Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Ticks galore on the patch.

The patch is pretty much done. Habitat overgrown, a nothing kind of winter, not much chance of seeing anything of note. I only go there now to see common birds in a relaxed way, often much closer than you see elsewhere.

But not so fast! Doing some pruning in the garden (which is in the patch, fortunately), and "chip chip chip!" Here? A quick scan and two green finches have just flown out of the pine tree next-door but one. That's finches that are green, not Greenfinch. 2 Crossbill!! a wholly unexpected addition to the patch and garden list!

I grabbed my binoculars, went and scanned the tree to see if there were any more Crossbills, and whist not seeing any of those a male Blackcap did pop into view! My first ever winter bird on the patch and my first winter bird for at least three years (although I did get them regularly at my old house in the middle of the village).

Suitably inspired I went to Pishiobury Park to look in tall pine trees. I didn't see any more Crossbills but did find a Nuthatch (new for year) and a small flock of Siskins. Odd numbers have been seen in the first winter period but this was the first time this winter I've seen them well. About 10 max I would say.

The finches weren't finished, with a glorious male Bullfinch, a small flock of Chaffinches and about 20 Goldfinches. A Great Spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Jays, and then, to finish, a Snipe flying over the boggy area. Snipe are probably permanent in the northern part of the scrape field but not often seen on the rest of the patch.

5 patch year ticks. 1 patch life list. 2019 patch list is 51 versus 54 for this point last year, but lack of water means well down on ducks.

Monday, January 07, 2019

On being a stupid birdwatcher.

My name is Dorset Dipper and I'm a stupid birdwatcher.

I don't mean the mis-ID's last week at Abberton. There was a Spoonbill somewhere around, and when I saw a large white bird flapping over a distant shore I called out "is that the Spoonbill?" and no it was just another GWE. Then a large raptor over the same shore - "Is that a Marsh Harrier" but before I could get on it someone else had confirmed it as a Buzzard. and then a flock of Dunlin and one with a massive curved bill. "Hang on everyone - is that a Curlew Sandpiper?" and after a while watching, on the ground and in the air, we decided it was probably an Alpini race. But what a bill! No. I'm not talking about those, all of which I think fall into the category of calling out first and then ID'ing later. Better to risk public mistake than announce after the fact you saw something noteworthy.

I mean the what-on-earth was I thinking? Why exactly did I fail to go back and have a proper look at that larger-than-a-stint-smaller-than-a-Dunlin wader, which may well have been the White-Rumped Sandpiper that appeared shortly afterwards? Why did I not listen to the inner voice saying "are you sure that's not just a juvenile ruff?" before announcing to the local RSPB warden I had rediscovered the Pectoral Sandpiper? I mean the ones where in retrospect all the evidence was available and I just ignored it.

Well now I have the answer as to why, on occasion I am a stupid Birdwatcher. It is here in the article suitably titled "How not to be stupid".

Stupidity is defined as "overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information". The article lists seven reasons why one might do this, and quite a few are relevant to birding. Being in a rush would explain the WRS above, or that feeling that I had a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it.

Others also pertain to birding. Being outside your normal environment. Information overload. Being in the presence of a group with an expert, or being an expert. Doing any task that requires intense focus. Being tired.

I'm not sure where List Fever occurs in that list, that feeling that you have made an emotional commitment, not to say financial and time commitment, and have already rehearsed the excitement of seeing a particular bird, so the emotional cost of admitting that it isn't the bird in you were hoping to see is considerable.

From work experience, the issues that trip you up are the ones that come from left field. The projects that come through the usual route and fall into the standard processes get done; the ones that come in by circuitous routes don't fall into the usual process and get screwed up. Well, birding is full of birds that don't come when, where, and how you were expecting them.

So this year, I'm going to try and exercise a bit more proper process, to relax and do the due diligence, to be, well, just less stupid.

Rarity chasing in Cambridgeshire part 2.

Last post left you on the edge of your seats as your intrepid birders ticked off the first of three potential rarities and headed off in sea...