Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Full Of Bull

Particularly conspicuous today, with one in the garden feeding first on Honeysuckle, before moving briefly to a neighbour's ornamental Cotoneaster, one of those with thorns and orange berries and finally onto a Rowan back in our garden. Two more in the small wood at Linton Pond where the kids and I took our morning walk today feeding on seed heads in the glade.
They, along with Stewart and Stringer's comments have had me thinking about how it's almost impossible to keep abreast of everything when it comes to ID even for UK species. Both experienced birders, one lapsed and one current ringer and certainly with more experience of birds in the hand and bigger lists than me yet neither aware of Shirihai's text on Iris colour in relation to ageing Blackcap. Then again the only reason I had just read it was that Blackcap's have been often the only migrants I have seen on certain days this year and I dug the book out to check if there were any obscure races that I should perhaps be more aware of to add a bit of excitement and challenge to the "oh it's another Blackcap" moments.

Frankly if you started asking me about any of the other species/races accounts in the genus I'd seriously struggle hence the halitosis joke a few days ago in reference to halimodendri Lesser Whitethroat. So how do you keep up? For me I accept I can't possibly know as much as I'd like, I rely on remembering the species I'm familiar with. I find that once I've 'added' a new bird and spent a little time with it I feel more comfortable with ID in the future, although this has a 'Use By' (or lose by) date with me. I try and reinforce this by selective 'habitat' based reading so If I'm expecting a few weeks seawatching I'll go and re-read some of the key species or the ones that might just turn up, I've now lost count of the number of times I've re-read Little Shearwater without it ever been useful. Any of those Bullfinch today could have been 'northern' types, as the timing would be consistent with past invasions and I wouldn't have known as it's just not a race that has come across my radar in the past and therefore I've never seen or read anything about the ID. Anyone wishing to impart alternate strategies for dealing with information overload should head for the comments.

The most interesting sighting of the day was a dragonfly, four days into November, my first November dragon, which I think is a Common Hawker and I know was responsible for making me re-start counting Gadwall four times (there were 49)trying to get a half decent image of it as it shot around the reeds to the west of the hide at Linton.

And finally, for Stewart, the moon taken from his old home village.


abbey meadows said...

Lovely birds Bullies. On the insect front I saw a Red admiral today at Red Row.

thedrunkbirder said...

This late in the season I would plump for Migrant Hawker - it looks like a Mig as well.
Common Hawker are well over by now.

The Leicester Llama said...

With regard to 'keeping up' with ID developments, the simple answer is that you can't if you have any kind of life outside birding.

I used to be really into gulls, but once they started turning Herring Gulls into several different species I couldn't keep up and soon lost interest. I almost never look at gulls these days, and haven't really got a clue about Caspian Gulls, let alone American Herring! And I don't care!!

Anonymous said... times it does seem like information overload doesn't it?
It's virtually impossible to keep up with all the latest ID stuff...unless related to 'Rainman'...but it does keep birding interesting! As you may or may not know, i have become a huge fan of sub-species...identifiable 'in the field' subs that is..and i thank you now for this opportunity for me to get my soap-box out...yet again!! [Some folk will 'yawn'..i know]!
Anything that makes birders look more closely, at even commoner birds, is a great thing as there is a tendency to become a tad apathetic towards them. Experienced birders tend to think they know it all..but no...look again...even at bullfinches! Actually, i could happily watch bullfinches every of my favourites...if not 'my most' finch!
Question is...when does all this information overload become...ever-so slightly...anal..? To me that's when you can't ID a sub-species 'in the field'...then that bird belongs to the 'boffins'!
I was pleasantly surprised [when droning on about this subject on birdforum recently], to find that there were quite a few folk who backed my 'vision' as such. I...and i think others..would like to see a new style of fieldguide with 'identifiable forms of birds in the field' day!

In 1980 i saw my first uk woodchat shrike in Suffolk..the one illustrated?! the 'Twitchers Diary'. It bugged me for was not the 'norm'. Several years ago, having learnt about the balearic race, i thought...'Ah-ha'! [not the pop group]. I submitted photos a few years ago to the BBRC that a mate had taken of the bird...and supplied field-notes which Mike Rogers asked for...[r.i.p]...and i found out just yesterday it's been accepted as the first British record of "badius".'s just a flippin 'race'....but i was happy to have my long held suspicions confirmed..[and finally to have laid that bloody shrike to bed].

ps...for every bit of ID info i know...there's at least another million bits of info i don't know...but i am happy to learn when 'an occasion' arises...[such as american black tern]..all good me! [Except when it gets.. to use that word again.. 'anal'....pterodroma's anyone]...?!

pps..thank you also Alan for diverting my attention from 'the hedges' at ebr and in doing so allowing my blood to go off the boil...!