Re: Twitchathon 98

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Re: Twitchathon 98
From: (Danny Rogers)
Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 12:45:36 +1100 (EST)

In the couple of days since I last checked my email, I see a discussion has
been had about the selection of Grey-crowned Babbler as the best Vic. bird
seen in the 1998 twitchathon. I think a few words need to be said about the
excellent new rules governing how this bird is selected, and the shrewd
choice of best bird made by Lawrie Conole and his Common Driving Petrol-heads. 

To recap: After this years twitchathon, each team nominated the best bird
they had encountered. The team that actually won the event was given the
resultant list of good birds, selected the one they thought was best, and so
the the best-bird award was awarded. In previous years an external judge has
made this selection, and the choice made has nearly always been
controversial: the competence of the judge has been questioned by many a
disgruntled loser. Finding a judge to take on this thankless task has become
increasingly tricky. The new system improves on the old in the following

1. I think it is safe to regard a winning twitchathon team as competent to
judge the best bird. It isn't an easy event to win by accident; you need to
know a bit about where to find birds in Victoria, and how to structure a
twitchathon run. 
2. Now we don't need to worry about the judges making themselves unpopular
by picking the wrong bird. The majority of (losing) twitchathon competitors
will already be pretty jealous of and pissed off with the winning team...

Now for this issue of whether Regent Honeyeater is a better bird than a
Grey-crowned Babbler. They are both splendid birds, but it could be argued
that a Grey-crowned Babbler is actually harder to get on a twitchathon in
Victoria. To get a Regent HE you will probably have to spend a fair bit of
time birdwatching in (relatively) healthy Box-ironbark woodlands - which any
serious twitchathon team is likely to do anyway. I can't imagine how a
Victorian twitchathon could be won by a team that didn't do this. Most of
the few Grey-crowned Babblers still with us in Victoria live on roadside
verges which do not offer anything like the same quality of birding: unlike
a Regent HE site, the hitlist for a team visiting a Grey-crowned Babbler
site is likely to be only one bird. It is a bit of a luxury to spend more
than ten minutes after one bird during a twitchathon and it usually takes a
lot longer than that to find a troop of Grey-crowned Babblers - they cover a
fair bit of ground (their territories being so narrow) and aren't easy to
pin down quickly.

The best bird the Rhinoceros Thornbills ever got on a twitchathon was an
Arctic Tern. The best-bird judge, who probably wants to remain anonymous,
reckoned that this bird was not as hard to find in  Victoria as Painted
Honeyeater (which we had seen on that twitchathon in any case but hadn't
bothered to list as one of our best birds). As far as I recall that's how
the Common Driving Petrol-heads won the best-bird prize in 1995. I should
imagine it has been troubling their consciences ever since and their
judicious choice of best bird this year stemmed from a subconscious desire
to make amends!

Danny Rogers. 

Leader of the "Rhinoceros Thornbills".
Winners of the best-bird prize in the 1998 Vic. Twitchathon!!!

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