Documenting  more than just memories

In March 2015 – two days after Magnus Robb and the other The Sound Approach members had launched their fifth title ‘Undiscovered owls’ (Robb & The Sound Approach 2015) at the annual Dutch Birding day – I had the honor of showing Killian Mullarney and Dick Forsman around at my local patch. Our target bird was European Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus, as Killian wanted to learn more about the continental subspecies A p littoralis. Without much trouble we located five individuals at IJmuiden’s South Pier. While I grabbed my camera, Killian took out his notebook. Once on the way back, we discussed what we had seen. It turned out that, although I had succeeded in collecting some fine documentation, I had not really given the birds a good look. Killian on the other hand, had noted all sorts of plumage features, proving to me that looking and seeing clearly are not the same. My photographs indeed showed those features. Interestingly, a rather fresh looking individual with broad wingbars stood out from the more colourful ones with worn median and greater coverts (and thus narrow wingbars). Taking notes, capturing images and making sound-recordings all play an important role in bird identification, especially when combined with a curious mind.

Besides documenting what the birds look and sound like, it is also worth recording when and where they occur and in what numbers. After all, bird populations are subject to change. Trends can be very obvious or much more subtle or confusing. Range expansions or contractions can take place rather quickly. For example, when I saw my first Western Great Egret Ardea alba at Oostvaardersplassen in Flevoland in July 1991, it was still quite rare in the Netherlands. Up to 1985 it was even considered by the Dutch rarities committee (CDNA) (Scharringa & Winkelman 1986). However, in just two decades this species has become a common visitor throughout the country. In 2015 alone I recorded over 400 sightings of up to a 1000 individuals. At the other end of the spectrum, Grey Partridge Perdix perdix, European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus and Crested Lark Galerida cristata (considered a rarity from 2015 onwards, Haas et al 2016) are examples of species with declining populations in the Netherlands. In 2015, I recorded only five, zero, four and one sighting of these species, respectively...  

Black Grouse intobirding.com

My last encounter with a Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix was in March 2013. The species is currently at the verge of extinction in the Netherlands.

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Published 6 March 2018