So the second big talking point of the autumn is another flycatcher. Ho hum. No doubt reams of crap will be written about the Empidonax currently residing on Blakeney Point, so here's my two penn'orth. Not that I shall be going to see it of course!
I've already heard several people say that they don't want to see it as it will never be identified. Although I have no interest in seeing it anyway, I have to say I don't understand this attitude at all. Most twitchers are more than happy to split species to suit their lists (and let's be honest, it isn't for any other reason) without any official endorsement from 'the authorities', so why not lump for the same reason? If it comes down, as now seems likely, to one of either Alder or Willow, just call it a Traill's Flycatcher for listing purposes. No more debate and everyone's happy.
If you don't like that idea, just stop for a minute and consider the parallel example of Grey-cheeked & Bicknell's Thrush. To the best of my knowledge no-one has Bicknell's Thrush on their British list, but everyone's quite happy to tick Grey-cheeked. Nor have I heard of anyone taking it off their list when the two were split. This is exactly the same situation as Alder/Willow Flycatcher - they are not separable in the field. The only difference is that 'Grey-cheeked Thrush' had already occurred in Britain before it was split, whereas 'Traill's Flycatcher' hadn't. If it had, I'm damn sure everyone who had it on their list would have kept it right there. I know I would!