Much of the available information on large-scale patterns of animal abundance is based on count surveys. The data provided by such surveys are often influenced by nuisance factors affecting the numbers of animals counted, but unrelated to population size. Temporal and spatial patterns in nuisance factors may exist, causing simple summaries of counts to give a misleading view of patterns in population size. We develop models for count data that allows the incorporation of such factors, and describe methods for estimating spatial patterns of relative abundance from counts. We carry out spatial analyses of North American Breeding Bird Survey data, in which observer ability is a nuisance parameter nested within sites. In light of evidence that new observers tend to count more birds than the observers they replace, we model observer ability as a random effect with mean depending on observer initiation year.