Tuesday, 20 October 2009

It's been a busy few weeks for Yorkshire listing with Andy Gibson benefiting most adding both Fea's Petrel and Baillon's Crake at Spurn to his tally taking him to joint first place with longtime number one Dave Hursthouse. It didn't take long for Dave to strike back though as he quickly ‘insurance ticked’ the Hooded Merganser at Hemlington. However, other County listers have been less fortunate, although Steve Exley has moved up one place in the top ten having added two species at Spurn (Great Shearwater and the Baillon’s Crake). This brings him level with John Hewitt in equal sixth. The standings have been updated accordingly, please remember to send additions to your list in promptly to help keep things up to date.
With the recently published BBRC report containing an accepted Hooded Merganser from Fife last year interest grew in the bird touring Teeside. Like the Fife bird it seems to have a ‘dodgy leg’ suggesting it is the same individual and thus as it has been accepted previously it could potentially go through as a returning bird. The BBRC report comments for this species almost seem to suggest that unless a bird is an obvious escape then one should make up their own mind. At the moment we have decided to keep this species in italics but expect it to be upgraded if BBRC once more give it the nod. Although it is spending most of it's time north of the Tees it has now been inside the Yorkshire boundary on a couple of occasions and a small number of Yorkshire listers have already made the pilgrimage. No doubt it will prove increasingly popular if it returns.

Hooded Merganser. Hemlington, Garry Taylor

The BBRC have deemed the Canvasback from Nosterfield last year as 'not proven' on the grounds that it may possibly exhibit some hybrid features – a bit harsh we feel, however, we stick to the rules and so this bird will not be countable in the Yorkshire Listers League.

Nearly Canvasback! Nosterfield, Stephen Clifton

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The new issue is out now and subscribers should be receiving their copy shortly.

Several people have sent in their updates for the listers league and these changes have now been uploaded to the site.

Monday, 24 August 2009


A few people have asked for clarification of the rules of the listers league, they are as follows:

The Rules
As a general rule birders can tick what they want (though they may invite ridicule) but to keep a competitive league table we need some ground rules, so it’s a level playing field for everyone. What species should be deemed countable has always been a thorny subject anywhere, not just in Yorkshire and we have found out long ago that it is never possible to please everyone. That said we need some rules, so we consulted a wide range of Yorkshire birders and in particular some of the County’s keenest listers and eventually came up with the following:

1) The list will follow the decisions of the British Ornithologists Union (BOU) including taxonomy, with species that currently reside on Category A, B and C deemed as countable. The decision to follow the BOU entirely, differs from our previous stance where some species that were generally considered to have been given a rough-ride by the BOU, e.g. Mugimaki Flycatcher, were deemed countable. However, despite a number of rogue British Lists being produced nowadays, most birders agree that the official British List is that of the BOU. The meaning of categories A, B and C can be explained as follows:

Category A: Species that have been recorded in an apparently natural state at least once since 1st January 1950.
Category B: Species that were recorded in an apparently natural state at least once between 1st January 1800 and 31st December 1949, but have not been recorded subsequently.
Category C: Species that, although introduced, now derive from the resulting self-sustaining populations. There are six sub-categories under Category C, C5 and C6 are currently of no relevance to Yorkshire listing, the other four are as follows:
C1 Naturalized introduced species – species that have occurred only as a result of introduction, e.g. Egyptian Goose.
C2 Naturalized established species - species with established populations resulting from introduction by man, but which also occur in an apparently natural state, e.g. Greylag Goose.
C3 Naturalized re-established species - species with populations successfully re-established by man in areas of former occurrence, e.g. Red Kite.
C4 Naturalized feral species - domesticated species with populations established in the wild, e.g. Rock Pigeon (Dove) / Feral Pigeon.
For a complete explanation of all categories including those deemed not countable, visit the BOU web-site

2) Rare and scarce species must have been accepted by the relevant assessing committee. In most cases this will be either the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) or the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union (YNU).

3) The bird itself must be in Yorkshire, but the observer need not be. By Yorkshire, we mean basically from the River Humber to the River Tees, taking in Vice Counties 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65 with a few minor exceptions in the south and west. The reason for using this system is because political boundaries tend to change from time to time, but by adopting the Vice County system the boundary stays the same. We are aware that there is still confusion over this, for instance most birders know that Cleveland (south of the Tees) is included in Yorkshire, but it’s doubtful that many who made the ‘insurance pilgrimage’ to Dunslop in the Trough of Bowland (Lancashire) a few years ago to see the breeding Eagle Owls were aware that, should the BOU ever place them in Category A,B or C, they would then be able to include them on their Yorkshire list! For a more thorough explanation on the Yorkshire Boundary see Craig Thomas’s article in Yorkshire Birding Volume 16, page 144. With regards to birds at sea, we will again follow the BOU who use the UK Fishery Limits. In the case of Yorkshire this is basically the midway point between the County’s coastline and any neighbouring country, so land based sea-watchers, even those with high powered ‘scopes at Flamborough, needn’t worry. Birders taking trips on the likes of The Yorkshire Belle can also confidently add sightings to their county list, but if someone decides to take up the gauntlet of a far-flung pelagic they would probably be advised to go to the following site first to avoid any unnecessary disappointment.

4) The bird must be seen. Records of birds heard only are not deemed countable for the Yorkshire Listers League.

The most controversial part of drawing up a countable list for the Yorkshire Listers League is, and always will be, dealing with contentious species. Whereas we have been able to put the ball in someone else's court so far, we now have to make some decisions ourselves. The problem is basically, where a species may have been accepted by the BOU as having been recorded in a wild state in Britain, some, or maybe many of the records, may still be considered to have related to escapees. Once the BOU has officially accepted the species onto the British List, they do not normally comment on further records. Although the British Birds Rarities Committee sometimes do pass comment, there are many species which are recorded too frequently for them to deal with. So what we are left with now is a list of contentious species, mainly wildfowl, of course, that we have to deal with. As a general rule common sense should apply (‘the common sense rule’), so don’t count likely escapes, such as a bread-taking duck on a village pond or one sporting a plastic ring, although we know this may not definitely rule a bird out of being wild, as the hand-fed, Mars Bar eating Upland Sandpiper on the Scillies in the eighties would testify! Anyway, enough of that, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, here are our guidelines as to what can and can’t be counted in the Yorkshire Listers League:

Bean Goose The BOU currently consider ‘Taiga Bean Goose’ and ‘Tundra Bean Goose’ to relate to one species and as such Bean Goose is countable as one.

Lesser White-fronted Goose Only the Pulfin Bog / Stamps Pond bird of 1995 can be counted, all others are assumed to be of suspect origin.

Snow Goose The bird seen migrating along the east coast with Pink-footed Geese, to and from its wintering grounds in Norfolk, is considered quite acceptable, as would be any other bird seen migrating with likely carrier species. Otherwise sightings are assumed to refer to escapees and thus not countable.

Ross’s Goose This species is not on the official BOU list and so cannot be counted.

Lesser Canada Goose Recently given full specific status by the BOU. There have been numerous claims in Britain, including in Yorkshire, but the situation is tainted by the likelihood of escapees. The BBRC and BOURC are currently attempting to clarify the status of Lesser Canada Goose in Britain but as there are as yet no accepted records the species is thus deemed uncountable.

Brent Goose The various described forms of Brent Goose, i.e. ‘Pale-bellied Brent Goose’, ‘Dark-bellied Brent Goose’, ‘Black Brant’ and ‘Grey-bellied Brant’ are currently treated as one species by the BOU, thus count as one.

Red-breasted Goose Only the birds seen at Spurn in October 1978 and October 2006 (2) are deemed countable. Many birders saw the bird at Nosterfield in 1998 (also seen at Tophill Low) and a good argument for counting this bird has been put forward (Yorkshire Birding, volume 7, page 13). However, after consultation with numerous Yorkshire birders, it has become apparent that many would only be happy ticking a bird seen with likely carrier species, e.g. Brent’s.

Egyptian Goose There is a long established self-supporting population of Egyptian Geese in Britain, mainly in East Anglia and there is evidence that these birds sometimes wander, thus we believe the species should be considered countable in Yorkshire, subject to ‘the common sense rule’.

Ruddy Shelduck Currently resides on Category B of the BOU list, e.g. species that were recorded in an apparently natural state prior to 1950, but not subsequently. The only Yorkshire record during this time related to a pinioned bird and thus the species is deemed not countable in Yorkshire. Strong arguments have been made in recent years that vagrant Ruddy Shelducks are now occurring in Britain and with a seemingly self-supporting feral population also now established on the near-continent, it seems possible that we may be about to see a promotion here.

Mandarin Without question there is a self-sustaining population of Mandarins in Yorkshire with prime sites in the Strid, West Yorkshire and at Hackness near Scarborough and some of these birds are known to wander. Generally accepted as countable, subject to the ‘the common sense rule’.

Bufflehead Only the Coatham Marsh and Pugneys birds are deemed acceptable. The bird seen around East Yorkshire in winter 1996/97 was sporting a plastic ring and thus assumed to be of captive origin.

Black Grouse Countable, with the exception of the South Yorkshire birds which have originated from a nearby release scheme.

Golden Pheasant There is no established self-supporting population in Yorkshire and as such the species is considered uncountable.

Pacific Diver Now deemed countable having been accepted by the BOU and given full specific status.

Fea’s Petrel Because of the extreme difficulties in identification of the three ‘Soft-plumaged Petrels’ most records in Britain refer to presumed Fea’s Petrel and we are happy for observers to count this in the Yorkshire Listers League providing the record is accepted by the BBRC.

White Stork This has been one of our most difficult species to decide on. The White Stork situation in Britain has become so confusing in the last decade or so that it is almost impossible to know which birds are wild and which are not. Apart from the numerous free-flying birds from both British and continental collections we now have the problem of reintroduction schemes in neighbouring countries. Add to this the fact that White Storks in the wild can be extremely tame and the situation becomes almost impossible. Because of this we have decided that any White Stork seen in Yorkshire that is not an obvious escape can be counted.

Red Kite With the success of numerous release schemes throughout the country, (including Yorkshire) it is virtually impossible to know of a bird’s origin (unless wing-tagged) and as such it seems sensible to allow all Red Kites seen within the county to be deemed countable.

Demoiselle Crane This species does not occupy a place on the official BOU list and as such is deemed uncountable.

Caspian Gull This has been given full specific status by the BOU, so can now be counted as such.

Kumlien’s Gull Not considered to be a full species by the BOU and thus not deemed countable.

Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon Some years ago the BOU recognised that there is a large established self-sustaining population of urban and rural Feral Pigeons of domestic origin in Britain. This applies in Yorkshire too, and is thus deemed countable, suffice to say ‘the common sense rule’ applies, thus no ticking birds from your neighbours pigeon loft!

Ring-necked Parakeet A large self-sustaining population of Ring-necked Parakeets now exist in Britain and the species has resided on the BOU’s full list for some time now. Most of these birds are found in southern England however, and there is little evidence that they wander, so Ring-necked Parakeet is currently deemed uncountable in Yorkshire.

Eagle Owl This species is not on the official BOU list and so cannot be counted.

Chimney Swift The controversial swift seen at York in July 2007 (Yorkshire Birding volume 16, page 81), thought by many observers to be a Chimney Swift, was considered unproven by the British Birds Rarities Committee and thus is deemed not countable.

Brown Flycatcher This species has recently been added to the British list by the BOU who have implied that the bird seen at Flamborough during October 2007 will be accepted by the BBRC and is thus now deemed as countable.

Taiga Flycatcher The record of one at Flamborough during April 2003 (Yorkshire Birding volume 12, page 66) has been fully accepted by the relevant authorities and has also been given full specific status by the BOU, thus deemed countable.

Mugimaki Flycatcher This species does not occupy a place on the official BOU list and as such is deemed uncountable.

Spotted Towhee The bird seen at Spurn from 5th September 1975 until 10th January 1976 was considered by the relevant authorities to be most likely an escapee and as such is thus deemed uncountable.

Black-faced Bunting Only the Black-faced Bunting seen at Flamborough in October 2004 is countable. The bird seen at Spurn in May 2000 was considered by the BBRC to be probably an escapee, however the argument about this bird still runs on and this is certainly one that may yet change in the future.

Some of the decisions regarding the species we have listed above may seem obvious to many, but they are the ones that we are most frequently asked about. Please remember these decisions are not ‘set in stone’, they can be changed and we welcome healthy debate on the Yorkshire Listers League in general.

What to do now?
If you would like a copy of the list to be used in the Yorkshire Listers League, email yorkshirelists@blueyonder.co.uk requesting a list to be sent to you. Apart from all countable species the list will include (in italics) some species and sub-species which are currently considered uncountable. This is because if the record is later accepted, or the sub-species elevated to full species status, your list can be updated automatically. Full, but simple instructions will come with the list which will be in the form of an excel spreadsheet. For those without internet access please try and get a friend to print you a copy off, but failing that contact Yorkshire Birding, and we will get one posted out to you. Once you have completed the list, simply return it to the same address you got it from and then update as and when you make any further additions (you only need to let us know what species you have added and where you saw it – please do not send your full list again). Please remember that by doing this you are giving your consent to your tally being included in the Yorkshire Listers League which will appear both online (
http://www.yorkshirebirdingmagazine.blogspot.com/) and from time to time in Yorkshire Birding magazine. Please also remember that we may need to contact you regarding something you have included (or less likely not included) on your list. To help keep things running as smoothly as possible, we have enlisted the help of keen Yorkshire lister and Spurn web guru Garry Taylor, who has agreed to keep the lists updated.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The BOURC have added Pacific Diver to the British list in accepting the Farnham gravel pits bird of 07, which becomes the first for Britain and obviously Yorkshire.

Pacific Diver Farnham gravel pits Jan 07. The first for Yorkshire and Britain. Stephen Clifton (above) and Gareth Picton (below)

The BOURC have also accepted the Brown Flycatcher on fair Isle in 1992 as the first for Britain upgrading it from one of the other categories nobody really understands. Following this the BBRC have accepted the Flamborough bird of 2007. These two additions to the county list bring it to 444. Most of the top Yorks listers scored with these birds and the listers league totals have been updated.

Brown Flycatcher Flamborough Oct 07. Stephen Clifton