Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Foot It: heard only quandry...

With the snow I kept an eye on the garden on Sunday hoping that a Redpoll might drop in. No luck there, but a Tree Sparrow briefly at one of the feeders was a real garden mega. Eight Brambling and Siskin brightened things up nicely as well.

I have been popping out to the garden after dark on as many spurious pretexts as I could manage this month - never before has the kitchen waste been taken out so frequently... Eventually the strategy paid off on Tuesday night with a calling Tawny Owl (species 76) while snipping 'just a few more' bay leaves for extra flavour in a casserole. This, of course, is a 'heard only' addition to the list, which I generally have no real issue with especially for such distinctively sounding species.

Today's 'heard only' is slightly less straightforward... In Foot It spirit I have decided to Walk on Wednesdays so far this year. It takes about an hour for me to get to work on foot but despite the route being within Edinburgh I can cut through the Hermitage of Braid which has some decent birding. For example, today I managed Water Rail (both there and back!), Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Buzzard, Waxwings and Roe Deer. The species that is giving me a quandry is White-fronted Goose.

A skein of grey geese came overhead just after I exited the Hermitage and as they called I immediately thought WfG. I made a field note on my phone "Skein geese over hermitage call wfg? Not greylag, not pfg." (pretty familiar with these two as they are both regular here) and I transcribed the call of a single individual as "fi-nuh, vi-nuh". Here is what I'd say is a recording on Xeno Canto that sounds like what I am trying to transcribe.

So, I have two questions - firstly, for those more up on grey goose ID by call than me, is that a diagnostic call of White-fronted Goose?

Secondly given that this would be a patch tick as well as a Foot It tick, would you tick them off given on call only? I did see them, but I'd just put my optics into my bag as I'd come back onto urban streets and by the time I had them through the bins they were definitely ... err.. geese ... and that's about it...

Waxwings in Morningside, Edinburgh, today. Not sure pointing a 400mm lens at someone's front door in the fading light was such a good idea in retrospect!


Anonymous said...

Morg, I posted this on the Foot It blog, but it never appeared.

Sightings are often picked up by news services or entered into BirdTrack and then find their way to the county recorder and ultimately into the record books. For most records 'it doesn't matter' I guess but at a local level it might. I like to know just what has occurred on my patch and the first (and every!) record of something rare/scarce - WFG in your case - should be a solid record not a "probably was".

Through these reporting routes, at a county level, bird sightings make the official record that ought not to. I would never count something as a 'record' unless I was personally completely happy with the identification. I would record probables in my own notes only

Geoff Morgan said...

Yeah I agree entirely - in fact my quandry was that even if I had been sure at the time that it was a WfG (which it probably was) I wouldn't add it to my patch list without seeing it. I think I'd be more flexible with night birds and other species commonly IDed by call.