Thursday, 19 March 2009

Wind Of Change ( not the Scorpions)

At last, common sense prevails:


"From Nigel Hudson-BBRC SecretaryJust to let you all know that at last week-ends' BBRC AGM, held at Minsmere, 3 species were taken off the BBRC list as from Jan 1st 2009. The 3 species are Cattle Egret, White-billed Diver and Parrot Crossbill.For Cattle Egret & White-billed Diver please continue to send any records prior to 1st Jan 2009 to the BBRC. In particular Cattle Egret records should not be ignored as we want to have as complete picture of the influx for any future researchers. Parrot Crossbill is slightly different in that very few records have been submitted for a number of years, and BBRC will not be looking at retrospective records.Also do continue to send records for these species to your County Recorder."

This all means that in this year's NESBR 2008 I don't have to justify not sending my Parrot Crossbill records to BBRC for their verification. Hooha ! I don't think they would have thanked me if I sent them every Parrot record I had somehow.

Kinda ironic though as nearly every photo I see of a 'Scottish Crossbill' on Birdguides, Surfbirds, Bird Forum etc is actually a Parrot Crossbill ! Maybe they(BBRC), or perhaps more appropriately, someone else should be reviewing those records after all ?

8 comments:

Jochen said...

Yeah, go for it!

Loxia Fan said...

Nah, I would never get anything done !

Jochen said...

But if you would get these things done, the American Birding Association might notice you and then send you over to North America for a few years on their dime to sort out their Crossbills and you'd get to travel the whole continent and bird all you want.

Oh well,...

Have you noticed that the Great McKinney may be planning a come-back?????!!!!!

Loxia Fan said...

I think America might just about be okay with Benkman, Groth et al ? Also, I like the fact that I am an 'independent' with no political or financial affilliation to any organisation, other than the BTO ( who do not fund any of my work).

Plus, plenty more to do here in Scotland to try and get a better understanding of the Scottish Crossbill situation. I doubt it will ever be a 'complete' understanding as everyone has their own theory as to what is going on. Some stuff I have seen on the internet recently is 'unhelpful' to those of us studying the species diligently and tenaciously. We are now getting misidentification of crossbills via their sonograms as well as from the more 'traditional' photographs! Unfortunately, reading Summers et al 2002 and The Sound Aproach does not qualify someone as an expert in crossbill call taxonomy - if only it were that easy. Sure, some calls are easy to ID using those sources but some are non diagnostic and variable, and some are, as of yet, unclassified. However, I have even seen the 'easy' ones made a pigs ear of on Bird Forum. So when someone reports records of 'this call was here and that call was there' I personally disregard it unless I have the physical evidence to review for myself. An example of this is in our most recent Bird Report of historic records of Parrot Crossbills in an area where there are no known Parrot Crossbills ! ID was based on the calls(not my records)! Fc2 is potentially the least diagnostic flight call in crossbills being shared between Common and Parrot, though they sound different, and even the EcD excitement calls are highly variable between both Parrot and Common types, agian sounding different in timbre.

Yes, the on-line birding community is a poorer place without Tom McKinney. Viva la Tom !

Paul said...

Well, who'd have thought that posting sonograms on birdforum and misidentifying them could jeopardise the studies of diligent and tenacious crossbill researchers?

Perhaps what is more likely is that people will see the confusion and uncertainty in the posts that accompany said sonograms and conclude that whoever is posting them is far from believing themself to be an expert!

As for the historical Parrot Crossbill records, the wording in the report does indicate that these were not definitely Parrots. Anyway, in the case of the 2007 record, you had the opportunity to comment on it at the time, and didn't, so you can't really complain if it crops up uncontested later!

Unsurprisingly, the 1995 and 1996 Glen Dye records were not mine (although admittedly this is not entirely clear from the way it is written). They came from a published crossbill expert who is acknowledged at the start of the article.

Loxia Fan said...

Hi Paul,

Woah, steady on, I think your conscience may be getting the better of you here ? Where exactly did I specifically say I was referring to your posts or sonograms on Bird Forum ? You seem to have taken this very personally. The thread that I did 'intervene' in this respect was not yours as I recall.

My point about it being 'unhelpful' was that some of the posts and threads are being used by people to analyse their own crossbill calls - that is fine, that afterall is what 'debate' and sharing info in the internet is all about. However, if that stuff is errant or vague then it does not really help anyone does it ? If people take statements or 'evidence' as gospel then the error is compounded. Thus, I am always very careful about what I say online, especially where the context is that we are dealing with "a work in progress".

Regarding your Parrot record you are quite right, I did not respond - it was at a time when I was becoming 'isolated' from Bird Forum, something I don't really want to go into (again)! I also felt that it was not really for me to have to say what it was or wasn't - I surely have no obbligation to and certainly have enough of my own records to contend with ? But, here is the funny thing: YOURS was not the Parrot record that I was referring to in my post above ! I have since sound recorded and observed pytyop at that same location since then, so it is perfectly feasible! So, you appear to have taken this statement personally also, where I had made no reference to it. FTR, since it has clearly bothered you I think your 'Parrot' call was most likely a distant Fc1 type, though I personally would have left it unidentified if it was my record - something you have to be prepared to do quite a lot with crossbills!

Regarding the Parrots in Glen Dye in the 90's, I do find these records hard to believe if I am completely honest, but I respect that you were using third party information. Also, nothing is 'impossible' as far as crossbills are concerned. However, the actual wording is " Crossbills giving calls typical of this species have also been recorded in Glen Dye". That is very different from "not definitely Parrots", in my understanding at least ? Were these calls recorded or just heard ?

The 'published crossbill' expert who is acknowledged in the paper I have nothing but the utmost deepest respect for, and indeed is a colleague with whom I am collaborating with on several crossbill call/biometric related projects where my 'expertise' is the call data. As far as I know he does not, or never has, casually sound recorded crossbills, or analysed crossbill songrams - but you can correct me if I am wrong here. I will certainly ask him this weekend. He, I know, would certainly not accept me just doing the crossbill calls by ear and then publishing the data in relation to anything we are currently working on - what's for the goose is for the gander, as far as I am concerned ! That is why I collect sonograms especially of captured (and released) birds, as well as in situ and colour ringed ones.

My remit on all of this stands: without physical acoustic or biometric evidence they could have literally been anything - Fc2, as you know, is shared with Parrot and Common and we now know there is even at least one Fc1 variant that sounds very similar. Even the excitement calls are confusable - there are Common EcD's. I personally would have disregarded such unverifiable albeit interesting records in your paper, but that is just me. I do, however, respect your decsion to be more 'prolific' and comprehensive with the records.

Soon, I too will have some stuff(finally) published so maybe I will then join your elite group of 'published' or 'acknowledged crossbill experts' you have recently started to cite, though given the tone of your post I somehow doubt it ! However, I don't really care for all this 'published' or 'unpublished' 'expert'/'hack' nonsense, for reasons I will not go in to here. I am doing it because I have so many questions that I want to answer regarding loxia and I really enjoy every single minute I spend in the field studying the various species. For every question you (think you) answer you raise 4 more. For me this is part of the appeal and rather than incite others to hurry up and 'get the finger out' in answering such questions so I can sleep easy at night regarding crossbill calls, I am prepared to do go out and do the work for myself.

That you took personal offence or exception to anything I wrote then I apologise - that clearly was not my intention and I hope that this post clarifies this position. The fact that you do seem to have taken it rather personally is something I am afraid I can't help you with, and perhaps this is something on which you should reflect.

Best wishes,

Lindsay

-----------------------------------

Paul said....


Well, who'd have thought that posting sonograms on birdforum and misidentifying them could jeopardise the studies of diligent and tenacious crossbill researchers?

Perhaps what is more likely is that people will see the confusion and uncertainty in the posts that accompany said sonograms and conclude that whoever is posting them is far from believing themself to be an expert!

As for the historical Parrot Crossbill records, the wording in the report does indicate that these were not definitely Parrots. Anyway, in the case of the 2007 record, you had the opportunity to comment on it at the time, and didn't, so you can't really complain if it crops up uncontested later!

Unsurprisingly, the 1995 and 1996 Glen Dye records were not mine (although admittedly this is not entirely clear from the way it is written). They came from a published crossbill expert who is acknowledged at the start of the article.

Paul said...

Hi Lindsay

Hmmm. It can often be difficult to judge the tone of written words, but I think you've taken my post a bit too seriously! I should perhaps have added a smiley at the end of the first paragraph as it was intended as a bit of light-hearted banter :)

Anyway, perhaps you weren't referring to my contibutions on birdforum, but I have yet to find anywhere else on the internet where people are posting crossbill sonograms and as far as I can see I'm the only person to have posted any on birdforum in the last 12 months, so perhaps it was not an unreasonable assumption.

You seem to have read a lot into my reference to a 'published expert'! I know that you have a paper on the way and no doubt there are several more in the pipeline. Personally I'm very much looking forward to seeing them as I'm sure they will add considerably to the volume of knowledge available on this subject. You are in a very priviliged position to be able to spend so much time studying crossbills and particularly being able to relate their calls to biometrics.

It's worth remembering that those of us who are casually recording crossbills (and who are unlikely to ever have the time to devote to long term studies such as yours) are stumbling in the dark to a certain extent with the considerable variation in call types that exists and are dependent on the work being done by experts (yourself included) eventually being made publicly available to allow us to try to interpret our own findings. Otherwise there is little point in casual recording.

Loxia Fan said...

"You are in a very priviliged position to be able to spend so much time studying crossbills and particularly being able to relate their calls to biometrics."

Privileged ? !!! Last time I looked I worked 5 days a week just like any other normal person. I just make the effort to get out and do it when I can, which is often not nearly as much as I would like believe me.

Regarding being privileged with the biometrics, again I take exception to that - it has taken me a couple of years of intensive and dedicated training to finally get my C Permit. This involves many early starts on very cold mornings - weekdays and weekends! But anyone could train to be a ringer, they just have to do the numbers and reach the competence. It is NOT a privilege....

So, I am not in a 'privileged' situation other than of course the 'aesthetic' one eg. being in great suuroundings and handling and working with such fantastic birds - but, anyone could do this if they wanted too. It is all down to whether or not they want to and if they can stick at it or not.

Regarding 'casually' working through 'difficult' or 'variant' calls on internet forums I personally feel that this is not the place to be doing it, and yes it is 'unhelpful' in my opinion. The crossbill call situation is a bit of a mess already and this possibly complicates things even further. All I am saying is I would not do it - I don't on this blog. Magnus Robb collected calls over many years as did Summers, as did the guys in the recent German paper, and indeed as did I. You then sit down and see what you have got.

Your recent posts (now that I have read them) are a case in point. The 'leading expert' you contacted regarding a variant call, to my knowledge, has not caught any of these types to biometrically verify what they are himself. Myself and my trainer caught the first one and we have subsequently caught a small sample since. I was asked by your 'leading crossbill' expert, also an aquaintance, what I thought they were (in confidence)! My answer was very 'careful' as it is anything but certain. He has then possibly told you what he thinks your calls may, and I stress 'may' be, based on his own call data, and you have gone and stuck it on Bird Forum ! The thing is I/we don't actually know what these types really are, though I have some idea ! I have matching call data, nest data, and there are some biometrics, but not enough to say for certain (if there ever is such a thing with crossbills). If you read my posts #15 and #18 on your thread you will see why I am perhaps a bit bemused regarding this situation.

If we take your thread at face value then these are variant Fc3 calls, which they may well be, but, equally they might not ! They could easily be a larger common type or even hybird. Someone using your thread to glean information is then using your calls to identify and classify birds - it is now in the public domain. I know you were careful in your wording, but if you don't know, why say ?

Priviledged not me. No Oxbridge education, no wealthy parents, no inheritance, working class. Hard working ? Yes.


I am done here.