BARC: when either/or seems good enough

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Subject: BARC: when either/or seems good enough
From: "Robert Inglis" <>
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2004 07:16:53 +1000
Hi all,

The September 2004 edition of Wingspan, the quarterly magazine of Birds 
Australia (BA), contains a
report summarising the case decisions of the Birds Australia Rarities Committee 
(BARC) in the year
The report contains a list of cases to which BARC has applied "an informed, 
discerning and impartial
appraisal of submissions relating to reports of rare birds in Australia and its 

The report refers to 39 submissions which were 'accepted' and 15 submissions 
which were 'not
accepted or withdrawn'.
Several of these sightings were made in 2000 and one was made in 1999, a 
significant time delay, but
it does appear that some of the relevant submissions were made at a much later 
date than the date of
the original sighting.

The report also contains the claim: "The Committee's conclusions set the 
national standard for the
listing of rare birds in this country".
The country referred to is, of course, Australia.

In the light of the above mentioned claims the decisions to accept the cases 
342 and 385 intrigue

Note: The BARC web-site still had Case 342 (Black-nest or Edible-nest Swiftlet, 
C. maxima /
fuciphaga) listed as 'Under review' as at 12 Sept 2004.

Case 342 appears to be for a claimed sighting of Black-nest Swiftlet 
(Collocalia maxima) OR
Edible-nest Swiftlet (C. fuciphaga) near Broome Western Australia. I have not 
read the submission as
it is only available to BARC members and the Verdict has not been published on 
the BARC web-site
but I assume the observer is claiming that the bird in question was one OR the 
other of the two
species mentioned above.
That is, the submission does not appear to claim a sighting of a SPECIFIC 
In spite of this, the BARC members "agreed that the bird was one of the two 
extremely similar
species, either of which would be new to the Australian list".

If this was a genuine sighting of one of these species (for the first time in 
Australia) what would
be the entry on the "Australian list"?
Is it really good enough to accept a possibility/probability for a first 

I must say here that a lot of my personal sightings these days are often based 
on the
possibility/probability principle but I have never made a 'First Sighting' in my

Case 385 is similar in that it refers to a claimed sighting of a Needletail 
Hirundapas sp. over
Christmas Island.
The observation apparently was of brief duration and identification was made 
down to the possibility
of Silver-backed Needletail (C. cochinchinensis) OR Brown-backed Needletail (C. 
The Case Summary on the BARC web-site at:
states the Verdict as: "Accepted (as either H. cochinchinensis or H. 
giganteus)" but it also says in
the text "Nevertheless, as stated by the observer, the identification remains 
in doubt."'t that seem like having things both ways?

As a sighting of either species would, once again, appear to be a 'first' for 
Australia don't we
have to be a bit more precise?

I accept that identifying swifts can be difficult especially when we are 
talking about those species
which are seen out of their 'normal' range and the observer is inexperienced 
with those species.
My own experience with swifts is limited to some but not all of the species 
listed in the Australian
field guides.
However, swifts are not the only group of birds which present identification 
I would suggest that some of the 'sea-birds' would present a few problems for 
all but the real
experts; even then great care is needed and usually practiced.

However, I would venture to say that many a true pelagic birder would be 
horrified to hear other
birders reporting that they had definitely seen a probable Slender-billed Prion 
OR a Fairy Prion off
the coast of South East Queensland. And even more horrified to hear that that 
sighting brought the
particular birder's total up to the magic 600 mark!!

Also, what about the various species of wagtail increasingly reported 
throughout Australia?
Do we accept that the sighting may have been this or that?
It would appear not!

And so it should be.

Bob Inglis
Woody Point

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