It is very frustrating when you see a rare bird and it is not accepted. I
have experienced this with Spinifexbird and Forest Kingfisher in the north
east Kimberley of WA, and a few others such as Grey-faced Buzzard on Boigu
Island. The important thing is that you report them. The record is still
there, even if it is not accepted. A record that is not accepted, is
usually because not enough information has been provided, and only very
seldom because the experts think that you got it wrong.
However, as the Sightings Officer for Birds Australia WA, I regularly see
the other side. Reports such as Pheasant-tailed Jacanas (lots of them!!)
at Karratha turned out to be Banded Lapwings. Long-billed Dowitcher near
Bunbury was probably a Bar-tailed Godwit. The number of SW trip reports
that list Little Crow, Kelp Gull, etc. The key is always the lack of a
description. For instance, the Long-billed Dowitcher was compared to a
Common Greenshank, with no mention of Asian Dowitcher or even a godwit.
Some reports are almost certainly correct. e.g. a report of a Barn Swallow
at the Eyre Bird Observatory. The overseas observer said they were certain
because they know this bird from Europe where they live. But no mention of
the variations that can occur with Welcome Swallow, and no written
description of the bird.
A key is often whether the observer knows at the time that the bird is a
rarity at the location. Hence my comments above about various species
regularly reported by overseas and some eastern states birders in the south
west. I have completed Atlas records for Brush Bronzewing at Kalbarri and
White-browed Scrubwren at Yalgoo. I certainly did not think that they were
out of range at the time, and so I took no notes. When I received the
Atlas URRF (query) a year or more later, I could not give any information
about the sightings. I remember the bronzewing flushing from the low heath
as I was looking for Rufous (Western) Fieldwren, and immediately thinking
Brush without even putting my binoculars on the bird. This is unusual as I
normally always assume a bronzewing is a Common. I couldn't even remember
the scrubwren and whether I saw it or put it down based on call (something
I rarely do for this species as Inland Thornbill can often sound similar).
As Alan Morris says, a photograph helps enormously. An Olive-backed Oriole
at the Eyre Bird Observatory probably would have been accepted anyway, but
20 seconds of video puts it way beyond doubt. A White-fronted Honeyeater
at Cape Leeuwin this year would have been hard to believe, but the
photograph was conclusive. A Wandering Albatross just south of Perth could
easily have been written off as a gannet (this mistake is fairly often
made), but a series of point blank photos is conclusive.
But sometimes, it does come down to the reputation and experience of the
observer. There was no photo of the Night Parrots last year in the
Pilbara, but there was enough of a description, and the observers involved
were well known enough for the record to be easily accepted. The observers
certainly knew the significance of their sighting!!
Frank O'Connor Birding WA http://birdingwa.iinet.net.au
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email :
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