BRITISH COLUMBIA FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS
BIRD RECORDS COMMITTEE
BCFO is delighted to formally announce the re-establishment of our Bird Records Committee. We are extremely fortunate to have the following people offer their time and expertise to the BRC. It’s not a small task they’ve taken on.
Nathan Hentze (Chair) (Saanich)
Peter Candido (Vancouver)
Russell Cannings (Nanaimo
Chris Charlesworth (Kelowna)
Mike Force (Lake Country)
Jeremy Gatten (Saanich)
Mike Toochin (Richmond)
George Clulow (BCFO President) and Art Martell (BCFO Journal editor) are acting in support roles for the committee, and as liaisons to the BCFO Board.
Rules governing the length, and number of terms members may serve are being developed currently. This information will be published later when details are codified.
BCFO hasn’t had a functioning Bird Records Committee for a long time. Many in the birding community, both inside and outside the Province, would say it’s been far too long. The last report of a BCFO Bird Records Committee covered the 1996/97 period.
Without a properly constituted and functioning records committee, the ornithological/birding community in BC has fallen further and further behind in the formal collection, review, validation, and publication of records of new bird species occurring in British Columbia. The purpose of this new committee is to ensure these functions are carried out.
The committee will initially focus on catching up with the backlog, and then keeping up with new records requiring review. BCFO is committed to providing a secure, publicly accessible archive that holds a comprehensive record of the information available to the committee and its decisions.
An updated, provincial checklist is, of course, one of the logical outcomes of this work that will take some time to achieve.
The committee started work in September 2013, and among other things has been compiling information about “new” birds reported throughout the province over the last number of years. On December 4, 2103 the committee had its first formal meeting via conference call, at which it approved some preliminary operating guidelines, and reviewed the first set of 10 species of birds.
PRELIMINARY BRC REPORT – DECEMBER, 2013
The BRC will follow the general principles outlined below:
• It will use a consensus model for making decisions
• The work of the committee will be transparent and decisions will be promptly made public
• Proposals/submissions will be ‘accepted’ or ‘not accepted’ with reasons given
• Reasons given may be a summary of comments by individual committee members, without attribution
• The reasons for ‘not accepted’ need to be sufficiently clear that re-submission is possible if deficiencies are addressed
• Records of new provincial species will be reviewed first
• Where possible, the earliest record of a new provincial species will be reviewed first, but a greater priority will be on records with adequate and easily obtained documentation. (See Summer Tanager below)
• Provincial firsts require physical proof (e.g., photos, videos, specimen). Excellent field-notes will suffice for subsequent records if physical proof is lacking.
• Provincial firsts by single-observers are acceptable, where verifiable, physical proof was obtained.
• A provisional list is established for species that have received no objections to ID or provenance, but which do not otherwise meet criteria for acceptance. Species on the provisional list may be re-evaluated in the future after the species has been “accepted” for the province, or when additional information is acquired.
• Outside expertise may be sought at the committee’s discretion. Such expertise is to inform the committee, but holds no voting power on its own.
An annual report of the committee will be published in British Columbia Birds
A summary of decisions will be published earlier on the BCFO website and/or in BC Birding
BIRD RECORDS COMMITTEE DECISIONS – With Summary Comments
December 4, 2013
Note: Full details of these sightings including attribution to observers will be published in an upcoming issue of BC BIRDS.
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis). – Fort Nelson, 28 May 2009
The combination of orange throat and side of neck, blue scaps/back and white belly were all visible in the submitted photograph, safely ruling out Western Bluebird. While this was a single-observer sighting, the photo left no doubt as to the correct identification. While the committee must remain alert to the possibility of photographs being taken outside the province but claimed within, in this case the location of the photograph was vouched for independently of the submission. (BCBRC #2013–001)
Common Crane (Grus grus) – Masset, Haida Gwaii, 3 July 2011
The good photograph shows all field-marks required to eliminate other species. There is a well-established pattern of vagrancy for this species in North America, and increasing records in the west. There was no concern about a captive-origin for this bird. The committee noted that this could be the same individual that was seen in California that spring – a record that was accepted by the California Bird Records Committee. (BCBRC #2013–002)
Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva) – Iona Island, 11–18 November 2012
Good photos of this bird show all diagnostic details to rule out Cliff Swallow, the only confusion species. The combination of pale throat wrapping around onto the nape with dark forehead and the primary moult fits this species and season. The time period of this sighting coincides with the species push into northeastern North America, and it is increasing in range and abundance in North America. (BCBRC #2013–003)
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) – 2 records
Blue River, 7 May 2009
Due to the lack of details and low-resolution of the received photo, the committee decided to defer review of this sighting until more details and better quality photos could be obtained. (BCBRC #2013–011)
Conclusion: Defer review
Parksville, 23 November 2011
Good photo showing enough details to rule out all other confusion species. The blotchy red patches in the body plumage hint at maybe this bird being a female of the eastern subspecies rubra. From Western Tanager by lack of wing bars, peaked shape of head, large bill, overall orangey-yellow colour not greenish-yellow and the red blotches in the lower body and undertail area. From Scarlet Tanager by olive-yellow wings not blackish, large bill, overall orangey-yellow colour not greenish yellow and peaked head shape. From Hepatic Tanager by large yellowish bill not greyish-black and lack of darkish ear coverts. (2013–004)
Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla) – Vaseux Lake, 27 September 2008
Immature male captured in mist-net and photographed. Photographs left no doubt as to the identification, with no real confusion species. (BCBRC #2013–005)
Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) – Courtenay, 15 November 2012 – 25 March 2013
Excellent photos and hundreds of observers. This first-winter bird (likely female) can be readily separated from first winter Yellow Wagtail, it’s most confusable species, by the distinctive supercilium extending completely around the ear-coverts. This coupled with the bold white wing-bars can safely rule out the grey-and-white subspecies of first winter Yellow Wagtails. White Wagtail can ruled out by lack of a blackish bib, no white forehead, no white ear-coverts and no dark eyeline. Other supporting field marks include greyish auriculars with pale centre and dark brow line. The only feature that appears atypical is the pale-based (pinkish) lower mandible. Citrine typically has an all-dark bill, though can show slightly paler at base, as with this individual. (BCBRC #2013–006)
Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) – New Westminster, 13 January 2013
Excellent photos of this bird coupled with good field notes. The combination of all blue tail, orangey flanks, small size, longish legs, pale throat and furtive behaviour rule out all other possibilities except Himalayan Bluetail. Red-flanked has a well-established pattern of vagrancy to North America, with two California and many Alaska records. While exceedingly unlikely, first-winter/female Himalayan Bluetail (recently split from Red-flanked) is very similar in appearance. The committee felt that this bird was a Red-flanked, but contacted Pamela Rasmussen for an outside perspective. Rasmussen is an expert on Asian birds with extensive experience with bluetails, and principal author of “Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide”. She stated that the bird was “without a doubt a [Red-flanked] Bluetail” citing its buffy throat, warm-brown breastband, and rather short, pale blue tail. (BCBRC #2013–007)
Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) – Dixon Entrance, 20 October 2008
Excellent photos and description leave no doubts about the identification of this bird. This record did spark a discussion about ship-assistance. It was generally agreed that ship-assistance cannot be ruled-out, and is in fact likely for this group of birds. However, as the bird was under its own power when it arrived on the boat, and as we can never know for certain how it got to BC waters, the point is moot. Furthermore, ship-assistance is not limited to seabirds, and in-and-of itself may not exclude acceptance of a record. (BCBRC #2013–008)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) – Metchosin, 17 September 2009
The excellent field notes and write up for this sighting leave no real doubt to its correct identification. The issue here is that it does not meet the requirements for acceptance as a first provincial record (e.g., photo, video, specimen). The record is added to the Provisional List, and it may be re-evaluated in the future if the species is accepted to the Provincial List. (BCBRC #2013–009)
Conclusion: Place on Provisional List
Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis) – offshore Tofino, 13 September 2010
Good photo with excellent field notes leaves no doubt to this bird. Only possible confusion species here is Buller’s Shearwater. This bird’s well-defined dark cap set off by its white cheeks and nape with a scalloped mantle, easily rules out Buller’s Shearwater. This species has been detected off the North Pacific coast with increasing frequency and now has a well-established pattern of records. (BCBRC #2013–010)
Departure dates are being confirmed for a some of the above species, and will be added later.
End of Current reviews
The committee’s work is just starting and processes and procedures will undoubtedly evolve over time. Their work will be available on the BCFO website, and in the publications mentioned above.
SUPPORTING THE BIRD RECORDS COMMITTEE
The success of the committee in the long run depends on the support of the birding and ornithological community of the province. The committee is developing an open and accessible process and invites you to make records and supporting evidence available to them.
A record submission form will soon be available here, but in the meantime those of you who have reported potential firsts for the province can anticipate requests for details from the committee.
There are many records on the review list, and much to work through.
Please comment, or give us feedback in the Leave a Reply box below.
BCFO welcomes new members and new voices. Click here to join.
Thanks everyone for your work to set up this committee.
About time! Good choices of committee members and good work so far. John Vooys, Abbotsford.
This is a very impressive, concise and useful start. The committee could use some female members, but women are probably too smart to get involved in such typically male-oriented exercise of control. (This is just an aside and is not meant as a criticism of any member or of the process of validating rare birds.) Good luck, members. I think your committee will do much more good than harm. I, for one, am willing to co-operate.
Congratulations on an excellent start. Well done!
Well done to everyone for setting up this vital committee. I am assuming that the committee will, in due course, expand its role to consider important records in addition to ‘firsts’ – as is done elsewhere?
The initial focus for the committee is the backlog of “firsts.” Once that’s completed, the committee will continue in a more “traditional” manner. Additional records for rare birds will be reviewed. The Summer Tanager in this first set of reviews is an example. All up-to-date information will be published here as the committee’s work evolves.
Great to see this up and running again.
I agree that it is nice to see a concise analysis of each sighting ruled upon. Surprised you did not include the dates for the sightings in the summaries, however.
A bit of an oversight on our part – we’re just getting all our ducks in a row, so to speak. Check back in a bit, and the dates will be up there.