I and the Bird

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Question about Overseas Birding

I was looking through some pictures of my 2004 study-abroad trip to Durban, South Africa when I came across a picture of what appear to be cormorants sitting on a rocky outcropping outside of Luderitz, Namibia.

For a larger version click here

During my lunch break I checked with the excellent nature library available in my office and found Newman's Birds of Southern Africa Field Guide. Quickly I tracked the cormorants down to Whitebreasted Cormorants found commonly on the Atlantic coast of Southern Africa.

This is pretty cool. I have no idea why I never thought back to the birds I saw in South Africa and Namibia while I was there...but the discovery of this photo brought a lot of birds back to my mind, birds that I had identified in the field. The question is, though, can I count these birds as part of my life list?

I'm not sure how this works. First, though, let me go over the list of birds that I definitely positively saw in Southern Africa (by the way, I really wish I had been into birding while I was there...I must have missed A LOT):

Ostrich: Kalahari National Park
Secretarybird: Umfolozi National Park
Sociable Weaver: Kalahari National Park
Jackass Penguin: Cape peninsula
Glossy Ibis: University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
Whitebreasted Cormorant: Luderitz, Namibia

Sociable Weaver nests in the Kalahari

Now, if I had put any effort in whatsoever I could have probably seen 100 times more birds than what are represented there, but those are the ones I definitely remember. I know I saw a flamingo in Luderitz, but I have no idea whether it was the greater or lesser so that's out. Then there was this awesome long-tailed bird that was always seen in the sugar fields outside Durban but there are a couple different possibilities so that's out. So, then, what is stopping me from adding these birds, anything?

Let's check the ABA (even though they apply to African birds) Recording Rules to see if including these birds would be any sort of ethical (moral!) violation:

A bird included in totals submitted for ABA lists must have been encountered in accordance with the following ABA Recording Rules.
(1) The bird must have been within the prescribed area and time-period when encountered.
(2) The bird must have been a species currently accepted by the ABA Checklist Committee for lists within its area, or by the A.O.U. Checklist for lists outside the ABA area and within the A.O.U. area, or by Clements for all other areas.
(3) The bird must have been alive, wild, and unrestrained when encountered.
(4) Diagnostic field-marks for the bird, sufficient to identify to species, must have been seen and/or heard and/or documented by the recorder at the time of the encounter.
(5) The bird must have been encountered under conditions that conform to the ABA Code of Birding Ethics.

OK so, again, these may be moot for African birds, but I think I qualify.
1. All the birds were in Namibia or South Africa, well within their normal range, when I saw them.
2. Well, there are very common, visible species in Africa and I'm sure they are accepted by African checklists.
3. Yes, yes and yes.
4. Yes I can remember them clearly and immediately knew in each case, except the cormorants which I can back up with a photo, which species they were.
5. I saw all these birds in non-invasive, ethical conditions.

Does that work for you? It works for me. I'm gonna include them.

If anyone reads this and can help clear things up, please leave a comment.
I don't see this as much different from documenting a bird you don't know with a photograph and consulting field guides later. It is just done over a longer timeframe. I have some birds on my own lists that I first saw before I really started birding.
I think there's only one thing for it - go back to Africa and tick them again :)
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