The unsound approach

Concrete rules for self found listing

Some real-life examples from Norfolk’s top birding girl band:



It’s early May. Kimberley, Sarah and Nadine are walking down beach road at Salthouse. Suddenly, Nadine stops short, as she hears an unusual bird calling overhead. She shouts to the others: “That sounds like a Long-toed Stint!” The girls get poor views as it flies overhead and disappears into a field. Sarah feels confident she saw toes projecting beyond the tail, but the others couldn’t make out any detail on it. They split up to work the field, and after a few minutes, Kimberley locates the bird in a ditch. She scopes it up, and after thoroughly grilling the legs, mantle and head, she is able to confirm that the supercillium definitely doesn’t reach the bill base – it’s got to be a Long-toed. In this case, all three observers contributed, so they can all have it for self found.



This time, Cheryl and Nicola are wandering down a quiet lane in west Cornwall, when a Black-winged Pratincole appears over the field, right in front of them. They both gasp simultaneously, and Cheryl cries out “It’s a bloody black-winged!” As they both got on the bird at the same moment, they can both have it.



It’s mid September. All five girls are at halfway house on Blakeney, bashing their way though the sueda. From the middle of the biggest patch, Sarah, flushes a small passerine, which flies out onto the saltmarsh. She calls to the others: “Erm, that looked interesting…”, and starts to head towards the spot. Nadine, who is already out on the saltmarsh, scans the spot Sarah pointed to. She gets on the bird, and instantly calls it as a first winter male Subalp. She and Sarah celebrate their joint find. The other three girls weren’t really involved, so they can’t count it.



Kimberley is out doing the hedges around Warham Greens, when she gets a phone call from Andy Holden. Apparently a lesser golden plover sp. has just come on the pager for Stiffkey. She legs it to the car, bombs along the coast road, and is the first competent birder on the scene. Soon, she picks out the bird and clinches it as a moulting adult American. Nice work, but she wasn’t present when the bird was first found, so she was basically just twitching it. And that doesn’t count as a find.


Sarah and Nadine are driving to Horsey to check the pipe dump for rare wheatears. As they head towards Martham, a dark looking gull swings in front of the car. Sarah sits up – “didn’t that look a bit like a Laughing Gull?”… Nadine slows down for a moment, but then they both decide they were just imaging it, and head on to the coast. An hour later, news breaks of an adult Laugher in fields near Potter Heigham. Clearly it’s the same bird, but they can’t claim it as self found, because they didn't bother to properly search for it. They are duly ashamed by their lack of professionalism.


Early on a Saturday morning, Birdguides release some late news from the previous day – a Franklins Gull was seen in the roost at Breydon. Being migration season, Nicola is already out in the field, and making her way to Berney Arms. With the other girls still in bed, she hasn’t heard any fresh news all morning. When she reaches the main scrape, she gets straight onto a fine adult Franklins. When she phones the news out, she’s told about the Breydon sighting. In this case, there was no easy way for her to hear the news, so she can definitely have it self found.


On a fine morning in August, a Black Stork drifts slowly north over Great Yarmouth. A message appears on Cheryl’s pager whilst she and Nadine are working the dune slacks at Gun Hill. She immediately texts news to Sarah, who is out grilling the terns at Sea Palling. It is then reported heading north over Winterton. Again, the news is relayed to Sarah. By this time, she has run to the top of the dunes and started scanning south. Sure enough, after half an hour, the stork drifts over her head and off inland. She phones the news straight out, but wouldn't think of claiming it as a find, as she was fully expecting it to fly over her head. Meanwhile, on the north coast, Cheryl and Nadine decide to head to Heacham Golf Course to look for rare sylvias. There are no more pager reports of the stork - it seems it has disappeared into the wilds of mid Norfolk. That evening, just as the two girls are heading back through the dunes, Nadine spots something soaring high overhead. Sure enough, Cheryl gets bins on it and it’s a Black Stork. This time, the sighting is a total surprise, as there hadn't been any reports in their area - they were at least 50km from the last sighting. Consequently, they could both tick it as a self found.         



On a dull day in late winter, Sarah is out scouring the broads for rare ducks. As usual for the broads, she's finding nothing at all. She hears about a Greater Scaup that's appeared at Wroxham, and given the lack of anything else doing, she decides she may as well go and see it. On arriving, she gets on the bird and finds straight away that it is a drake Lesser Scaup. This is a complete surprise, and given that it was confidently identified as a Greater by whoever saw it first, she can count it as a find. If the orignal finder had released the news as a "possible Lesser Scaup", she wouldn't have been able to claim it, even if she were the first to confidently pronounce the id. This is because twitching a "possible" or a "probable" is still twitching, not finding.