birding-aus rarities again...

Subject: birding-aus rarities again...
From: "Philip Battley" <>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 16:23:51 +0000
Hi all,

A few words before we've exhausted ourselves on this topic.

Something we haven't really discussed is that every now and then, we 
don't identify birds correctly.  Take the Long-billed Dowitcher from 
a couple of years back, caught, measured, photographed etc, and 
identified as a Long-billed. Only once the rarities committee had 
assessed the report and got expert comment from outside, did it 
become clear that the bird was in fact Short-billed. Regardless of 
whether or not this matters to you, it does matter to ornithological 
reporting bodies.

I know it can be a bit of a slap in the face to have to write a 
report on a bird you know well, and then have someone else 
tell you you may be wrong, but if we submit records to a rarities 
committee we should accept that a certain level of documentation may 
be necessary for "validation" of your record.  We would expect the 
same if a foreign birder came to our local patch and reported some 
outrageous crippler. 

>From what I've seen of the BARC rarities committee's website, the 
reasons behind a record not being accepted are laid out very clearly, 
and this includes recognising that in all likelihood you were 
correct, but the committee just cannot be sure. That's fine with me.  
I would rather have this than records becoming accepted as truth 
simply through having been talked about a lot.

As a New Zealander, I would love to see the rarities committee there 
work as well as the Australian one does here.  Instead, we have a 
good recording scheme (Classified Summarised Notes) that is 
frequently filled with sightings of great birds with little or 
nothing to back them up. There are many historical records which 
could do with more back-up to confirm an ID, and some which might be 
able to be resolved if there was a decent file on them. We have had 
yellow-legged stints in NZ in the past which are thought to be likely 
to be Least. I would love to see a decent report on them assessed 
now, 30 years on, by a bunch of folk who really know what they are on 

So my 2-cents' worth (I guess that should be 5-cents' worth by now)? 
Rarities committees are a necessary evil, but they have really valid 
roles to play - not only as a check on identifications, but also as a 
record repository, including of all those "not-quite" sightings of 

Cheers, Phil.

Phil Battley,
Australian School of Environmental Studies,
Griffith University,
Queensland 4111,
Ph: 0061-7-3875-7474
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