A dilemma…

Yesterday I had a very brief trip to Old Moor. It was absolutely perishing, and most of the lakes were frozen solid, meaning there were very few birds around. Even on the lakes where there were birds, there was little of too much interest, bar large flocks of wigeon and teal and a group of dozing goosanders (much too far away to scrutinise properly for the female red-breasted merganser seen there recently). A bittern was on the sightings list for the day at the reedbeds, but it was too cold to stand and wait for it to come into roost!

On leaving one of the hides, a guy tipped me off there was a peregrine at the next one along. I marched up to see it, and there was a small group of excited birders taking turns to look down a man’s scope. I found the perched bird with the naked eye, trained my scope on it and was greeted with an absolutely spectacular view of…

A sparrowhawk.


So my dilemma was do I correct the assembled crowd? End their excitement at seeing a peregrine, risk making the man proudly showing it down his scope look a bit daft, and make myself look like a smug bastard in the process? Or give them the correct ID, helping them clinch the differences between birds of prey, meaning they’ll appreciate the first time the DO see a peregrine even more, and ensuring they won’t be tempted to send stringy peregrine records to their local bird groups?

In the end I chickened out and let them have their peregrine. Did I do the right thing?

The lesson to learn here, too, is that just because someone has nice optics, don’t trust their birding IDs! And also don’t take the word of others uncritically – one couple were even pouring over a field guide deciding on the age and sex of their “peregrine”, without noticing the fact it was a completely different species.


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My name is Pete

6 thoughts on “A dilemma…”

  1. Personally I think I would have had to tell them Pete, and maybe even get a book out and show the differences if I had the time.

    Same happened recently to me at Potteric when a group of birders were unusually trying to talk themselves out of the Caspian gull just as I arrived.

    I found it and talked them through the diagnostics.

    Saying that sometimes at Rodley a group will talk themselves into twite and not linnet and I just can’t be bothered because they seem so happy!

    See you soon,

    PS have we exchanged links yet?

  2. Hey Marcus,

    Yeah I wish I had done now, my girlfriend was with me so maybe I was a bit too wary of looking like a nob in front of her!

    I’ve popped a link to your blog on my Blogroll.

    All the best,


  3. I agree with Marcus on that one and would have told them. Similar things have happened to me on occasions. I once spent an hour in the wader scrape hide trying to convince a bloke that the dozen Cormorants on the island were Cormorants and not Shags, that he insisted they were.
    In the end i just gave up up. He was`nt having any of it. Plonker!!!

  4. Dean – Oh dear, on the shags/cormorants argument! Reminds me of the time I had a conversation with someone.

    MAN: “What are those waders by the black-headed gulls?”

    ME: “Black-headed gull chicks”

    MAN: “No they’re not!”


  5. LOL! I had a similar experience at Old Moor a couple of years ago in the furthest hide (can’t remember what it’s called)

    Man: Look, a Sparrowhawk!

    Me: Ummm… it’s a Kestrel.

    Man: No, that’s a Sparrowhawk.

    Me: What? That there…?

    Man: Yes!

    Me: What? That there hovering on the spot…?

    Man: Ahh, erm…yes…. er

    So rests the case for the defence M’lud!

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