This is a long, involved story, which is taking me much longer to make time for than I had hoped. But, eventually a complete, entire bird record will be here, one part at a time. It WILL be worth your time to read this, if you are interested in how bird record committee review might occur.
First I'll provide a brief narrative about what happened, and then the CBRC (California Bird Records Committee) review comments, just to get it underway. Note that I will put up scans of my original handwritten notes, the proof sheets, etc., so all documentaion will eventually be included here for reference. CBRC Records are public record, available to any and all serious researchers. Though I have had a harder time getting subsequent records I requested, since this one became public. This is probably the first time the "guts" of a record has been put up on the web however ... so sue me :) !
Some records committees do not allow their review to be reviewed. I ask WHAT KIND OF SCIENCE IS THAT !?! To keep the reasons for rejections secret and inaccessible serves no scientific purpose or gain. If I were not allowed to check up on their work, and find things such as the present matter, where would that leave us? Misled and in error.
Now, the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth .....
A timeline of events regarding the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at Torrance, CA on the cosmic kismet date of 6/7/89, found and photographed by
Mitch Heindel. Here's what happened ...
... in my words ...
In '89 my wife (Kathy) and I headed west to L.A., where the sign company I worked for was based (in Torrance). April to mid-May we were in New Mexico; then a couple of weeks in S.E. Arizona; then we came to L.A., arriving the first week of June, where we visited Kathy's mom in Torrance, to stay a couple of weeks.
The following is from my daily (handwritten) notes (these will eventually be up here on this page) from the few days leading up to 6/7/89 ...
June 4 - South end of Salton Sea to NESS, to Morongo per notes, as seen by Kimball Garrett and Dick Erickson when I met them to show them my records, to prove their record fraud.
June 5 - We arrive in L.A. basin (evidenced by Spotted Dove and Western Gull in notes as "year birds"), for a quick, short, temporary visit. This was in Torrance, near the company I worked for since 1979, Gulf Development, a sign manufacturer based there, where I was attending to business.
A couple days after arriving (6/7/89), I photographed a Scissor-tail in flight from my mother-in-law's front yard, as it passed over. Here's how it happened.
June 7 - 7:00 or 8: p.m. or so - very late, just before sundown. I walked out into my mother-in-law's front yard for a cigarette, and as I neared the street, I turned and looked back at the wires that run behind her house, which is against a flood control channel. A pale bird was on them, behind her nextdoor neighbor's. I first thought, "Gee, that's a pale Mocker". Its tail was sticking straight out behind it, and out of view to me. Its tail dropped down and I soiled my shorts, so to speak. It was my CA jinx bird. I'd never seen one in the state. I'd seen thousands the last 5 years, since I had lived in Corpus Christi and San Antonio.
I ran for the car, digging in my pockets, grabbing for my keys as I ran, thinking I'd better hit the keyhole on the first shot, and remembering my camera bag was under the shotgun seat, with the 50 mm lens on it because I had just shot Gulf's brand new signs in the factory a few hours earlier. I rejoiced when I got the key right on the first try, despite my panic. Out came the camera bag, off came the 50 mm, on went the 500mm, all in 5-10 seconds of what to me was sheer terror. I lived for finding and documenting birds. I turned around and the bird was nowhere in sight! My heart fell to my shoes and just then, it popped up over the roofline coming right at/past me.
Faster than BRC rejection, I nailed two frames as it passed by, about 50' from me, without auto wind. I heard the mirror ker-plunk, there was so little light left, and I thought it would be a miracle if at a 30th of a second, panning, I got a low light shot with my trusty 500mm f.8 mirror.
Within a minute I call Brian Daniels and notified him of the sighting, and that I got two docu-shot frames as it flew past me.
A few days later (6/11) I met Brian, and we went to see the Mississippi Kite in Central Pk., Huntington Bch., which I also photographed in the Eucalyptus trees. I was a bird-documenting fool. It was one of my favorite things to do of all. Present were Richard Webster, Doug Willick and others.
While driving around town, I'm was also photographing, as usual, many Gulf signs, especially the new indoor model (Indo-lite), as well as any rare, classic, or unusual outdoor sign, such as Randy's Donuts.
June 11 '89 - I met Brian to look for a Mississippi Kite reported at Huntington Beach Central Park. I showed the pictures of the Scissor-tail to Brian in his driveway and he said, "OK it's a Scissor-tail, but now you have to prove you took it here". I laughed and said, "This roll is covered with signs" inferring it's identifiability. He fired "Why are they flying in different directions?" Suggesting the two frames showed the birds going in different directions, which is obviously not the case. I explained one shot was right before it passed by me and the other was at a right angle as it passed, wondering why he wasn't seeing straight. That was it, or so I thought ... though I couldn't figure out where he was coming from. Something was weird. This wasn't the kindler, gentler Brian Daniels I used to know and love.
Late June '89 - I sent the two pictures of the Scissor-tail and two pictures of the MS Kite to Guy McCaskie (Am. Birds Reg. Editor) for the Spring report, since these were spring vagrants, with a note concerning the two occurrences (date, location, that I got the Sc.tail while going outside for a cigarette, etc.) and mentioned the marks on the Kite indicating it was a first-year bird, that showed in the photos.
End of story, I thought ... I had done my duty. I found a rare bird, photo documented it, and submitted it to the authorities for addition to the "official" record. After all it was a review species. I had also photographed another rarity someone else found, and sent that documentation in too. Every compiler and BRC person would love a hundred more just like me, or so I thought.
The record was more significant than may appear, because one of the most birded CBC sized circles with the most vagrants in all of L.A. County (The Palos Verdes Peninsula) had NEVER recorded one in 40 years of coverage! This is the first and only Scissor-tail ever detected or reported in the Palos Verdes Peninsula CBC (Christmas Bird Count) circle, (and still is).
Anyway, I kept an eye out looking forward to seeing it in AB. Some long time later when the American Birds '89 spring report was published (90?), I noticed the Scissor-tail was not there. Some time after that, I ran into Guy McCaskie (the regional editor) in the field and asked why it wasn't there. He said he never received the pictures. So, I told him I would resend them. I got reprints of the same 4 negs (2 ea. of Sc.-tail & MS Kite on the same roll of film) and sent them to him AGAIN. The note I included (importantly) began exactly with: "Here are (again)" the pictures of the Sc-tail Flyc. and MS Kite," etc..
"Here are again" were the first three words, because I had sent them in before and was aggravated about having to do it again. However, as a dutiful servant of documenting the record, I would do whatever it took. Though the report was not "overkill" on details and particulars about the sightings, all the basic needed facts were included; how, when, where, what, etc.. I again thought it was over, a done deal.
Apparently, under CBRC review then in '91 maybe, someone motioned it be put in the "permanent suspense file" (purgatory) based on questionable origin of photos, and someone seconded, and there it sat until 1992. [I would like to know who did this; who voted (motioned, seconded, and passed) and suggested for it to be 'permanently suspended'? WHO and on WHAT basis? Isn't that in the minutes? Don't I have a right to know, and shouldn't we want to know who initiated the mental meltdown?]
Then it was deemed I think maybe because of a threat of a suit (about another record, not mine!- I don't think I ever threatend them), the CBRC felt compelled to clean out the godforsaken
"permanent suspense file". So, with a couple of other records deemed important enough to permanently suspend, it was circulated, voted, commented upon and rejected in 1992.
1998 or '99
It sat rejected due to questionable origin of photos for about 7 years until I discovered what happened in the course of CBRC research. This, because no one ever told me, asked me, or informed me, that I had been charged with scientific photo fraud, and was up for trial. That I might want to defend myself, face my accusers, offer evidence on my behalf, be made aware of the charges, etc., etc.. to excercise the simple basic rights we all take for granted in such a situation.
Interestingly, all the while this was going on, from 6/7/89 when I saw it, to '92 when the CBRC rejected it, to '98 or so when I found out the record was rejected, several of the voters involved saw me multiple times, while chasing birds I found, or had time to write me long letters, yet never, ever, did anyone ever, bring up the subject of the 6/7/89 Scissor-tail !&%$#!
Interesting too, is that in the annual report when the rejection was published in Western Birds (Vol.25, No.1, 1994 in the 15th report of the CBRC by Michael A. Patten, & Richard A. Erickson - pg. 26 - which I didn't get, so didn't know), it was hidden in with other Scissor-tails listed under "identification questionable," not "questionable origin of photos," the real reason, according to their comments, as to hide their decision. Might this be possibly the only time such a technique has been employed with a record? To obscure the decision, by hiding it from the real category of rejection. It is OK to lie about the reason of rejection to the readers and subscribers in the CBRC annual report. Because they are assurring the accuracy of the record.
Had I not been researching CBRC records and decisions for a manuscript in progress (about the birds of the Palos Verdes Peninsula area) and found the rejection, I still wouldn't know now in 2002! The fraudulent rejection would stand today if it were not for someone besides them.
Obviously, as can be seen from the comments made during circulation, they have little to do with what I thought record review was. The original false information originates with the only person I told of the record, at the time, and showed the pictures to, Brian Daniels. He fed mis-information to Matt Heindel who let his imagination run wild with it, instead of telling his brother, and then led his team to the wrong end-zone, outdoing themselves in showing their prowess at making up phony reasons to reject records.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!
In order to help you understand just how messed up the CBRC is, now is the time for you to read the CBRC comments, the reasons for rejection of this photo documented submission. It will be most enlightening, I assure you. You will be amazed to see the path an apparent "no-brainer" photo documented record may take.
Click here, if you dare, to read the
CBRC Review Comments
on the 6/7/89 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
The CBRC has standards?
CBRC standards, an oxymoron
Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel 1997
Desert rats decide seabirds
Zone-tailed Hawk 1994
the CBRC tongue-twist
Scissor-tailgate review discussion
Discussion 4 1991-035 review overview
CBRC Review Comments
on the 6/7/89 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
The CBRC & Me
Why is my brother my keeper?
CBRC scientific method is an oxymoron too
Back to The CBRC & Me