Wednesday 4 July 2012

Photo ticks

Following a recent recount, it turns out that the Paddyfield Warbler (below) I saw in Sussex earlier in the year was the 400th species of bird I've photographed in Britain. My British list is 428 so there are quite a few that I have seen but not photographed. Most, but not all, of the 400 are on my website, and only shame prevents me from uploading those that aren't.

Paddyfield Warbler - my 400th UK photo tick
Which raises an interesting question - when is a photo tick not a photo tick? The normal rule for seeing a bird - 'if you can't ID it, you can't tick it' - could be applied. But there are one or two among the 400 which I have seen perfectly well enough to identify, but of which I only have a crap photo. As a statement of fact, rather than aesthetic judgement, I have photos of them whether I like it or not, even if its a blurry dot. Take my recent Greater Yellowsmudge pictures (below). It was the Greater Yellowlegs (it called, flew around to reveal a square white rump and stood next to a Greenshank for size comparison), but could you rule out Lesser (or, indeed, bumfluff on the lens) on the strength of this photo?

Is it a (i) Greater Yellowlegs (ii) Lesser Yellowegs (iii) Daddy Longlegs. FIIK.
Or should the rule be, if a stranger could identify it, then that's OK? But then which stranger? And how competent would they have to be? Take this Goshawk (below). 'Pigeon', my mum would say. But I bet Goshwak worshippers could tell what it is. The best birders could probably identify some of my blurry dots which I couldn't if I was the stranger being shown the same photo. So what does that make me? [Ed: a bit too neurotic perhaps?] Ok, ok, perhaps I'm over-analysing it. It's my list. I make the rules. And right now it's a whopping 400.

Is it (i) Goshawk (ii) Sparrowhawk (iii) lint on the sensor?

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