Saturday, December 10, 2011
Allen's Hummer in NC
This morning my sister and I decided to make the 140 mile drive one way to see only the 2nd Allen's hummingbird ever recorded here in North Carolina. We left at 7 AM and arrived at River Bend Park about 9:30. The hummer has been hanging around a feeder right at the park office. We walked into the office to find 5 other birders plus a very friendly female park ranger gazing out the windows at the feeder. The hummer mostly sat in a tangle of blackberry bushes, but would make occasional forays to the feeder for sugar water. The photo just above was taken thru the window from about 40 feet so it is not much more than a record shot but it does show the Allen's. Click on the photo to enlarge. So far 165 birders who saw the hummer over the past 3 weeks have signed the register at the park.
We spent about 30 minutes watching the hummer on its blackberry perch and at the feeder before deciding to walk the park to see what other birds might be about. We did not find all that much bird activity. Some highlights were golden-crowned kinglet, yellow-bellied sapsucker, pileated woodpecker and belted kingfisher. We did see some nice grasses like those in the photo just below. We finally started back towards Chapel Hill about 11:30, stopping at Lexington BBQ to have lunch.
I want to follow up on my post of 11/23 concerning Sandy Komito's full ABA area big year record total. I have since spoken with a birder I met last year, John Puschock, about his understanding of the counting rules for big days or years. I then reread the ABA rules myself. The starting point for whether to count a bird is whether the species is already on the ABA list of accepted birds. If it is on the list, then from there it is up to the birder to make the judgment call as to whether the bird they saw is countable. If a bird is not yet on the ABA list, then the birder needs to wait to see what the state and then ABA bird record committees decide about adding a new species to the ABA list.
For my big year I also added the criteria that any bird that might be deemed questionable such as a bird that might have been an escapee, or part of a release program, also needed to be reviewed by the state bird record committee. This is why last year I did not count the white-cheeked pintail duck that I saw in NC because our state record committee voted 9-0 not to accept that bird as a wild bird. Based on my personal criteria, I suggested in my post of 11/23 that Sandy's big year total was in the end 745.
I do not personally know Sandy, and I do not know the specific criteria that he used in 1998 for counting a bird. In the book, The Big Year, his 1998 total is reported as being 745, but based on what I read in his book (I Came, I Saw, I Counted), which included birds he he may have seen but not well enough in the end for him to put on his list, it would appear that his 1998 big year total is 747 different species. I say this because he was able to add 3 birds (Bulwer's petrel, Belcher's gull and yellow-throated bunting) after the year was over that were accepted later by the state and ABA review committees, but he also said in his book that he was not counting in the end a gray vireo on his list.
One of the most common questions asked of big day or year birders is what kind of verification is needed to confirm your list. The answer is that it is an honor system. In this age of digital photography and lots of birders out in the field, it is not that hard to get a picture or to have witnesses when a rarer bird is seen, but in the end it is still an honor system. Therefore, understanding what criteria a birder used can help to clarify any questions concerning the birds on a list whether the list is a life, a big day or a big year list. And the only time it ever seems to become an "issue" is when setting a new "record" is a possibility.
Turning to John Vanderpoel's big year effort, I spoke with him yesterday after he had seen a falcated duck that was found 3 days ago near Sacramento, CA. He flew there Friday morning from San Antonio, TX after seeing a juvenile brown jay at Salineno, TX. These 2 birds have raised his YTD total to 739. Tomorrow he will be on a pelagic trip out of Bodega Bay to try for another mega rarity. While I do not expect to be seeing any mega rarities in the next few days, I will be in touch with John as he seeks to break Sandy's record. Stay tuned!