I must admit to being a bit cynical sometimes when I read through some of the sightings on the RBA website. I know I’m not alone. Sightings that begin with the words ‘unconfirmed report of…’, or ‘belated report of…’, or ones that end with the words ‘seen from a passing train’, or ‘seen from a moving car’. But should I be so cynical? I mean we all see birds when we’re not actually ‘birding’ and don’t have ‘bins round our necks. We might be walking to work, or in the car, or on the bus or train, whatever, birds are all around us and as birders we’re watching them all the time. I know I am. So presumably it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that just occasionally we might see something unusual from a passing train or car. I know that it happens because it’s happened to me….
The most memorable for me was the Great Grey Shrike I found in 2009 as we sped past the entrance of Alston Moor Golf Club. I was in the passenger seat and we were travelling at about 50mph. Almost out of the corner of my eye, and for no more than a split second, I saw a blurred image of a shrike perched on top of a sallow. But it was enough for me to scream to the driver to stop and turn around flippin’ quick! Thankfully I wasn’t hallucinating, and as we returned we were soon watching a marvellous Great Grey Shrike in all it’s glory. And with the camera in the car I soon had the all-important proof too, not that I need worry – this bird stayed for some time and allowed many others to enjoy it. But what if it had flown off in the time it took us to turn around, would I have believed my own eyes, for that split second? I doubt it, I’m sure I would’ve talked myself out of it and that would’ve been that. No-one would’ve believed me anyway – a brief view of a shrike from a passing car, and then it was gone when you went back – yeah right. Even I wouldn’t believe it!
And then there was the time when I turned a sharp corner on Unst in Shetland and promptly nearly ran over 2 Common Rosefinches that were sat in the middle of the road. It does happen. Sometimes we see stuff from our cars when we’re least expecting it, or when we’re not actually birding. Which brings me on to today.
Driving my bus back from Cardurnock earlier I saw an egret as we approached Whitrigg. Nice I thought – Little Egret. Then as I got closer it flew and it was obviously a flippin’ Great White Egret! Chuffin’ eck! But that was it, it flew towards the Wampool and in the space of a few seconds it was all over. I was elated, yet frustrated at the same time. Unlike the shrike and rosefinches this time I couldn’t stop, and I had no camera to prove it either. But it was a Great White Egret, of that I’m sure. Could I write an honest description that would stand up to the scrutiny of our records panel? No. But am I still having it? Yes. And if I saw a sighting on the RBA website that ended with the words ‘seen from a passing bus…’ would I believe it? Not a chance!