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Subject:Re: Misidentification
From:Jim Ryan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jim Ryan <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 1 Feb 2012 21:28:02 -0600

Some of my thoughts on this rather deep topic brought up by Pastor Al:

If you're not sure from the get-go about what you've seen, you're LESS
likely to make a mistaken ID, I would think. Your mind is still open and
gathering evidence, asking questions, ruling this in, that out.

A beginner is more likely to admit they have made an error, because they
know that they don't know much, and be OK with that. So in the end, if they
get it right, perhaps with a little help (better yet, when they learn
something more about accurate ID), is that still a missed ID?

Mistaken IDs are most likely to occur if your confidence or eagerness (The
lure of the list) exceeds your ability, in my opinion. In these cases, how
would you know when you have mis-identified something?

To deter that from occurring you will probably have to fight off that human
tendency to want to put everything in its proper "box" as soon as possible,
so you feel that *you know that you know* what it is and be done with
it. Because as soon as you're "sure", you stop the ID process, thinking you
have it all finished. Moments later new evidence may present itself to
change your mind, but by then you may miss it, because the "case is closed".
Leaving a bird unidentified is mighty hard to do sometimes.

 As for the lure of the list, if you're more concerned about checking off
your checks, you stop the ID process as quickly as possible and move on.
But was your perception (and thus your ID) accurate or wishful thinking?
("making it so" and not even realizing it)

 Here's where the real problems develop; How clear and accurate are your
perceptions, of color, shape, and movement quality?  How about many of the
'relative' characteristics we often rely on to clinch an ID: larger,
bulkier, lankier, thicker, thinner, smaller, slower, etc.,etc. etc.?
Experience is the best ally here.

I try not to be too sure too soon in some situations where I know I'm weak.
Shorebirds and sparrows, for example. (A birders got to know his

Therefore, double-checking your perceptions and assumptions, along with a
lot of knowledge and experience, is required. 2nd opinions - unassuming
please - are a big help too.

I am frequently double-checking my own perceptions of things - internally
"making the call" on the ID of birds, cars, and all sorts of stuff and then
following up to see if I was actually right. Over time, under varying
conditions, it hones your ability to make better and better observations
faster and account for varying factors of the moment, like lighting, angle
of view, partial views, etc.

In an avocation largely dependent on observation skills and honesty (to
self and others), a desire to discover your own blind spots and weaknesses
and improve your knowledge base and perceptive skills makes for a better

Jim Ryan
Saint Paul's Westside
One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and
Nature shall not be broken. -* Leo Tolstoy*

A well governed appetite is the greater part of liberty. - *Lucius Annaeus

On Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 7:26 AM, Al Schirmacher <>wrote:

> Wonder what the field misidentification rate might be for the average
> birder?
> And where might the highest rates be?  Gulls?  Empids?  Hybrids?  Heard
> warblers?
> Certain humility needed in this area:)
> Al Schirmacher
> Princeton, MN
> Sent from my iPhone
> ----
> Join or Leave mou-net:
> Archives:

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