The 2021 BBRC AGM took place on 6th March. For the second year running, it was held virtually, with members dialling in from living rooms and kitchens across the country. The following is a summary of key issues discussed at the meeting. 

It will come as a relief to many that no species are added or removed from the BBRC list this year. However, we wish to clarify the status of one subspecies: ‘White-spotted Bluethroat’ Luscinia svecica cyanecula. This remains a genuinely rare bird in Britain with just 48 records in the period 2010–19, well within the bounds of assessment by BBRC. Whilst it may not be possible to safely assign females and males in non-breeding plumage to a subspecies in the field, timing of occurrence can offer a valuable clue. ‘Red-spotted Bluethroats’ L. s. svecica have not been recorded in Britain earlier than 18th April. Any Bluethroat seen before mid April is therefore highly likely to be cyanecula. BBRC welcomes all submissions for any Bluethroats where there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the bird in question is any subspecies other than svecica. See for more information. 

The assessment of ducks and geese is always fraught with difficulty owing to the presence of hybrids and escapes. All submissions of rare ducks and geese will be held by the Secretary and circulated to members in a single batch in May, at the end of the voting year. This will give voters a better overview of movements and dates for individual birds. Additionally, it was agreed that BBRC should employ a stricter set of criteria for the acceptance of rare ducks and geese. They must:

  • be seen to be fully-winged;
  • be seen to be unringed (or have been ringed in the wild in its natural range);
  • behave as a wild bird;
  • be at a location frequented by wild ducks;
  • arrive at an appropriate time of year for a vagrant, and not linger through the summer*;
  • be with an appropriate carrier species (this applies for Eurasian ducks and all geese).

We recognise that these requirements will undoubtedly result in the occasional good record being found not proven, and also that there will undoubtedly be escapes that get accepted because they happen to fulfil the above criteria. 

A number of species, such as Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca and Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus, have populations in Europe derived from reintroduction schemes. BBRC will not accept individuals proven to have come from such schemes until the population is deemed to be self-sustaining.

* We recognise that it is well established that a few species, American Black Duck Anas rubripes being a good example, can oversummer here or even become resident, and that will not be a bar to acceptance for these species. 

There was substantial discussion on our treatment of ‘either/or’ species pairs, and a paper detailing our approach to this issue is in preparation.

Paul French, BBRC Chair; e-mail [email protected]

Issue 5
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