rara aves
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 4:12PM
Sue Wetmore in rare birds

Rare bird - now what? You’re out enjoying a day of birding when an unfamiliar bird pops into view. You quickly go through your mental files only to find the bird doesn’t fit anything you know. Or you know the bird, but the season is wrong (a Cape May Warbler in January, for example). Click here for the Official Vermont Checklist to find out what birds are expected and when.

a rare Ivory Gull thrilled birders in New York and Vermont last winterIf possible, take a photo. The advent of digital cameras and cell phones with cameras has been a boon to birders in recording both common and rare species. Photos can be deceptive, however, so take notes while watching the bird or immediately after. Don’t trust your memory! Be as detailed as possible, noting the overall size of the bird, shape of the bill, tail, and wings, leg and bill color, and any other prominent field marks, as well as behavior and habitat.

Don’t consult your field guide while watching the bird and note taking. Use the time instead to observe the bird and jot down all the details. If possible, and the bird hangs around, contact a birding friend to meet you for a second opinion (another advantage of cell phones).

Later, if you use eBird, you’ll get message asking you to confirm your observation when you submit your sighting. That will be a clue you might need to submit your documentation. Also, if a bird does not appear on the Vermont Field Card or is out of season, you should probably follow up to see if it should be reported.

As a member of the Records of Vermont Committee, I have reviewed many reports only to find that the person submitting the data did not include sufficient details. That doesn’t mean the bird wasn’t there. It means there wasn’t enough detail to convince the committee that the bird was not mistaken for another species.

It is important to report all potential rare or unusual species so that ornithologists and conservation biologists can track trends in bird populations. It also alerts the birding community to be on the lookout for any species that may be expanding into the area (and the opportunity to add to life lists.)

Reporting detailed documentation, known as a RSD (Rare Species Documentation), can be done online the Vermont Center of Ecostudies. Click here to find compete instructions for reporting your observation, as well as helpful hints on what makes a good report. You will also find a list of the birds that require documentation and under what circumstances. For example, Yellow-breasted Chat always requires documentation in Vermont while it’s only necessary for Pied-billed Grebes if evidence of breeding is observed.

Annually a report of the year’s rare species is published and can be accessed by clicking here. It's interesting reading. And it's a real thrill to have your report accepted.

So the next time an unusual bird comes into view, watch it like a hawk and get the details. 




Article originally appeared on Rutland County Audubon Society - Birds and Bird Watching in Rutland County, Vermont, USA (http://rutlandcountyaudubon.org/).
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