Saturday 12 November 2011

One step forward...

...and one back for my list at least, thanks to a recent judgement of the British Birds Rarities Committee. They have concluded - and I'm in no position to argue - that the Redhead I pursued in South Wales in 2003 may have been a half-breed (for any non-birders reading this, and to avoid causing offence to ginger women from the principality, a Redhead is type of duck). Some anomalous features apparently could not rule out a hybrid. I'm not sure exactly which, but rules is rules. 
The product of an inter-species duck-hump? I just hope they enjoyed it.

Crawling through a hawthorn hedge with my pal Matt Jones to grab this photo in fading light after the bloke on the gate at Lisvane Reservoir had locked up and told us to bugger off was all in vain then. I could, of course, ignore this judgement and leave Redhead on my list, like a rebel without a point. But I'm far too conformist for that. And besides, if we all started making up our own rules for what went on our little lists where would it all end? Desperate twitchers would be, like, setting up their own clubs, and splitting species willy-nilly to bump the numbers up! How mad would that be!


  1. Where would it all end? in lots of people been reasonable...whilst I understand accuracy of spot has an importance in bird-watching I do find the idea you have to confirm your own judgement with others somewhat bizzare. I'm a bit of a fast-track novice on Grounhopping but I do know that the rules on what is a tick are flexible enough to not bring down civilization if there is the odd difference of outlook! Your readhead duck is my Rawmarsh Welfare, only no flunker is telling me "its an hybrid" after 39 years!

  2. Looking forward to seeing you on 3rd Mick - are we ticking Weymouth or Dorchester? As for my post, in a shock development, several subtleties have eluded you. First, when ticking Rawmarsh Welfare's football ground, there are some fairly convincing clues for you to be confident about doing so: first, its a football ground; second, it's in Rawmarsh, and third, a lot of people are on welfare. Identification of your Redhead/aythya hybrid, on the other hand, while straightforward on the face of it, is ultimately a matter of judgement based on subtle differences such as bill pattern, head shape (which can change with light and angle of view) and feather detail. Complicated by the fact that ducks notoriously shag anything so the possibility of a hybrid has to be ruled out before records can be accepted. This matters because records help build up our knowledge of patterns of migration, or at least vagrancy in the case of a rare bird like this. I know a bit about birds, enough to know that this bird looked good for Redhead, but I also know that the guys on this Committee know a lot more, hence the deference to their judgement. Think of it like the dubious goals panel and you'd be nearer the mark. I'm sure they don't always get it right either, but they make a judgement for the record. The 'where will it all end' comment is ironic (birders would hopefully understand), but it's a long story which I'll explain when I see you. Cheers, though, no-one ever comments on my blog and our exchange may communicate the impression to others that it's actually well read!

  3. Yes we are the modern equivilant of an exchange of letters between Oscar Wilde and Fatty Foulkes.....I'll email on the venue for the third but you should have got a text (perhaps garbled as I was down the pub)asking about the distance to Salisbury.....