Just before I delist a bird from my ABA area rough list, I thought I would throw out the details here to see if anyone has any thoughts. Here's the story: About 12 years ago, I drove my boat from Masset to Petersburg in Alaska. I passed a rocky islet near Petersburg, and there were three comorants sitting there, all with red faces. I quickly ticked off Red-faced Comorant for my rough list, where this bird has been ever since. Every once and awhile I review my lists, and, in light of new information, occasionally make adjustments. Twelve years ago, I obviously didn't have the experience birding I do now. I have since learned the Red-faced Comorant is not usually found East of the Kenai Peninsula. I was East of the Kenai Peninsula in the Alaskan Archipaelego. I know the Red faced has been found in the Queen Charlottes, but it would be rare there. At the time I didn't take note of bill colour to distinguish it from Pelagic Comorant, which I now believe it must have been. The only question I still have is, what is the likliehood of a Peagic Comorant still having breeding colours in August, which is when I saw this bird? Thor
Thor. Interesting question. I do similar things to my list as well. We're always improving our skill so some records from further back that are not accompanied by good notes could be questioned. Enter my problems with song/fox sparrow and house/purple finches. I know about the time when I figured that one out (more accurately, when I actually saw a purple finch and fox sparrow) so know that before that, things are a little dicey. I now take good notes, and even amuse myself and others with attempting to sketch what I see. Not only does it help with ID of a bird, it also helps learn fieldmarks and thus become more familiar with that species.
First of all, on your question, I rarely use range or 'common knowledge' to base a sighting on. Ive been enjoying reading the fat Birds of BC books. Dont get me wrong, good books, but they lack local information only because the province just cant be covered completely. Take into account the open ocean that gets even less birding coverage so who knows what little pockets of 'rare' birds are there to be found. Also, it's common that birds show up in places where they are certainly not supposed to be found. In your case here, they are not that far from where they are 'supposed' to be.
Im not familiar with pelagic cormorants and their plumage timings so I cant help you there.
My opinion is that every one's list is their own and up to them how they want to have it. If you dont feel comfortable with the sighting, then do away with it and use that excuse to get back up there for a better look!! .
Gord Fraser Valley Birding Administrator eBird Regional Editor (Fraser Valley)
Gord: Good advice; which I try to follow on a regular basis. There are some good books/articles out there, besides ABA guidelines, that deal with listing dilemnas. Also true is the maxim; any bird, anywhere, anytime. This certainly is supported with evidence like Painted Buntings in Brentwood, and Xantu's Hummingbird in Gibsons!! On a not very nice Sunday afternoon, when I had to be at work, anyway, it was one of those dilemnas that popped into my mind. Right on, for going to check on it myself. If this is my last year in this job, then, maybe, I will have some time off in June when Alaskan birding is best. As for the money to get there??!! Thor
Since we are sharing our 'listing' requirements, I will add mine.
I only record a species on my list if I can clearly identify it. To me, this means that I know by the field marks what species I am looking at. For example, last year I was at Boundary Bay and way out at low-tide were some Godwits. (If you know what Boundary Bay is like at low tide you will picture what I mean). Anyway, I have never seen a Bar-tailed Godwit and I was looking at 4 Godwits in my scope. Another birder told me that the 2nd from the left was a Bar-tailed and the rest were Marbled. He had seen them when the tide was better. Well, I couldn't pick out any fieldmarks to distinguish them from each other at such distance so I have yet to see Bar-tailed Godwit and add it to my life list. I am told that the chances of seeing more in Vancouver in future winters is pretty good.
P.S. I am still looking for my first Northern Pygmy Owl. I am hoping that Jason or Kathy will come up with a few in their yards soon!
Dave: My problem with the Pelagic/Red Faced Cormorant is that, at the time, I thought I did know what I was looking at. More water under the bridge has caused me to doubt my original observation. I have not included this bird on my firm ABA list, nor will I likely do so. Like Gord says, the best way to be sure is to go up there again, and check it out. By the way, I have had Northern Pygmy Owl in my backyard too, albeit two years ago. I will definitely report if I see another one locally. The challenge for all of us, however, is that there is an almost 100% chance that this bird will be split into Northern Pygmy Owl, and Mountain Pygmy Owl, so, if we want both, we will have to make a trip to the mountainous area of S.E. Arizona to get its cousin!! Thor