It must have been Tony Palliser's remark in the
February pelagic report about the "high quality" of birders on that
trip, but I lay in bed at 2.00am in my Perth home the other night reminiscing
about past pelagic trips and thinking about the possibility that selection for
the trip, instead of being on the current 'first in, best dressed' basis be made
on the basis of points scored and accumulated from past pelagics.
For example, anyone calling an Australian
'first' successfully might get credited 100 points, with a NSW 'first' scoring,
say, 50 points. Pete (wasn't that a Murphy's) Milburn would be a great points
scorer on this basis, with others not far behind. There would have to be some
sorting out as Tony (it won't be accepted without a photograph) Palliser would
add his note of caution to rare sightings. Picking a Manx Shearwater in a
resting raft of 400 Hutton's would score very highly, and successfully
explaining which one it is to the assembled watchers onboard could score 20
Confidently calling good birds as evidenced by,
say, Rod (I'm sure I had a comb somewhere) Gardner (sorry Rod!) calling a
Kerguelen Petrel at 1 km range in 4m seas, could score 20 points. And, of
course, there could be negative points. Mistakenly calling a Southern Fulmar and
giving Tony a heart attack would have to be minus 50. Explaining the finer
points of secondary moult to someone who doesn't want to know, and is still
trying to sort shearwaters from petrels, would be a minus 5. And doing the same
thing to a Japanese visitor who only came to see whales and is desperately
looking for a quiet spot to throw up, would be a minus 10.
Speaking of whales, some points should be
awarded to the cetacean watchers such as Steve (long-finned pilot whales at 2
o'clock) Anyon-Smith, since they often brighten up some very flat spots in the
birding. Mind you, Steve's habit of calling "Brown Cock-or twos at 9
o'clock" every time we come back into Sydney Harbour past the nudist beach,
would have to earn him some serious deducts.
Equally during flat spots in the birding, 5
points could be earned in sharing with others the latest good stake-outs for
terrestial birds such as where the Grey Honeyeater was most recently seen at
Kunoth Bore. On one memorable pelagic, Tony was describing a good spot for
Lewin's Rail and finished the description by saying "..and, if you just sit
quietly, you can hear them coming." The look on Tony's face when
Steve asked him what a Lewin's Rail sounds like when it comes, would have been
worth 20 bonus points!
On reflection, I would like to withdraw this
suggestion of a selection process to get onto Sydney pelagics because I don't
think that I would qualify. Leave it as it is Tony, and I look forward to
rejoining you at the end of the year.