Rare and Scarce Species

Rare and Scarce Species: Reporting, Assessment and Publication


Scarce and Rare Species
To see the current list of species and subspecies for which records are assessed by the SOSRC, Click Here. The species that are dealt with by the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) are all those that do not occur on a regular basis within the county and are not included in the SOS list of scarce and rare species (Click Here). Certain distinctively marked scarce or rare subspecies are also considered and published either by SOSRC or BBRC. The Sussex Bird Report lists those subspecies considered by SOSRC.

Submission of records
Observers are encouraged to submit completed forms (Click Here) as soon as possible after the observation via email to the Recorder (Recorder@sos.org.uk), or via BirdTrack.  If using BirdTrack a full description should still be completed. BirdTrack sends such descriptions to the County Recorder. For inclusion in the annual Sussex Bird Report, SOSRC-adjudicated records need to have been accepted by August of the following year and all records should be submitted by the end of March of the next year.

BBRC records will need to be submitted earlier. Records for BBRC can be submitted direct or via the Recorder. Records submitted directly should be copied to the Recorder. Consideration of records by the SOSRC is normally conducted by circulation in batches of records via email, with assessment of each batch taking about three weeks. Early submission is particularly important in the case of records that are assessed by BBRC as their assessment process can take six months or more.

It greatly helps the Recorder and the Committee if any paper records are typed (or written) in black ink on an SOS submission form or BBRC form (available from the BBRC Secretary or on the BBRC webpage) or on A4 paper using the same format, as these documents have to be scanned.

If there is good reason for confidentiality over site and/or observers’ names, this should be requested when the record is submitted.

Examples of previously accepted descriptions can be found by clicking here, and give some idea of what the SOSRC is looking for.

Assessment of records
Most records are circulated by email to six of the ten committee members (in a changing order) in small batches. Recirculated and pended records are usually dealt with individually through consultation with the original assessors though sometimes other expert advice is sought.

A comments sheet is attached to each record for members’ comments and votes (Accept, Not Proven and Pend, if further clarification is required). Members do not vote if the record is one of their own or if they lack knowledge of the species involved and they feel unable to vote at that stage in the circulation. If necessary, a replacement assessor is added, including sometimes the Recorder.

For a record to be accepted on first circulation the record must receive 5 out of 6 votes in favour of acceptance. A vote of 4:2 in favour means the record is recirculated. If the record remains at 4:2 after the recirculation it is deemed not proven. A first circulation vote of 3:3 or fewer in favour of acceptance also means the record is deemed not proven. Any member may request that a record be pended for further discussion or for additional information to be provided and only one Pend vote is required to effect this action. After circulation, all records, comment sheets and relevant correspondence are retained permanently on file and archived whether or not the record is accepted. All comments and the votes of individual members are confidential, although an observer may ask the Recorder to see anonymised comments.

For some records of SOS description species, a fast track procedure is followed, which takes ten days. The evidence is made available to all ten assessors. Records are accepted after the ten days unless any assessor gives valid reasons for a normal assessment procedure to be followed. The fast track procedure is only used where the photographic evidence is incontrovertible, i.e. the bird is clearly of the species claimed and there is no plausible risk of the record:
a) being a deliberate hoax
b) referring to an escape or deliberate release.

Advice on decisions
The status of all submitted descriptions is on the SOS website under “Record Decisions”, Click Here. Observers are encouraged to use this to check on the status of records they have submitted. On request, the Recorder or Assistant Recorder can provide further information, including on the reasons for a record being assessed as not proven.

Accepted SOSRC and BBRC records are published in the annual Sussex Bird Report. Observers are acknowledged after most records that have required a description. Accepted BBRC records will be published in the relevant issue of British Birds. Accounts by the finders of new species and sometimes subspecies for Sussex are published in the Sussex Bird Report as are some similar accounts for extremely rare “BBRC” species.

Escaped birds
All records of BOU Category D and E species, i.e. primarily probable or certain escapes from captivity (but not those clearly in captivity) and introduced species without self-sustaining wild populations, are included in the “Escapes and Introductions” section of the annual Bird Report. Such birds are not assessed by the Records Committee.