Thursday, 5 December 2013

End of the Line?

Within birding circles certain topics evoke huge feeling like you would not believe. The three following small words contain a huge amount of meaning if you're of a certain age, which I'm not, being still very youthful and devil-may-care. They are slender, billed, and Curlew. Away back in 1998, away up in Northumberland, what may or may not have been a bit of a runty Curlew was found. Proclaimed as a Slender-billed Curlew, a species near extinction, many twitchers moved heaven and earth to get up there and see it for themselves. Some managed it, some didn't. And as you can imagine this provoked a highly partisan debate about whether it was one or not. Whether or not this debate was split evenly down the lines of who saw it and who didn't I cannot possibly say. Suffice it to say that the bird got accepted by the various committees that exist in order to make decisions on these things, and those who saw it tucked it away on their British lists whilst sticking two fingers up at those who didn't see it and weren't keen on it being one. From what I can gather, righteous indignation reigned.

For years.

Even now Druridge Bay's Wikipedia entry makes mention of it, and the bird itself has a full page! But today, in the latest twist to this long-running saga, it was formally kicked off the list again, a mere 15 years later!. Also kicked off again was the longest running BirdForum thread in the history of the universe, which was started in 2008 as a ten year anniversary "celebration" of the arrival of the bird. Birders have long memories, and year after year the debate rumbled on. If I may summarise briefly....

"Is not!"
"Is not!"

It was at its most active in the first two years, which saw 38 out of the [current] 55 pages, and 2011 was still pretty good, contributing a further 13. Thereafter it slowly declined, including an unforgiveable break of eight months until a mild awakening in February 2012. Perhaps some of the protagonists grew up? It then limped on for another few pages to October 2012, and until today had lain tragically dormant. But in the space of only a few hours we now have another three pages, and the top-class entertainment of watching grown men squabble over something massively inconsequential, err sorry, I meant over a matter of life and death, can begin all over again. Hurrah!

Funnily enough I was recently contacted by an American journalist wanting to find out about birding extremes in the UK. Whilst I am almost certainly not the person she actually needs to be talking to, her timing could not have been better. All she has to do is read 1,355 posts and she will know all she needs to know.

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