Scottish Birds Records Committee
Aims and objectives
The areas of SBRC's responsibility can be summarised as:
- Record assessment – examine records of species on the SBRC List and liase with Local Recorders and Local Records Committees, plus BBRC and BOURC, to ensure that records are adequately assessed prior to publication in the Scottish Bird Report. [Also to assist in the achievement of a high standard in local bird reports, although we have no direct responsibility in this regard.]
- Maintainance of the Scottish List.
- Production of papers on identification, status etc in a Scottish context, and roles (including co-ordinating others) that are best carried out by a committee rather than by individuals.
- Keeping the Scottish birding community informed about our work, aims and progress.
The SOC's Council wished to maintain a high standard of accuracy in its annual Scottish Bird Report, thus the Scottish Birds Records Committee (SBRC) was set up in 1984 to ensure that all unusual Scottish records were fully assessed prior to being accepted for publication. SBRC is a sub-committee of the SOC Council.
Since 1984 local Bird Reports have increased considerably and now cover most of Scotland. It is equally important that these reports are accurate and SBRC has a role in this regard.
With the advent of many excellent local records committees, a three tier system of record assessment was introduced in the early 1990s:
- The British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) assesses British rarities (those appearing on the BBRC List).
- SBRC assesses records of birds rare in a Scottish context, but not rare enough in Britain to be assessed by BBRC.
- Local Records Committees assess records of slightly less rare Scottish species, together with all other local rarities.
In the few remaining areas where there are no local committees, SBRC fills this function.
By introducing this system we have a more uniform approach to record assessment, aimed at achieving the aspirations of the SOC Council when they originally set up SBRC.
SBRC publishes a list of birds known as the SBRC List. Birds appearing on this list are not rare enough to appear on the BBRC List, but are unusual enough in a Scottish context to require observations to be supported by written descriptions, which require to be vetted and accepted by a committee. SBRC wish to see records of many of the species on the SBRC List, but records of less rare species on this list are usually adjudicated by Local Records Committees.
Following consultation during 1994, between the Editor of the Scottish Bird Report and SBRC, and after seeking the views of Local Recorders, it was agreed that records of species appearing on the SBRC List would not appear in the Scottish Bird Report without being assessed and accepted by either SBRC or a local committee. Similarly records of British rarities are not published unless accepted by BBRC.
Voting procedure for acceptance of records
SBRC has seven voting members and a non-voting Secretary. At least six must vote in favour for a record to be accepted. SBRC strives to ensure that published records of unusual sightings are valid, being supported by accurate descriptions and records failing, for whatever reason, are eliminated. It should therefore be realised that a record that has not been accepted is not necessarily incorrect, but more often (due to either brief views or insufficient detail) simply failed to meet the exacting standards set by the committee for acceptance.
Reviewing old records
A majority of at least 5:2 is required in order to overturn a record that has previously been accepted by SBRC.
The same voting procedure is required in order to overturn old Scottish records (not just those previously accepted by SBRC) that have in the past been generally accepted. Also in the case of old records there must be a valid reason for rejection; insufficient information (now being available) is not a valid reason on its own. Circulations involving old records normally include comments from our Museum Consultant.
SBRC produced a list of Scottish birds that the SOC's Council adopted as the official Scottish List, with SBRC being delegated responsibility for maintaining the list and publishing regular amendments. The list was first published in 1994 (Scottish Birds 17: 146-159). Regular updates appeared subsequently and in 2001 the list was expanded to include all subspecies (Scottish Birds 22: 33-49). An updated version of the list can be found on this website.
Scottish List Recording Area
The Scottish List Recording Area follows the EU Fishery Limits, as they apply to Scotland, which extend to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the baseline surrounding Scotland's coast and outlying islands, or the median line between Scotland and neighbouring countries, whichever is the closest. In reality it is usually the median line, with the 200 nautical mile limit only being reached to the west of Scotland (Bailey and Rockall), in the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to record assessment, contribution to the production of The Birds of Scotland, and maintenance of the Scottish List, SBRC has also published papers on:
- Scottish Birds Records Committee report on rare birds in Scotland, 2009 (2011) (Scottish Birds 31: 107-134)
- SBRC review of Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis records - May 2011 (2011)
- Identification of Scottish and Parrot Crossbills (2011)
- Scottish Birds Records Committee report on rare birds in Scotland, 2005–08 (2010) (Scottish Birds 30:99-123, 30:211-229)
- SBRC criteria for identification of Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans (2010) (Scottish Birds 30:22-26)
- SBRC criteria for identification of Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis (2009) (Scottish Birds 29:220-222)
- Scotland's endemic subspecies (2003) (Scottish Birds 24:18-35)
- Records of species and subspecies recorded in Scotland on up to 20 occasions (2002) (Scottish Birds 23:61-116), together with regular updates.
- Records of species recorded in Scotland on 5 or fewer occasions (1996) (Scottish Birds 18:132-143), together with regular updates.
- Yellow-legged Gulls in Scotland (1995) (Scottish Birds 18:95-100)
Some papers are available online: click on the links above to view.
What are we doing now?
We are now working on a number of projects:
- We are reviewing significant pre-1950 Scottish records.
- We are preparing the next Scottish Birds Records Committee report on rare birds in Scotland for 2010, with such reports to be published annually in the future in Scottish Birds.
Since 1990, one member of the Committee has retired by rotation each year and nominations are sought from Club members. In the event of more than one nomination being received, a ballot will be held, with each Local Recorder having one vote. The intention is that the committee should have extensive experience of the species being examined and also be representative of the geographical spread of birdwatchers throughout Scotland.
See the About The SOC page for a list of the SBRC members.
Local Records Committees
With many Local Records Committees now operating, many more Scottish birders have the opportunity to improve their skills and knowledge, by sitting on record assessment committees. There are at present twenty Local Recorders in Scotland and at least seventeen are understood to have Local Records Committees covering their areas. SBRC encourage the setting up of local committees in the remaining areas, thereby providing full local coverage throughout the whole of Scotland. SBRC have produced a set of guidelines, to assist Local Committees achieve 'best practice' and a degree of uniformity.
Submission of records
We request that observers submit records via the relevant Local Recorder using the Rare Bird Record form. The recorder is responsible for forwarding the record to the correct committee. At present we are experiencing a high level of co-operation between birdwatchers and the record assessment committees, which we very much hope will continue.
Dr Chris McInerny
Scottish Birds Records Committee
10 Athole Gardens