Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Portuguese rarity recording: a new era

The Comité Português de Raridades, or Portuguese Rarities Committee, in session at the offices of BirdLife International's national partner SPEA. From left: Alex Leitão, Pedro Ramalho (Secretary), Pierre-André Crochet, Ray Tipper (Chair), Michael Armelin (non-member but representing the board of SPEA), Magnus Robb, Dominic Mitchell, João Tiago Tavares and Thijs Valkenburg. Long-standing CPR member Peter Alfrey was unable to attaned.
Anyone who has been birding in Portugal or its island regions will know what a fantastic country it is both for native species and for rarities. As the south-westernmost nation in continental Europe whose borders extend westwards into warm Atlantic waters courtesy of the Salvage Islands, the Madeiran archipelago and the Azores, it punches firmly above its weight in terms of rare birds, from all points of the compass. Having first visited Portugal in 1993 and made many trips to the Azores since 1994, I have a personal long-term interest in rarities at a national level, and have also been part of the team assessing them in recent years.

Historically, Portuguese rarities were considered by the Iberian Rarities Committee, but since 1 January 1995 the Comité Português de Raridades (CPR), or Portuguese Rarities Committee, has fulfilled this role. The CPR has published a run of reports documenting rarities from the mainland and islands, the most recent being that for 2011 which was published online in SPEA's Anuário Ornitologico (see here). However, with the sudden departure of the last Secretary, a deluge of records from the Azores and the need to appoint new members, it is no secret that a major backlog of work has built up - hence last weekend's meeting in Lisbon.

It was an extremely productive two days, the results of which will be reported in detail by the CPR elsewhere. Suffice to say here that we now have a talented and experienced line-up of new members, a new Secretary and some exciting new initiatives in the pipeline. Importantly, voting has since taken place on some on significant rarity records relating to species not only potentially new to Portugal, but also to the Western Palearctic. While it will inevitably take time to catch up, the CPR has started as it means to go on, and I'm sure there will be more news to report soon. Watch this space!

Blue-crowned Parakeets at Campo Grande, photographed after the CPR meeting in Lisbon. The committee has also been responsible for assessing naturalised exotic birds for the Portuguese list: this South American species is currently in Category E, but now seems well established and may be a candidate for upgrading to Category C.

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