Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Sour Grapes? A bitter pill.

Early morning on patch. How lucky to have this a short stroll from home.

Birdwatching can be a strange thing. No matter how long you have done it things always surprise you. Before I go on, its this blog's 14th Birthday today! Seems longer....

What I am writing here is based only on my own personal theories that have been built over years of knocking around with birders.

Monday night, at 22.48, a message was put out by a well known bird information service saying something along the lines of -

MEGA. N'berland BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS reported 1/2ml SE of Howick viewed from coast path east of Seahouses Farm 7.30pm - 8.30pm. 

Now after the events of a couple of weeks ago at Bempton Cliffs, just about every birder in easy reach of the East coast had the daydream that this much sought after tubenose would hove into view during their next seawatch. I could just about see it, so when this message appears more than two hours after the sighting and just as it is getting dark, a sense of frustration and even anger was apparent in the ensuing gossip on the What'sApp.

What to do? In the aftermath, the mind forensically goes over the scenarios of the report. Who was the observer? Why the delay in reporting? If you can identify an albatross to species and know how to contact bird info services, you would know the enormity of it all and surely not wait two hours to put it out.

I do have an interest here as the location given is exactly 744.16 mtrs on foot from my door. 599 mtrs as the crow flies. That would have taken me, 10 mins max to get there, so if it had been reported, say, 20 mins after first being seen, so the obs could compose themselves, myself and everyone within another 30 minutes would have been able to join in.

By using this logic what can be deduced Sherlock? 

The obs may not have been a birder hence the delay. But who else could name an albatross specifically? It might be a holiday birder with no phone signal. If it was me on holiday, it wouldn't have taken two hours later to find a signal to report it after I'd watched it for a full hour, that's for sure. 

Then look at the report. Later gossip said the chap who had it, saw it sitting on the cliff and it was still there when HE left. For a start the cliffs here aren't like Bempton. They are low and don't have ledges wide enough for anything bigger than a kittiwake. So that seems to be an error.

Then another snippet on Twitter says the observer was female? Who is this mystery person? Certainly not local as residents around here would have contacted me directly before any bird service. Not even a county birder because they are all on Social Media or Whats App too.

That leaves one conclusion, Watson.

This was a deliberate hoax perpetrated by a birder who would know that details such as this would get the birding community fired up. All they have to do is give a false name or get someone to ring it in for them. After all, there have been similar hoaxes in the North east this year already. If I am wrong and it is genuine, I'll look forward to the County Records Committee receiving the description.

From me personally, I was frustrated when the message was received but I was out on the site by 04.20 in the morning and gave it a couple of hours. It was exciting and knackering in equal measure. A few local patch sightings went into the notebook - 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Whimbrel, 1 Yellow Wagail, 1+ Redpoll, 4 Arctic Terns and it was a lovely morning to be out. So no, I'm not too bothered...

One day we might still get that Albatross you know...  
This is the location given. The Bathing House, a holiday cottage.

Four intrepid victims of the hoax who travelled further than me.


Bob Biggs said...

Hi Stewart

If you add the Weetslade Lesser Spotted Woodpecker [with tit flock], Red Footed Falcon behind the Drift Inn, a Black Tern report at East Chevington on a day where several birders were present but didn't see it, I think you're right, someone might be playing games!

Gibster said...

If your deductions are correct, that's pretty shitty and I'd be taking that as a personal piss-take given that it's well-known that you live (almost) on site. But there may be another, entirely innocent side to it all. The guys at the receiving end of the call will know more, if you can get them to blab...

Stewart said...

Bob - Yes you are quite right, maybe the lesser spot was just a beginners error but I have no idea whats going on with the RFF?

Seth - I do have a little more info that backs my theory but thats in my back pocket for another day. Anyway, it would have little effect on me as I dont travel great distances so a hoax is wasted on me really...

David Bryant said...

I share your pain!
Similar (possibly) spurious posts on local RBA have left me frustrated. I find the 'still present' reports after a bird has departed to be the most irritating!