Monday, 2 January 2012


I thought I better put the birding world at ease...

Has Steve Waite suddenly become part Cornish*? Has his listing streak got the better of him and his interests are now entirely selfish....

.... No!

I understand some slightly disgruntled birders were hunting down the pale Wigeon this morning, with the question 'why did we not hear about this yesterday' nagging them. Likewise, a local blogger was clearly rather bemused as to why his afternoon coffee was not interrupted yesterday.

So I thought it best I explained myself...

Wandering down to Seaton Marshes bird hide, and there's about eight Wigeon feeding not far from the path to the hide. I put my bins up and notice a paler female amongst them, with a bit of an eye mask. I thought it best I took a snap as the birds had their heads up like they were about to fly, and I knew a pale female Wigeon had been seen on the Otter the end of last year, so I took a photo (I thought I took two or three at the time, but the day before I had changed my camera setting from 'burst' to 'single shot'). Seconds after I took the photo, every Wigeon on marsh took flight (no I'm not a flusher either - it wasn't me!) and headed towards the Estuary.

I had bin views of this Wigeon for maybe 5-8 seconds. It turned out my reasons for why I should take a rapid photo were right, as it did indeed bugger off!

I only had three female Wigeon to directly compare this bird to in the few seconds I had of looking at it (though there were many more Wigeon on other parts of the marsh), and the only things I noted were that it seemed to be much paler with a fairly distinct dark eye patch. In a larger flock with a greater variety of female Wigeon I wondered if it would have stood out as much? Would other female Wigeon look paler and more like this bird? Could it just have been a first winter female and the other three were adult females? All these were quite possible I thought - so I thought no more of it.

I thought I should also point out that at the time it was pissing down with rain, I was soaked through and my bins were full of rain and partially steamed up.

Ok, usually when I go out birding, I come home soon after and immediately get the photos off my camera and onto my laptop. But today I was out a lot longer than usual, and didn't return home until pretty much dusk. I had a bite to eat, a much needed shower, got into a change of clothes (I was soaking wet!) and then fired the laptop up and began downloading the day's pics.

The Wigeon pic came up on the laptop, and my immediate first instinct was to text the local birders and send them a copy of the photo. Only now could I see the structural differences on the bird (head shape) and the apparent (partial?) black gape line. Obviously if I had noticed these features in the field (i.e. if I got it in my scope if it had stayed put for more than ten seconds) then I would have sent texts out there and then.

Basically I did not get a decent enough view of the bird at all to convince myself it warranted a text.

Most who know me know my nanosecond texting ability (and whilst not looking at my phone too!). And all know how rapid I usually am at getting the news out when I find a goodie - often before I am personally 100% happy with the identification, maybe because I've not seen all the clinching features (i.e. the White-rumped Sand this Nov, Solitary Sandpiper, my 'Iberian sounding Chiffchaff on Beer Head', and even the Audouin's Gull; I'd only seen that red bill for a few seconds before I made the first phonecall).

So why this blog post? Life is too short. I hate people thinking I've done wrong - because I always do try to do my best for everyone. If you are still genuinely peed off after reading this account as to why I didn't send a text out, then I can only apologies. I will endeavour to text any time I see something that looks even the teeniest bit 'odd'...

Right, I must go, I've just got to check and see if that Dark-eyed Junco is still in my neighbours back garden**....

*please take this as a joke! I (and I'm sure all) are well aware the Cornish controversies stem from only one or two individuals.

**there isn't one really!


  1. Relax Steve. You of all people have no need to explain yourself. Thanks to your eagle eyes and timely gen I - no, scrub that - we all have many cracking birds on our patch lists that we otherwise would not. Anyway, since the Audouin's you were granted superhero status and entitled to at least a cape, and possibly a sidekick too... ;o)

  2. Steve, On the subject of whether or not you should text anything you find immediately, consider the fact that you have earned; in the view of reasonable people, a lifelong 'Get Out of Jail Free'card. Its called an Audouin's Gull.

  3. Dude, so so not guilty if are the most generous texter I the point I was gonna ask u what plan u are on! ha ha!

  4. Thanks for the comments people. Just felt I had to write this post - put all the facts out there. I don't like bad feelings, and I was getting unpleasant vibes about this episode. Anyway, glad its hopefully sorted now. Just wish the ID of this Wigeon gets sorted too!

  5. Just come across your blog, a nice read.

  6. Hey Marc, thanks for the comment mate :-)