1993 Annual Meeting
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Texas Bird Records Committee members
FROM: Greg Lasley, Secretary, TBRC
DATE: September 26, 1993
SUBJECT: Minutes of 1993 Annual Meeting, September 25, 1993
The meeting was called to order at 9:15 a.m. at the home of the TBRC Secretary, Greg Lasley, in Austin. Members present included:
- Keith Arnold
- John Arvin
- Carl Haynie
- Greg Lasley
- Martin Reid
- Chuck Sexton.
- Jim Peterson, President, T.O.S.
(Reid was recently elected to fill the unexpired term of Bret Whitney who resigned. Reid will be eligible to serve two full terms at a later date; see below.)
Lasley reviewed the minutes of the previous meeting. It was noted that a TBRC sub-committee formed to examine the Mexican bird market situation has been inactive. On another topic from that meeting, Lasley noted that the Ringed Turtle-Dove has now been dropped from the official North American lists by both ABA and AOU.
The next business was the election of officers and new members. Keith Arnold was re-elected as the Academician and Greg Lasley was re-elected as Secretary. Chuck Sexton was elected to a second term and Gail Luckner was elected to a first term. (For these elections, absentee ballots from D. Wolf and B. Zimmer were included).
The status of the position of Chairman was the subject of much discussion prior to the election for that position. Discussion revolved around both the statutory duties of the Chair (from the By-Laws) and the practical duties of the position based on past and present workloads of the committee, communication with observers submitting records, and other aspects. A motion to merge the Chair and the Secretary's position was offered by Arvin (2nd: Sexton) but was subsequently withdrawn. Sexton then nominated Lasley for the Chair (2nd: Reid) but after more discussion this motion was also withdrawn. Sexton then nominated Arvin to be Chairman (2nd: Reid). By unanimous vote, John Arvin was elected Chairman of the TBRC.
The status of terms for the next several years are:
- Annual Meeting 1994: Whitney (= Reid) & Haynie end 1st terms.
- Annual Meeting 1995: Wolf ends 1st term; Zimmer ends 2nd term.
- Annual Meeting 1996: Luckner ends 1st term; Sexton ends 2nd term.
The task of revising the 1984 TOS Check-List has begun. Arnold has scanned the 1984 version onto disk and has it in both ASCII and WordPerfect 5.1 formats. Arnold has made initial corrections to that edition and will complete a first round of editing on it soon.
There was a general consensus of the Committee that more detail on the status and distribution in each species account is desirable in the next edition. This lead into a discussion of appropriate terminology to use and a desire to make sure terms were defined in the introduction to the check-list. These terms might include "reports", "records", "accepted records", "documented records", etc. Reid and Sexton will create a draft of appropriate definitions for the introduction. Reid also suggested that a better title for the documented would be "Annotated Check-List..."
It was agreed that Arnold and Lasley would be the primary Editors of the document. A first draft revision will be circulated to the TBRC for comments and corrections. A revised draft will thereafter go out to a larger set of active observers in Texas (and perhaps elsewhere). Final editing decisions would rest with Arnold and Lasley. A tentative schedule was established as follows:
- Oct. 31, 1993 Arnold mails out 1st draft to TBRC.
- Jan. 5, 1994 TBRC comments due back to Arnold.
- Feb. 15, 1994 Arnold sends out 2nd draft to 2nd set of reviewers.
- Apr. 1, 1994 Deadline for comments from 2nd review.
- June 30, 1994 Deliver final draft manuscript to printer.
- Sept. 30, 1994 New edition of TOS Check-List available for distribution.
The second tier of reviewers should include (i.e., if not already on the TBRC): TOS regional directors, American Birds sub-regional editors, and other key regional observers/compilers enlisted by the TBRC for this task. An initial list of these potential reviewers was compiled by the Committee.
Reid suggested that it would be nice to get some black-and-white artwork to include on a space-available basis within the check-list. Kelly Bryan, Ken Nanney, and Gail Luckner were suggested as possible sources.
There was a discussion of what unconfirmed species to mention in the check-list. It was agreed that, to eliminate ambiguity in the historical record, the check-list should include brief mention (and dismissal) of any unconfirmed species (e.g., undocumented vagrants and/or likely escapees) which have been cited in the past in published literature, i.e. in any book, magazine, or journal with national or international distribution. The latter sources would include, for instance, American Birds and the T.O.S. Bulletin, but would not include the T.O.S. Newsletter or local newsletters such as The Spoonbill.
Lasley asked the Committee to comment on how to treat probable returning rarities on the Master List and in TBRC Annual Reports. In the end, on the suggestion of Reid, it was agreed that the Secretary would set up criteria to base a decision on whether or not a given record is a returning bird. These might include distinctive plumage or other individual identifying marks (e.g. a banded bird), recognizable repeated habits (e.g. year-to-year fidelity to a give nest tree or wintering site), or other compelling circumstances. Second and subsequent returns of such a bird will receive a separate TBRC number and will be considered a separate "record". The Secretary would have the option of (a) circulating the record (e.g., if their was some doubt), or (b) notifying the Committee of the re-occurrence without circulating the new record but including a description of the criteria used for his determination on a particular record. The latter notification could be included as a brief notice in any circulating round of records.
Based on the recent precedent set by Haynie, the TBRC Annual Report may list the number of accepted "records" (with returns counted separately) and the smaller number of accepted "occurrences" (with all records of a returning bird combined to count as a single "occurrence").
Judging Difficult Species Pairs; Likelihood of Vagrancy, etc.
An extended discussion encompassed a number of overlapping topics including (a) how to make decisions on species pairs wherein the two might be actually or nearly "inseparable", (b) resolution of personal comfort levels of judging the probability of correct identification or of likelihood of occurrence, (c) standardizing criteria for assessing probability of occurrence of extremely unlikely vagrants, and (d) vagrancy patterns in seabirds.
Reid pointed out that "absolutism" in judging these aspects was generally counter-productive and overly conservative for the proper functioning of the TBRC. Reid suggested that, perhaps after a first (unresolved) circulation, it would be useful for the Secretary to seek formal input from recognized experts on the probability of distribution for certain vagrant possibilities prior to re-circulating the record. Reid and Lasley both brought up a related request that Committee members include more critical comments in responses, especially on first-round records and on votes to reject.
There was also a tangential discussion about judging records on the level of submittal (i.e. amount of detail) instead of on the details of the record itself. While no resolution was achieved on this issue, it was generally agreed that the lack of complete details, per se, should not be used alone to reject a record if the included details and other aspects surrounding the report clearly support acceptance.
Regarding species pairs where one species is as yet unproven to occur in Texas, adjacent states, or the Gulf of Mexico, the following motion was approved unanimously (Moved by Haynie; 2nd, Reid):
Until the rarer of a species pair is documented to occur in or near Texas, all accepted records of the species pair shall be regarded as representing the more likely species. When/if the rarer species is ever documented in Texas or nearby areas, the TBRC will revisit previous records and assign them to the appropriate species or to the joint species category (e.g. Arctic/Pacific Loon).
Species pairs presently recognized in this category include: Pacific/Arctic Loon, Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater, and Purple/Rock Sandpiper [the expected species is listed first in each pair]. Arvin noted that in such species pairs, the probability of occurrence of the rarer of the two is not just "unlikely" or "low" but actually approaches zero based on presently-known distribution patterns.
The Committee also passed a specific motion (Moved by Arvin; 2nd Reid) regarding the Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater species pair, recommending that such records be accepted as Sooty until/unless the latter species is documented to occur in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, or in/near Texas. The vote to accept was 5-1. Arnold's dissenting vote was based on his feeling that we just don't know enough about vagrancy in Procellariiformes to be confident at this time.
Acceptance of Records at Generic Level
The committee discussed the procedure for acceptance of individual important records at the generic level if specific identification was still questionable and would lead to reject the record otherwise. The following motion was passed unanimously:
At any point when a significant record is likely to be not accepted due to its failure to establish specific identification, the Secretary or other committee member may recommend that the record be pulled and held for discussion and acceptance at the generic level at the next annual meeting.
This procedure is likely to come into effect with certain Mango hummingbird records (= Anthracothorax sp.) and possibly some large streaked flycatchers (= Myiodynastes sp.)
Henslow's and Baird's Sparrows
On a suggestion submitted by David Wolf, the committee considered the appropriateness of these species on the Master List. Wolf contends that the winter ranges of these species clearly encompass portions of Texas and that the lack of records is likely to be related to the failure of observers to search appropriate habitats at the proper season. While the Committee acknowledged that this may contribute significantly to the present lack of records, each of these species is emperiled on its nesting grounds and is deserving of continued monitoring. Having such species on the Master List is an excellent impetus for continuing to gather such status information. Arvin commented that, were the species to be dropped from the Master List, the stream of reports on the species would likely "dry up". Lacking any motion to delete them, the species were retained for the present time on the Master List.
Categories for Non-acceptance
A discussion ensued regarding terminology for categories on response forms regarding reason(s) for non-acceptance. It was decided to rephrase the categories in line with those presently used by the California BRC, namely:
- a. Specific identification not established.
- b. Natural occurrence questionable.
- c. Establishment of introduced populations questionable.
The third category refers to judging records of vagrants in Texas of species introduced and possibly established outside of Texas. The prime example of this is the Eurasian Collared-Dove.
Fourth Round Records
Four post-third round records were discussed and acted on:
- 1990-41; Lesser Black-backed Gull, Galveston. Rejected 3-3.
- 1990-83; Social Flycatcher, Anzalduas. The committee once again reviewed the likelihood of occurrence of all potential confusing species. Arvin indicated that the most likely species which might be confused with Social are the White-bearded and certain races of the Rusty-margined Flycatchers, for which the probability of occurrence in Texas is essentially zero (see discussion above). The Committee members reiterated their collective frustration with the quality of the submittals for this important record but could not bring themselves to reject it on technical grounds. Along with the basic plumage description of the bird, size comparisons, bill size and shape, and the observed response of the bird to Social Flycatcher calls, combined with the experience of some of the reporting observers, were the major factors considered by the Committee. The Committee agreed with a suggestion by Reid to set aside two written sets of details which were solicited by the Committee late in the review of the record, even though the latter accounts suggested that at least two observers (and only these two) saw an orange-red crown patch. Notwithstanding setting aside the latter accounts, the committee eventually voted unanimously (6-0) to accept this record of the Social Flycatcher, thereby placing it on the Presumptive Species List for Texas.
- 1991-1; Sooty Shearwater, Galveston. Accepted 5-1 (Arnold dissenting).
- 1991-19; Lesser Black-backed Gull, Boca Chica. Rejected on a vote of 4-2 (Reid, Sexton). Reid was concerned about the dark tail; Sexton desired to keep the record of LBBG clean without this difficult bird.
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 4:30 p.m., after which time the Committee went birding.
Greg W. Lasley TBRC Secretary 26 September 1993