Sunday, November 28, 2010

How many rare birds do we miss?

Given I'm more than a bit housebound at the moment, besides not having time to go out birding, I thought I'd briefly explore the question above! This Buff-breasted Sandpiper turned up on Islay way back in September and was seen by quite a lot of folk, including some birders on holiday. It was on grazing land above Port Charlotte on Islay and was particularly faithful to a given part of the field concerned.

It was discovered by a birding colleague when he took a short cut across the field when coming off hill land. His more usual route would have missed it altogether. Given its situation neither would the field have been regularly "scrutinized" for this or other species, despite specific searches on occasions at appropriate times. This got me pondering about how much we must miss. On Islay the answer is simple.....with so few active and experienced birders, coupled with some areas receiving scant regular examination, there must be a lot that is missed. In this regard the contribution visitors make to what is found is immense.

Whilst there are hot spots up and down the UK, bird observatories and the like, not forgetting routinely worked "local patches", I suspect there is a very large volume of birds we miss. Some areas are better located than others it's true, but there's also large tracts of country that are never covered, and certainly not regularly. Whilst "fly throughs" add in another frustrating element, at least they are likely to pass differing points, be it over land or on the coast, which gives an added opportunity for them to be picked up. Conversely the east coast and SW England in autumn probably have a high "hit" rate, most certainly compared to the north west coast of Scotland where terrain and weather don't necessarily lend themselves to the quest!

So, if you ever feel depressed after an unproductive day, or an enforced
incarceration, contemplate this particular question. It soon restores motivation and a competitive edge, firms up resolve to make an even better use of time, plan journeys past suitable areas and so on. Now, what else can I cheer myself up with?

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