Thursday, 22 December 2011

Rules for my Big Year

With any game or sport, there has to be some groundrules so that everyone is on the same page. With my proposed big year, that is no different. These are some of the rules that I will follow next year. If anyone has any comments/suggestions, just let me know. If I think of any more rules that I have so far forgotten about, I will add them to this page.

- The period runs from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012. Obviously.

- Taxonomic changes that happen in the future will not affect my big year total. For instance, say I see both subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler next year (Audobon's and Myrtle). Since they are not recognized by the OBRC as distinct species, they only count as 1 species for my total. However, say 5 years down the road the OBRC decided that the evidence is sufficient to "split" Yellow-rumped Warbler into 2 species. I will not go back and modify my totals to accommodate this change. I think of splitting and lumping as random error - splits and lumps will continue to occur, but this variation is roughly equal.  

- Species that are OBRC rarities and with potentially questionable provenance will only be counted if the OBRC accepts the record. For instance, say that I chase a European Goldfinch in May, but the OBRC decides that the evidence isn't enough to determine that it is a wild bird (as opposed to an escaped bird), and subsequently does not accept the record. Even if I think it is a countable bird, I will not count it.However if, in the future, the OBRC goes back and accepts the record, based on new evidence or whatever, then I will modify my Big Year totals depending on the OBRC's decision. This is the only case where I will go back and modify my big year totals.

- I will only count species that I see or hear sufficiently to ID independently. Let's say I go chase a Thick-billed Murre in Kingston. Just as I arrive, I see a flash of black and white as the bird flies away out of sight, never to be seen again. Even though dozens of good, reputable birders are on site and inform me that that was indeed the Thick-billed Murre, I will not count it because I didn't see it well enough to be 100% sure.

- I will count birds that are heard only, but only if I am 100% sure (or as close to 100% as one can be). There will probably only be a couple species that I will "hear only" next year and I'll have to look at them on a case by case basis. If I hear a Whip-poor-will calling in central Ontario in June, I can be reasonably sure in my identification to count it. However, if I hear the song of a Kirtland's Warbler at Point Pelee in May, I will probably not count it on that alone. It could have been another birder playing a tape, it could have been another species sounding similar, etc. Hopefully I will see every species next year so I don't have to rely on heard only birds!

-The birds have to be wild. I won't count the Ring-necked Pheasants I see on Pelee Island, since the island is regularly stocked with this species for hunting every year. I will have to count Ring-necked Pheasants that I see elsewhere, where I can be reasonably sure that there are from a wild, established breeding population.

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