Modern Day Birding Problems Number One Bird Information A Cautionary Tale

A rare bird mystery on Anglesey involving a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, old photo.

While out birding on the Isle of Anglesey recently I met two other birders, you know top of the range telescopes and bins, and exchanged pleasantries and asked the age old question “Anything about?”

To say I was surprised by the answer was an understatement to say the least! They had just been to see “the” Buff-breasted Sandpiper AND Pectoral Sandpiper on the Braint Estuary near Newbrough on Anglesey. I imagine my face must have been a picture but I composed myself and told them I had not heard of either of these rarities being seen at that site, I like to keep up with local bird news and two rarities at one site would cause quite a stir in the local birding community. The chaps had heard about the two North American waders on the internet and had driven over to look for them and succeeded in seeing both birds, though to be fair they were not one hundred percent sure about the Buff-breasted Sandpiper but it was with the Pectoral Sandpiper and looked like the picture in their field guide so were pretty sure. I was rather taken a back but thanked them for their news and went on my way.

Of course I kept thinking about it, there had by coincidence been a report of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper and a Pectoral Sandpiper together in Lancashire but they would not have had time to drive from there to Anglesey, especially as they had also seen the Red-backed Shrike at Cemlyn that morning too. So what on earth was going on? Had the local birders missed this amazing duo of rarities being reported? I checked Rare Bird Alert sightings and they too had missed the report of two rare waders on Anglesey! All very odd.

Chatting to Martin Jones, AKA Anglesey Bird News on Twitter, a few days later I mentioned the duo of rare waders knowing that Martin had not heard of them as he would have tweeted about them. Martin was as baffled as I was and neither of us could think of an explanation of how the two chaps had heard of the two rare waders on the Braint Estuary which they went to see, and saw, but no else had mentioned them anywhere!

Then this morning Martin may well have got to the bottom of the little mystery as he saw a tweet from our friend Dan Brown sent the day before the sighting of the two American waders. Dan’s tweet read as follows…

“Went in search of Pec and Buff-breasted Sands in the tall salt marsh grass of the Braint Estuary, Anglesey today. My pulse raced as a head appeared, sadly it wasn’t something from across the pond, but it was something unexpected!”

Dan had found a Common Guillemot in the grass at the Braint Estuary and not any American waders that he gone there in the hope of finding! There were no rare waders to be seen before, during or after Dan’s visit! Yet somehow the two chaps had twitched them AND seen them!

So a lesson for us all here read the tweet carefully, check and double check the things you read on the internet and do not jump to conclusions without fact checking first for your-self.

And oh if you do see any rare birds please share the news with others if possible, many thanks.

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