Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's always funny until someone gets hurt...

...and then it's just hilarious.

Birding this morning again. Fantastic dawn chorus, if you count Sedge Warblers, in a fresh south-easterly breeze. Infact, we've gained some more - 7 Sedgies singing along the burn this morning. I bet if I pick up another couple the other way tomorrow, I'll have a patch record. I'm glad my life isn't sad.

Also a Common Swift over the village was a patch year tick - noticably late. I only saw my first swifts of the year at all yesterday - 50 over the Bridge of Dee.

A Peregrine was over the cliffs. 3 Red-throated Divers going north offshore, and 1 male Common Scoter. 4 Sandwich Terns feeding with a flock of 100 Black-legged Kittiwakes just off the surf.

Messed around getting come more recordings of common birds singing. All this keeps me amused but still not exactly setting the heather alight.


it would be funny if it wasn't true... this appeared on ebn today, posted by a Dutch birder.

Claim of Slender-billed Curlew

When I was in Divjaka, Albania on May 6th I went to the lagoon early
in the morning, intended to see the Dalmatian Pelican. I saw some of
them the afternoon before, but wanted to have a closer view and if
possible picture them. I walked at the edge of a pinewood, bordering
the fields. When I did so, I reached a canal, at this point I turned
to the left, and tried to walk to the beach. After passing the last
pines, a flat and wet area stretched out, bordered by a lake.
Heathenlike plants grew on it, tough and usual only up to 30
centimetres high. Under those plants the soil was so wet, that at most
places you could hardly walk without getting wet feet. Also there were
many small puddles. At the border, alongside the canal, a path led in
the right direction, I meant (but after a walk of 15-30 minutes it was
cut of by another canal, so I had to turn round and didn't reach the
main area, nor the beach).

I took the path from the pines alongside the wet area of heathenlike
plants, and suddenly two frightened birds flew away, obviously being
curlews, with the sound of a disturbed Curlew, but not as massive as
this bird calls. This sound was lighter, more joyfull. Also the birds
were somewhat smaller and paler, brighter then the Curlew I know well
from The Netherlands. I couldn't see much of the details, I needed a
few seconds to realise what I was looking at: two Slender-billed
Curlews!! I knew I had a very good observation, but didn't know some
birders thought the bird was already extinct.

The Slender-billed Curlews flew some hundreds of metres away and
disappeared on the edge of the wetland and the lake. I didn't see them
again, although I followed the path in their direction. At some point
the sight was hasseled by bushes, high enough to give the birds the
opportunity to fly away unseen. Other curlews flew up from the
wetland, being almost always undoubtedly Curlews, which were in groups
of up to eight individuals together. I heard the sound of a Whimbrel
amongst them one time, but couldn't find this bird.

The next day I departed, not knowing the species is at the edge of
extinction. In my opinion it was surely a very rare and sought after
bird, but due to it's far-off life in countries almost without
birders, I thought there should be some 400 (or so) individuals left.
As I liked to go to Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa on my trip through
Albania, I didn't break my travels down to spend more time on the
Slender-billed Curlews.

When I went to the Karavasta Lagoon, I didn't realise this could be an
area where a Slender-billed Curlew was possible. So I was not focussed
on getting this bird, never thought I should see it. But when I saw
those small and pale curlews, I was convinced determination was right.
And I am convinced yet, after a few discussions on Dutch online
birdingsites. I can agree with the people who show a lot of criticism
about those birds, and so I realise this description will not be
enough to get the birds accepted. But may be it throws more attention
on the area. The birds are seen in a wetland which isn't protected at
all: hunting, fishing, pollution with rubbish, dogs walking free over
the area and recreation disturbes the birds, wildlife and flora
oncontrolled. The Albanian gouvernment is not able to stop this.
Although the real park is situated at the other side of the canal I
mentioned, I don't think this area will be better protected. At the
other side I even saw more fishermen and I from time to time I heard
the sound of rifles.

Divjaka is situated south of Durr√ęs, I guess some 40 kilometres.
Google Earth provides me with the coördinates of the site of this
record: 41°0'43.40"N, 19°28'52.68"E (but I don't know how precise
Google Earth is).

I know many questions on which I can't give any answer will remain,
but I had no time enough to make photo's of the birds and I am not
able to make a better description - I just told you what I saw,
without making the story better then it is. Nontheless I hope this
will bring people to the coastal lagoons of Albania for further
research. I don't have any other interest in it, then the protection
of nature in common, and especially of saving the Slender-billed Curlew.



I guess it might be possible to create a scenario that's more like the IBWO fiasco, but I'm not sure how. In fact I think there's more similarity between Slender-billed Curlews and Ivorybills than we care to admit. Both are very probably extinct. Slender-billed Curlew isn't as bad because there were undisputed and very well documented sightings until the early 1990s. The there is the Druridge Bay 1997 bird which was videoed and published, and shows diagnostic features of Slender-billed Curlew, but is still not universally accepted (especially by those who dipped!). And then, with the bird having been 'rediscovered', there are a number of sightings, some by very reputable ornithologists across Europe, but which like this one can never be quite fully proven... but are used as a reason for conserving the habitat. Nothing wrong with that of course, but when a potential Slender-bill hangs around for long enough to be properly grilled (Minsmere), it turns out to be a Eurasian Curlew. All the 'Slenderbills' get away. Sorry mate, they got away a while back. As they say, it's funny until someone gets hurt.



7 comments:

Alex Lees said...

Critically there are two key differences, 1) 'Campephiligate' is backed by millions of conservation dollars whilst no European conservation organisations appear to be giving much credence to the sightings of SBCs and 2) there is a chance that SBC is still extant, whilst IBWO almost certainly isn't....

Lindsay Cargill said...

Nice clip of FNM though I prefer Big Jim's riffing !

Can't believe you also like Love Hate ! I saw them on the "Blackout in the Red Room" Tour and they was most excellent. Opened with JH's "are you experienced ?".

What is it with birders and loud guitar based rock music....ah, we are geeks trying to be cool !

Sorry, should I be talkin about birds ?

Keep rockin'

Martin said...

there is a chance that SBC is still extant, whilst IBWO almost certainly isn't....

Yep, there is *some* hope for SBCs... if we could get the money transferred from the IBWO fighting fund, it might do more good over here ;-)

Martin said...


What is it with birders and loud guitar based rock music....ah, we are geeks trying to be cool !


Rock on! I'm actually secretly very cool and a leader of the in-crowd, I just try to hide it by wearing glasses and going birdspotting. I'm also still wearing my 15 year old Love/Hate t-shirts. I also did the logo on the back of my old leather jacket in silver pen... but the jacket went mouldy.

JH said...

I was not too far from the SBC breeding grounds when I received a message that one "had been seen in the Netherlands". That led to some (or more) tense moments (except from the travel companion who had seen it in Morocco).
Later on I found out the real story. The original is pretty hilarious... the guy had no idea at all what he was saying about a bird considered extinct by some, and was more interested (repeatedly!) in discussing Dalmatian Pelicans at the same site.

MikeP said...

'Heathenlike plants ... '

Has everyone else missed this. Presumably they were not crucifers!

Martin said...

heh heh. They were probably (in)Fiddlenecks, populated by Sylvia (ex)communis