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…
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.