Rare Bird Reporting


Jim Dickson will contact the person who submitted the rare bird report by email or phone after the Argyll Bird Records Committee have assessed it. This process can take 2-3 months but usually much quicker if photographs to confirm are provided. If you have not heard about the outcome of your record please contact Jim at or 01546 603967. Decisions on Scottish and British committee level rarities can also be seen on the SOC and BBRC websites.

Rare Birds to report to the Argyll Rare Bird Recorder

What should you do if you are fortunate to find a rare or unusual species of bird in Argyll?

Just imagine you have seen something quite rare and exciting but are unsure what to do next. Most people will probably consult a field guide to confirm the bird’s identity. For a minority of people the story ends there, preferring to keep the sighting to themselves. More commonly it is natural to want to share your experience with others and often, if unsure about the bird’s identity, to ask for help. Occasionally finders of rare birds refuse to submit their records on the basis that they are happy with it and that’s all that counts! Unfortunately in this situation, such records cannot be used in any bird recording database and will not be used in bird reports or books. It is interesting that some such individuals have the most ‘incredible’ lists of birds! Other birdwatchers have reported what appear to be perfectly good records, but for some reason never get around to writing them up. As time goes on the ability to write up such a record becomes impaired, especially if no field notes were taken at the time. Unless submitted, these rare bird sightings are lost for ever!

It is therefore of the utmost importance to submit your rare birds sightings.

Details of all rare bird sightings should be sent in as soon as possible after the sighting to Jim Dickson using the standard rare birds form (a link is at the bottom of this page to the “rare bird record form”). Once you have filled this in, you can email the form along with any jpeg photos and if possible scanned field notes to Jim. If possible, please scan the filled in form and email it along with any jpeg photos and if possible scanned field notes to Jim as soon as possible.

Submitted records will be judged locally by the Argyll Bird Records Committee (whose members are listed in the latest Argyll Bird Report), sent on to the Scottish Birds Records Committee (SBRC), or sent on to the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC), as appropriate. In general any claims of birds belonging to unusual races e.g. the races of Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed, Grey Headed etc) must be supported by a description and any species not already on the Argyll list will also require a description before being accepted.

It has become clear that experienced and inexperienced birdwatchers generally deal with a rare bird sighting in quite different ways. For an experienced birdwatcher, used to finding rare birds, the discovery of such a species usually triggers a response more akin to a forensic detective investigating a crime scene, only a bit more uplifting! Collecting evidence becomes the name of the game where the observer is looking for all sorts of detail and clues to work out the bird’s identity, while being intensely aware that the subject could fly off at any moment! Size, shape and ‘jizz’ are studied. Comparisons are made with nearby species; notes are made on plumage details, specific feathers are studied to try and age or sex the species and calls are described.

With the advent of digiscoping, photographic evidence is frequently obtained, often allowing distant birds to be ‘shot for the record’. An experienced birdwatcher will also take good field notes and sketches as well as putting ‘the word out’ to other birdwatchers, often within minutes of the find, to give them the best chance of sharing and confirming the sighting. Ideally such an observer will write up the record while it is still fresh in his or her mind and then e-mail the completed rare bird report form along with jpeg photographs and scanned field notes to the rare bird committee.

Understandably, less experienced and non-birdwatchers are more prone to making mistakes with their identification. They are often unaware of the rarity status of a species seen for the first time and unsure whether a description of their observations is required. Often it is days or weeks later before word of the sighting comes to light, by which time the suspected rarity has long gone! Most people in this situation are usually keen to be helpful and submit their record. However, they often struggle to give a detailed enough description as field notes are rarely taken, and as such, the record is often in danger of not being accepted due to lack of evidence. Nevertheless, in the last few years even inexperienced birdwatchers are sending in photographs that can be very useful where a description is lacking detail. Photographs are also useful for sorting out mistakes. On occasions the description has been relatively good, but the accompanying photograph tells a different story.

Points to remember when recording a rare bird in Argyll:

Have an awareness of which species are rare in Argyll. Species requiring descriptions for the Argyll and Scottish Rare Bird Committees (SRBC) are listed under Rare Bird Species.

Gather as much evidence as possible during the time you had the bird in view, including field notes, sketches, photographs, weather details etc.

Inform others! This may be a neighbour, but also try to contact someone with experience, and phone Jim Dickson 01546 603967

Write up your observation. Send the record to Jim Dickson, 11 Pipers Road, Cairnbaan, Argyll PA31 8UF, ideally within a day or two of the find.

If you are unsure about anything contact Jim for advice.

Rare birds in an Argyll context includes all those species on the current ABRC (Argyll Rare Birds Committee) and SBRC (Scottish Rare Birds Committee) lists (see below). Also any species or races on the BBRC (British Birds Rarities Committee) list – see BBRC website
https://www.bbrc.org.uk/main-information and any species not on the current list of species on the Argyll List.

No record of any of the species and plumage phases listed below will be published unless adequate supporting details (including a description) are available. In addition, brief details may be requested for occurrences of scarce species not on the list where the circumstances appear to warrant this.

Rare bird reporting form: ABRC-form

The list below details rare species whose occurrence in Argyll needs to be fully documented. It is made up of the ABRC list of Argyll rarities and the SBRC list of Scottish rarities (those considered by SBRC marked *) as at January 2018.

Bewick’s Swan
Bean Goose
European White-fronted Goose (race albifrons)
American Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Garganey (lone females/juveniles)
Red-crested Pochard
Ring-necked Duck
Ferruginous Duck*
Surf Scoter (except adult males)
Ruddy Duck
Red-necked Grebe
Black-necked Grebe
Cory’s Shearwater*
Great Shearwater*
Balearic Shearwater
Wilson’s Storm-petrel*
Eurasian Bittern (Bittern)
Night Heron*
Cattle Egret*
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Purple Heron*
White Stork
Eurasian Spoonbill (Spoonbill)
Black Kite*
Montagu’s Harrier*
Rough-legged Buzzard*
Red-footed Falcon*
Spotted Crake
Common Crane
Stone Curlew*
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover*
American Golden Plover
Temminck’s Stint
White-rumped Sandpiper*
Pectoral Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Spotted Redshank
Red-necked Phalarope (away from traditional breeding areas)
Long-tailed Skua (except adult)
Sabine’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull*
Roseate Tern
Black Tern
White-winged Black Tern*
Little Owl
Alpine Swift*
European Bee-eater
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker*
Short-toed Lark*
Wood Lark*
Shore Lark
Red-rumped Swallow*
Richard’s Pipit
Tawny Pipit*
Red-throated Pipit*
Water Pipit*
Rock Pipit (race littoralis)
Yellow Wagtail (all races)
Common Nightingale*
Cetti’s Warbler*
Aquatic Warbler*
Marsh Warbler*
Reed Warbler
Icterine Warbler
Melodious Warbler*
Barred Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat (except Tiree)
Dartford Warbler*
Subalpine Warbler (generic)*
Western or Eastern Subalpine (BBRC)
Greenish Warbler*
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Radde’s Warbler*
Dusky Warbler*
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Bearded Tit
Marsh Tit
Willow Tit
Crested Tit
Red-backed Shrike
Great Grey Shrike
Woodchat Shrike*
Rosy Starling
European Serin*
Common Redpoll (all races)
Arctic Redpoll*
Scottish Crossbill
Common Rosefinch
Cirl Bunting*
Ortolan Bunting*
Little Bunting*
Rustic Bunting*
Corn Bunting

Click here for a “Rare Bird Record Form” so you can submit a record: ABRC-form