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Thread: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

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    Default Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Birding Totals – the ‘’Rules”

    I have been thinking since Grant posted the Totals thread that some people might find it useful to have a thread with the established rules of “competitive birding” ie: twitching/ticking/listing.
    I know that I made many errors in my listing when I first started getting into birding and wasn’t sure about a number of things to do with what you can and can’t tick, not to mention the confusing world of Albatross taxonomy!!
    So here goes and I hope this is helpful for everyone. For those more knowledgeable than me feel free to add anything that I have forgotten.

    (Note that the numbers are not necessarily in order of importance although the points I make do become more about guidelines/tips/ethics etc)

    Rules
    1. First rule of listing you Australian bird sightings is to follow the same list as everyone else so that your list can actually be compared. This is assumed by everyone to be Christides & Boles 2008.
    If for some reason you follow a different taxonomy then you will need to state that.

    2. All birds must be wild and free. No captives or escapees can be counted.
    For example: I saw a Cockatiel in Malabar (Sydney suburb) a few months ago. This is obviously way out of range and much more likely to be an escapee so can’t be counted. Escapees can be a tricky one of course as vagrants do indeed occur like Orange Chats also in Malabar a few years ago. Best to check with others before counting it.

    3. Most people will agree that you have to have SEEN the bird to count it on your list. Just HEARING it isn’t enough for your first TICK. How you then manage your subsequent lists (state, year etc) is subjective and totally up to the individual.

    4. Feral species. The established rules on ticking feral species are that it must be part of a self-sustaining breeding population that has been so for at least 10 years.
    This means that you can’t tick the Greylag Goose you see on a farm dam. This is an often debated topic of course and some will tick where others won’t!
    However there are known populations for most ferals such as Peacock on Rottnest Island WA, Helmeted Guineafowl in FNQ, ..even Ostrich in SA!!

    5. Vagrants: There is often some confusion with some vagrants in that some won’t tick a “ship-assisted” bird. One of the problems with this rule of course is how do you tell that it is ship assisted? Even pelagic species like Petrels have often been seen resting on a ship so personally I find this a hard rule to work out. You can’t really ask the bird how it got here!
    But for the most part rare vagrants like Grey-headed Lapwing or Eurasian Little Grebe will be counted without hesitation and get “twitchers” speeding across the country to see them!

    6. Subspecies: As the world of bird taxonomy is constantly changing it is always a good idea to keep track of the subspecies you see. However you can’t count them on your Australian List. Sometimes a change will happen and a species will be “split” and a sub species elevated to species level. If you have previously seen both sub-species then you gain a tick without trying – often referred to as an “armchair tick”. Recent examples were White-lined Honeyeater splitting into Kimberley Honeyeater as well.
    More disappointing is when 2 species are “lumped” into the same species (one becoming a sub-species of the other). Recent examples of this are Lesser Sooty and Sooty Owl. When this happens (and you have seen both …I wish!!) then you lose a tick

    7. Albatross taxonomy: A very divided topic so be careful what you say to who!!
    Basically Christides & Boles have stuck with a more traditional view and kept most taxa as sub-species. The majority of seabird enthusiasts (and a lot of scientists of course) classify these sub-species as various numbers of species. Eg: Wandering Albatross is one species in C&B whereas going on a pelagic from Wollongong you will hear them talking about “Gibson’s”, “Antipodean” etc.
    So to be on the same page as per point #1, whatever you’re view you really need to stick with C&B. Unless you make the point to people that you have gone with the more progressive splitting concept.
    To go into more detail really deserves its own thread so I’ll stop now!

    Ethics & Tips
    1. Make sure you are 100% on your ID before committing it to your list.
    This may sound obvious but we all make mistakes and how you respond to those mistakes (or if you are honest enough to admit them) will define you as a birdwatcher. Reputations are earned in the long term by this more ethical part of birdwatching.

    2. Making good use of your field guide is a must. You can usually rule out a lot of species when trying to ID that new bird by range/location alone. Yes vagrants do turn up but in the vast majority of cases that rare bird you think you are looking at is most likely something common that you have misidentified.

    3. Never be afraid to ask for help when trying to ID a new bird. Also taking a photo or detailed notes is a must if you are not sure – especially if you think it might be something rare. I would hope that all the members here will be capable of taking a photo good enough for identification!
    Some people frown on ticking from a photo although I personally did it a lot when I started as it was easier than taking notes and allowed me to be 100% confident. This is very much a personal thing. As long as you’re not ticking from someone elses photo when you weren’t even there!!

    I’m sure there are other things that I haven’t mentioned that might be relevant but that’s all I can think of for now.

    Of course this is all to do with your Australian List, which for those who have birded overseas will be a sub set of their Life List.
    From here you can knock yourself out with State Lists, Year Lists, Birds Seen While Peeing in the bush List, Birds Banded List, and even Captive birds List if you want!

    Anyway hope some find this useful.
    Cheers, Dave

    www.davidstowe.com.au WORKSHOPS - Lord Howe Island - 29th November - 6th December 2017.

    Aus Life List IOC= 680 - Lord Howe Woodhen
    "So God created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:21


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Thanks Dave for the post. I think something like this is definetly needed, especially for people like myself who have started birding seriously in the last few years, but don't have an understanding of things like this that exist in the greater birding community.

    Ticking from photo's is something that I do often. I find that sometimes you will only see fleeting glimpses of birds and by the time you've got the notebook out to take a few notes, or you look at it thinking whether it's the primary, secondayr or tertory feathers that have a noteworthy feature, the birds buggered off again. It just allows me to go home and study it in more detail to be able to make a more informed ID next time.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    This needs to be pinned Amazing Job David.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Wow Dave, thanks for taking the time to write that up, great post.

    I assume ticking off someone elses photo if you were there is ok, ie Lucky and i regulary bird together and sometimes only one of us takes a pic but we both saw it, the Lewins Rail for instance.

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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan40D
    Wow Dave, thanks for taking the time to write that up, great post.

    I assume ticking off someone elses photo if you were there is ok, ie Lucky and i regulary bird together and sometimes only one of us takes a pic but we both saw it, the Lewins Rail for instance.
    Depends on whether you ask me or Grant
    Cheers, Dave

    www.davidstowe.com.au WORKSHOPS - Lord Howe Island - 29th November - 6th December 2017.

    Aus Life List IOC= 680 - Lord Howe Woodhen
    "So God created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:21


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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Grant has entered the room.............ego first
    Ok these are some points from MY rules which I have used since I was a little fella, they're not for everyone and I'm certainly not saying everyone should follow my lead.
    1) I'll never tick a lifer from a photograph. If I cant ID the bird from sight there and then its not worth having on the list. I'm super obsessed with being able to ID birds straight away on sight/call.
    2) Must be 110% sure of your sighting. Off the top of my head there are 4 species I've 'seen' but not ticked due to poor views. For those interested: Southern Scrub-robin, Masked Owl, Fairy Tern and Hutton''s Shearwater.
    3) Never be afraid to delete a bird off your list. I was 11 when I started birding and my skills/knowlegde were pretty dodgy so years later Red Junglefowl, Brown Booby and Rufous Scrub-bird got the chop.....thank god I've seen the scrub-bird since then
    4) I'll never tick a species that someone else has ID for me. I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO ID by myself!

    Tips......
    1) Study the field guide!!!!! I was reading Slater before I picked up binos.
    2) Distribution maps in field guides aren't always that accurate but they are of HUGE help. Obviously that brown Fairy-wren in coastal NSW is not going to be a Red-winged or Purple-crowned.
    3) Go birding with others, try to pick experienced birders!!!!
    4) Go birding often......the only reason I can pick up calls quickly and can ID that flash across the path is because I'm always out there! JIZZ is everything! I've noticed that since I've been birding with Lucky his ability to pick birds on Jizz has improved hugely (sorry to single you out mate).
    5) Follow that call! If you cant ID a call follow it until you have your answer. Also listen to bird calls on CD, iPod etc.....must admit that I have my BOCA calls playing in the car leading up to Twitchathon each year just so I'm reminded and ready.

    Ummmmmmm I think thats all......I'll probably cop some 'wanker' comments but these are my rules and I like them.

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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Grant did I mention that i had great views of Hutton's Shearwater on that pelagic we did? I can show you the photos if you want to tick it
    Cheers, Dave

    www.davidstowe.com.au WORKSHOPS - Lord Howe Island - 29th November - 6th December 2017.

    Aus Life List IOC= 680 - Lord Howe Woodhen
    "So God created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:21


  8. #8

    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Here's one I'd like you all to consider...

    In November 2007 a group of us travelled to Gluepot Reserve in South Australia to do some bird banding there with the banding projects manager.

    We had a great time banding chestnut quail-thrush, southern scrub-robin, chestnut-crowned babbler, white-fronted honeyeater, black-eared miner, etc.

    During the five days we were there we did not see or hear a Red-lored Whistler, however, we did catch one! An amazing bird, beautiful in the hand.

    So, am I allowed to count the whistler for my list? I'll add that, when we let it go, it was a wild, free-flying bird and we all had good looks at it!!

    [attachment=0:1rc5tco8]RLW.jpg[/attachment:1rc5tco8]
    "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer". - Frank Zappa

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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Of course thats a tick Anthony and what a tick!!!
    The bird wasn't technically captive, its alive and you could ID it in person. What more do you want?
    What a stunning little bird. Thanks for posting

  10. #10

    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    You're damn right I ticked it!! :P
    "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer". - Frank Zappa

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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    HAHAHAHAHA I'd be happy with a Gilbert's at the moment

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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Good example Anthony. Personally I wouldn't have hesitated to tick it! Great shot too mate. I'd LOVE to see one of these guys!
    Cheers, Dave

    www.davidstowe.com.au WORKSHOPS - Lord Howe Island - 29th November - 6th December 2017.

    Aus Life List IOC= 680 - Lord Howe Woodhen
    "So God created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:21


  13. #13

    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Another example was on the Wollongong pelagic trip last month. We banded a Tristan's Albatross (a race of the Wandering), but only worked out that it was a Tristan's after measuring its bits and pieces. At sea the bird is almost impossible to distinguish. But, hey, it's a tick! Well, when they split it from the wanderer it will be !!!
    "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer". - Frank Zappa

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Quote Originally Posted by Anthony Overs
    Another example was on the Wollongong pelagic trip last month. We banded a Tristan's Albatross (a race of the Wandering), but only worked out that it was a Tristan's after measuring its bits and pieces. At sea the bird is almost impossible to distinguish. But, hey, it's a tick! Well, when they split it from the wanderer it will be !!!
    Was that on the pelagic that we were on Anthony??
    Cheers, Dave

    www.davidstowe.com.au WORKSHOPS - Lord Howe Island - 29th November - 6th December 2017.

    Aus Life List IOC= 680 - Lord Howe Woodhen
    "So God created every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:21


  15. #15

    Default Re: Birding Totals - "The Rules"

    Yep!

    Dunno whether you got a shot of the bird. It was fairly white, but had short wings and bill on measurements.

    Honestly, I think we have to interview them to find out who they are and where they're from...
    "You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer". - Frank Zappa

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