Monday, 14 May 2012

Oh SH1T!!!

All images courtesy of Susan Sammons
We've had a fantastic couple of weeks at The Scrubs that has involved the discovery of great birds like Northern Wheatear, Common Redstart, Ring Ouzel, a Whimbrel feeding on the football pitches and a wayward Common Sandpiper. We had high hopes for the discovery of another great bird yesterday during the London Natural History Society bird walk that I was leading.

Nearly 50 people showed up on one of the nicest days of the year. The sun was absolutely beaming down. I instructed the group from the outset to be on big bird alert as conditions seemed favourable for a passing raptor. We were walking across the football pitches as I waxed lyrical about the importance of looking up when birding when I looked up and immediately saw a white-winged gull soaring high overhead with an accompanying Herring Gull. My heart raced as I shouted out 'Iceland Gull!' It looked like one to me apart from a slight niggle. For a second I thought that its head and beak looked too rugged for an Iceland. It just didn't feel gentle enough. I dismissed that doubt in a heartbeat  and instead asked for anyone one in the group with a camera to start popping off some shots.

I was still celebrating the first Iceland Gull for the patch a few hours later when I recieved a text from my mate James Lowen. He asked me to consider the possibility of it being a leucistic Herring Gull. Alarm bells started to ring at full volume. Apparently, there is a leucistic bird that bears the ring SH1T that was originally controlled by the North London Ringing Group and has been doing the rounds at various sites both inside and outside London like Rainham Marshes and Beddington Farm. It has been leaving many confused folk in its wake and now it looks as though I have been added to the 'Fake Iceland Gull Club'. Looking at the photographs you can see that the bird has a very typical Herring Gull structure and my Larid loving peers tell me that the wear on the primaries were not befitting those of a genuine Iceland Gull.

Ah well, we're on 85 species for the year at The Scrubs thus far. Number 86 will have to come from elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

You'd count a bird like that as an iceland Gull without actually seeing half-decently?

No wonder the pagers and blogs are full of erroneous reports

Eagleseagles said...

Everybody can make a mistake - you were not there anonymous so you dont know the circumstances - to be honest David did ask immediately for photos and the best shot looked like a white-winger in the camera- it was only when it was on the pc that doubts arose.Nobody there claimed to be a larid expert and it was a long way oop not like the Portsmouth Icelands earlier in the year.

susan sammons said...

Aaah what a shame David, thank goodness for photography and the internet. Thanks again for a great day out at Wormwood Scrubs, and for displaying my photos :-D

The Urban Birder said...

Thank you Susan for being such a sharp shooter. Your shots were great. I'm glad that you had a good time at The Scrubs.

And Eagleseagles, thanks for your support. Isn't it funny that the know-it-alls in this world always sign themselves off as 'anonymous'!

Funny that!

Luke Wake said...

Mistakes happen, part of life, the only way to improve is by making identification mistakes. Personally I love the fact that your honest enough to post about the mistake. I am a young (24) amateur birder and will always seek second opinions etc. Lets just hope the weather improves.

Viewing Nature said...

Viewing Nature

David you're best just to ignore people like anonymous, ornithology is a subject where we are all learning new things about the birding world everyday, that's what makes it so enjoyable and interesting. Making spotting errors is a good thing it teaches us what to look out for the next time.

Alex Massey said...

Hi David. Sorry I missed your walk on Sunday, sounds like a good one! I'll try to make the next one. I'm sorry too that "Anonymous" seems to question your integrity - I expect he or she has never misidentified a bird ever, although in reality he/she probably spends too much time hunched over his or her keyboard dissing genuine birders to actually get out there in the field. At least you had the courage to admit your error.