Thursday, 28 December 2017

Listing to one side

There will be a number of birding listers who are currently salivating with the expectation of New Years Day lifers. You see, they will be guaranteed British ticks on that date, regardless of whether they go out birding or not. Because it is then that the British Ornithologists' Union (BOU) adopts the International Ornithological Congress (IOC) World bird list - and with that comes a handful of taxonomical splits that are not currently recognised here in Britain.

Isabelline (Lanius isabellinus) and Red-tailed Shrikes (L phoenicuruides) are to be considered separate species, as will Taiga Bean (Anser fablis) and Tundra Bean Goose (A rossicus). Fea's Petrel (Pterodroma feae) loses its umbilical chord to Desertas Petrel (P deserta) and Thayer's Gull (Larus thayeri) is cut adrift from Iceland Gull (L glaucoides).

Want more? Well here you go then - Two-barred Warbler will no longer be lumped with Greenish; Eastern Yellow Wagtail and Stejneger's Stonechat will no longer be considered to be just sub-species dross; and the Rye Harbour Least Tern is finally tickable (much to the delight of a band of old timers).

There are reversals however. Our very own Lesser Redpoll no longer exists - it's just either Common or Arctic now. And if you rushed down to Pagham Harbour for that Hudsonian Whimbrel then you wasted your petrol money. Of course, the UK400 Club (the birding equivalent of the Tooting Popular Front) had already split most of this lot off years ago...

If you play the listing game then you need to abide by the rules (whatever set of rules you may adhere to - in some cases at least two sets!) Me? I'm a keeper of many lists, but I maintain them for my own entertainment and do not chase them. It's more relaxing that way. So I will gain a couple of species and lose one - if, indeed I decide to adopt the splits. I may even start my own UK300 club, where you can tick and split what you like, when you like. Any takers?

14 comments:

Derek Faulkner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek Faulkner said...

How many times do you spilt a bird to gain another tick - seems a sad form of birdwatching.

Steve Gale said...

The scientists do the splitting Derek, not for ticks! The birders do that.

Dylan Wrathall said...

Steve,
I already have the tee-shirt!

Steve Gale said...

Dyl, you designed it!!

Gibster said...

I think what needs to be realised is that the BOU's decision, made at the start of this year, is that they agreed to go along with wherever the IOCs taxonomy stood at the end of this year. IOC's species list was chosen from several options, it is not the be all and end all, it just fitted what BOU felt was most suitable when they considered the popular options. The taxonomy used by the IOC is constantly evolving and being updated. It will change again and again and again, even before 2018 is out, particularly with regard to species found in little studied regions of the world. Whether or not the BOU will accept all future IOC updates I don't know. Maybe (though they'll probably take 20 years to think about each one...)

My own solution, as far as is possible, has been to try and identify what I'm looking at to subspecies level (often possible to do this purely on distribution), so that if ever they get elevated to species (and maybe subsequently re-lumped back to subsp), I can still keep track of it all to some degree. Not that anything I see or say matters one jot, I'm only a small time birder. I just update accordingly when prompted by those lovely guys at BUBO Listing :)

Steve Gale said...

Seth, that was as sensible, calm and sedate a post as I've witnessed from your good self...

Gibster said...

Probably because I'm atypically stone cold sober :|

dmcjournal said...

For a wonderful look at species splitting and lumping see http://www.wansteadbirder.com/2017/01/understanding-redpolls.html

Never thought I'd see Redpoll and Polar Bear lumped together!

As for me, I'm sure that seeing any particular bird will give the same pleasure regardless of what lists it may or may not feature in.

Peter Alfrey said...

The IOC taxonomy Version 7.3 resurrects Lesser Redpoll so its game on again with the Redpolls rollercoaster !

Steve Gale said...

Damn.... I was hoping that they'd end up lumping all of them into one!!

Steve Gale said...

Hours of fun with this lumping lark if it isn't taken too seriously...

Peter Alfrey said...

IOC are moving towards forming an International Ornithologists Union to align with other global taxonomies in 2018 so there will be more changes - so who knows might happen yet?

Gibster said...

Hopefully it'll mean I can tick that McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom Crossbill I had (call only) over Beddington in 1998...