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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2004 8:12 pm
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Location: Louth
I was in London on Friday at around 4.30 pm, getting on a train to go into the city when I got a text from Birdguides “White-crowned Wheatear “one reported from a private garden in Scunthorpe” no further details. My heart missed a beat and I thought back to Kessingland Suffolk, June 1982 when I'd dipped on the first British record. In panic mode for a few seconds (I would not be back in Louth until 01.30 the next morning) I called Andy Sims who was glum that one of his blockers was about to fall but there was nothing on the local grapevine about it.

We agreed that if the bird was genuine it would easily attract 2000 people over the weekend. It looked like we had a potential Golden-winged Warbler scenario developing. On the flip side we both thought there was a strong chance of hoax. Scanning twitter and facebook furiously I saw the first photo published and the panic started to die. The bird was in a garden at a funny time of year, it's plumage looked rough and it looked like it could be an escape. I decided to forget about it for the rest of the evening and study the situation on the train on the way home later.

Catching the 22.57 at Kings Cross I got up to date with the story. The finder, a local vicar (hoax theory out of the window) had photographed the bird in his garden and sent it to the BTO to identify. Nick Moran had identified it and suggested the finder should get the Lincolnshire North County Recorder, John Clarkson in the following day to check out the bird and the access situation. The finder didn't want a big twitch but apparently against advice he had tweeted the photo under his own name. It hadn't taken long for a birding sleuth to track down the finders address and it was all over twitter before you could say “its an escape”.

The next morning I laid in bed and followed the developing story and spoke with John Clarkson and Phil Hyde and we prepared to go depending on the news. Lee Evans tweeted just before 09.00 that there were 75 birders there. House to house enquiries subsequently revealed the bird had been seen around for up to a week and had escaped from a local bird enthusiast who wanted it back. Steve Gantlett described by Lee as Britain's number one, subsequently caught the bird by hand and returned it to the grateful 80 year old jailer. Who then proceeded to horrify the assembled multitude by reeling off a long list of ultra rarities he had been able to acquire and keep in captivity.

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth by thwarted twitchers ensued as those who had ticked last winters Blue Rock Thrush in an urban setting down south were forced to contemplate the futility of that bird appearing on their lists. I've got the Epping Forest Naumann's Thrush on mine (so have BBRC), so what can I say. Let he who is without at least one dodgy bird on his list, cast the first stone.

What lessons can we learn from this episode?

1. When the bird is at all suspect, wait and see! Travel on the news. I'm glad to observe most of us have digested that one, although I fully understand why people as desperate for a British tick as Lee and Steve were there.
2. There are scary things kept in captivity, probably resulting from illegal imports and we all have to make up our own minds about what we twitch and tick.
3. Slagging off people who keep these birds is no use. They love birds in their own way and us twitchers have our criminal self entitled element too. Clearly its the importers who need to be cracked down on.
4. Lincolnshire Bird Club could have had the situation under control if the finder had not unwittingly put the news of the bird's location out. Not as quickly or as impressively as the Spurn Bird Club with the Siberian Accentor, I'm sure, but we would have got there. Thank you to Nick Moran who handled the news situation very well by all accounts. As it was, a potentially tricky free for all in a housing estate was avoided by the good judgement of most birders staying away.
5. Social media is a mixed blessing! Lee Evans helped whip up the excitement and there was a tinge of hysteria in many posts (not Lee's) but no doubt he helped keep things calm on the ground. He asked on twitter on Saturday morning “will we ever learn”, I guess the answer is most of us will but for some of us the fever is too much. Thank you Lee.

I should add that I have been a fairly keen twitcher for 40 years and have seen over 520 in UK BOU so I know a bit about it. If I had any instinct the bird was genuine I would have been there at 07.30 on Saturday come hell or high water. I'm also the Chairman of the Lincolnshire Bird Club and the BTO Regional Representative for East Lincs. So not just a twitcher. Birding is a broad church!

You can read an article about this bird by John Clarkson in the next LBC newsletter which will be out shortly.

Follow me on twitter @philespin


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:27 pm 
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Location: Market Rasen
Phil,
I suggest you read the objectives of the Lincolnshire Bird Club at the top of the Forum page. Twitching is not one of them but it is obvious by your post that it is now the priority of the majority of the members. I suggest you limit such posts to Twitchers mediums. I will continue providing data on populations etc. and hope that the Committee will just look at what the LBC was set up for and not digress.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:49 pm 
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Joined: Wed Dec 29, 2004 8:12 pm
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Location: Louth
Stuart, you could not be more wrong. The objectives of LBC are to collect information about the birds of Lincs and publish them in our annual report. That includes common and rare birds. Many people want to see these birds and there is nothing wrong with that. Many of them don't and there is nothing wrong with that either. As I said at the conclusion of my post, birding is a broad church. If you don't agree with the post fair enough, I've got a right to say what I think as have you. Just remember when the critics come out against ringing practices I'll be there defending you!


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 7:14 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 05, 2007 12:07 pm
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Location: Barton-upon-Humber
I think we can learn that the pursuit of a rare bird anyway is a bizzarre waste of time and reason. 75 people, 2000 people racing around?

white-crowned wheatear, kiwi, both as out of place as 75-2000 people.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2017 9:52 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2014 9:39 pm
Posts: 394
Location: Cleethorpes
But isn’t watching a rare bird in an “out-of-place” setting one of the appeals of birding?

Seeing an American robin is nothing remarkable in the US, but when one turns up on an industrial estate in Grimsby . . .

I certainly went to see it.


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