Laurie Daunt's picture


Observed: 5th December 2010 By: Laurie DauntLaurie Daunt’s reputation in BirdsLaurie Daunt’s reputation in BirdsLaurie Daunt’s reputation in Birds
010 (2)
Species interactions

No interactions present.


Syrphus's picture

I am having trouble

I am having trouble separating tree from bird in this picture. The 'yellow rump' and 'notched tail' are, I think illusory, caused by leaves and twigs in front. The bill does not indicate a finch (and certainly it is not a heavy-billed species like Greenfinch). I think it is either Robin or Dunnock, but I don't believe this will ever be proved from this picture.



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RoyW's picture

Not really possible to ID!

Like Syrphus has said, this isn't really possible to ID from this photo. My opinion is strongly towards Dunnock (Robins don't usually show obviously paler edges to the tertials), but I don't think that it is safe to say anymore than this is a passerine in this occasion.

I agree that the yellow rump is an illusion (probably an out of focus leaf than just happens to be positioned over the rump and between the tertials. The slight notch in the end of the tail seems real to me (but doesn't help much with an ID!).

RoyW's picture

Can it be said that this IS a Dunnock?

Although I had already said that I believed this was likely to be a Dunnock, not that Dunnock has been added as an ID I'd been interested to know how anyone can be sure that that ID is correct - for instance, how can Meadow Pipit be completely ruled out when the problem with colour in the image, and the fact that the white tail sides aren't always visible, are taken into account?

Syrphus's picture

I have ruffled feathers

I have ruffled feathers (possibly even yours, Roy ;-) in these pages before, on the topic of excessive zeal to get a solid ID of birds in a picture of dubious quality, and your question is important.

I hold a formal taxon database for HBRG, and data quality issues loom large. The question I ask is 'Would I add this record to a formal database that would appear on NBN Gateway and elsewhere?'. In this case, the answer is 'No'.

The probability is that we are looking at a Dunnock, but there is nothing that convinces me. I am not even convinced that we are seeing pale-edged tertials, nor of the colour of the legs, so poor is the image.

In other cases (we have had a few Linnet/Twite recently, and oodles of Willow/Chiffs), if there is unanimity among competent birders, even if only based on jizz, I will be happy with a specific ID. If there is significant doubt or dissent, I would leave it at a higher taxon level. My view is that the proper ID here is a Passerine. Imprecise IDs are not a sign of failure, but of high standards of data quality.



recording wildlife with The Recorder's Year on

RoyW's picture

For the "official" record certainty of ID is very important.

There are two issues that I see here:
(1). As stated, any records that are placed in the permanent records for a county/region/country need to have been identified beyond all reasonable doubt (if records are accepted and published without assessment, you will end up with a lot of mis-identifications in official records, which makes them practically worthless.
Many valid records will be rejected because they aren't fully proven, but at least the accepted records are known to be good. Unfortunately many observers do not understand this and feel that having records rejected is an unnecessary insult to their ability - it's not, even experienced observers have records rejected.

(2). Individual observers do like to have an identification for things that they have seen, even if the ID isn't beyond doubt.
Ispot allows for this with the levels of certainty (in this case a certainty of "It might be this", possibly even "It's likely to be this but I can't be certain" would seem OK to me for an ID of Dunnock, but I don't feel that it is possible to say that you are "as sure as I can be" (although possibly the wording should be changed here - "as sure as I can be" can be interpreted as "as sure as I can be due to the poor quality of the image").

In many cases ID's posted on Ispot are worthwhile because they help to generate discussion. I tend to view only the thumbnails and selectively click on observations that look interesting, and among other things this includes observations with more than one ID posted (or an incorrect ID) because this suggests there may be some doubt.

Just for the record: You haven't "ruffled" my feathers, I fully understand your reasons for disputing ID's (as you can see I'll do it myself sometimes).
I would add that sometimes a lack of agreement among observers doesn't always mean that an ID should be considered wrong - I would tend to look at how the ID has been justified (experienced observers who know a subject/species well are often able to pick out details that others can't see/aren't looking for). Sometimes though, those who are adamant that an ID is correct are over looking something, or seeing something that may be a photographic effect (and they may agree to this if it is pointed out) - and I'm certainly not going to try and claim that my ID's are all beyond reproach!

Laurie Daunt's picture


I noticed that the yellow stripes are in fact leaves and I wll go for a Dunnock as they were quite a few of them about
Noticed a very large increase in the local Dunnock population

Laurie Daunt