I am amazed at the volume of messages on this topic, and the strength of
some opinions against BARC. If people didn't care about BARC, then I can't
see why they would bother to take the time to post a message ... Perhaps
they do care?
I have sent a few submissions to BARC over the years. Some have been
accepted, and some not. The records that weren't accepted were not
rejected. There was insufficient detail in the submission, or some missing
detail. e.g. we didn't see the diagnostic thin stripe on the throat of the
Grey-faced Buzzard we observed on Boigu, and so it is fair enough that BARC
did not accept the record as the first for Australia.
It is much harder to make a submission without a photo, as you have to be
much more precise about your descriptions. I don't know the names of the
parts of all the plumage, and my impression of a colour can be very
different to another person's, and colours change with lighting
conditions. However, it does make you take detailed notes, and it does
make you take notice of small features that you might otherwise ignore, or
take notes of the most obvious parts which you might assume to be taken for
granted. Even with a photo, you should make field notes, as many digital
photos don't reproduce the colours exactly as you see them.
I have seen a number of Mike Carter's submissions, or subsequent articles
for journals, and I am amazed at the level of detail that he gets to. It
shows the detailed research that he puts in. I know that I could never get
to that level. But I have birded with him on many occasions, and he does
know that level of information. That is why he could pick a South Island
Pied Oystercatcher, or a Little Grebe, or whatever if he saw it whereas
most birders would overlook the bird.
But you don't need to get to that level of detail. One to two A4 pages is
usually sufficient, and it is only that long because of the BARC submission
The other difficulty is not knowing about alternative species, or
geographical differences. But this a learning experience. I saw a gull in
Broome years ago with a longer bill and no white in the primaries. I tried
to turn it into a Slender-billed Gull, until Ron Johnstone showed me that
some Silver Gulls up near New Caledonia have no white in the primaries, and
could have a longer bill.
I thought that the classic standoff is the case of Pacific Swallow just
north of Mossman in north Queensland. I have read both sides of the story,
and I can accept BARC's reason for not accepting the record, even though
the birds were captured. I have seen these birds, and they are still the
only swallows I have seen in Australia with white sub terminal bars on each
side of the tail, rather than the normal spots, and it has made me look at
Welcome Swallows a lot more closely. Similarly, with reed-warblers I now
look for the colour inside the mouth. I have only seen orange, except for
two birds in Kununurra that were pink and I believe were Oriental
Reed-warblers. Similarly, I now look much more closely at Silver Gulls.
As the WA sightings officer, I didn't accept a record of Barn Swallow from
the Eyre Bird Observatory a few years ago. The wardens said the observer
was British and knew Barn Swallows very well, but as a first time visitor
to Australia, did he know the variations of Welcome Swallow? There was no
description of the bird other than it was a Barn Swallow.
So it is up to you whether you make a submission to BARC, but if you don't,
then I suggest that it could be because you think that your notes were not
good enough, or that you are not prepared to go to the effort of checking
enough references to get the details you might need. The members of BARC
are very helpful. You can contact them and ask for comments first on your
submission, or for information on alternative species, etc. If you are not
prepared to make the effort, then it probably says more about you than it
says about BARC.
Frank O'Connor Birding WA http://birdingwa.iinet.net.au
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email :
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