Second ARCC Report
The Connecticut Warbler, 7(4): 46-51 (Fall 1987)
By Fred Purnell
The establishment of a Rare Records Committee (RRC) for the State of Connecticut represents an important step in the history of field ornithology for the region. Numerous other states have established similar bodies whose role in assessing and preserving evidence for the occurrence of avian rarities is crucial for establishing consistency and completeness of the ornithological record. Obviously the best evidence for the occurrence of a bird species in the State is a specimen. For many years ornithologists were unwilling to grant credence to any reports unaccompanied by a skin. Current restraints (moral as well as practical) against collecting, coupled with the improvement of photographic and sound recording equipment and the sharpening of field skills by an ever greater number of experienced observers have opened the door to the acceptance of new forms of evidence by professional ornithologists. This has given rise to the need for procedures for evaluating and preserving this evidence for future generations of students, in much the way museum collections preserve the specimen record.
In evaluating a submitted report, the members of the RRC are concerned with the adequacy of the evidence supplied by observers in light of the permanent historical record to be maintained. Their aim is to assess the quality of the evidence, written, photographic, and otherwise, in light of what is currently known about avian distribution and the problems of field identification of the species involved. Observers whose reports are not accepted by the RRC should not take this as a judgment that the bird or birds were misidentified or that the observer’s abilities are questioned, but that the report raised problems which could not be resolved, involving either identification or origin. It is the accuracy and completeness of the field report and the rigor and objectivity of the review procedure which distinguish an accepted record from an uncorroborated report.
One of the major aims underlying the establishment of the RRC is to foster an awareness in Connecticut’s field ornithologists of the importance of providing corroboration for their reports of rarities. Careful field notes, sketches, photographs and sound recordings are essential to establishing a record of lasting ornithological value. The initial period of the RRC’s operation has been devoted to several fundamental tasks: acceptance of by-laws governing its operation, developing criteria for an official State List, reviewing historical records, and preparing a Review List of species for which corroborating evidence of future occurrences is desired. At the same time, the RRC has begun the process of evaluating current reports as they have been submitted and eliciting submissions in support of unsubstantiated or insufficiently substantiated reports of historical significance. The RRC’s decisions regarding these initial reports are presented below. Sequence and nomenclature follow The A.O.U. Check-List of North American Birds, 6 th edition. In each case date and location of occurrence are provided, together with the appropriate RRC file number. In the case of accepted records, names of principal observers are given. First state records are so designated; the term “hypothetical” is used to distinguish those records of species for which satisfactory photographic or specimen evidence is still required, in accord with the Committee’s policy regarding the official State List.
Several reports submitted to the Committee are still pending, in some cases awaiting appraisal by outside experts. The RRC reserves the right to reconsider any report, whether initially accepted or not, upon receipt of significant additional evidence. The RRC wishes to express its appreciation to the many contributors who have responded to its requests for information. Particular thanks are due to Jon Dunn for generously providing valuable assistance. The Committee would like to urge all birders to assist in making their Connecticut field observations part of the ongoing ornithological record of the State. Rare Bird Report Forms are available from the Secretary. The time and care taken to prepare a formal report of your observations represent your direct contribution to the future of ornithology in the region.
TUNDRA SWAN (Cygnus columbianus) One at Hammonasset St. Pk., Madison, 3-6 Nov. 1973, N.S. Proctor, E. Hagen et al. (87-12); photo Am. Birds 28-1 (1974) cover. One adult at Nell’s Is., Milford, 27 March 1977, F. Mantlik et al. (86-13); photo on file.
GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (Anser albifrons) Two adults of the Greenland race (flavirostris) at Orange, 14 Dec. 1985 – 12 Jan. 1986, N.S. Proctor et al. (86-6); photo on file. One adult of the same race on Connecticut R., S. Windsor, 13 Jan. 1986, C. Taylor et al. (86-5).
SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER (Calidris acuminata) One juvenile at Veterans’ Park, Norwalk, 15-16 Oct. 1985, F. Mantlik et al. (86-9); photos on file. The bird was banded and released on the 16 th. First state record. Cover photo CW 6(2), Pg. 15-17. (Dates as reported in Field Notes CW 6(2), p. 21, incorrect.)
POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus) One light-phased adult at Sandy Pt., West Haven, 5 Aug. 1985, A.H. Bledsoe, S.J. Ruoff (85-26). First accepted state record (hypothetical). Previous reports of this species not yet evaluated by the Committee.
ROSS’ GULL (Rhodostethia rosea) Adult in basic plumage in West Haven, 11-22 April 1984. Found and identified by D. Varza and R. Schwartz. Report provided by A.H. Bledsoe (85-4); photos on file. First State record.
GULL-BILLED TERN (Sterna nilotica) One in Madison, 4 Oct. [1985, but reported as 6 Oct. in CW 6(2): 21 (1986)] (hypothetical). Photographic or specimen evidence of this species’ occurrence in Connecticut still needed.
BAND-TAILED PIGEON (Columba fasciata) One in East Haven, 7 Nov. 1982, C. Taylor et al. (85-9). One at Portland feeder, Dec. 1984 – March 1985, S. and J. Mitchell et al. (85-8). First accepted state records (hypothetical).
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) One at Hammonasset St. Pk., Madison, 5-10 Sept. 1985, R. English et al. (85-13); individual was banded and released on 9 Sept., photo on file. One at Westport, 28-30 Sept. 1986, R.L. Soffer et al. (86-18).
TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi) One adult at Bethel, 12 and 24 Nov. 1983, T. Lofgren (85-7). First accepted state record (hypothetical). A 1939 sight record has not yet been evaluated by the Committee.
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major) Two females at Lighthouse Point, New Haven, 7 Oct. 1985, R. English et al. (85-14). First accepted state record (hypothetical). Photographic evidence of the species’ occurrence in the state has subsequently been provided.
UNACCEPTED RECORDS (Identification Questionable)
UNACCEPTED RECORD (Origin Questionable (identification accepted))
Submitted July 21, 1987
Fred Purnell, Acting Chairman
Committee Members for 1987:
George A. Clark, Jr., Chairman, Tom Burke, Fred Sibley, Mark Szantyr, Clay Taylor, Dennis Varza. Alternates: Louis Bevier, Buzz Devine, Richard English, Ed Hagen.
Frank Mantlik, Secretary
17 Seabreeze Pl., Norwalk, CT 06854