08/12/2006
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British Birds: Election to the British Birds Rarities Committee 2007

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Due to the impending retirement of Paul Harvey and John Martin from the BBRC in spring 2007 we are looking for two new members to start in April 2007. The following individuals have been nominated for the positions.

Chris Batty: Lancs

As well as a natural enthusiasm for rarities, Chris Batty is a trainee ringer, local bird recorder, report editor and Lancashire county records committee member with his lifetime's local birding rewarded with his discovery of Britain's third Great Knot on his childhood patch. He worked for the RSPB before joining Rare Bird Alert where he occupies an influential role in the day-to-day reporting and identification of British rarities. He has travelled in North America, Africa and India and extensively in the Western Palaearctic and has found Pechora Pipit, Pine Bunting, Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Scaup and multiple Fea's/Zino's Petrels in the Northern Isles and Ireland. He has a wide range of identification interests, often with an emphasis on taxa currently classified below species level, and, recently, has been working with the BBRC in elucidating the status of vagrant Canada Geese in Britain

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Paul Baxter: Fair Isle

Paul Baxter originates from Cleveland, and has lived in Scotland for the past ten years. Whilst in Aberdeen, he served on the local records committee, co-edited the Birding Scotland journal for five years and edited the local bird report. His finds include three firsts for North-East Scotland (Collared Flycatcher, Pallid Swift and Swinhoe's Storm-petrel) and assistance in three other firsts - Short-billed Dowitcher, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Pacific Golden Plover. Other UK finds have included Blyth's Reed, Paddyfield and Hume's Warblers, Blyth's Pipit and most recently, the first Black Duck for Fair Isle. A keen ringer, he has held a licence for 18 years. His travels have taken him across much of Europe, as well as trips further afield. His passion for bird migration, identification and rarity finding recently took him to Fair Isle, were he now lives with his partner.

Mark Chapman: Shetland

Mark Chapman comes originally from Surrey, moving to Sussex, birding in his younger days at Pagham Harbour and Selsey. He moved to Shetland in 1977, and has been there ever since, apart from a two-year stint in Norfolk in the early 1990s. Birding travels have taken him to Europe, East Africa, Nepal, southeast Asia, Japan and California. Rarity finds have included Britain's first Brown Shrike and second Taiga Flycatcher, Gyrfalcon, White's, Black-throated and Swainson's Thrushes, Alpine Accentor and Song Sparrow, and he has been involved in the identification of two Sykes's Warblers. He is interested in the relationship between in-hand and field characters of birds, and the role of digital images in reconciling these, and having been involved in the recent non-identification of the Boddam Olive-tree Warbler, appreciates even more the work involved in this.

Paul French: Lincs

Paul has lived in the West Midlands, London, Essex, Shetland and has now moved to Lincolnshire where he found last winter's Buff-bellied Pipit. He is a ringer and as such worked as Assistant Warden on Fair Isle for two seasons, spent two months at Eilat and Dungeness and a short while at Long Point, Canada. He has also travelled extensively. He is a prolific finder of rare birds in Britain, Europe and further afield. In the UK he has found and identified Black-faced Bunting, Olive-backed, Red-throated and Pechora Pipits, Wilson's Storm-petrel, several Citrine Wagtails, Lanceolated Warbler, Two-barred Crossbills and many less noticeable species. He has also found rarities in China, Thailand and Israel. He is familiar with record assessment having assisted the Lincolnshire records committee by providing some very insightful comment on Lincolnshire county rarities.

Mike Pennington: Shetland

Mike Pennington, 44, has been birding since the early 1970s, initially in Merseyside but for the last 20 years in Shetland, where he works as a teacher. A qualified ringer for more than 20 years, he has worked at three bird observatories, at Sandwich Bay, North Ronaldsay and Fair Isle. Inevitably in Shetland, migration and rare birds are the main focus of interest and he has a UK self-found list of over 300, including Common Yellowthroat, 2 Swainson's Thrushes, 2 Collared Flycatchers (including the only autumn record for Britain) and 2 Pine Buntings. Although most of his birding is on a local patch (the entire island of Unst) he has also been birding in 16 countries on 4 continents. He was senior author of The Birds of Shetland, published in 2004; in that year's bird book of the year competitions it was placed 3rd in the British Birds/BTO poll and shortlisted for the Birdwatch prize. Research for the book has led to a recent interest in the history of ornithology and the assessment of old records. Other recent publications have included co-authorship on papers on redpoll identification and an analysis of the recent Northern Bullfinch invasion in 2004. He has been editor of the Shetland Bird Report since 1998 and also runs the Nature in Shetland website.

All counties (or recording areas in the case of Scotland and Wales) and all British bird observatories are eligible to vote. Each recording area gets 5 votes and each bird observatory gets 3. Voters may cast all their votes for one individual or share them in any way they wish. Due to time constraints we will only accept votes by email and all must be received by 15th January. We would hope that local committees would discuss the choices as widely as possible before reaching their decision.

If you have a view on who should be on BBRC, contact your county recorder or local bird observatory and make your views known. As they say in 'The West Wing', decisions are made by those who show up.

Written by: Colin Bradshaw, Chair BBRC