Saturday, 14 April 2012

SB or not SB...

In May 1998, in the days when petrol was somewhat cheaper than it is now, I spent most of my birthday standing around looking at an empty field in Northumberland. A pretty pointless thing to do on the face of it, when I could have been at home eating jelly and ice cream, but in common with several hundred other people I had made the long journey to Druridge Bay hoping to see a Slender-billed Curlew. The bird had in fact been there for several days, but we had previously resisted going on the grounds that it was considered to be ‘bollocks’ by several eminent birders. But on the 7th, this changed to ‘[insert name of eminent birder – I can’t actually remember who it was] says it is one’, so early on the 8th we were there.

I have two recollections of that day, other than the disappointment of not seeing one of the rarest birds in the world. One is of myself, Jeff Higgott and several other birders from Suffolk entertaining ourselves by doing bird impressions (both vocal and physical) for the others to guess, whilst the rest of the crowd gradually edged further and further away from us. The other is of Jeff saying to LGRE, after it had become apparent that the bird had gone, “So, Lee, what now?”, to which he replied, looking as if he meant it, “Dunno. Kill ourselves?”.

But of course he didn’t, he just convinced himself that it wasn’t one. And now it looks like he’s going to have the last laugh. Accepted in 2002 by the BBRC and BOURC as the first for Britain, it now looks certain to be rejected (sorry, considered ‘not proven’) after ten years of rumbling discontent with the record and a long review process. The cat was let at least partially out of the bag yesterday when the latest BBRC ‘work in progress’ file listed the record as ‘NP’ (not proven). This was quickly pronounced to be a ‘genuine error’ after it was pounced on by eagle-eyed BirdForum members, but what exactly was the error? Somehow typing the letters NP into the relevant cell on the spreadsheet instead of IC (in circulation)? Or the timing and method of release of such important news?

At the time of writing it is still listed as NP on the WIP file on the BBRC website (saying ‘last updated 14-Apr-12’). But I don’t think there’s any doubt now that it will be chucked out, and I for one have removed it with great ceremony from my dip list, on the grounds that if it wasn’t one, then I didn’t dip on it (I haven’t really. I don’t even keep a dip list).

Further reading, if you’re really bored:


Mark said...

I remember Rob and I being in Cyprus at the time and phoning Birdline all the time it was there. The fact that I was not even in the country is good enough reason that it wasn't one, at least as far as I'm concerned ;-) If only LGRE had carried out that promise, the world of birding would be a happier place.

Mark said...

Of course Lee (if you read this) I am joking :-)

John Hague said...

I remember talking about going in The Griffin Inn in Swithland but not being arsed... glad I didn't go now!