1994 Annual Meeting
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Texas Bird Records Committee members FROM: Greg Lasley, Secretary, TBRC DATE: September 16, 1994 SUBJECT: Minutes of 1994 Annual Meeting, September 10, 1994
The 1994 annual meeting of the Texas Bird Records Committee was convened at the home of John Arvin near Driftwood, Texas, on Saturday, September 10, 1994. In attendance were:
TBRC members absent from the meeting were Martin Reid and Barry Zimmer. The meeting was convened at approximately 9:30 a.m. The minutes from the previous meeting were reviewed and approved by acclamation without modification.
Lasley reviewed the status and location of outstanding TBRC rounds of records. The most recent round sent out is #125; the oldest outstanding round is #116 (Rounds #114 & 115 were completed on 15 September; the results of those rounds will be sent out very soon). Lasley passed out copies of a recent article (courtesy C. Sexton) from the Wilson Bulletin regarding the status and identification of the Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans) in North America. Keith Arnold passed out copies of a 1962 article from The Emu which corrected an erroneous specimen record of Short-tailed Shearwater (P. tenuirostris, re-identified as P. griseus) in Panama, again highlighting the difficulty of identification in this species pair not only in the field but in the museum as well.
Election/Status of Members
There were two nominees to fill the two positions up for election. Martin Reid, who had been appointed one year ago to fill the unexpired term of Bret Whitney, was elected to his first full 3-year term. Carl Haynie was elected to his second full term. The Secretary (Lasley) and Academician (Arnold) were re-elected. All election votes were unanimous by acclamation. Luckner announced her imminent move to New Jersey; she will serve out the remainder of her present term on the Committee.
Current membership and terms of service are as follows:
Discussion commenced on the status of editing the T.O.S. Checklist. Due to the lack of completed reviews by Arvin, Lasley, and Sexton, the project is now approximately one year behind schedule. Jim Peterson stated a desire to be able to announce that the checklist was at a printer at the Spring 1995 TOS meeting; that concept was collectively judged to be too optimistic. Tentatively, the schedule proposed at last year's TBRC meeting, with all dates slipping one year, was proposed as the working schedule, with a desire stated to accelerate the schedule where possible.
Discussions turned to definitions of format and terminology, with particular emphasis on abundance categories and geographic references. The new checklist should have two or three maps which show the set of common geographic terms used in the checklist. One of the maps should show county boundaries and names. Species accounts should be structured to describe status from the areas and seasons of most common occurrence ("center of abundance") thence to the areas where/when less numerous.
Abundance Categories. Dissatisfaction was expressed with the term "Accidental". Arvin argued that species with exceedingly few records in Texas are still probably not "accidents" but are part of explicable patterns of occurrence, however infrequent or presently unrecognizable those patterns may be. A decision was made to simply list the records for the rarest species, in particular, with five or fewer accepted records.
Arvin and others expressed a desire to change the terms "casual" and "occasional" to something more explicit. These terms, although in common usage in checklists, are used variously in other works and, in their vernacular usage, do not convey a useful sense of rarity. Terms such as "very rare" and "extremely rare" were discussed. Arnold expressed a strong desire not to add modifiers to the regular abundance categories, fearing such phrases can be overused and can obfuscate the intended meaning of a defined term (e.g., "tolerably common"). In the end, the term "very rare" was adopted as the simplest possible phrase to describe occurrence less frequent than "rare". For Review List species, the term "very rare" could be applied to species with 6 to 15 accepted records. Essentially, no Review List species would deserve a status more numerous than "rare". However, the committee agreed that if there was consensus that the number of accepted records of a given species might give a misleading portrait of abundance, modifying phrases should be added.
The Committee discussed the related topic of treatment of "unsubmitted reports". Rather than ignore that set of reports, the committee felt it useful that they be summarized briefly (especially where the set of accepted records may be at odds with the larger database) with appropriate cautionary phrasing included as to the likelihood of some portion of the unsubmitted reports being valid records.
Geographic Terms. Several committee members expressed dissatisfaction with certain biogeographic terms currently found in the checklist such as "Pineywoods", "Rolling Plains", and "Coastal Prairies". Despite the fact that these terms are well-defined in the ecological literature for Texas, the desire was expressed to reduce the reliance on such "biogeographic" terms and to move towards more explicit descriptions of occurrence such as "the wooded eastern 1/4 of Texas". Only in the few occasions where the range of a given species was comfortably delimited by the former terms would they be applied (e.g., Brown-headed Nuthatch).
A fragmented discussion ensued about the use of other terms such as "North Texas", "The Panhandle", "South Texas", "Central Texas", etc., etc. Some of these terms have fairly distinct and recognizable boundaries, while other boundaries are fuzzy. In the end, the committee felt that the species accounts should be flexible enough to properly describe range limits as parsimoniously as possible with reference to either the major regions (as above), counties of occurrence, and/or major cities which delimit the range of occurrence. A preference was indicated for describing range limits in relation to major cities rather than counties since the former are often more familiar to a wide range of readers.
The following minor grammatical changes were made by acclamation:
Special Rule for Removal.
A discussion to remove the Henslow's Sparrow from the Review List (see below) highlighted the fact that the by-laws were very conservative for removal of a species from the List. A discussion ensued on how to more readily remove a species from the List when, for a variety of reasons, the literal criterion (VI.B(2); "four or fewer times per year in each of the ten [previous] years") proved to be unrealisticly restrictive and counterproductive. Strong feelings were expressed on several consequences of such a special rule. Wolf pointed out the disparity among various species occurring in Texas compared to the inclusion criterion for the List (e.g. Spotted Owl, Painted Redstart, Williamson's Sapsucker). Lasley described the problems associated with any instability in the List including the confusion among reporting observers and the difficulty of generating suitable lists of records for any species added (or re-added) to the List.
A special rule was drafted by Sexton and the language was discussed by the Committee. On a motion by Sexton, seconded by Luckner, the new special rule was adopted on a unanimous vote (Sexton voicing strong reservations). The rule will appear as a new paragraph VI.B(3) with the remaining paragraphs under VI.B being renumbered accordingly. The new rule reads:
"VI.B(3) [New] Special Rule for Changing Status and/or Observer Coverage.
a. Notwithstanding the criterion in B(2), any committee member may petition the Committee to remove a species from the Review List if the species can be demonstrated or comfortably presumed to be more abundant than the number of accepted records presently indicates. Such cases will generally fall into two categories:
i. Increasing Abundance. A species which, because of actual increasing abundance (based on evidence in Texas and elsewhere) shows a clear upward trend in numbers of accepted records (per year) presumed by the Committee not to be part of a short-term cyclical trend and which is anticipated to continue to exceed the criterion for retention on the List (i.e., more than four records per year).
ii. Under-Reported Species. A species historically and regularly occurring in Texas in small to moderate numbers but which for reasons of limited observer coverage, access, and/or limited reporting, has not exceeded the criterion for retention on the List. A significant upward trend in numbers of accepted records (per year) must be demonstrated. (An implicit assumption is that at full coverage or optimal reporting levels, the species would well exceed the criterion for retention on the List.).
b. The petitioning member must submit written documentation to substantiate the purported patterns of historical abundance, and/or recent trends in abundance and/or access, coverage, or reporting.
c. Any such petition to remove a species by this special rule shall be acted on only at the annual meeting and may only be adopted by a unanimous vote of members in attendance at the meeting."
Review of Master List of Species
After the adoption of the Special Rule for Removal (above), Wolf petitioned the Committee for removal of the Henslow's Sparrow from the List. Wolf referred to his own written comments in recent review records of the species, reciting its historical range, specimen records, Christmas Bird Count reports, and levels of observer coverage (and minimal interest) in suitable habitat in east and coastal Texas. Sexton, although agreeing with the petition, questioned whether or not the documentation was sufficient to support the petition. Nonetheless, despite the apparent extirpation of the Texas race of the species and reported declines in the breeding populations to the north, the Committee was persuaded that the species is still a regular albeit uncommon and local member of the wintering avifauna in Texas. A motion to remove Henslow's Sparrow from the Review List was made by Wolf, seconded by Luckner, and unanimously adopted by the Committee.
A casual review of various species on the Review List was scattered through discussions on a variety of the other topics during the meeting. No other formal actions were taken regarding the Review List.
Fourth Round Records
Three fourth-round records were discussed. The records and results are as follows:
Luckner presented a slide show regarding Mottled Ducks, Am. Black Ducks, and Black Duck/Mallard hybrids. Certain specimens previously accepted as Black Ducks in Texas (15 Apr 1936, Dallas Co., *Dallas MNH 70 and 7 Dec 1937, Gulf Coast, *SMU 6440) were demonstrated to be either Mottled Ducks or hybrids. Based on Luckner's research and pending the outcome of a submission to the TBRC to reject those records, the list of accepted Black Duck records in Texas may be down to two (with two others currently pending). Luckner has circulated some photocopies of her identification notes to TBRC members and hopes to prepare a formal identification article for publication soon.
Lasley showed several slides of pelagic species from recent trips off North Carolina and Texas. Despite good visual identifications by multiple observers, photos of several storm-petrels off of Texas in late July 1994 may not be confidently identifiable to species (numbers of both Band-rumped and Leach's were noted on that trip).
There being no other formal business on the agenda, the meeting was adjourned to birding, dinner, and conversation at about 5 p.m.
Greg W. Lasley, Secretary Texas Bird Records Committee