To: <>
Subject: BARC
From: "Tony Palliser" <>
Date: Sat, 22 Dec 2007 19:43:42 +1100
With all the discussion regarding rarities committees, as chair of the
current committee I feel compelled to respond to some of the comments.

Firstly one would have to get up really early to offend me, so no
offence has been taken. For the most part I can understand the opinion
of others even though I do not always agree.  I will attempt to very
quickly respond to some of the points - without going in to too much
detail as this type of string has been dealt with many times over the

>BARC for the most part deals with claims of the twitching community!

True but it also deals with other claims too, in fact most of our work
revolves around submissions by folk that wish to see their finds
officially accepted and therefore stand with some 'referenceable'
credibility for future publications. 

>It really doesn't matter if 12 or 13 records of Franklin's turn up.

Again there is some truth to this, but without a committee some of the
reports would result in miss identification and therefore end-up as
errors in publication. The committee has received reports of Franklins'
Gull for example that was actually a Laughing Gull.  BTW, the rules
indicate that that this species could now be removed from the list of
species needing BARC approval given the frequency of records, but given
the identification difficulties this species remains on the review list.

>BARC is not performing a particularly important public service in the
way that people who carry out regular bird-surveys, nest-monitoring,
bird-banding &c do.

Again true rarities committees do very little in the way of conservation
efforts, but that is not the intention.

>There is clearly a perception that BARC is a bit of a club and that you
>shouldn't bother submitting interesting sightings.

But the evidence is contrary to that belief. These days there are very
few reports of national rarities that are not submitted to BARC. The
number of submissions received is increasing as indeed is the quality
mostly due to the use of photographic evidence available to most birders

>You need irrefutable evidence (not just your own sighting, but photos,
>measurements, videos, DNA samples and so on) or you're a member of the

That is a bit unfair, even committee members have had records "not
accepted" just take a look through some of the findings for evidence of
this.  But yes, you do need corroboration of some sort' particularly if
from a single observer. Photographs are preferred but good field notes
may suffice. Yes there is some truth to the fact that those voting have
a tendency to accept sightings from well-known reliable observers, that
is human nature. As in any other field of human endeavour, credibility
is earned.

>There does seem to be a bit of a skew towards trying as hard as
possible to >rule sightings out. It seems that there is an attitude of
"we're 99% sure >but can't rule out x" so we're not allowing it. (eg

This may appear to be the case and is the result of having a panel of 8
voting on each record. Looking at the above example, I feel confident
that this bird could well have been a Franklin's Gull, but a 10 second
view by a single observer will understandable end up with a
non-acceptance result as opposed to a rejection. A rejected record is
one that involves a bird clearly misidentified (something that happens
only rarely).  A classic example is the Long-billed Dowitcher submission
which resulted in the acceptance of Short-billed Dowitcher.

>Also, there is an impression that even detailed field notes and
>observations often don't seem to cut it. I know that if I ever come
across >a possible American Golden Plover I'm just going to shoot the
thing and >submit the corpse.

Certainly AGP is one of the most difficult ID problems in the world
today but I hope you are not serious. Evidence obtained by illegal means
is not admissible!

>Committee members do this for their own ego.

I am trying to get my head around this thought but fail to see how such
a thankless job could boost my ego. Come on, how many committee members
can you name?

>How can a group of people who weren't there say you didn't see a
particular >bird?"

They can't and the committee does not say such things. 

>We need a system of checking claims, but we need one that either works
or >that people have confidence in (preferably both). At the moment we
do not >have such a system."

I would suggest the opposite - the system does work and the scientific
community has confidence in it. Just look at HANZAB and shortly at the
new Australian Checklist. Much of what is included derives from BARC
Did you have some ideas for improvement here? We are open to suggestion.

>I think much of the antipathy towards BARC stems from the fact that we
were >not consulted about the formation of BARC, who its members would
be, what >their qualifications would be and how long they would serve on
the >Committee.

The committee was formed in the mid 70's a bit before the time of
birding-aus. At the moment committee membership changes by natural
attrition with and committee members are invited according to their
skill-set, experience and geographical location. 

>I assume that he or she does not sit in judgment on his or her record
but >quite clearly the other members of BARC are well aware of who the
submitter >is. How do they prevent this from affecting their judgment?

Correct, a member cannot vote on ones own submission, and to prevent
difficult situations votes remain anonymous.

>BARC takes too long

Couldn't agree more, this is very difficult to resolve, generally one
needs to spend about an hour a day to keep up, so you can imagine what
can happen if you go birding for a week or two, Would anyone like the
job as chairman?  

If readers are interested in leaning more about BARC, guidelines for
submitting sightings, the committee rules and the voting process you can
visit the BARC website at

Have a great Xmas everyone and lets all go birding more next year!
Getting out & about and finding great birds is after-all the fun part of
our interest. 

Tony Palliser
Chair, Birds Australia Rarities Committee.


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