Sunday, 10 August 2014

Ruddy Hell.

As with all aspects of bird listing sooner or later the ‘escape’ issue will rear it’s ugly head. If you believe some ‘experts’ recently there has been an apparent influx of Ruddy Shelduck into the country - presumably from feral populations in Holland. However this may not be the case. Some PWC birders have noted the presence of this species on their patch this year including Andy Mackay who had a pair present at Eyebrook, Leicestershire, for five months - this pair could feasibly be the same as those seen recently in Lincolnshire and Northants. To his credit Andy did not count these in his total. In addition birds have a been present at several sites in South and West Yorkshire and Cheshire.

Ruddy Shelduck Hayle Estuary, Cornwall 2009. Paul Freestone

The official BOU categorisation of Ruddy Shelduck is BDE* which translated means you cannot include it on your official British list unless you saw it before 1949. Following discussion among the PWC team it was agreed that Ruddy Shelduck should NOT be included on any patch list. So if you awarded yourself a conscious pricking 3 or even 6 points it’s time to make amends and cleanse your list.

Obviously this could go further. There are an awful lot of questionable birds (mostly wildfowl) out there trying to pass themselves off as the real thing. Aside from the numerous ducks and geese there are the annual wandering White Storks and to add to the confusion this year several fence hopping Black-winged Stilts. At times it can be difficult to assess the origins of a suspect bird, particularly when the tell tale signs aren't there, such as rings or the inability to fly, but in most cases it is a case of common sense and timings. For example a Barnacle Goose on my patch in June would raise an eyebrow where a couple in April would have better credentials, providing they didn't hang around too long. I guess at the end of the day it all comes down to local knowledge and an individual's honesty and as the Patchwork Challenge has birders of the highest integrity this should never become an issue - should it?

Mark Reeder

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