|Chiloe Wigeon - One of the regulars had not seen this South American Species so here it is|
Was I surprised? - Not really.
Like most experienced birders I have spent my fair share of time trying to clinch a female American Wigeon here and there and spent one memorable Saturday afternoon in west Wales checking through several hundred female birds trying to find that one special visitor. I have to concede that it is a great testament to the skill of Steve Nutall that the bird that many of us were fortunate to see at Belvide a few years ago was actually found and identified, as that is still the only specimen that I have seen in the U.K.
Such a misidentification is easy to criticise unless you have actually been in the position where you think you might have found one. It’s OK to say that the axillaries are white but in some light conditions, the difference between pale grey and white can be very difficult to ascertain, particularly when a bird is likely to show that aspect of its plumage for a very brief period (and you actually need to be looking at it when it does)!
Female American ducks all seem to be problematic. I am reasonably confident that I have seen a female Green Winged Teal in the U.K. but I doubt that such an outrageous claim would be treated with respect (despite the fact that one of the top birders in Britain did an identification paper some years ago that in my opinion made such an identification comparatively straightforward). Barrows Goldeneye is another subtle challenge and yes, I have even twitched a putative one of those in the past to no avail (well you have to, just in case...).
The Photo at the top of this article is yet another species that occasionally goes 'over the wall' and causes problems - I have even seen a hybrid of this species that for several days was widely twitched and ticked as an American Wigeon at Eyebrook Reservoir so hybridisation is yet another problem to challenge the aspiring rare duck researcher!
The point is that finding a Possible rarity is just the beginning. You then have to have the bottle to put your suspicions in the public domain. If you were right its plaudits all the way. If you get it wrong it is usually back-handed disparaging comments. It’s no wonder that so many people refuse to make their observations public knowledge when it comes down to trial by peer group.
Despite the fact that I first heard of this bird by a text from Kev Clements, it appears that the bird was actually found on Sunday? There is a photograph on the internet if you have a look and I will concede that the tone of the head plumage makes it look 'interesting' (although perhaps not a classic candidate for Yankee Wigeon)? I don't know who the original finder was but for what my opinion is worth, I would say to them, well done for getting the word out and allowing other people to enjoy the experience of sorting it out. It’s all learning-curve stuff and thats the way that we all learn just a little bit more about our hobby. I wish I could have seen it and been a part of the debate. - Chaz