Reporting rarities

To: Sav Saville <>
Subject: Reporting rarities
From: John Tongue <>
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2006 12:42:21 +1000
I agree with most of what you say - pretty much all of what you say about birding, but NOT about the All-Blacks!

I think most of us are interested in what's rare and unusual - even if it's only rare and unusual to ME. For example, though we have seen lots of Azure Kingfishers on the mainland, they are very rare here in Tassie, and so we visited Arthur River in the far NW of Tassie twice in a 6-8 month period to look for them. We did finally see ONE(!) and were quite excited. Had we been on the mainland, we would probably have been making the trek, too. It's a bit hard to justify a trip across the Strait at the moment though.

So, let's not be gullible about what we accept as possible, but lets not be too critical, either - especially not of each other, even if we sometimes consider the reports critically.

John Tongue

PS, better luck next time, Wallabies!

On Sunday, July 9, 2006, at 09:30  AM, Sav Saville wrote:

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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