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Did we miss a trick in 2007 with possible LB Reed Warbler?

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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 09:50   #1
wolfbirder
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Did we miss a trick in 2007 with possible LB Reed Warbler?

I am wary to post this in relation to a sighting, knowing that birders well superior to me, including BBRC, have examined this. Its certainly a thread for a long, cold winter's day.

This is in relation to the sighting of an 'acrocephalus' species that was found by Kenny Dummigan at Red Rocks, Cheshire between October 6th - 10th 2007, and submitted by him self and Mark Garner, Jane Turner, as well as Cheshire & Wirral County Recorder Hugh Pitsford, as Blyth's Reed Warbler. A fine supporting cast !

It was not entirely surprising that without 'call' recordings, and due to a few untypical features (long bill, plain face, lack of clear supercilium), it was found 'unproven' by BBRC- though the County Recorder Hugh Pitsford did conclude thereafter that he was happy that it was a BRW & that had recordings been submitted it was likely to have been accepted.

I have been trying to obtain images of this bird (as have several I gather). The only ones submitted to BBRC were by Professor Peter Wheeler, and although I have contacted him by email offering to pay for copies I have heard nothing - of course that is his absolute perogative without inference. Why should he respond to a mere mortal like me?

Why the fixation? - subsequently Large-Billed Reed Warbler articles have been published highlighting the discovery of populations of this species (alongside BRW) at Wakham Corridor in Afghanistan in 2009, & in Tajikistan, & highlighting the huge similarity between species in appearance & call. Furthermore a specimen in the Natural History Museum at Tring labelled as "acrocephalus dumetorum" (Blyth's RW) was re-identified as LBRW. Indeed, Lars Svensson, in his paper, concluded 'that there is an extreme similarity between LBRW & BRW', & 'the former (LBRW) has probably been overlooked and mistaken for the latter species in the field'.

I have contacted a member of BBRC, who I must stress was out of the country & hence unable to check any records, but who kindly responded that he did not recall consideration of LBRW with this sighting. He has stated that he would check upon his return.

There is an excellent thread on Birdforum in relation to this sighting, but key notes highlighted regards the Red Rocks bird were as follows :-

* plain unmarked face except pale area before the eye (more characteristic of LBRW)
* long, spikey bill, darkish upper mandible, all pale lower mandible without spot (more characteristic of LBRW).
* white incomplete eye rings (ok for both)
* white throat and buff flanks & UTC's (perhaps more typical for LBRW)
* uniformly olive upperparts (ok for both)
* greyish legs (ok for both)
* tacking call (ok for both)
* typically short primary projection (ok for both but further scrutinisation required - photos insufficient I believe)
* seen in 'banana' posture several times (better for BRW?)
* constantly 'cocking' & 'fanning' tail as it moved (considerably better for LBRW) (Svensson notes "fanning of the tail is maybe a useful characteristic, though birds seen doing this are not 100% LBRW")

Of course the balance of probability regards vagrancy here has to be considered, LBRW should be migrating to winter via the Himalayas to Northern India & SE Asia. BRW is more likely.

But have we missed a trick? At the time of submission, I doubt anyone (including BBRC) even considered the alternative. BRW are themselves extremely difficult birds to identify, given the difficulty of obtaining prolonged. clear views. So, it is not that I consider my self as being the appropriate or capable enough birder to suggest a re-examination of this record, it is more that I wonder if this alternative was considered at the time. It was 'mooted' afterwards by a few others.

Can, and would BBRC re-examine records in light of such 'indirectly' relevant information?
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 10:02   #2
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Just one thing, I think you`ll find it was MARK Garner who co-submitted this record and not Martin Garner.
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 10:59   #3
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In a nutshell (as I'm sure I've said before), it was found not proven because the photos seemed to show a reed warbler. I think that will be your first hurdle, rather than looking at a species with only a handful of records away from the breeding area, and which is a highly unlikely vagrant.
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 11:14   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frenchy View Post
In a nutshell (as I'm sure I've said before), it was found not proven because the photos seemed to show a reed warbler. I think that will be your first hurdle, rather than looking at a species with only a handful of records away from the breeding area, and which is a highly unlikely vagrant.
Hi Frenchy, are you sure?

I know someone has mentioned that before (possibly yourself), but I was under the impression that that was not the case with Pete Wheeler's photos. I do stand to be corrected. If that is indeed the case then of course issue is over for BBRC. There was a standard Reed Warbler present in the same bit of scrub over a few days, but I doubt Pete Wheeler photographed that.

Apologies to MARK Garner (amended now).
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 11:19   #5
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But to answer your final question Nick, bbrc can and do look at records again, as long as there is new evidence to consider. This could be a re-identification of the bird by someone that is backed up by lots of evidence.
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 11:28   #6
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The only thing against this re-consideration occurring, is that it would require the birders who submitted it to do just that if they thought subsequently that it was in interest to do so. I suspect the case, though plausible (as I think was inferred as a potential possibility during that discussion on Birdforum), would just not have been strong enough as there is no new evidence. And I presume the only photos were returned rather than retained, but again i do not know if BBRC retain copies.

I think the tail-wagging and fanning is an interesting aspect of the Red Rocks birds' behaviour, that was noteworthy. The physical characteristics "appear" to potentially match LBRW.

It was just the fact that consideration of LBRW 'may' not have occurred at the time BBRC considered the record that intrigued me.

Cheers Frenchy
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 12:03   #7
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Not sure that there is any rule stating only the original submitters can re-submit a record. You can always contact Nigel Hudson to check.

The photos were in b&w,which really didn't help either.
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 12:30   #8
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Not sure that there is any rule stating only the original submitters can re-submit a record. You can always contact Nigel Hudson to check.

The photos were in b&w,which really didn't help either.
Think it was Nigel who I have contacted already Frenchy.

This photograph issue baffles me as it was commented on at the time on Birdforum by good birders who had seen Pete's images, just how good the photos were, and how representative they were of the bird - showing key features. Mind you - Chinatown revisited!
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 12:57   #9
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Quote:
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Not sure that there is any rule stating only the original submitters can re-submit a record. You can always contact Nigel Hudson to check.

The photos were in b&w,which really didn't help either.
Information regarding a re-submission can be found at:

http://www.bbrc.org.uk/about/constit...re-circulation

A third party may resubmit a record; new information is necessary (I'm sure this will include new, relevant information about a particular species).

Peter
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Old Wednesday 26th December 2012, 18:50   #10
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Many thanks Peter, appreciated.
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Old Thursday 27th December 2012, 13:18   #11
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Nick

I just thought I would ask a question on this little snippet: 'tacking call (ok for both)'. Could you let me know where you have got the call for orinus?

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Old Thursday 27th December 2012, 15:47   #12
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i had simply read that the vocals between the two were virtually inseparable. you are going to tell me Otherwise i know.
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Old Thursday 27th December 2012, 18:10   #13
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Wasn't LBRW mooted for the Cambs BRW late this autumn as well? I can probably source the current email of Rob Timmins, the guy who rediscovered it in Afghanistan, if that would be helpful to check vocalisations/other characteristics.
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Old Thursday 27th December 2012, 18:29   #14
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Wasn't LBRW mooted for the Cambs BRW late this autumn as well? I can probably source the current email of Rob Timmins, the guy who rediscovered it in Afghanistan, if that would be helpful to check vocalisations/other characteristics.
pdf of Timmins et al

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Old Friday 28th December 2012, 08:44   #15
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http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-bDXM3hBijk...00/Cetti+2.jpg

Pics of Cambs bird here.
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Old Friday 28th December 2012, 15:03   #16
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Incredibly difficult species to assess, people state the short primary projection is an obvious feature of BRW, but actually bio-metrics of Reed Warbler and BRW can apparently overlap.

Regards the Cambridgeshire bird, at least the tip of the lower mandible is dark, but it does have a long bill too.

Thanks for the thoughts, and thanks to Brian for the link. Can't see anything specifically about the call of LBRW, but if they do not "tack" similarly to BRW, then that in effect removes the admittedly small chance of the Red Rocks bird being a LBRW.

In all reality anyway, the bird in question, despite its appearance quite closely matching LBRW, is undoubtedly more likely to be an off-course BRW from Finland or Sweden, than an off-course, scarce, LBRW from Afghanistan.

I am also led to believe that BRW constantly flick and fan their tail, so I am confused by Svensson's assertion that this trait was a good indicator of LBRW in seperating the species from BRW.

If anyone knows Pete Wheeler, I would offer £100 for copies of his photos (or possibly donate to a charity of his choice?), unless they do indeed show the Reed Warbler that was present at the same time, and not the bird in question.
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