Archive for Sep, 2015


The Decision

The other week I got a letter; or more correctly an email with a letter attached.

It concerned my submission of a description submitted to the BBRC (British Birds Rarities Committee) for the Italian Sparrow seen here on several occasions the year before last.

Because the bird generated so much interest the letter is repeated here in full. It is addressed to the three people, including myself, who submitted a description.

Dear Carl, Andy & Phil

Many thanks for your submission to the British Birds Rarities Committee of Italian Sparrow at Northrepps, Norfolk on 23 Aug – 06 Sept 2013. Unfortunately, the committee has found the record to be Not Proven.

As you can no doubt guess, this record provided the committee with a collective headache! Ultimately, it was decided that while there was nothing wrong with the plumage of this individual, a 1st record of this species would require DNA evidence and it was unfortunate that this eluded us on this occasion. As this was submitted as an informal record, we will not publish it in the Not Proven section, but instead put it into a new Appendix entitled ‘Appendix 4. Records held where either taxonomy or identification criteria have yet to be finalised’

It is worth clarifying that a not proven vote does NOT imply that the voter believes the observer to be either incompetent or dishonest in any way, but in many cases just that there is a risk of a genuine error having occurred because not quite enough evidence could be assimilated by the observer(s) in the time available. Experienced and highly competent observers will often submit records on much lower levels of evidence than less experienced observers, but these are sometimes not accepted because the confidence felt by the observer in the field may not be matched by the detached assessment of the voters.

Requesting a recirculation

It is possible to submit a record for a recirculation to the committee. However, there are some fundamental requirements before such records can be re-circulated.

  • We would not reconsider a record at the request of either the observer or the county recorder unless there is new information given which may affect the original decision.
  • We would not consider ‘retrospective information’. This includes
    • Drawings done several weeks/months after the original sighting
    • Subsequent experience of the species

Many thanks for your submission, we hope that you will not be too disheartened by this decision, and hope and look forward to receiving further submissions from you in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Paul French, Chairman.

I guess we knew it was coming. A positive decision without DNA would always be a difficult one, however I would draw your attention to the wording

“… nothing wrong with the plumage …”

Just to rub in the salt on the very morning I received the email the sparrow once again put in an appearance at the bird feeders.

Sparrow sp


Look me in the eye

The amazing bi-coloured eyes of a Red veined Darter. Scarce dragon this. Second generations in Norfolk are a real treat.

2015 09 20 Red Veined Darter Felbrigg Norfolk_Z5A8614


Look mum … I can jump just as high as you!

Among the Common Dolphins in the Bay of Biscay last week was this very young animal with parent. Looking at the photo closely it’s possible to see the vertical creases along the body where it was folded in the womb.

2015 09 17 Common Dolphin Bay of Biscay_Z5A8340



Hedgerow snuffler

My father-in-law may not be able to hear well but his eyesight lacks nothing. As we were driving down a side road the other week he spotted something I missed on the road verge. After their population has decreased by a third in the last 10 years Hedgehogs are becoming rare beasts. Why wouldn’t I stop to photograph it?



Rubber-necking Wrynecks

Three very reluctant Wrynecks at Winterton earlier this month. This particular one favoured Rowans and sat out in the sunshine … for just an instant.




A sea unleashed

I’ve been at sea is some rough weather in my time but these waves were the highest I’ve been out upon. A storm force 9 and 8 metre walls of water were tossing our ship around like a cork in a bathtub. Somehow daunting but somehow beautiful. Each wave was topped with translucent green and capped with white spume that vortexed upwards creating a seascape of turquoise geysers.

We were working our way south through the Bay of Biscay earlier this week. The day had started well with crowds of Common Dolphins racing to join us. As the ocean unleashed her swell so the cetaceans became increasing difficult to find. Some distant Fin Whale Blows and a passing pod of Long finned Pilot Whales were punctuated with more rorqual blows. Sea birds fared better with Manx, Balearic, Cory’s and Great Shearwaters punctuated with Great Skua sightings, but even they deserted us at the height of the storm.

On the return leg the sea was somewhat calmer. More Common Dolphins, a host of Sunfish and more shearwaters but not the hoped for beaked whales.

Maybe next year…

2015 09 17 Common Dolphin Bay of Biscay_Z5A8367

2015 09 16 Bay of Biscay_Z5A8189



Not a true migrant but plenty around at the moment. Migrant Hawkers were misnamed.

Migrant Hawker


Shrike one!

Sat inside a hedgerow the Red Backed Shrike at Salthouse last week was showing quite well. I wonder where it originated.

Red backed Shrike


Just Bee’n?

There’s a thin ribbon of land twix saltmash and seawall along the Norfolk coast. This narrow habitats is the place to find a very rare bee. We saw them on a tour last week. Sea Aster Bees are active right now.

Sea Aster Mining Bee


Talk it up!

After one Beluga in Northern Ireland we get a pair off Northumberland in August. Last seen swimming south. TOWARDS US … in Norfolk!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of sea watching of late. It’s easy to let one’s mind drift off sometimes with outlandish thoughts. Very therapeutic this staring at the sea. The thought of seeing a pair of Belugas drift passed like the two I photographed a couple of years ago in the St Lawrence; well, to assign a rating it would definitely fall in the ‘orgasmic’ bracket.

I’m not asking for much am I? Just a little extension of travel, a small deviation of direction and we could get those two in Norfolk. Talk it up. TALK IT UP!


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Sep 2015


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