|Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 3rd Idaho record. Multiple birders got to see them and photograph them.|
Back in the day, a new record bird only counted because they had a skin in the hand. The naturalist had skillfully plucked that bird out of the air with a shotgun. Then with the advent of binoculars and bird guides a new craft emerged...the skill of field identification and note taking. Technology has advanced and digital photography is now widespread and super convenient. Almost all of us have a digital camera in one form another, be it your cell phone, an inexpensive point and shoot, or a professional quality dSLR. Digital photographs seem to be the heir-apparent to skins and notes.
|Long-tailed Jaeger, another Idaho vagrant wherein photos aided in establishing its identity.|
Frankly, I don't trust other people's notes. Who knows for sure when and where those notes were written. Were they copied out of a field guide or at least influenced by the field guide as the birder convinces him/herself after the fact of what species they saw? I suppose one could logically carry that same concern into the world of digital images of a bird...were the photos really taken where the birder said they were taken? Pretty much all of the new cameras, even phone cameras, are geo-tagging the images, so that helps us overcome the location question.
|Although a very poor image taken with a point and shoot camera, this photo along with a couple others were sufficient for the Idaho Bird Review Committee to accept it as a record for a Rusty Blackbird.|
Because of the ease of communication we are able to get many more birders onto a rare bird. Because of the ease of digital photography we are able to get many more images of birds. And because of those images we get more birders excited to go see birds. Because we get more eyes on the rare birds and usually multiple images of them we get more accepted new records. So, when it comes to new bird records, while I'd be excited by someone's notes and report and I'd probably chase it, I still want to see a photo, even if I have to get it myself.
What do you think?
|Northern Parula seen in winter in Boise. Several people had seen it before me, but my photos excited many more birders to go and see it and the record was easily accepted.|