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Ornithology Test Exchange
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Is soinc's intention to get rid of asking for scientific names all together?
Also why would the limit the number of birds per station on regionals and states?
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2018-19 Events (C): Designer Genes, Fossils, Write It Do It (Mousetrap Vehicle and Experimental Design @ Regionals)
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Instead, the rules seem to be written to ignore the existence of scientific names altogether? When people were expecting fixes to the Orni list, they thought they would put in the scientific names of the birds that were missing it, not remove the scientific names for the birds that did have them.
I could probably deal with that. Maybe they just wanted us to compile the scientific names by ourselves, which is what we effectively had to do last year anyway.
Of course, scientific names in the list specify which species when a common name covers multiple (looking at you, Screech Owl). As jaspattack said, removing scientific names doesn't do much for reducing the ambiguity. (although I suppose it removes contradictions between common name and scientific name, like Clapper Rail)
But rather than say scientific names can or cannot be tested, they were simply omitted from the rules. Now scientific names can still be tested, in keeping with the idea that just because rules do not mention it does not mean it's off-limits as long as it's relevant, but instead of being part of ID, they count as information about the bird.
And finally, the new station rule.
I am fairly mad about this. I don't think it actually improves the event, just makes one more thing the test writer needs to work around.
One bird per station at regional level.... that's not a lot. Most challenging Orni tests give you 1-3 minutes per station with a few birds each. To keep the same level of difficulty, test writers would have to split those up to 1 minute or even 30 second stations. This doesn't improve my experience as a competitor. It just means I waste more time moving stations, the invitational host doesn't save any ink or paper because there were already enough stations for each team to be at one anyway, and it gives me less control over how I spend my time on the test.
"But wait!" you might say. Why not just have one bird per station, but have many in-depth questions about it? Wouldn't that improve the event?
Well to me... yes and no. Nothing forces you to ask mundane questions like clutch size or wingspan. You can have a bird, ask a few interesting/in-depth questions, and move on to the next one. What focusing on one bird too much does, though, is make the test "riskier" for competitors, in terms of point values.
Almost everyone messes up ID sometimes. When you miss an ID, you usually miss the subsequent questions about it, because you are using the wrong information. If every bird only has a few questions attached to it, that's not a big deal and you don't lose too many points.
However, with only one bird per station, if you mess up the ID, odds are that you'll miss the whole station. This format punishes small mistakes far more.
Additionally, not every team has time to study every bird on the list. That's fine, and I'm not arguing it's unfair if they score worse, but I think they should still receive a score that reflects what effort they did put in, rather than luck regarding the test writer's choice of questions. With a lot of birds, odds are that at least some of the birds they did study will appear, and that many birds they did not will also pop up. However, when this is restricted to a few birds, luck is more involved. If the test writer chooses mostly birds that you covered, great, and you score better than if it had been a test with more birds. If the test writer chooses mostly birds you did not cover, you score worse than if it had been a test with more birds and don't get to put what you did study to use.
And, yes, I know that there will always be bad writers with any rules. However, I think the point of the rules is to allow good test writers to continue writing good tests and to give better guidance for writers who write lower-quality tests. In my opinion, the rule changes do neither.
And finally ID stations are put in mostly as easy points for reducing ties near the bottom of the score distribution, and the new rule disallows that as well.
Suzanne SciOly 2016 - 2019
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I'm new to ornithology but did herp last time it was a thing. I was looking for some recommendations for good Ornithology books. If anybody has any just recommend them. Thanks!
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I'm mostly quoting the wiki, but if you want a field guide, then Peterson's field guide and Sibley's field guide are both really good field guides with a moderate amount of information and every bird on the list. Those 2 field guides are better if you are using them for identifying the birds, but if you want more information, then use the Smithsonian or National Geographic field guides. If you want a textbook, then Ornithology by Frank B. Gill is a nice one. I use the Peterson guide and it works pretty well for me. I'm not an expert on this, but I hope this helps you.
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