Follow by Email

Saturday, 30 May 2009

ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE in WEST SUSSEX - an appraisal

I believe Chris Batty has been spot-on with his appraisal of how we have looked into this occurrence. We have got so embroiled and concentrated on one feature (white trailing edge) that it has blinded us all from the obvious. When I first stated to Christian Melgar, Ian Barnard, Jacob and others on site on Thursday evening that the bird was most likely an Oriental (based on its short tail and lack of trailing edge), I immediately talked myself and others out of it when Jacob's images appeared to show a white trailing edge and the bird was in such heavy wear on the upperwings (particularly the secondaries). Once home, my and others views were further entrenched by further images showing this feature, and later Richard's excellent shots.

But yes, all the while we were totally ignoring the facts that all other features (the short tail, tail feather colour and unusual wear) indicated typical Oriental Pratincole. Richard has now shown with his sequence of internet images that this bird clearly fits in with the somewhat typical appearance of many Oriental Pratincoles and that they do vary markedly in the amount of dark saturation on the underparts and there is often extensive contrast between the white lower body and the deeper buff of the breast.

In this instance, I believe we worked far too hard to disprove what should have been a fairly straightforward identification but hey, who would have believed that three species of pratincole would grace Britain with their presence in just one week.

This episode just makes it clear that it is incredibly important to get good images of birds, so that they can be studied in the fullness of time. Richard's contribution to this has been first-rate, and Jacob's, and I commend them for it. It also brings home the fact that you should always travel and see such birds, even if an identification has already been mooted. After both Ian and Owen had phoned the pagers with confirmation of its identity as Collared on Thursday, I phoned Stuart to contradict it and asked him to put 'pratincole species'. We eventually agreed just to revert back to 'probable Collared'. I easily talked myself out of the identification and accepted the argument that the state of wear (arguably totally wrong for any Collared) was accounting for its 'anomalous' features.

I fully apologise for being so reticent in claiming this bird as 'Oriental' despite the fact that I was being inundated with calls suggesting that surely the bird had to be one. It is only now, with Far East input and Richard's images to enjoy and study, that more has become apparent. Will we ever learn - I fully doubt it!