Saturday, 10 August 2013

Barolo shearwater!

It must be an age thing in that I am having increasing trouble with my 'T's- technology and taxonomy! I have a simple mobile phone- I dare not get a 'smart' phone as I have no idea what 3G or 4G is, I have a HD capable TV but I have no idea how to program it to get HD channels, my microwave is programmable but I just reheat for 'x' number of minutes and my modest car has a computer so advanced it has it's very own user manual. Then there is taxonomy- I used to know what a sub-alpine warbler was- now is it eastern or western?, I thought I could I/D a stonechat but now I have to be aware of the siberian variety, same for a rock pipit as apparently I now need to find the scandinavian variety. Then of course we have the good old chestnuts of the redpoll and wagtail complexes- enough to give any average birder grey hair. I digress, but there is a point- yesterday I chanced upon a wonderful seabird- a mega in fact!- a cute small shearwater that for decades I would have immediately called a 'Little shearwater' Somewhere along the line this then became a Macaronesian shearwater (or is it Macronesian?- I seem to come across both spelling forms!). Apparently this wonderful seabird is now known as a Barolo shearwater! (as an aside does anyone know how to pronounce that?- is it bah as in the noise sheep make or bar as in propping one up with a pint!!) Anyway a great find no matter what it is called. I observed the bird for 1.5-2 minutes at a range of approx. 300-350 metres- not ideal and certainly no opportunity for a photo. but the bird was strikingly different to the manx shearwater that it was associating with- smaller by 20-25%, the same two-tone coloration- jet black above, snow white below, very rapid wingbeats producing weak, fluttering flight on obviously shorter, rounder wings, a dark band to the underwing trailing edge, and occasionally a strange 'head-up' posture. Unfortunately I could not make out an obvious pale face and dark eye- but hey I'm more than happy with my ID. I'm left with mixed emotions- absolutely thrilled to have had the privilege of chancing upon a mega rarity, but this is tinged with a hint of melancholy- no phone calls or text messages to send to fellow birders to twitch it and share the delight. Of course I'm now left to decide whether or not to submit my description to the IRBC (Irish rare bird committee). On the one hand I know this sighting will inevitably be clouded in the 'single observer' issues conundrum, but on the other I think that for a bird of this rarity status it really ought to go into the system- purely for the birds scientific merit. Right that's it- I have convinced myself that I really should submit so I have to go and write and email my description. Good fun this birding! 

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