Thursday, 18 February 2016
Second Day of Rest - Hoaxes present and Past
Why do some birders have to make up records? The red-flanked bluetail supposedly at Lymington a few days back, a bird that had been important enough to have me cycle ten miles towards it, turns out to have maybe been a hoax.
RBA (Rare Bird Alert) tactfully states :-
Making a sterling effort to usurp two national #1’s from the top spot this week was the reported discovery of what would have been a guaranteed show-stopper in Hampshire - Britain’s second-ever wintering Red-flanked Bluetail allegedly located in the wooded glades of the New Forest, in the Norley Inclosure across the weekend of 13th-14th.
The first over-wintering example of this ever-delightful Tarsiger came just two years ago, thanks to the super-showy bird that hopped from Gloucestershire and Wiltshire from February 3rd to March 9th 2014 and this report from Hampshire could have been the focus of attention for bird photographers and birders alike…but was it real? No one seems to know…but the “H” word wasn’t far from many locals lips.
The only acceptance of this increasing, more-frequent-than-ever forest dweller for the south coast county came in the more traditional mid-October window of opportunity; one spending six days in and around Sandy Point in 2010.
(…oh how we wished it had been a wintering mainland Western P. Rubythroat tho’…)
Details will come out no doubt but it brings back memories of other such incidents; the hermit thrush in Essex and the Siberian thrush in Worcestershire for example.
The hermit thrush was 'seen' by a sole observer. He later admitted his hoax through the pages of Birdwatch magazine, a double-page spread, apologising profusely for his false record, explaining that he had been goaded by being surpressed from real bird news by other Essex birders.
The Tewkesbury Sibe, on the foothills of Breedon Hill goes back to the late 1970s or early 1980s.
On a wet, cold day birders attracted to the area like bees to a honeypot. The honeypot in this case was a male Siberian thrush, still a mega rarity in the UK, couldn't be found. “No problem,” stated the hoaxer, “I've got photographs of it.” Weeks later photographs if a Siberian thrush did come out, a stuffed one or a model placed in a tree! Allegedly.
Every year in the British Birds magazine there is an issue devoted to 'Report on Rare Birds in Great Britain in . . ' At the back there are always a number of rejected reports. People make mistakes. I know I have made many and will no doubt make many more. People might not have noted every feature necessary for acceptance. Thankfully the birder who feels the desperate need to hoax other birders to increase his credentials and standing in the rarity finding world are few and far between. Yet the pressure is on. Thankfully actual hoaxes are extremely rare.
Nowadays nearly every record of a rarity is accompanied by a photograph. Of the rarities I have seen I have managed to get a photograph of nearly all of them. Of those I haven't then I have got the names of the witnesses. Here are a few of the rare birds I have seen this year :
Those with no photograph (yet) with who was with me when I saw it :
lesser scaup (Chris Craig), Pacific diver (Roger Butts), Ring-billed gull (no one).
The Year list can be viewed on Bubo on the BUO 2016 year list :-