Since the posting of the signting of the Oriental Scops-owl (Otus sunia) and the discussion on past records, R. Subaraj has responded with the following;
“With regards to the Oriental Scops-owl article posted in the blog, I have the following comments.
1. The latest record of sighting on 12th November is not the earliest date. I finally managed to dig up the details. The bird that crashed into a house at Jalan Belatok, off Upper Changi Rd (an additional location) did so on November 9th 2003 and was found by Chew Ping Ting. I retrieved it, fed it and then sent it to Sg Buloh Wetland Reserve, where they measured, weighed and ringed it before releasing it. This would therefore be the earliest date of arrival of the owl.
2. Prof Sodhi’s mist-netted bird was also from the mid-1990s and was captured near Upper Peirce (another additional location).
3. Old museum specimens, without specific sites but labeled “Singapore”, have always been suspicious as the actual location of collection may not have been Singapore, as in those days, specimens were often labeled as being from the country where they were processed or shipped, due to lack of more information.
4. Luan Keng’s opinion about races is that of an academic… definitely not that of a field person. Feld researchers/observers use all field identification markings available to determine facts, including the race of a bird. The race of a bird tells us quite a bit including where the bird is from and whether there are behavioural differences with other races. Through field studies, much information can be learnt. Determining true species should not be dependent on DNA alone but should include morphological studies as well. Many of the world’s top specialists are using a combination of both in their field research and to make decisions about species.
At the end of the day, the Oriental Scops-owl has helped highlight and confirm just how fragmented the local bird (and nature) community really is, as different factions have different ideas of just how many records of the species really exist for Singapore… and none are accurate and up-dated! Not everyone wants to share and combine their data or knowledge and we find ourselves truly lacking the accuracy that once was. Why? Different reasons really… elitism, ego, keeping secrets before publication… you name it. It all exists and is part of the ongoing saga of this soap opera!”
Comments by YC:
1. It may not be fair to say all colonial specimens labeled “Singapore” are suspect. Those who work in museums may be able to differentiate between the different collectors – some are more reliable than others. And we can reliably assume that W. Davison’s specimen was from Singapore.
2. Birders have always been individualistic, selfish, and what have you – just like any other groups. And they always will be. But we have to realise that unpublished private records remain useful only to the person/s keeping them. Until and unless they are published, these private records are not part of the public domain and cannot claim precedent if subsequent claims
appear in print. Thus unless you publish, you cannot make any claims, period!
3. We can always make this blog a medium for such records. After all, web publication is slowly being accepted as a valid medium and many scientific journals are now going online. Thus future sightings, etc could be sent to this blog for posting – it would appear faster by light years than any print media.
Image courtesy of Chan Yoke Meng.