Actual occurences

To: "'Terry Pacey'" <>, Barbara Jones <>, Joan Fearn <>
Subject: Actual occurences
From: Mike Tarburton <>
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 21:19:32 +1000
Hi Bird listers

Terry has made a valid observation.  There are people who do not report
their sightings even though in many cases their sightings are valid.  I meet
some of these people in the bush from time to time.

Then there are those who report sightings but they are not even read.  The
soon to be released Bird Atlas will be short of many sightings.  I know that
in my case I stopped sending in sightings when I found that they were not
getting onto the master list.  When I asked what had happened I was told
that I was the only person using the Mac format that they had gone to a lot
of trouble to have made up and that it was too much trouble to get my data -
would I re-write them out by hand.

So many sightings from out of the way places on Cape York Pen. for example
will not be in the Atlas.  Come to think of it lots of my sightings never
got into the first atlas simply because I never had the time to write them

Collating sightings is I think a worthwhile activity and it is not easy, but
it needs to be done with care, patience, exactness and tact.

Hope you all see some good birds this week.


Dr Mike Tarburton
Dean: School of Science & Technology
Pacific Adventist University
PMB Boroko
Papua New Guinea

-----Original Message-----
From: Terry Pacey 
Sent: Monday, 17 March 2003 2:07 PM
To: Barbara Jones; Joan Fearn
Cc: Birding-aus
Subject: Actual occurences

Dear Barbara and Joan

Thank you for your replies.  I tried to respond on two previous occasions
but, each time, Outlook Express went down just as I was about to send the
message. I have fixed the problem this time (I hope).

Your replies were totally different but perhaps if I explain the full
background to my posting on Birding-aus, it will answer both of you.

During the last forty years of serious birding, I have spent most of my time
in areas which were seldom, if ever, visited by birders.  During that time,
I generally found that the recognised distribution of species was
incompatible with what I was seeing.  During this period, I knew nothing of
birding groups such as BOCA or Birds Australia.  Without other birders to
inform me, this is not surprising.  Therefore, I did not report my
sightings.  I would imagine that there were many other birders who were in
the same category.

When I found out about the first Bird Atlas, I was again in a seldom visited
area.  I started reporting my sightings and found many of them rejected on
the grounds (I suspect) that the species did not occur in my area according
to existing literature and I was not a recognized birder.  Because of this
rejection and, I must admit, a lack of interest on my part, I never again
reported my sightings.  That does not mean I did not believe my own IDs.  In
quite a number of cases, the areas involved have since become more popular
with birders.  This can possibly be explained by improvements in roads,
vehicles and the number of new birders.  Many of my sightings have been
confirmed in recent years by these more mobile birders.

I am sure that I am not alone in not reporting sightings.  The reasons may
not be the same as mine, but the results are the same - many sightings go
unreported.  This is what I was trying to ascertain.  Has any study been
done on the number of reported sightings as compared to the actual number of
birders, and their sightings, in particular areas?

The Square-tailed Kite sightings and now the Rufous Fantail sightings being
mentioned in Birding-aus indicate that many people still do not report their
sightings.  It is only when someone brings it up on Birding-aus that there
suddenly appear a number of previously unreported sightings that may
indicate that the species is not as "rare" in the area as previously

As Birding-aus has only very few subscribers as compared to the total number
of birders in the country, what does this indicate for the total birding
population?  Is the percentage of reported sightings compared to actual
sightings of such a low value that we should think carefully before we
accept that a species is "not likely" to occur there at a given time.

In 1978, Hugh Ford wrote a paper ("The Black Honeyeater:  Nomad or Migrant?"
published in the "South Australian Ornithologist, 27"  July 1978) that
clearly indicated Black Honeyeaters were regular migrants after good
breeding seasons.  He was referring to South Australia in particular but
considered that similar patterns probably occurred elsewhere.  And yet, this
year, birders on Birding-aus are expressing surprise at where this species
is turning up and suggesting it is the drought.

I suggest that we do not know enough to make some of the assumptions we do
unless accurate studies are carried out.

What my posting on Birding-aus was for is to see if I could find out whether
some of these studies have in fact been carried out and I know nothing about

I hope this clarifies my previous questions.


Terry Pacey

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