Thursday, November 22, 2012

Awesome August Issue

My favourite issue of Ontario Birds...The August Issue!! Fitting that Pyrrhuloxia is on the front.

Got my favourite issue of Ontario Birds this week, the August issue that (almost) always has the OBRC report. :D

If you are a member of the Ontario Field Ornithologists you will receive this great report and stay up to date on any changes that the OBRC makes. If you are not a member of OFO, you are too cheap to spend $35.00 for a membership that lasts a whole year with free fieldtrips and great publications.

A few changes made this year makes a lot of sense.  For instance, there must be at least one accepted OBRC record for recognizable forms of bird species seen in the province.  For some reason I thought it was always like this since that is how species were treated for the Ontario List.  Guess I was wrong.  I just assumed there was at least one record of "Red-shafted" Northern Flicker for Ontario.

The second change is that a recognizable form of a species must be seen less than 5 times per year.  That makes perfect sense.  I wonder if that applies for species as well?  If this is the case, we have seen it already in Cave Swallow being taken off the list, so does that mean "bye bye" soon to Glossy Ibis for the south review list and "bye bye" to Kirtland's Warbler on the south review list....though Kirtland's IS a mega rare species on a whole.

The third is that colour morphs are not to be reviewed....makes sense.

Pyrrhuloxia was also added to the Ontario List.  I saw this bird in 2004 and I remember the argument that the bird came in on a cactus truck.  Glad to see it on the list now.

"Oregon" Junco is now on the review list.  Does that mean I should write an OBRC report for the one I had last winter, or does that new rule come into effect now? (2012)

Smew is under scrutiny now it seems due to the fact that it is difficult to determine if it is a wandering Smew or a pet Smew.  I hear Smew is a popular bird to collect and the Smew seen late last year was not accepted.  There are 2 other Smew that have been previously accepted, but if the 2011 Smew isn't accepted will the other 2 Smew be taken off the list as well? 

One change I would love to see is the regions.  Right now it is North and it is South. I have been wondering for years and years why it is set up this way?  Maybe it is because I live here in the extreme south where Bohemian Waxwing, Boreal Chickadee, and heck, even Barred Owl would warrant a rare bird report, but they don't. According to the OBRC (or OFO?)"south" is up to North Bay... NORTH BAY!?  That's a huge area with different life zones.  Not to mention Northern Ontario is enormous!  I wonder if a different system could ever be set up?  Right now it's like when you buy a road map,  on one side North Bay is at the top and when you flip it over, North Bay is on the bottom. There is your north and your south...I guess...
The current set up to me has a few flaws, but I guess it's set in stone.

Speaking of OFO, the Niagara River Gull watch is coming up December 2nd.  If you are going, I'll see you there :) 


  1. Interesting post Marianne. Things are always changing! The Pyrrhuloxia was a different one. I remember getting a call just after it was found (I was on the Wallaceburg CBC)and for some reason they wanted to keep it somewhat hush. We went to see it the next day in any case!
    See you at the Niagara gull-o-rama!

  2. I love this blog post! And that Bufflehead... I can try to help clarify some of the questions you've asked, although there is no guarantee that I'm right ;)

    The review criteria for species is 20 or less records in the previous 5 years (for the south)... Glossy Ibis is close, but many reported "glossies" eventually get accepted as "plegadis sp" - which lowers the number below 20... Kirtland's Warbler is near the mark as well, but was actually below because we didn't receive any reports of the nesting birds. (This year, only 1 migrant was seen in Ontario I think??)

    As for colour morphs, this is true for all except "Cory's" Least Bittern, which stays on the list (not mentioned in the article)

    "Oregon" Dark-eyed Junco reports are requested starting on January 1st, 2012... Hopefully this ends up being a good thing, and not upsetting people if reports are rejected... It won't be an easy one to get past (I'm guessing) ...

    The decision on last years Smew was just delayed, and not actually outright rejected yet. We wanted more time to do some research (when we voted, we knew of the Long Point bird this year) - so we figured it would be ok to wait and really think this thing through! I hope the 2012 group will get this dealt with right away.

    I agree that the north/south review list area is terrible - and we may be looking at how to change that (maybe) in the not too distant future!

    Hope this is helpful!


    1. Brandon, one question: Why is Cory's Least Bittern still on the review list? I realize that it is rare (super rare) but it is still no different compared to all the other color morphs, since they have no taxonomic standing. It seems that to be consistent all the colour morphs should be removed...

    2. Hey JV - I personally felt like we were sort of paying homage to the beauty that was a "Cory's" Least Bittern, and its virtual destruction from the world... Keeping it on the list doesn't exactly add to anyone's workload, and if by some miracle someone finds one down the road - it would hopefully help in encouraging documentation of the sighting (which would be worthwhile beyond the scope of the OBRC)... Although again, these are just my opinions !


    3. Thanks Brandon that was very helpful :) Oh, the bufflehead, I got that at Value Village for like $5.00! It's so beautifully detailed, it's only missing an

  3. I was under the impression that the Smew records have been deferred to be reviewed at some other point in time? Or is that not the case? (I currently am not an OFO member so I don't have access to the article)

    One change that I would like to see is a change in the number of annual records a species has to have to be reviewable. It is less than 5 now (or is it 4?), but there are a hell of a lot more birders now than even 20 years ago, and consequently a lot more rarities are found.

    A theoretical example: If Glossy Ibis, for instance average 8 records per year they should be removed from the review list, per the current rules. But I don't think that necessarily means that Glossy Ibises are more common now than they were 20 or 30 years ago - they are just found more often due to increased search effort because of more birders. Because of that, reviewing records now would be just as valuable as reviewing records 20 years ago. (Just an example, I haven't actually looked up Glossy Ibis records).

    I guess I am of the opinion that it is better to review more than review less, but that's a whole other argument.


    1. Whoops, Brandon just beat me with his post...disregard the first part of my post, he answered it!

    2. Sorry. I knew the 2011 Smew was being deferred, but the way I worded it does make it sound like it was just plain rejected. Sorry for the confusion.

  4. Marianne, species such as "Bohemian Waxwing, Boreal Chickadee, and heck, even Barred Owl" DO warrant a Rare Bird Report at times, depending on the location where seen. But such reports should be submitted to local committees, not an Ontario committee since these species are not rare in the province as a whole. Remember this, it is the ONTARIO Bird Records Committee.

    1. So true Alan. Is Ontario the only province to have seperate review lists? Or do other provinces and states do the same? Do you know why it was originally decided to have a seperate north and south review list instead of just an Ontario list?

  5. I quite agree w/ Josh in the case of his "5 sightings or less" comment. To me, it seems w/ an increase in birders, we may not be seeing a different trend in how many of these rarities are showing up in the province, just how many are getting reported.

    I, too, like the idea of reviewing more than less but then again, local compilers and eBird are great for this, too.