normal What defines a "sighting" that isn't just heard, etc.

8 years 5 months ago #563 by Mymm Ackley
Boy, I didn't realize I'd get so many responses when I first posed this question a year or two ago! (After which I promptly FORGOT about it!) At the time I had just "seen" the Sinaloa Wren down in Patagonia (Arizona) and wanted so much to touch base with OTHERS who'd had similar frustrating experiences with it! But almost everybody on BUBO seems to be British or related thereof geographically, for whom a Sinaloa Wren means NOTHING. Likewise I know nothing of Dusky Warbler! (Though I guess they DO get them occasionally in Alaska, where I don't go.) But anyway. I realize now that my question got bogged down in semantics. What I SHOULD have said at the outset is: What defines a COUNTABLE observation or happening or whatever you want to call it, that isn't just heard but is also POORLY seen? I had HEARD the Wren copiously. But the only "sighting" I had of it was a little blur entering the nest from below. (We all knew where the nest was and "who" or maybe "what" was going into it! The bird just didn't hang around announcing itself enroute!)

I think a well-heard, very distinctive vocalization is eminently countable. And so does the ABA. In fact it was the ABA who first allowed heard birds to be counted, in the interest of conservation. BEFORE they did that people were profoundly disturbing birds in their hell-bent quest to SEE all of 'em! And believe it or not, there are actually BLIND birders! So of course EVERYTHING heard counts for them! Why shouldn't one sensory modality be as valid as another?

I also would like to touch base with the guy (like myself) who uses hearing-enhanced devices to list his birds. Boy, can I ever identify with this! My hearing is equally lousy, which is why I keep my Songfinder on constantly in the spring! (Sometimes other times, too) And like this fellow I appreciate a good, strong, clear rendition of a song or call--particularly one I've not heard before or forgotten years hence--almost MORE than a sighting nowadays! (Unless the bird's a lifer, of course.)

Well, I hope I've cleared up some of the ambiguity I started! I DID count the Wren by the way....how else was I ever going to get to 700 ABA??!! I didn't feel very satisfied about it though...Mymm

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8 years 5 months ago - 8 years 5 months ago #564 by Nick Moss
Last edit: 8 years 5 months ago by Nick Moss.

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8 years 5 months ago #565 by Nick Moss
Nick Moss wrote:

Not sure of the need to start a seperate post, but i don't think in reality people are poles apart. Not sure where any semantics came in to be honest, it was just natural follow on discussion.

Many of the authorities count heard only instances as tickable as well because realistically they are looking at things through a scientific eye, so they just want to know if a bird is present. That is different to a 'sighting' in my opinion. But as you say, people do keep a list of birds seen/heard. I personally feel it is a cop out for example, to tick Quail as a "sighting" in the uk on heard only basis. It is hard to see granted, but not impossiblle.

I fully understand the need to ensure birds are not disturbed at the nest, and although of course disturbance often occurs through our hobby, I hope it has not become so widespread or damaging here so that our birding authorities say 'heard 'counts. The ABA clearly had reasons for that decision, so I am not knocking them. Myheraing is not too good, I was the only person unable to hear a River Warbler at a twitch this year. But I saw no one walk away after hearing it sing, everyone wanted to see it. Its not about right or wrong, as you say its about personal choice. I still think the vast majority of birders would be most unsatisfied about counting heard only birds as sightings.

I suppose the long and short of it is from my point of view, I personally would have no problem with people saying they have so many seen / heard ticks combined, or ticking seperate seen or heard lists, but I feel its wrong to then count that same total combined, as sightings.

It matters not in the scheme of things, as you say people of course can set their own boundaries and rules. But you asked for views and that is mine.

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8 years 5 months ago #566 by Mymm Ackley
Dear Nick,

I fully agree that the difference between sighted and heard only birds should be CLEARLY delineated. Maybe even kept in separate lists...that can then be merged to equal ones TOTAL LISTINGS or TICKS or whatever you want to call them. Actually, the ABA does allow people to separate the two categories. Sometimes right beside somebody's number in the listing booklet you'll see NO HEARD BIRDS proudly posted! That is indeed something to be proud of. For let's face it: NOBODY really wants a heard ONLY bird for a lifer. Not even me! But sometimes it's the best one can do! (As with quail, or Bobwhite for instance)

I have thought some more about the dratted wren. And it has finally occurred to me that THIS is what's bothering me: though I HEARD the bird copiously, I only "SAW" a little blur swiftly entering the nest hole ONCE. Now should I be listing that as a regular lifer (I DID see movement after all!), OR should I list it as a heard bird ONLY? Since I DON'T WANT any more heard birds in my total I've counted it as a regular "sighting". But still...I feel kinda crummy about it...for all that bird REALLY gave me of itself was its loud, copious song! For awhile I could almost hear it in my sleep!
There. I've finally gotten to the bottom of it--I THINK! Mymm

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8 years 5 months ago - 8 years 5 months ago #567 by Nick Moss
Good morning Mymm,

I fully sympathise with your situation - infact i have had similar views. A little brown shape or movement that was a River Warbler shooting through the dark undergrowth in woods. I went back to see it and I did manage to see it properly. To be honest I could not have i'd'd it even asa warbler had I not been told. It is very difficult to draw the line. If you simply saw movement out of the corner of your eye but could not have told it was the wren, in my humble opinion (and it is only an opinion) I would say heard only, but if you were looking at the nest area and DO remember the bird going into the nest, even if it was a second's view I would count it as seen. Ok the view may have been dreadful but if you could say it was the bird in question through that second's view (flight profile, shape etc) then I think it should count. If I have a split second image in my memory and know it was a Wren going into what is definitely its nest i would tick it, albeit a very poor view.

Its a real quandry, always is always will be. Some people only tick a bird if they can see all salient features. i.e. a "seen birds well" list in effect.

I suspect we all have different parameters, I have viewings that bother me such as the Forster's Tern highlighted above. The common theme is that these sightings all create an ill-at-ease feeling.

On my BUBO listings (well on a few of them) I grade the sighting A- E based on quality of view.
Last edit: 8 years 5 months ago by Nick Moss.

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8 years 5 months ago #568 by Mymm Ackley
THANK YOU NICK!

My sentiments precisely. I did NOT count the wren as a HEARD ONLY bird! Because after standing there for a couple hours waiting patiently with our bins glued on the nest, we knew FOR CERTAIN that the little blur swooping up into it was the Sinaloa Wren! Unless a cowbird had just happened by....but cowbirds don't move like Sinaloa Wrens! And besides, there was only this ONE huge, dominating nest that the SW had made. We all knew we were looking at it! However, though you've made me feel better (!) I would STILL like to really SEE that dratted wren someday! But I'd probably have to make trip after trip, first seeing one part, then another--like the blind men and the elephant! (A woman I met from Tucson is doing precisely that. Each time she comes down to Patagonia she "gets" a different part of the bird--eventually she'll have seen all the field marks!)

I looked up your River Warbler just now in my COLLINS guide. No wonder you had problems! It looks about the same to me as half a dozen OTHER British warblers! (Shades of our U.S. Flycatchers!) On THAT bird (the R.W.) I would definitely not tick it WITHOUT hearing it!

Well, I think I have about EXHAUSTED this subject and it is time to END the discussion and explore another topic! But not tonight! Mymm

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8 years 5 months ago #569 by Nick Moss
I think you are right Mymm.

I will just briefly add that I agree, hearing a bird may well be part of the overall sighting process, it certainly is a key part at times in determining whether you saw a bird along with things like flight profile. As with the River Warbler, thats why I drove back to see it again as with my first attempt I was not even looking in the right place when I saw it out the corner of my eye for a split second - certainly NOT apparently the same scenario as your Wren sighting.

And I look at this way, ok the view you got was poor but you DID see it - you 'cannot' change that - its fact. I have several sightings I class as "Quality of view E" where I know I saw a bird and it was good enough for a positive sighting. I may get better views in the years to come, who knows, but I may not.

Happy birding ! :silly: (thought the smiley was appropriate - reminded me of the contorted angle adopted in trying to view a few skulkers!)

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8 years 5 months ago #570 by Mymm Ackley
Dear Nick,

I have it! Let's just call these lousy sightings "Birds in Progress"! We know we've "seen" them--or at least our retinas have registered them--legitimately. But if we haven't HEARD and recognized them as well...then they're still "In Progress" and NOT countable. On the other hand, even though a sighting may be lousy, if we've HEARD the bird well--as I did the wren--then they ARE countable. So to sum up: a lousy sighting IS countable (as a SEEN bird) if you've also HEARD the same bird and recognized it by its vocalizations. But a lousy sighting is NOT countable if that's ALL you've got to go on. In this case, the bird remains "In Progress"...on your tick list. No checkmark...just the notation "In Progress" beside it. I think that'll do it.

And now I'd like to start another discussion if anybody's interested: I've always wondered why--especially when you get into the higher numbers--there are about six males to every female in the birding community. Men certainly don't SEE or HEAR any better than women...and some women are a lot stronger physically than men! So what is the basis for this huge proportional differential? Is it cultural, biological, psychological, financial maybe? If anybody OF EITHER SEX has any ideas about this--and whether or not the discrepancy holds up globally as well--I'd sure like to hear them! My observations have been pretty much confined to North America. But the one and only time I birded in Britain, birding seemed very male dominated there also. Of course this may have just been a superficial impression.. . Mymm

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8 years 5 months ago - 8 years 5 months ago #571 by Nick Moss
Its certainly male dominated here in the uk too as you say, but there are plenty of women interested. However, the "hardcore"dedicated twitchers who drive everywhere to boost their list size are all men (as far as i know). There are plenty of women who keep a list.

Why is this? I guess the % issue is determined by several factors - women tend to be too family orienated and do not have the mindset for such a hobby. I know that sounds sexist but its not just an opinion but a representation of what i feel is the status quo. There are more women who bird with their partners casually, or as part of bird clubs. Many are retired couples, understandably, wanting to get out into the fresh air and enjoy flora and fauna.

I still think in the uk birding is largely (certainly not exclusively) a middle class hobby, appealing to those who originate from the countryside or to those individuals who are a little more enlightened than your average inner city, nightclub,pub & football venturing young man. ypical birder in the uk is bored semi-professional who enjoys the weekend escape!

I have made some dreadfully dated generalisations here i know, but there is some truth to them all I feel sure
Last edit: 8 years 5 months ago by Nick Moss.

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