… Submissions Guide

1)    Rare Bird Descriptions 

Forms are available from both the YNU and British Birds (BBRC) Rarities Committees. Whilst not essential to use them, it does give the record assessors a uniform style that they are familiar with. These forms are available from the appropriate websites or your local recorder and should be completed and returned via the local recorder. A free-hand description is acceptable but should include all the details requested on the standard record forms, that is:

Name and address of primary observer (and names or numbers of other people who also saw the bird)
Name (preferably including the Latin name) of the species being claimed
Location of sighting
Date and time of sighting
Distance from bird and time of observation
Weather conditions and light conditions (sunny, dull etc) during the period of observation
Optical aids used (magnification and objective size rather than manufacturer)
Other species nearby for comparison
Previous experience of the species claimed and any possible confusion species
Whether the identification is 100% sure or just a probability

The back of the record form is left plain for the description, which should be made as soon as possible after the occurrence and should be based on notes taken at the time of the observation or immediately afterwards, without recourse to field guides. Any sketches, no matter how crude, can help describe the bird better than many words and photographs or sound recordings are invaluable.

It helps if the description is given in a standard way, in a series of separate paragraphs, as below:

Give a brief account of how the bird was found.

The detailed description is then broken down into different areas of the bird, as follows. It helps to use the standard terminology of bird topography, as usually shown in the front of most field guides, but it is important not to confuse adjacent feather tracts. In some species assigning the correct age to the bird can be an essential first step to correct identification. The ageing criteria should be clearly outlined, either before the description or in the summary section. The amount of detail required for each description varies with the species involved. In cases where the plumage is fairly uniform, e.g. egrets, more emphasis is needed on size, structure, bare part colour etc. For other species, especially where there are very similar confusion species, e.g. some waders and warblers, the detail required might be as subtle as the shape of the internal marking of a certain feather tract or whether a feather fringe is uniformly coloured. Familiarity with the species concerned and its potential confusion species is extremely useful and will guide the observer to the level of detail required.

General Include size and shape with reference to other commoner species if present for comparison, whether the bird was seen in flight, on the ground, swimming etc.

Head Make sure you differentiate between eye-stripe (through the eye) and supercilium (above the eye). Comment upon any striking features of the head, nape or neck.

Underparts This includes the breast, belly, vent and flanks. Note the ground colours and the extent of any markings (usually streaking or barring) in these areas.

Upperparts This include the mantle, scapulars, back, rump and uppertail. Again note the ground colours and the extent of any markings in these areas, including whether the feathers have dark centre or contrasting fringes and whether these form lines in the plumage.

Wings This includes all the various feather tracts, with the coverts, tertials and primaries often being particularly important. As for the upperparts note the ground colours and the extent of any markings in these areas, including whether the feathers have dark centre or contrasting fringes and whether these form lines or bars on the folded wing. Structure is often also important, for example where does the wingtip fall in relation to the tail and is the primary projection long or short (usually related to the length of the exposed tertials).

Tail Include length and colour, particularly noting any pale edges. In some species the length of the undertail coverts is crucial and should be noted.

Bare parts These include eye, bill and legs. In some species it is important to differentiate between the colour of the iris, eye ring colour and colour of the surrounding skin or feathers. For the bill give details of colour (differentiate between the two mandibles if necessary), shape and length (try to relate bill length to the width of the head or to the loral distance). For the legs give details of colour and length. In some species the colour of the feet or thickness of the legs is also important.

In flight If seen flying, any plumage features not visible on the closed wing should be described, for example wingbars, contrasting leading or trailing edges, speculum on ducks. Also structural details, for example were the wings broad or narrow, pointed or rounded, was the tail long or short, did the legs or feet extend beyond the tail. Also mode of flight, for example whether level or undulating, speed of wingbeats, apparent effort required (e.g. constant flapping or series of flaps and glides). If gliding or soaring, were the wings held horizontally or at an angle, were the wings held straight or bent ant the ‘wrist’.

Behaviour Note here observations such as how the bird fed, did it bob or teeter, wave its tail about, flick its wings, etc. If it was singing, did it do so from high, low, on the ground, in song-flight etc. Did it interact with other birds.

Voice Describe any song or calls heard. Try to relate them to common bird, especially calls which may be almost the only way of separating difficult species pairs. Although very difficult to describe in many cases, items such as pitch, loudness, length etc are useful.

Summary Explain how you arrived at the identification claimed, including how similar species were eliminated if necessary.

2 )  Suggested Form for Reporting  Description Species

Form download :-   SIBGRarityForm (1)

3 )  Description Species for the Swillington Ings Recording Area

Any new species for the area will require a description, even if it is an obvious and/or common species elsewhere, e.g. Guillemot, Bee-eater.
The species not otherwise covered by national (BBRC) or county (YNU) records committees that are already on the Swillington Ings list and which will require descriptions are given below.

Red-throated Diver               

Great Northern Diver             

Black-necked Grebe (non-breeding plumage)



Green-winged Teal                


Velvet Scoter                    



Temminck’s Stint                 

Purple Sandpiper                

Little Auk                       

Great Skua                       



Richard’s Pipit                  


Wood Warbler (non-singing)  


Marsh Tit                        

Golden Oriole                    

Great Grey Shrike               

Mealy Redpoll                    


Black-throated Diver

Red-necked Grebe (non-breeding plumage)

Slavonian Grebe (non-breeding plumage)

Gannet (non-adult)

White-fronted Goose (to sub-species)

Ring-necked Duck

Long-tailed Duck

Hen Harrier (ringtails)

Spotted Crake

Common Crane

Pectoral Sandpiper

Grey Phalarope

Arctic Skua

Yellow-legged Gull (sub-adult)


Shore Lark

Yellow Wagtail (races)

Dartford Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Pied Flycatcher

Bearded Tit

Red-backed Shrike



Given the above list, it would be advisable for all regular birders to carry a notebook whilst out and about to make notes at the time of sighting of any of the above species.
Please submit sightings as quickly as possible after the occurrence, preferably by e-mail, to Paul Morris

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