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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Oriental Scops-owl: Addendum

Oriental Scops-owl: Addendum

Since the posting of the signting of the Oriental Scops-owl (Otus sunia) and the discussion on past records, R. Subaraj has responded with the following;

“With regards to the Oriental Scops-owl article posted in the blog, I have the following comments.

1. The latest record of sighting on 12th November is not the earliest date. I finally managed to dig up the details. The bird that crashed into a house at Jalan Belatok, off Upper Changi Rd (an additional location) did so on November 9th 2003 and was found by Chew Ping Ting. I retrieved it, fed it and then sent it to Sg Buloh Wetland Reserve, where they measured, weighed and ringed it before releasing it. This would therefore be the earliest date of arrival of the owl.

2. Prof Sodhi's mist-netted bird was also from the mid-1990s and was captured near Upper Peirce (another additional location).

3. Old museum specimens, without specific sites but labeled "Singapore", have always been suspicious as the actual location of collection may not have been Singapore, as in those days, specimens were often labeled as being from the country where they were processed or shipped, due to lack of more information.

4. Luan Keng's opinion about races is that of an academic... definitely not that of a field person. Feld researchers/observers use all field identification markings available to determine facts, including the race of a bird. The race of a bird tells us quite a bit including where the bird is from and whether there are behavioural differences with other races. Through field studies, much information can be learnt. Determining true species should not be dependent on DNA alone but should include morphological studies as well. Many of the world's top specialists are using a combination of both in their field research and to make decisions about species.

At the end of the day, the Oriental Scops-owl has helped highlight and confirm just how fragmented the local bird (and nature) community really is, as different factions have different ideas of just how many records of the species really exist for Singapore... and none are accurate and up-dated! Not everyone wants to share and combine their data or knowledge and we find ourselves truly lacking the accuracy that once was. Why? Different reasons really... elitism, ego, keeping secrets before publication... you name it. It all exists and is part of the ongoing saga of this soap opera!"

Comments by YC:
1. It may not be fair to say all colonial specimens labeled "Singapore" are suspect. Those who work in museums may be able to differentiate between the different collectors - some are more reliable than others. And we can reliably assume that W. Davison's specimen was from Singapore.

2. Birders have always been individualistic, selfish, and what have you - just like any other groups. And they always will be. But we have to realise that unpublished private records remain useful only to the person/s keeping them. Until and unless they are published, these private records are not part of the public domain and cannot claim precedent if subsequent claims
appear in print. Thus unless you publish, you cannot make any claims, period!

3. We can always make this blog a medium for such records. After all, web publication is slowly being accepted as a valid medium and many scientific journals are now going online. Thus future sightings, etc could be sent to this blog for posting - it would appear faster by light years than any print media.

Image courtesy of Chan Yoke Meng.



At 10:57 am, Blogger Kevin said...

Excellent points! But it should not be limited to birds only. It is also the lofty aim of my blog to do the same. Sadly it has been mostly a one man effort. There are other sites/groups which have tried to do the similar things as well, so I dare not claim too much credit, but I think I was among the first to put up a sightings blog. And I feel that putting these records in the reach of the public eye does help generate more interest rather than if the info was stored in a database that no one knows exists.
(I have been approached by California Science Center, and also to contribute images as a result of my blog). Of course, I only submitted images which belonged to me as I respect the copyrights of others. But images aside, I hope that data can be more freely shared.

The next step I wish to do is to integrate various sources into a one stop searchable database where information is freely exchanged. But as you mentioned, there seems to be an inclination to keep the sightings a private source which will complicate things if i just collate data without seeking permission first. Perhaps its the influence of corporate world where info is power or simply there isn't a simple channel to share such info without seemingly passing the credit to the collator. (I often have to correct others that have praised the stunning images on my blog, that the NICE ones are not mine, mine are average, perhaps even like UFO sightings quality ;p )

But these problems are not unsurmountable, I certainly hope your post inspires an attitude change in those that revel in unneeded one-upmanship. So that those that don't care to share, will learn that sharing is the best way to care about nature

At 11:42 am, Blogger YC said...

Thanks for the comment, Kevin. Keeping records involves a lot of work and usually, as you well know, one person ends up doing most of the work. I am only suggesting that BESG's blog does the birds as print publishing take ages to appear. And when it does appear, most things have become outdated and contributors have forgotten all about their sightings. Web posting is the in thing now. Also, it costs nothing but commitment by the moderator. And you need not pay to subscribe, to wait for ages before seeing the what you paid for.

As you are into this, why not you develop your database to incorporate all aspects of fauna (including birds) and we can always collaborate and send in sightings, etc. No use duplicating as this will dilute efforts, resulting in many but incomplete databases... The next thing you need do is publicity and we can always assist. Initially it will be slow but once people realises that it is working and progressing, things will accelerate.

I see no problem in quoting postings by others as long as proper credits are given. Why else do people post their sightings but to be noticed. Those info that are kept for a private few does not matter as such info will generally be ignored by the larger community (as it is not available) and eventually become irrelevant.

Can you think seriously about this?

At 3:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why isn't the Changeable-hawk eagle project collection of data update progressively and published? Why wait till after dateline to publish only a summary?

At 8:59 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Subaraj, let the soap opera evaporate! For a start, why not let the community at BESG know what you have. Let us know what you have - checklist, birds seen by you and what not. It serves no purpose just writing and presenting your point of view, lament about the selfish birding fraternity, and still keep records to yourself. Being out in the field most of the time, you would have the most sighting records to share with us beginning birdwatchers. How about it? My feelings are amply summed up by YC, "info that are kept by a private few does not matter as such info will generally be ignored by the larger community & eventually become irrelevant". Walk the talk!

At 9:24 pm, Anonymous SueLynn said...

So this 'anonymous' is still DISAPPOINTED that he/she was not informed of the rare owl sighting? Heeheehee

At 10:49 am, Blogger YC said...

I have received Subaraj's comments as given below:

Good comments and quite fair really but strange that they come from someone who chooses to remain Anonymous! At least we make our comments under our own name.

There has been no avenue, locally, that I wish to sumbit my records to but I have until recently subitted my sightings to the *OBC bulletin... should anyone wishes to check. I reserve my views about the current local bird reporting avenues. My first responsibility is to the birds and other animals... not people. With some people out there who put their needs above the needs of the wildlife, I hesitate in contributing.

Nevertheless, with the current hope to have a reporting platform on the BESG blog, I shall submit my sightings as quickly as I can... as I did with the Oriental Scops-owl.

As for my checklist, that is only for my birding clients!



*Oriental Bird Club's Birding Asia.

At 8:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does it not occur that what you have just qualified and explained might bear same for the "pathetic birding community"? Each must have their own reasons for not contributing. Birding is a hobby & a pastime nonetheless & it is not fair to label those who do not contribute sightings as selfish. Sometimes, it can just mean that they see no need to contribute & would just like things the way they are (with absolutely no malice). As for contributions to OBC bulletin, I think we need "to pay to subscribe, to wait for ages before seeing what you pay for". Nevertheless, like "Anonymous" (I will also be "anonymous"), I await eagerly to see contributions of sightings in real time by fellow bloggers here.

At 10:20 pm, Blogger YC said...

Yes, we will strive to post for one and all and not let people to wait for ages...

...and try post data on Changeable-hawk Eagle soon.


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