Reporting rarities

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Reporting rarities
From: Sav Saville <>
Date: Sun, 09 Jul 2006 11:30:19 +1200

I have been watching the Grey-headed Lapwing story unfold, from the other side 
of the Tasman, with great interest - and a little jealousy.

Several related points have come to my mind, and the most striking one is the 
business of rarity reporting. I was quite shocked to hear several people say 
that they felt disinclined to report rarities for fear of "hate-mail" and 
"scorn from the in-crowd". If there is any birder out there that claims they 
have never made a mistake, then they are deluding themselves! We all make 
mistakes, and I would like to echo Alan Morris' statement that we should all 
encourage birders to report things that they see as unusual. Sometimes a more 
experienced birder can point out an obvious error to a beginner, sometimes a 
fleeting glimpse of a supposed rarity can be "explained" as something more 
normal - but it must always be done in a way that leaves the reporter feeling 
happy and encouraged to try again.

All the real twitchers around the world are certain to be encouraging, 
otherwise their "supply" of rarities would soon dry up, and they will all know 
that one cannot dismiss anything as impossible - the Lapwing is a great 
example, as is the Isabelline Wheatear, the Willie Wagtail on the Chathams, 
Ancient Murrelet in Britain etc etc

Are there really 10,000 competent birders in Australia? I have no idea, but 
that number sounds large - I guess there are barely 200 in NZ by the way. The 
stats on how many rarities get away are fun, and must indeed be directly 
related to the density of birders. With almost no-one here in NZ the chances of 
finding yourself a rare bird are very good -  in 20+ years birding in Britain I 
found 4 rare birds, but using the British Birds criteria for what constitutes a 
rarity, I have found about 60 here in 12 years!! and that is all because next 
to nobody else is looking.

Finally I found it interesting that the Lapwing was the first twitch for so 
many Aussie birdres, and I wonder if they will get bitten by the bug? I've 
always maintained that we are almost all twitchers actually - who wouldn't walk 
100metres to see a new bird?, drive a mile?, 10 miles?, 1000 miles? It's all a 
matter of degree and opportunity.

By the way, the timing of this posting has nothing to do with the fact that the 
All Blacks thrashed the Wallabies last night in Christchurch!!


Sav Saville
Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ
23 Duke Street
New Zealand
Tel +64 6 323 1441

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