The 2009 BBRC AGM was held at Minsmere, Suffolk in early March. The main items arising from the AGM can be found in a feature on the BBRC website ( and a forthcoming article in British Birds, with key issues summarised below.

Committee membership

As no alternative nominations for election to BBRC were received, the Committee’s nominee, Richard Millington (see Brit. Birds 102: 105), will commence his term of office on 1st April 2009. We welcome Richard, who replaces our longest-serving member Brian Small, although we are delighted to retain Brian as the Committee’s Museum Consultant. In addition, Phil Bristow has regrettably been forced to retire from the Committee, owing to the pressure of other commitments. It will be a great shame to lose Phil, who has made a very valuable contribution to BBRC’s work, and we fully understand that this has been a difficult decision for him to relinquish his duties. He was due to retire in April 2011, so in the meantime we have co-opted a new member to undertake his duties. We were keen to find a replacement who was also based in Wales but, despite extensive enquiries, none was forthcoming with the necessary time to commit to BBRC at present. We are nonetheless delighted to welcome Nic Hallam onto the Committee to replace Phil from 1st April 2009. Nic is based in Oxfordshire and does much of his birding at Farmoor Reservoir, where his impressive list of finds includes Britain’s only inland Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens, along with two Bonaparte’s Gulls Chroicocephalus philadelphia, two Franklin’s Gulls Larus pipixcan and a Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica. His other finds in this land-locked county include Oxon’s second Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps, and he has served on the Oxfordshire Rarities Committee for 25 years and is co-author of the county bird report. Nic is widely travelled in Europe and further afield. He will be co-opted for a period of 12 months, and there will be the opportunity for other candidates to be nominated during the coming year for an election if necessary. Names and capabilities of potential candidates should be sent to the Chairman, supported by a proposer and seconder. We are disappointed that we no longer have a representative for Wales, but we are grateful to Reg Thorpe, Chairman of the Welsh Records Panel and a former BBRC member, who has continued to assist the committee with Welsh records where necessary.

Species to be removed from the BBRC list

Despite the removal of a number of species in 2006 (Brit. Birds 99: 52 & 100: 18-19), the number of records received continues to grow and we assessed the frequency of several of the more common rarities at the AGM. White-billed Diver Gavia adamsii met the statistical criteria for removal from the list (more than 150 records in the last ten years, with 10 or more in at least eight of those years) for the period to the end of 2008 and will therefore be dropped from the list of species considered from 1st January 2009. Cattle Egret Bubulcusibis met the more than 150 criteria, but fell short of the 10 or more per annum threshold. Nonetheless, given that the influx which began in autumn 2007 appears to be being sustained, and that the species is relatively easy to identify, it was determined that it would also be dropped from the list of species considered from 1st January 2009. Parrot Crossbill Loxia pytyopsittacus was also considered. Although reports of this species to the Committee have been nowhere near the frequency to be considered for review, the widely publicised Scottish breeding population (see Brit. Birds 95: 4-11; Ibis 144: 393-410) appears well established. Ron Summers has provided the Committee with summary data for Parrot Crossbills trapped during his study and we are grateful for this information, which allowed us to confirm the identification of these individuals. We will therefore not be seeking records of this species from 1st January 2009 onwards, but will also not assess retrospective records as a consequence of the established breeding population. We would like to take this opportunity to remind local committees that BBRC is willing to assist with the assessment of any previous BBRC species, if necessary. Any requests should be directed towards the Secretary.

Species and subspecies reviews

The Druridge Bay Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris review also continues. With regard to the curlew, we have gathered all the material from previous recirculations, which established that the Committee have not formally reviewed some of the video evidence collected at the time. We are in the process of gathering this material, but would be grateful if any observers with video evidence of the bird are willing to submit this for review (please contact the Chairman).

We are also still considering records of Canada Geese (to determine the first records of wild Greater Branta canadensis and Lesser Canada Goose B.hutchinsii for Britain and then to determine if each species should be considered as national rarities). We have decided that records of Snow Goose Anser caerulescens will not be considered (contra Brit.Birds 99:623). Vagrants do appear to reach Britain on a reasonably regular basis, but introduced or escaped birds continue to cloud the issue; also, for this species, the volume of records exceeds that which is deemed appropriate for its consideration as a rarity. Still on the theme of wildfowl, note that the Devon Falcated Duck Anas falcata has been re-aged as a first-winter (contra Brit.Birds 100: 751); reasons for this correction will be published in British Birds in due course.

The review of records of ‘Siberian Chiffchaff’ Phylloscopus collybita tristis during 2008 has established that this taxon (or at least birds that can be assigned to tristis/‘fulvescens’) occurs too frequently to be considered a BBRC rarity. BBRC is extremely grateful to those observers and recorders who cooperated with this review and submitted documentation to support their observations in 2008 (and some previous years). The subcommittee who have assessed claims are still keen to receive further documentation for birds in 2008 even if observers believe the birds involved are closer to ‘fulvescens’ or ‘eastern abietinus’ types. Please send details to Alan Dean ([email protected]) who is undertaking secretarial duties for the subcommittee, by the end of June 2009 if possible, although outstanding reports of birds that were trapped (and for which full biometrics and photographs are available) or sound-recorded would still be welcome after that. It is intended that the results will be written up in due course and these additional reports will enhance the quality of that paper.

BBRC Archive

We are currently investigating the possibility of digitising accepted records of species that are currently considered by BBRC, to ensure that we have an electronic archive to assist ongoing research or reviews. This will be a considerable task and we are currently attempting to secure external funding for the project. We are particularly keen to enable public access to part of the archive if this project could be realised and are investigating the opportunity of providing internet access to electronic versions of record submissions. This would provide a significant resource, allowing data collected during the 50 years of BBRC’s existence to be more widely available.

For this project to realise its full potential we need the support of all those observers who have submitted descriptions and supporting documentation to BBRC, before we make these data available in this way. We ask anyone with any concerns regarding this proposal to contact the Chairman.

Support for BBRC

We continue to be extremely grateful for the financial support offered by Carl Zeiss Ltd and the ongoing commitment and support from directors and staff of the journal British Birds. Both of these organisations continue to underpin the variety of functions of the BBRC and enable us in achieve our core aims and objectives, serving British and overseas birders as we have done for the last 50 years.

Adam Rowlands, Chairman British Birds Rarities Committee

East Walks Bungalow, Minsmere Reserve, Westleton, Suffolk IP17 3BY

[email protected]