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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 13:54   #151
marklhawkes
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harry Hussey
While having some sympathy for your line of thought, it is surely more important to ask the question 'Why is it a Slender-billed Curlew?': after all, the onus should be on observers to prove that it is a SBC!
Harry
Read my comments above to see reasons why it is presumably a SBC. If it is an aberant Curlew, then can someone please give an educated answer as to why? I have now spoken to so many people, all of whom have seen the bird in the field, and the vast majority feel it is a SBC, a few still don't know either way (but admit it is unlike any EC they have seen). If you watch this bird in the field, it's very hard to turn it into a EC (in fact, i can't!).

Also, it appears the views being obtained over the last 3 days, are not as close as those i was fortunate enough to get on Thursday morning. When i saw it, the bird was 300-400 yards away (and without optics Jane, i couldn't even see the group of Curlews against the grassy background, let alone 'pick-out' the bird, then sepearate it by 'jizz' alone, at a mile!).

Currently, the majority of 'highly rated' birders in the country, do think it's a SBC (of course there are a few exceptions, although by their own admitions, they have made mistakes before!). Furthermore, one or two of the worlds most knowledgeable people on SBC also believe it is one. So maybe people need to get a grasp of the concept of how variable a juvenile SBC could/can be, and except it fits the current known parameters of this species.

As to it having a 'long-bill' - well, thats because its presumed to be a female (longer billed than males), and thus possibly showing a thicker tip.

Ruling out a hybrid would be hard, however, they are unknown currently. Also, SBC and EC breed in different areas, except for both orientalis and sushkini which ARE BOTH BIGGER than nominate arquata. Also, 'steppe' whimbrel is also slightly bigger than nominate whimbrel. Furthermore, hybrid waders ARE rare, and like many hybirds (apart from wildfowl) don't show a great tendency to survive due to genetic problems.

I have to agree with others. Im finding it hard to understand why its not a SBC.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:02   #152
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I think its wishfull Thinking On the part of those that have seen it, The scientific odds of it being a near extinct bird are overwhelming.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:10   #153
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Originally Posted by tom mckinney
It is a 1W probably female Slender-billed Curlew.

I've now spoken 1st hand on the phone to 3 of the most important people involved in the Druridge birds' assessment. All have said this bird is Slender-billed. The overwhelming view from the big boys at the top is that this bird is a Slender-billed Curlew.

I don't want to sound patronising but forget about your mates in the pub and these stupid rumours going around because this really could be your very very last chance to see a Slender-billed Curlew.
Hang on Tom, the mates in the pub were experienced RSPB colleagues and we weren't discussing rumours - just kicking around the possibilities.

That said, surely we have to eliminate all the possibilities before deciding for sure or pre-empting the BBRC judgement? If you want my honest opinion, I can't see any reason to rule against SBC after seeing the Look East film on Friday but I have yet (if I manage anyway) to see the bird in the field. Even better, the Belgian birders seem to have expeience of SBC and they were convinced.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:10   #154
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Originally Posted by Steve
I think its wishfull Thinking On the part of those that have seen it, The scientific odds of it being a near extinct bird are overwhelming.
Shot in the dark here - but im guessing you've not seen it! For those of us who have seen it, and feel it's likely to be a SBC, this is because we have studied the bird, taken notes, and then compared them to known SBC skins (photos) and photos. For me, it isn't about the 'tick', its about the identification. If i wanted a 'tick' i'd have gone to St. Martins this weekend!

Overhelming maybe. But it has happened before in this county.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:16   #155
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marklhawkes
Read my comments above to see reasons why it is presumably a SBC. If it is an aberant Curlew, then can someone please give an educated answer as to why?

Ruling out a hybrid would be hard, however, they are unknown currently. Also, SBC and EC breed in different areas, except for both orientalis and sushkini which ARE BOTH BIGGER than nominate arquata. Also, 'steppe' whimbrel is also slightly bigger than nominate whimbrel. Furthermore, hybrid waders ARE rare, and like many hybirds (apart from wildfowl) don't show a great tendency to survive due to genetic problems.

I have to agree with others. Im finding it hard to understand why its not a SBC.
because it could be one of several options you've listed yourself Mark. I don't know what it is - not a Eurasian doesn't mean it's an SBC.......and if it's not an SBC doesn't mean it's got to be a Eurasian. And not enough is known about sushkini yet....

You yourself say presumably. Unfortunately that's not quite enough, especially for a bird of SBC's conservation status and for a bird so infrequently recorded as an adult for the last 20 years people genuinely thought it may just have been extinct.

let's hope it is SBC and that some adults are lingering around some remote area of Asia and wintering in some unvisited part of Africa

cheers
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:17   #156
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Shot in the dark here - but im guessing you've not seen it!
Correct and those Members who know me will tell you I wouldnt look out of my window if it was on my lawn.

However How about this for a suggestion, As this is such an important bird, would it not make sense (and be of National importance ) to catch it. I think I saw a film once where Nets were "fired" onto geese by some sort of charge ?

Surely there must be some experts who could wade/walk/swim/punt/ out there and set the nets??

Over to you ?
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:18   #157
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian Peters
Hang on Tom, the mates in the pub were experienced RSPB colleagues and we weren't discussing rumours
Sorry Ian, I didn't mean to imply that you were discussing rumours. Under normal circumstances I'd trust your RSPB colleagues, but of the 3 people I've spoken to, one has more experience of real life SBC than anyone else on the planet, the other has more experience of SBC skins than any other person on the planet and the final one compiled about 9 tons worth of field notes on the Druridge bird that were essential in the birds assessment.

And to just stop one rumour going around: there were 2 Belgian birders at Minsmere yesterday saying that they thought it wasn't SBC, neither of these were Didier Vangeluwe.

Tomacata
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:25   #158
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Originally Posted by tom mckinney
The overwhelming view from the big boys at the top is that this bird is a Slender-billed Curlew.
If all the people who know most about the ID of SBC are saying it is one then obviously that isn't something any of us should dismiss lightly. However I'd still like to make my own mind up. Unfortunately I'm not sure whether I'll get the chance to go for it so will have to make do with the pics.

Anyone who hasn't read the June 2002 issue of BB really should get a copy - 28 pages on the ID and assessment of the Druridge bird. I hope he won't mind, but I've taken the liberty of borrowing one of Paul Bagguley's pics from the Surfbirds site and adjusting the brightness and contrast levels (nothing else) to show the bird more clearly. The BBRC consider bill length and structure to be objective and highly relevant factors in the ID of SBC. The pic shows the bill to be 1.25 times the head length (or perhaps a fraction more) which is at the shorter end of SBC's range. This is similar to the Druridge bird, about which the BBRC commented that it was extremely unlikely to be matched by anything other than an extremely abnormal Eurasian Curlew. Contrary to what I initially thought, the bill does seem fine enough at the tip for SBC. The basal half appears straight, but evenly tapered, while the distal half is down-curved and parallel. This tapering is consistent with SBC and "strongly against Eurasian Curlew [which] appears almost parallel-sided in the middle third and shows relatively little taper, even in the basal third. ... The pattern of curvature also points away from Eurasian Curlew" (BBRC).

Obviously there are many other factors to consider and I shall need to read the BB article much more carefully - but it's looking good to me so far. For anyone who is wondering about the lack of spots (I was), I see that one of the photos in the article is of an SBC skin in which the bird shows only four spots on its visible flank.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:27   #159
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tom mckinney
Sorry Ian, I didn't mean to imply that you were discussing rumours. Under normal circumstances I'd trust your RSPB colleagues, but of the 3 people I've spoken to, one has more experience of real life SBC than anyone else on the planet, the other has more experience of SBC skins than any other person on the planet and the final one compiled about 9 tons worth of field notes on the Druridge bird that were essential in the birds assessment.

Tomacata
It's OK mate no offence taken. Funnily enough, the subject of capture as mentioned by Steve also came up. Given the importance of this bird from a conservation standpoint, it would make sense to even go to the extent of radio-tracking it. My colleagues seemed to feel there was a good chance of the bird returning to its breeding ground. I am not sure but I do not see any reason (short of the practicality question) why the bird should not be captured and marked. I am sure the purists will frown at this but if we are rapidly being convinced of the identity then there are conservation issues that come into play. What does everyone else think?
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:30   #160
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Watcha Tommo

Jimmy had seven sets of notes to look at - probably the same number as were actually taken in the field!......and six more than i saw being taken yesterday!

...just a bit of light relief

I reckon i saw it with the biggest hangover though!

and yes, catch it and tag it and take some blood too.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:32   #161
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Exactly my point, Get a blood sample Bit of DNA, decent photographs, few feathers, Let it go, all over in 30 mins ? Bobs your Aunty Etc.......
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:34   #162
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Originally Posted by Steve
However How about this for a suggestion, As this is such an important bird, would it not make sense (and be of National importance ) to catch it. I think I saw a film once where Nets were "fired" onto geese by some sort of charge ?
I've heard that a permit has been applied for to try and cannon mist net the bird
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:45   #163
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[quote=Tim Allwood]And not enough is known about sushkini yet....

You yourself say presumably. Unfortunately that's not quite enough, especially for a bird of SBC's conservation status and for a bird so infrequently recorded as an adult for the last 20 years people genuinely thought it may just have been extinct.
QUOTE]

Your quite right - im not 100% sure, who would be? Ive come to my conclusion from my experience of this bird, my notes, my experience with EC (and whimbrel), the known photos and skins, and from the best avaliable literature.

I have just had another birder (who in my opinion, is one of the best in Britain) ring me, having just left the bird. He too feels it looks very good for a SBC (and wonders why people think its a EC), his only doubt, rightly so, is how to rule out a hybird.

RE: your first point Tim, sushkini ARE know to ALWAY be bigger than EC, and have never been quoted as showing SBC plumage features (like this bird does).
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:47   #164
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Well I`ve just come back from the bird - and it certainly does look very different to a "standard" Eurasian Curlew - i`ve not had chance to start reviewing the lit since i`ve come in so this is untainted notes on the birds appearance -

Obviously smaller and slimmer than accompanying Curlew
Bill shorter and had a Whimbrel-like shape - initially straight then curving for the tip 1/3
Paler "colder" grey-brown plumage tone
Vaguely "capped" apearance, with "beady" black eye standing out in pale face
On stretching wings, dark-blackish primaries contrasting with paler-browner inner wing (upperwing)
When disturbed and alert seemed to have a slimmer, more delicate neck and head structure
Had a distinctly different feeding action - consisting of quick sewing-machine like probing followed by measured single probes
Tail apeared longer in comparison with the tips of the primaries

It was definately a distinctive bird - there was zero possibility of confusing it with the Curlew accompanying it today.

No decision as yet - need to research more! But a big thanks to Tom for motivating me to go instead of heading south for the "easy tick" at Brownsea (Besides that can wait till tomorrow )
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 14:53   #165
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Originally Posted by marklhawkes
his only doubt, rightly so, is how to rule out a hybird.
From the BB article:

"To qualify as a hybrid, unequivocally clear and unambiguous features exclusive to both species would need to be present. ... There are no pro-Eurasian and anti-Slender-billed Curlew features shown by the Druridge bird. ... One can probably never rule out a hybrid or back cross somewhere in the bird's history. but there was nothing to suggest it."
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 15:01   #166
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Originally Posted by Tim Allwood

and yes, catch it and tag it and take some blood too.
Isotope analysis from the feathers could suggest where it was born
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 15:05   #167
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I`ve never been very comfortable with the idea of catching birds purely so as we can identify them...besides - we wouldn`t be allowed to ring it would we as its not been positively ID`d!!!
Besides once we know what it actually is - what will we all have to talk about
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 15:06   #168
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Could be a case of Bolting the stable door after.......... if its not done quickly.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 15:11   #169
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I`ve never been very comfortable with the idea of catching birds purely so as we can identify them...besides - we wouldn`t be allowed to ring it would we as its not been positively ID`d!!!
Besides once we know what it actually is - what will we all have to talk about
If it couldn't be sorted out in the hand (by biometrics and feather deatail, ie number of white primary tips for ageing). Then i don't see why it still couldn't be colour-ringed (although i don't know BTOs exact rules on bird ringing).
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 15:16   #170
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Originally Posted by Jasonbirder
I`ve never been very comfortable with the idea of catching birds purely so as we can identify them...besides - we wouldn`t be allowed to ring it would we as its not been positively ID`d!!!
Besides once we know what it actually is - what will we all have to talk about
Hi Jason,

I am not sure ringing would achieve much especially if the bird disappears into obscurity but radio-tracking would certainly be justified.

I was interested to read your notes on the bill shape because this is the main feature that is troubling me. It is supposed to be diagnostic for whimbrel yet what the heck is it doing on a bird that has curlew characteristics. Having said that, the case is less vague if we are sure it is a female SBC and we do not need so much of a stretch of imagination. One thing is for sure the bill is nowhere near that of an EC but the hybrid point is hovering in the background. The one thing that does not support the fact is that hybrids should be more widely reported amongst all the European-Asian Numenius birds.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 15:17   #171
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Just as a foot-note to this debate - if it is trapped, or more likely, it is confirmed somehow in the field as a EC, then i would be just as happy, and will certainly be more prepared for any future 'scares'. Bird ID is the best part about birding for me. Listing and lists is just a bi-product. I think the question of the birds identity is the paramount issue to identifying it. All the quotes about it being extinct/near-extinct etc. do nothing to help identify the bird in question. We ALL accept its very rare. That doesn't mean it isn't one. It wouldn't be the first time something once considered this rare had been 'rediscovered'.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 15:39   #172
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[/quote] your first point Tim, sushkini ARE know to ALWAY be bigger than EC, and have never been quoted as showing SBC plumage features (like this bird does).[/quote]

Hiya Mark
again I'm not saying it is or isn't. Just kicking around some ideas......

the BB article states they are 'superficially closest to SBC' and are 'generally pale.......and certainly with white axillaries' There's 2 SBC features for ya.

and only a 'handful' of specimens exist. And the bill on those is described as 'relatively short'. Sure they are large but the fact that they are very poorly known and look 'superficialy closest to SBC' is interesting. It obviously isn't a sushkini as known due to size as you rightly say, but the lack of knowledge of this form - given some of its features and that it 'really exists as a distinct population' - is a note of caution surely. Is there no chance of another form or distinct population? I am very puzzled by the bird.

cheers
Tim

and yes, how do you rule out a hybrid! Or another unknown race?
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 16:09   #173
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Also, of interest. Spoke to another birding friend of mine, who saw the bird yesterday. Whilst he was there, all the birds were flushed (he didn't note what by), whereas all the godwits and EC took flight, the bird in question stayed put, and lowered itself to the ground. He also saw it 'neck stretching' when alarmed, i think these feature were both noted on the Duridge bird, although the significance is open to question.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 16:43   #174
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Hope you're all enjoying this!

I really cannot make my mind up!

Superficially it is a small, grey, short-billed Curlew which superficially are the features of S-B Curlew. There are several features pointing towards SB but nothing diagnostic. Equally, there are no features diagnostic of Eurasian Curlew. Bearing this in mind I find it impossible to draw any definitive conclusions! The BBRC though the Druidge bird was tricky and it took them two years! Won't hold my breath for this taking any less time.

Got some poor photos but they do show some of the features - alert posture, rump, stretched wing etc. Take a look at http://www.berksbirds.co.uk/birdphot...ew/curlew.html
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2004, 16:48   #175
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Go and see it because it almost certainly WILL be accepted by the BBRC.
I think you're probably right. Either that or it will be rejected and the Druidge bird thrown out too!
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