Subject: BARC
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 11:30:23 +0900

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 form.

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
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email : ===============================

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