Sunday 4 December 2011

Un-American Activities

In case anyone was wondering what was behind the statement on the LROS Bird News page yesterday regarding a reported American Golden Plover at Cossington Meadows, here is a short version of the story.

Basically, the ‘observer’ who reported the plover is known to have claimed a lot of highly unlikely birds in the county recently. I thought Birdguides at least were aware of him, but this one slipped through the net somehow. Unfortunately I didn’t find out who it was until after dark, by which time a lot of people had wasted an afternoon looking for a non-existent bird.

Although I’ve never met him, he has been described to me as a ‘very keen but over-enthusiastic young lad’. I’m not sure how young, but certainly old enough to be able to use a computer and report sightings to Birdguides and LROS. I would also suggest, particularly in view of the fact that he has been warned about reporting fictitious rare birds before, not least by his parents, that he ought to be old enough to realise the possible consequences of his actions.

Before anyone asks, given his previous claims I don't think there is any possibility that he simply ‘made a mistake’ with this bird. It’s not certain that he was even at Cossington Meadows yesterday as about ten later ‘updates’ on the bird in the afternoon all appeared to have been sent from a home computer, along with a later report of a White-billed Diver at the site and a Red-flanked Bluetail & 2 Black-necked Grebes at Priory Water around the same time. And that wasn’t his first Red-flanked Bluetail in the county this autumn.

Over-enthusiasm is one thing, but this seems to be crossing the line into out and out fabrication. All very unfortunate, and sadly symptomatic of our modern rarity-obsessed birding culture. As John Hague pointed out, when we were that age (whatever age he is) we wouldn’t have even heard of birds like Red-flanked Bluetail, let alone thought that we might see one. We can only hope that he will grow out of this and go on to become a proper birder, although I’m afraid it will be a long time before anyone believes anything he reports!