useful information to me. Please respond to emails from eBird reviewers; only about 5 percent of people respond when I contact them about a sighting.

Anything else you’d like to share?

As birders, we have a responsibility to work on the new generation and show them the ropes of birding. Delhi, a predominantly urban city-state, needs its youth and children to learn to observe, nurture, love and preserve the few pockets of wilderness we have. It is our great responsibility to preserve the specks of paradise still left in our region.