Tuesday, 8 March 2011

when is it ok to tick on call?

A friend of mine, definately not me, was at Tacumshin bright and early on Sunday morning in the hope of seeing the wintering Cetti's Warbler, which has recently started to sing more and more. Sure enough, shortly after arrival, the bird could be heard singing, but after 5 or 6 bursts of song it then shut up for the rest of the visit.

So, this got me to thinking. What are the ethics of ticking on call? I've always been anti-ticking on call for lifers, but everyone year-ticks on call don't they? And its not like I, ahem, my friend hasn't seen lots of Cetti's Warblers elsewhere, so its not actually a lifer. So, would it really matter if I er, he stuck this particular Cetti's Warbler on his (paltry) Irish list even though he only heard it?

I mean, the ID is not in question (for once!). And would it have made so much difference if I he had glimpsed a glimpse of it briefly in the bottom of the bush? And what would I do if such a scenario ever happened on patch? I'm not sure, but I did scotch tick Spotted Crake after finding the one in the garden here, and I've only ever heard them calling in Scotland. I do feel kind of bad about it though! But they were Spotted Crakes, and it is still on the list! But don't tell the authorities though, just in case!


  1. I record Cetti's regularly here (they most likely breed) but it would be really tedious if I had to actually see every one before I could log it, and it would certainly cut down the records I could have given the BTO for the Atlas. I've never understood the need to glimpse something that can be readily identifed on sound so had no qualms about Kent-ticking a singing Blyth's Reed without getting the flight views that others did (what did that add I wonder to their experience). In our day to day birding we use sound as frequently as sight and to make a special case for a tick (whether that be a lifer and/or county tick and/or year tick and/or patch tick and/or patch year tick) seems very odd to me.

  2. Having spent part of the weekend listening to (well, more being shouted at by) Cetti's, I cannot see why you would not tick on call. Most of the views that you get (if any) are breif brown things scampering through the reeds, so useless in identification. Thus, a Cetti's ticked only on visual may be less convincing than one ticked on call. This is an important point as in some cases the identification of a sight record is strongly supported by call, but the reverse is less likely.
    Semantics do come into play though as the species cannot then be included in a list of species seen, but rather only a list of species recorded in country of choice.
    So tick away as far as I am concerned. after all, it is just your list and your conscience.

  3. Cheers for de input fellas - I'll pass your wise comments onto my mate, and see where he goes from there. Looks like it mite be another one ahead of the dublin jackeen after all tho!

    Shaky - No qualms about Kent-ticking a heard only blyth's reed? Yeah, but you had no qualms about stringing a baby pheasant into a quail either! You know what you were like on Shetland!

    Prockies - where were ya cetti-ing? have they reached north of de border yet?

  4. I'm quite strict in separating my life and UK lists from other lists. I have no problem with year-ticking and even NES-ticking on call (though Spotted Crake is the only one that falls into the latter category).

    But I never ticked the Thrupp Scops Owl, even though I heard it and saw a tiny projectile fly from a tree. Nor did I tick a Western Screech Owl in Yosemite, even though the Yanks on the trip said it's no problem ticking that using American rules.

    As always, it's my list and I'll tick what I want to tick, and make sure I've got a good defence for everything I've included.

    And I bet my NES list is more robust than someone else's who isn't too many species ahead of me! Pass the saucer would you?

  5. So you've got heard only spot crake on your Norf east list but would you tick it for NES if you hadn't seen one elsewhere in UK? I'm assuming you have seen one somewhere else. I can't help feeling its a bit daft to have a heard-only species on a more local list that you don't count on a life or country list cos you ain't actually seen it!

    I'm with you on that standpoint I think - I wouldn't tick a heard only species if it was a lifer, but I, er, I mean my mate is trying to justify irish ticking cetti's without actually seeing it! I keep thinking feck it, I'll have it, and then thinking na, thats a bit dodge! Can't make up me mind!

  6. You're some tart there fella! If you're having Cetti's on call, and judging from the learned comments above, I guess I could tick the Cetti's on call too...looks like the status quo remains longhair.

  7. only you ain't actually seen Cetti's anywhere tho have ya fella? therefore its a lifer - therefore you shouldn't be ticking it on call! And leave the Quo out of it eh?

  8. We wiz in northern italy at Lago Maggiore for a couple of days of work, followed by a couple of days of drinking wine and coffee, and gentle birding. Not up dis far yet.
    You know what he was like in Italy...

  9. The beauty of having strung a baby pheasant into a quail is that ever since I've been able to year tick them on sound. It does rather prove a point about those species which are easier to identify by voice. And on that very same trip I saw a dodgy Blyth's Reed which opened the door for county-ticking the Kent bird. There's a logic there at least even if there's no ethics!

  10. Anyway, I bagged Bewick's Swan the other day which is a good one. 61.74%. Anyone else seen, or heard, any birds lately?

  11. I've seen 2-3 spotties for me UK list, so I don't have to worry about that little dilemma!