12/01/2006
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British Birds: Records Committee says goodbye to birders' favourites

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The number of records the BBRC assesses has grown rapidly, whilst at the same time some observers are becoming more reticent about submitting descriptions for species they feel are 'less' rare. Following a consultation with county recorders and records committees, to control this increasing workload BBRC has decided to take a number of Britain's best-loved rarities off the list of species it will consider for records from 1st January 2006. All the species involved have all exceeded two hundred records in total and 100 in the last ten years and, in most cases, the identification is relatively straightforward and well known.

Radde's Warbler: Bockhill Farm, Kent A true 'rarity' no more. (photo: Gerald Segalbacher).

In numerical order the species we will no longer consider are White-winged Black Tern, Red-footed Falcon, Subalpine Warbler, Arctic Redpoll, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Rustic Bunting, Red-throated Pipit, Greenish Warbler, White-rumped Sandpiper, Wilson's Petrel, Black Kite, Ferruginous Duck, Dusky Warbler, Radde's Warbler, American Golden Plover and Great White Egret. We will however continue to consider rare races of the above species such as albistrata Subalpine and Two-barred Greenish Warblers.

In the most recent BBRC Annual Report for 2004 this would have meant a reduction in around 300 records. These are not going to be lost as counties and relevant region bodies such as SBRC and the WRP will continue to assess these to rigorous standards and the records will be published in a re-vamped Scarce Migrants Report. The dropping of species from the list of rare birds has of course happened previously: Aquatic Warbler, Pallas's and Yellow-browed Warblers, Cory's Shearwater, Richard's and Tawny Pipits were all once considered rare and yet still are exciting finds. The fears that such birds lose their interest to birders has proven unfounded, and in the instances of Tawny Pipit and Aquatic Warbler a case for a return to the list might be made - the BBRC will continue to monitor species via the Scarce Migrants Report.

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County records committees have the capacity to assess these records, and are probably in a better position to chase up those records not submitted. With counties taking on the extra responsibility for the assessment of these species, BBRC can focus on the assessment (and development of criteria for identification and assessment) of difficult rare taxa.

British Birds Rarities Committee

Bag End, Churchtown, Towednack, Cornwall TR26 3AZ. Email: BBRC