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December 2011


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Rare Bird Alert <[log in to unmask]>
Carl Greiner <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 28 Dec 2011 10:20:45 -0700
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Carl Greiner <[log in to unmask]>
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  Thanks for your input. I appreciate any suggestions and opportunities for
improvement to make the MOU better. The Minnesota Ornithologists Union
Records Committee (MOURC) provides a very valuable function to the MOU. By
peer-reviewing official state records, they confirm and validate those
records so that everyone may have a high degree of confidence that our
records are accurate. The MOURC members are all accomplished in bird
identification and graciously volunteer a considerable amount of time
serving on this Committee. It is a thankless job. If they are too stringent,
they are criticized for not accepting someone's record; whereas, if they are
too lenient, they would be criticized because your records would be
      The MOURC operates under defined rules
( ); however, bird identification is too
complex to be completely objective (refer to the recent discussions on the
presumed Glaucous-winged Gull). Because of the subjectivity and the
requirement that the records that are approved are as accurate as possible,
there occasionally will be situations where the submitter or some of the MOU
membership does not agree with the way a MOURC member votes. This is ok,
that is why the MOURC is a committee and does not require a unanimous vote
to approve a record, even a first state record. Much like a jury, the MOURC
weighs the available evidence and makes an informed decision based on such
evidence. This process helps to insure that the MOU records and archive are
as accurate as possible.  In addition, if new evidence comes to light after
a record has been voted that might change the outcome of the original vote,
a new vote will take place if a majority of the Committee approves. This
provides an additional safeguard for records that may have been incomplete
or inaccurate when initially submitted or when new knowledge about a
particular species is subsequently discovered.
      In this case, the Ferruginous Hawk was approved. In my opinion, it
would be extremely unproductive to micromanage individual votes or to make
suppositions concerning an individual's motive for voting one way or the
other, especially without the evidence that was made available to the MOURC.
While I welcome public review of the MOU's policies and procedures, if you
have questions or concerns about a particular individual or vote, please
contact Tom Tustison (the MOURC Chairman) or myself rather than in a public
      I think this case illustrates that the system works. I want to thank
the MOURC for performing this very challenging and unrewarding job and
including a description of the Committee's decision of records that were not
accepted in the Loon. We can all learn from the descriptions of why the
MOURC did not accept a record. I don't agree that we should have each member
of the Committee write an explanation of every vote or even every negative
vote. That is just too burdensome for people who are already volunteering a
large amount of time. 


Carl Greiner 
Minnesota Ornithologistsí Union
1616 Hill St. S.W.
Chatfield, MN. 55923
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-----Original Message-----
From: Minnesota Birds [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Steve
Sent: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 9:33 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [mou-net] MOU Records Committee - Ferruginous Hawk Accepted 6-1

I agree.  I fear that the vote against the Ferruginous Hawk has nothing to
do with data (in this case a clear photo), but has to do with either of two

- a prejudice against the data gather.  I do not believe that such
prejudices should not be part of the process and that if the data can not
be impartially analyzed then the committee's processes are tainted and
should be modified.  I, for one, would prefer that the records be
submitted to the committee without identifying the observer.  By the way, I
do not feel that I am personally affected by this prejudice.

- a predisposition against what birds are expected to be observed.  An
example was the dismissal of an observation of several cowbirds
overwintering in Dakota County years ago by a well respected,
birder/ornithologist, and committee member, as not being likely.  We now
know that cowbirds regularly overwinter at large feed lots in Dakota County.

So, why isn't this a Ferruginous Hawk?

Steve Weston
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On Tue, Dec 27, 2011 at 8:32 AM, MARK OTNES <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I appreciated seeing the proceedings of the MOU records committee in the
> latest issue of the Loon.  I find the reasons for records turned down and
> dissents (2 or greater,  I guess) to be very informative.  I would also
> like to see the reasons for dissent on those records that are accepted on
> 6 to 1 vote.  In particular, I would love to read the one dissent on the
> Ferruginous Hawk seen and photographed (shown in the Loon) in Lac Qui
> County on 10-25-2010.  I'm not an ace birder, particularly when it comes
> raptors, so I would like to see that reasons that that raptor pictured in
> the Loon might not have been a Ferruginous Hawk.
> Mark Otnes
> Fargo ND
> 701-241-4194
> [log in to unmask]
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