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Re: [CALBIRDS] CALBIRDS Caracara Photo Again

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  • curtiscr@pe.net
    ... Escapes from what? -- Curtis Croulet Temecula, California USDA 9b, Sunset 18
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 14, 2002
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      On 14 Aug 02, at 11:21, Joseph Morlan wrote:

      > "The Committee believes that caracaras seen near coastal cities are
      > all escapees

      Escapes from what?
      --
      Curtis Croulet
      Temecula, California
      USDA 9b, Sunset 18
    • curtiscr@pe.net
      ... Are there large numbers of caracaras in zoos and private collections? I m sorry, but automatic dismissal of sightings as escapees sounds to me like
      Message 2 of 6 , Aug 15, 2002
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        On 15 Aug 02, at 7:47, Joseph Morlan wrote:

        > >Escapes from what?
        >
        > >From captivity.

        Are there large numbers of caracaras in zoos and private
        collections? I'm sorry, but automatic dismissal of sightings as
        "escapees" sounds to me like simply a way to dismiss reports
        from observers other than those on The Committee.
        --
        Curtis Croulet
        Temecula, California
        USDA 9b, Sunset 18
      • Alvaro Jaramillo
        ... Curtis, and others who may think the same. I used to be part of the rarities committee but currently I am off, so perhaps my comments could be seen as
        Message 3 of 6 , Aug 15, 2002
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          At 08:06 AM 8/15/2002 -0700, curtiscr@... wrote:
          >On 15 Aug 02, at 7:47, Joseph Morlan wrote:
          >
          > > >Escapes from what?
          > >
          > > >From captivity.
          >
          >Are there large numbers of caracaras in zoos and private
          >collections? I'm sorry, but automatic dismissal of sightings as
          >"escapees" sounds to me like simply a way to dismiss reports
          >from observers other than those on The Committee.
          >--

          Curtis, and others who may think the same.

          I used to be part of the rarities committee but currently I am
          off, so perhaps my comments could be seen as being biased. Bird Records
          committees, bird taxonomy committees, checklist committees all need to err
          on the conservative side. The idea is that hopefully few records will be
          endorsed that were incorrectly identified, or real escapes from captivity.
          The problem with this level of conservativism is that a few records that
          were correctly identified, and were wild birds will not be endorsed by the
          committee process. I think this has to be made clear, the California list
          probably could be longer, and birds that were deemed escapees or
          incorrectly identified by the committee were actually OK. This is an
          unfortunate side product of attempting to achieve a high level of
          confidence that the birds endorsed by the committee are actually wild,
          correctly identified records. I think if the committee loosened up its
          philosophy too much, then you would end up with the opposite problem, too
          many records would be endorsed that were actually incorrectly identified
          and escapees from captivity. Another problem, and a separate philosophical
          angle, is involved with potential escapees. Unlike trying to determine if
          the identification was correct where you have specific field marks that you
          look for in a report, other than bands, jesses, deformities, cage wear and
          so forth there are few features one can use to determine if an individual
          bird is an escapee. Invariably one begins to look for patterns, closest
          records to our area, ages or sexes involved in these records etc. This is
          where you can get a lot of disagreement and different ways of looking at
          the same data. Looking at patterns of occurrence only based on accepted
          records can become circular in its logic. Also as in any committee, members
          differ in how they see the world, and thankfully there are these different
          views on escapees. If the committee folks all thought the same, well there
          would be no point in making up a committee. Personally, depending on the
          situation, I often think it is the conservative position to assume is that
          the bird is wild and then provide a body of evidence for why this may not
          be so. Others feel that you assume it is not wild, and then attempt to
          provide evidence for wildness. They are two sides of the same coin, but the
          end product is that someone like me is much more comfortable accepting that
          certain birds are wild, than others.
          Having said all this I just want to make it clear that a lot of
          thought and discussion goes on in voting on these birds which may or may
          not be escapees. When a clear pattern of occurrence is available to help in
          the decision (the Harris' Hawk invasion in California) then voting becomes
          easier and there is more agreement in the committee. But even then there
          were individual records that were talked about and discussed for years.
          There are hours (days even?) of thinking, reading, talking, discussion,
          garnering expert opinion and what have you involved here. It can be a huge
          pain in the cloaca for committee members, so I assure you that there are no
          "automatic dismissals of sightings" going on. I think that from the outside
          it can seem like the committee may just automatically reject certain
          records, or of certain species, but this is not the case. The committee is
          not perfect, it is made up of humans (volunteers even), but it does try to
          do as good a job as possible.
          With regards to the preferential acceptance of records from
          committee members. Again, I can assure you that this is not the case. The
          committee did not endorse one of my own reports (Grey-tailed Tattler at
          Princeton Harbour, San Mateo County) while I was on the committee. Records
          that are not endorsed do not tend to have observer initials attached to
          them in the annual reports, so its often difficult to assess when records
          of committee members were not endorsed. Personally, the lack of endorsement
          of my own record of the tattler can in hindsight be seen as a good thing. I
          was the only one there, the only one that saw and heard this thing. I did
          not see the bird on the ground, did not see any field marks, other than the
          general colour and shape (I made a sketch) of the bird and its distinctive
          call. While the call is distinctive, for a bird of this rarity the
          committee wanted to have some other field mark to go on to be certain that
          I had not made an incorrect identification (all birders make them, ALL
          birders, even those on the committee). If someone had looked at that
          records 200 years from now, of a calling bird flying over, with no details
          on plumage at all it would have looked fishy. It does look fishy, but its
          all I was able to see or hear in that situation other than that the bird
          had a broken primary on one wing, not a feature that helps in
          identification unfortunately. I am in full agreement that even though I
          think, and there are days when doubts creep in, that I had a Grey-tailed
          Tattler fly over me that day in Princeton there was not enough in my report
          to make it last the test of time. I could go on and let you know of other
          records of mine that have not been accepted by records committees in my
          years of birding, but hey I lead birding tours and I need to keep up the
          facade that I actually know what I am talking about ;-) The truth is that
          experienced birders tend to write up better reports than inexperienced
          birders. The experienced birder is more likely to know what field marks to
          look for in the field, look for them, and write them down. The birder that
          spends a lot of time in the field may also be more likely to carry a camera
          (just in case) to document rarities. Also as far as committee members go,
          these folks have read a lot of rare bird reports, so they get a pretty good
          idea on how to write a good report, being clear on what was seen, what was
          not, comparison to other species, comparison to similar species etc.
          Finally, during the rounds of discussion, the committee member is there to
          make his point or clarify misgivings others may have on their report. So if
          you were to tally up the number of records endorsed that were originally
          from committee members you would likely find that the proportion is high,
          but there are valid reasons for this (experience, knowing how to write
          reports, etc.). Another assumption that one makes is that committee members
          are actually all good buddies, well this is not the case either. There have
          been instances in many records committees, where members did not actually
          like each other that much at all. Committee members are not treated
          preferentially, a report lacking details or not fitting in the right
          pattern is likely not to be endorsed even if it is from a Committee member.

          I should point out that these are my personal opinions here. I just wanted
          to give another perspective on records committees and the process based on
          my experience.

          take care

          Al

          Alvaro Jaramillo
          Biologist
          San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory
          P.O. Box 247
          Alviso, CA 95002
          (408)-946-6548
          http://www.sfbbo.org/
          chucao@...
        • Kimball Garrett
          ... Calbirders: Although Al Jaramillo correctly noted in his response that he could not speak for the entire California Bird Records Committee, I assure you
          Message 4 of 6 , Aug 15, 2002
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            At 08:06 AM 8/15/02 -0700, curtiscr@... wrote:
            >
            >Are there large numbers of caracaras in zoos and private
            >collections? I'm sorry, but automatic dismissal of sightings as
            >"escapees" sounds to me like simply a way to dismiss reports
            >from observers other than those on The Committee.
            >--
            >Curtis Croulet
            >Temecula, California
            >USDA 9b, Sunset 18

            Calbirders:

            Although Al Jaramillo correctly noted in his response that he could
            not speak for the entire California Bird Records Committee, I assure
            you that he captured almost perfectly the points any "official CBRC
            response" would hope to make.

            The CBRC and similar bodies throughout the world have grappled with
            the issue of potential escapees without any resulting simple formula
            or voting philosophy; records for which there is deemed a significant
            possibility of pertaining to escapees will always generate controversy
            and no committee will do better (or, perhaps, worse) than the CBRC.

            The notions that the CBRC is anxious "to dismiss reports from observers
            other than those on The Committee" or that it engages in "automatic
            dismissal of sightings as 'escapees'" reflect a poor understanding of
            the CBRC process, and once again we thank Alvaro for his excellent
            representation of the Committee's point of view.

            As for Mr. Croulet's more specific question as to whether there are
            large numbers of caracaras in zoos and private collections, we simply
            don't know. There are channels one can use to check legally-held
            captive birds, and we know from these channels that some Crested
            Caracaras are held in captivity; it is more difficult to determine
            un-listed and illegally-held birds, and of course it is nearly impossible
            to track down many or most instances of escape from captivity. The
            CBRC's past treatment of caracara records is due in part to the
            occurrence of free-flying birds in urban areas where escape potential
            seems high, but I assure you that the current spate of records on the
            central coast will undergo extensive deliberation in the Committee.

            Kimball Garrett
            CBRC Vice-Chairman
            *****************************
            Kimball L. Garrett
            Ornithology Collections Manager
            Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
            900 Exposition Blvd.
            Los Angeles, CA 90007 USA
            (213) 763-3368
            (213) 746-2999 FAX
            kgarrett@...
            *****************************
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