On 19th December 2007 David Robertson said:
'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
Firstly, whilst recognising there is some antipathy to BARC,
particularly from a few disgruntled observers, I don't think one can fairly
say there is 'much' antipathy to BARC. Regarding the recent discussion, an
independent observer commented that the pro-BARC people won the debate. Of
course disappointment follows a non-accept decision on their submission but
few are justifiably aggrieved. As in other walks of life, one is upset by a
decision that is, or seems to be, unfair but most accept that justice can't
always be achieved.
The statement that 'we were not consulted is just not true'. Perusal of the
minutes of the meetings of the Council of the Royal Australian
Ornithologists Union (RAOU), now better known as Birds Australia, will
attest to that. I'll here attempt a potted history.
In order to augment information on the status of birds in
Victoria accumulating from specimens at the National Museum of Victoria, in
the 1970's I was asked by Alan McEvey, curator of birds, to communicate to
the museum information received on the grapevine regarding the claims of
field observers, some, but not all of which was being published in
newsletters and more formal but not refereed journals. He and others decided
that a vetting system was necessary and suggested a set of rules. These were
discussed among a small group then put to the council of the RAOU, which, in
1975 established a Records Appraisal Committee (RAC). So even though you may
not personally have been consulted, your representative on the RAOU council
'To the outsider it appears to be a self-perpetuating oligarchy. This was
the reason that I did not submit my House Swift to BARC. I simply gave it
to the Melbourne Museum where it resides.'
There are several points here. Firstly, neither BARC nor its
predecessor are or were equipped or licensed to hold specimens. You did the
right thing in sending the specimen to a museum, the proper place for such
objects. That way others can compare and collect data. In this case you, and
others including the late John McKean, collected the data from the live
bird. Then you published a full and well-written account Robertson, D.G.
(1980), 'First Record of the House Swift Apus affinis (Apodidae) in
Australia', The Australian Bird Watcher 8 (8), 239-242. But neither of these
acts served your purpose (if that really was your intent) to by-pass BARC or
the RAC as it was then. The RAC then did its own investigation, submission
No. 91. In summarising the case, Bob Patterson, the chairman at that time
wrote, 'The specimen has been examined in conjunction with the published
data and we have no hesitation in accepting the identification as Apus
affinis'. That is why the record is accepted and that is what it says in
HANZAB, p. 1091. There were, and still are, numerous misidentified specimens
in museums. The advantage over sight records is that others can check
'Another point that has not been covered is the situation that arises (not
infrequently) wherein a member of BARC submits a record. I assume that he
or she does not sit in judgement 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 judgement?
We don't and shouldn't. Observer competence is always a consideration.
After all, it is one 'expert' submitting to other 'experts'.
True, hence the above.
I rather suspect that your personal antipathy to RAC derived from an earlier
case, Submission No. 26.
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