The Irish Rare Birds Committee...The end of days?
People often ask me why "I care about what's going on back in Ireland."
I imagine many Irish people who've left to live in other countries, especially better countries, care what happens back home. That's why we want the ability to vote abroad. So we can have our say in making our country better, often with first hand experience of systems working better in our new country of residence.
Now, don't get me wrong. Finland isn't perfect. No country is. It has it's scandals and dodgy politicians too. But it does seem to be on a smaller scale, it has to be said. Or maybe I just don't connect with them on the same level.
Currently, the biggest long running scandal seems to be when the new metro will open between Espoo and Helsinki.
Somewhat of a different level than, oh...I dunno...mass graves of babies around potatoland, like.
There's no handing over the new maternity hospital to the nuns.
There's no nnnyaaardeee racking up reams of false breath tests.
There's no endless debate and protest over whether we are, FINALLY, going to accommodate and support the thousands of Irish women forced to leave the country for an abortion every year.
Edit: well we finally got round to repealing the 8th amendment, almost a year on after writing this post. Huzzah.
There's no setting fire to the bleedin' place every spring cos of...well...sheep.
There's no standing for a feckin spud-munching bit of an ould pray before the parliament goes about NOT doing anything to improve the country.
And, of course, you'd almost think Ireland didn't want to win the Eurovision song contest.
I could go on and on, but I'm not a taxi driver in all's n'anyways. (Fookin guverendmint).
Ireland has developed an obscene level of complacency with it's bad lot. We have this incredible ability, bordering on super-human, to seemingly hamster-wheel on our nation's issues. To infinity and beyond.
The same is true of Irish birding.
It would be hard to argue that the IRBC is functioning effectively these days.
It would be hard to argue that the IRBC has been functioning effectively for several years now actually. (And I would argue did it ever?)
What is the IRBC?
Despite often getting mixed up with the Irish Banking Resolution Corporation on social media, The Irish Rare Birds Committee was originally set up to vet rare bird records, maintain them and maintain the Irish list.
Somewhere along the way, likely very early on, ego entered the process and, as so often is the case, was detrimental.
I'm not against rare bird recording, despite what some would say, but I have been personally soured from interaction with it myself, based on my experiences in potatoland.
Consequently, I tend not to engage with the exercise in any country I bird in, despite requests from committees. There's just no interest in it for me anymore.
But if it MUST be done, and that is not an absolute, It should be done RIGHT.
Removing the human element. Removing the egos that flit like moths towards the flame of being masters of the birding universe, would be the only way I could possibly get on board.
Automating the process, using a script to select and auto-fill sightings from news feeds, and having that bot automatically generate a collated list/report is not only distinctly possible in this day and age... it's downright easy! You can find software, coding, templates etc from multiple sources online.
Ironically, that human element that would need to be removed, is the biggest barrier against removal. The masters of the birding universe?... want to stay masters of the birding universe.
If you wish to assess the standard of such a body, the easiest way to do so is look at the standards they hold themselves to.
This screenshot is from the IRBC's own website. It was the inauguration of their new recording system and the manner in which it would be operated.
The foundation of this system was hailed, often by themselves, as the monthly provisional list. A listing of rare bird records to be collated and published each month, for review and contribution to/correction by birders.
This screenshot (taken in May 2017) stated the most recent provisional list was for December 2016. As you can see it is was out of date by several months.
This is no longer unusual. In 2016 no provisional list appeared for the first 6 months of the year, and then when they did again begin to update, they were consistently behind by several months. Theres plenty of screenshots to prove this, if needs be.
The most basic function of the IRBC, to record the occurrence of rare birds and, by their own standard, release these records on a monthly basis, is no longer being carried out.
Recently, the IRBC updated it's website in entirety. All very sleek and fancy looking, with a smartphone friendly format. Very nice. There was...a slight little change though. Subtle, you might say. But luckily we live in the age of the screen shot. See if you can spot the difference between the old and the new.
Was it difficult? No. The provisional list update has changed description from "monthly" to "regularly".
If you can't meet your own standards, there is a solution....change the standards.
Do we have a definition of "regularly"? By current standards it would seem to be bi-annually.
This may seem slight. It may seem of little consequence. But this is, in fact, a fundamental change to the recording system they themselves put in place. There was no announcement of this. No discussion. No open forum to facilitate any such discussion.
Instead, an integral component of their recording system, has essentially been abandoned in the sneakiest manner possible, a slight change of wording, hidden away in a complete overhaul of their website.
Another supposed function of the IRBC, is to maintain the archive of rare bird records and, under the Association of European Rarity Committee (AERC) guidelines, make such records available for viewing by members of the public.
Over the past few years...YEARS, Anthony McGeehan, a former member of the IRBC, author and few could argue, top birder, has tried to access an old record of Blyth's Reed warbler from Cape Clear and been denied at every turn.
Even birders originally involved with the record have not been granted access, only being allowed to view the submission they themselves wrote, not the totality of information on the record.
This is a record which, was obtained through the Cape Clear Bird Observatory. The only bird observatory in the country. Owned and operated by Birdwatch Ireland.
How? How does that work then? How does that get justified?
Ireland has a rarity committee that does not perform it's duties, by it's own standard, or that of the European guiding organization's standard.
What's the point anymore?
The End of the Monthly Provisional List. We hardly knew you.
Edit: As of the 30th of June 2017, the IRBC have still not produced a "monthly" provisional list. That's 6 months without following their own procedures. I intend to update this blog post, as time goes on, further documenting their inability to meet their commitments.
Edit: 15.07.2017. Huzzah. FINALLY an update to the "monthly" provisional list. 6 and a half months. Isn't that incredible? The clock starts now. Last year they couldn't produce on the monthly schedule.
Edit: 6th December 2017. Back to the established pattern. Having failed to produce a monthly provisional list in November, the IRBC published an October update in December.
Edit: 1st April 2018
As of this date, the IRBC has not produced a monthly provisional list for any of the first 3 months of 2018.
The update listed here on the 5th of February is for December 2017.
In November 2017 an announcement was made that the "Batch Secretary" position was filled after the departure of the previous, short term, secretary in September 2015. One would think the "workload" (being generous here) would have evened out?
Apparently not. The workload of compiling the monthly provisional list must now be so intense, that it requires the addition of a member with the sole responsibility of maintaining it.
I wonder why no announcement was made over the addition of this new member? Would it be that announcing such a thing would be an admission, that this configuration of the IRBC membership has been incapable of carrying out the same functions previous line ups had no problem doing, the production of a monthly provisional list?
Edit: May 1st 2018
As of this date, the IRBC have still not produced a single monthly provisional list in 2018. That's WITH a new, specifically designated, additional member in place to produce that list. A person who has now been in place for 2 months.
The IRBC did manage to find the time to read this blog and make a few changes, however. In the March update, it was noted that the IRBC had not made any announcement regarding the addition of a new member just to maintain the provisional list.
This seemed a little bit sneaky, as usually they do make announcements regarding changes to membership.
Unless they are embarrassing, of course, like a secretary leaving after only a few months, not being able to find a replacement, said retired secretary still accessing the secretary email account and sending correspondence, having to change the structure of the role and adding new positions etc etc *inhale*. Things like that.
The changes made?
Apparently the IRBC has mastered time travel. There now appears an announcement from February 2018 regarding the creation of the provisional list role and addition of Lorraine Benson to the committee.
Screenshots have time stamps though. Here is the time stamped screenshot of the announcements page from April 1st.
Now, let's be clear. This is all piffle. Pointless. However, it adds up to a general, overall impression of incompetence. An impression of laziness, a lackadaisical attitude to the task of rare bird recording in Ireland.
For an organization that introduced the concept of faith into bird recording, it does not instill a reciprocal level of faith in this organization.
It is now coming off as a desperate, pathetic scramble to stay afloat. "All hands on deck to plug the leaks. Don't have enough hands? Ah sure throw a few more in the mix, that will get the job done."
Again the question that, at this point must, overwhelmingly, be asked is, "Just what is the point of this organization anymore?"
Still...nice to know they're reading all the same...
Another month, another failure to produce a monthly provisional list. This has become a recurring pattern for the IRBC over the past several years, with the only consistency from them being to consistently fail to produce this list for the first 5-6 months of any given year.
This time around things are different, however, as there has now been an additional, dedicated member put in place to manage the provisional list.
That person has now been in place for 3 months. And they have not produced a monthly provisional list. Not one list for any month.
Same as it ever was
As of July 1st the IRBC have still to produce any provisional list for 2018.
6 months into 2018 and no monthly provisional list.
4 months with a dedicated committee member in place, whose sole responsibility is to maintain and produce the monthly provisional list, and no sign of anything forthcoming.
No response to people asking questions about the production of the list. Even some of the liars and nutters in Irish birding are asking now.
Do you think he got an answer? Nah.
Nothing. Zip. Nada.
Someone justify this organization's existence now.
Give us all the old rationales. "The members of the IRBC are the best of the best" they cried.
"The membership work very hard in their own personal time" they cried.
We can, however, make some predictions based on the past several years of IRBC ineptitude.
We can expect a, now bi-annual, list at some point in mid July.
If they manage that, the IRBC Twitter account will announce this gift to the world.
IRBC members, Niall Keogh, Micheal Cowming and Seamus Enright will retweet this, as though some astounding milestone in Irish rare bird recording has been achieved.
No standards will have been raised. Just the opposite. The Irish Rare Birds Committee will remain a joke, more ridiculous and incompetent than ever before.
Their sychophants will continue to swear to the necessity of the the IRBC, despite the wheels visibly having come off the bus.
A bus fueled by a hybrid engine running on ignorance and shame, and lubricated by whatever substance is trickling out of Harry Hussey's hair this week.
Some will still play, in the make-believe land I call potatoland, that having a bird "accepted" by this nonsense group actually means something.
Some will still maintain that what this organization does is somehow "Peer Review".
If this level of incompetence is your peer review process...what does that say about you?
Until next time true believers.
Hark, a Provisional List for 2018 hath appeared. Would you call it an "update" when it's actually the initial upload of a list for the year?
Does anyone want to tell them it's July right now? 6 months, to produce just one provisional list, and it covers only 5 months of the year? Seriously?
It would be difficult to believe there could be this level of incompetence, if it were not so blatant, so ridiculously palpable.
"IRBC: Hi Lorraine. We would really like you to join the committee and take care of the provisional list. We've kind of been fucking it up for a few years now and need someone responsible to do things right.
Lorraine: I would be honored to join. But I won't be able to produce a list for at least 6 months.
IRBC: That's OK...neither will we..."
I think the above tweet says as much as can be said about the IRBC attitude to their "New system"...
It didn't take long. It's now the first of March, and no monthly provisional list has appeared for the month of January 2019.
It had seemed that the new "Keeper of the Provisional List" (which must be said with awesome echo sound effects surely) would actually meet the monthly deadline, despite not actually being in the position 6 months after they were announced to be joining.