Plovergate! Another Case of Ridiculous Suppression in North Cornwall. *UPDATE*

I’m sure many of you will be aware by now of the suppression of a Semipalmated Plover at Davidstow Airfield and Crowdy Reservoir recently. The bird was present at the two sites for a total of (at least) 15 days and was seen by at least three named ‘birdwatchers’ if not more. Davidstow is wholly accessible and would have been an ideal location for policing of a ‘big twitch’ so it beggars belief that this bird was suppressed. There was no other reason for the suppression other than the selfishness of those that saw it. To make matters worse, one of the party, who even goes by the pseudonym of ‘SUPPRESSOR’ on a popular forum, has stated on there “We enjoyed good views of it for 15 days, 100’s of pics taken. Our motto is FIND YOUR OWN BIRDS“. Strange then that the same people have been seen at rarities across Cornwall that other people have found. Double standards. Also sad that two of the others are actually committee members at the Cornwall Bird Watching and Preservation Society. We at the Cornwall Birding Association, along with other websites and Societies, like the CBWPS and Sennen Cove website, have worked hard over the past few years to get the news from Cornwall out immediately when a rarity turns up so find it hard to believe in this day and age that birds are still suppressed for no other reason than one upmanship. We do not condone the selfish behaviour of the individuals that saw the bird. Furthermore we have now received a short press release from the CBWPS regarding their stance on the matter and we are pleased that they in principle support our views:

Press release from the CBWPS

We wish to express our own concern that news of a rarity has not been published for the benefit of all birders. It is not the policy of Cornwall Bird Watching & Preservation Society to suppress such records, unless it is necessary to safe guard the bird or habitat. On the contrary we run our own Daily County News which extensively records the birds seen in Cornwall and as on a recent occasion at Walmsley Sanctuary, we are prepared to open up our private Reserves to non-members when a rarity is sighted. The alleged individuals on the CBWPS committee have acted on their own initiative and in doing so do not represent the policy of the Society. They have not communicated their finding of the Plover in question to the Society”. (D.Julian, CBWPS Chairman on behalf of the Committee)

29 thoughts on “Plovergate! Another Case of Ridiculous Suppression in North Cornwall. *UPDATE*

  1. Andrew Carey

    As you say, the double standards of these people is astonishing! Time we put a motion to CBWPS to remove such people from the membership, let alone the committee, as surely they must be prepared to act in the best interests of ALL members.

  2. Jane Farnaby

    I love to watch birds. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a woman but I have found some male birdwatchers very secretive. I don’t understand this mentality but these individuals are obviously very sad. I feel they live up to their ‘twitching’ name.

  3. Mike Passman

    Paul – Spent Sunday eve getting a party together to drive down from Devon on Monday .Only when i spoke to Vic T was I informed that there are still serious birders who continue to act as though it is 1960.

    All the people I have met on my visits to Cornwall have been very helpful & informative. With such a rarity I would take great pride in helping everyone to see what turns up on my local patch .

    If they are committee members even worse .

    Don’t include in next years rare bird report.


  4. Vic Theaker

    Im not a member as I live 350 mls away but I check your web site every night.To think of the Birds I mis when not on Holls down in Cornwall.But you get selfish people in all hobbies but its only one or two im glad to say.They will be lost behind the £10 000 camera+equipment.Good the Majority

  5. Martin Wightman

    I don’t think there is anything in the Constitution of CBWPS about suppression of bird records, so I’m not sure what point Mr Carey (Comment 1) is trying to make. The fact that some of the individuals are on the CBWPS Committee is immaterial. The principal purpose of the CBWPS Committee is to “deal with all business of the Society” – what individuals do in their own time when not dealing with the business of the Society, is, I would presume, up to them. Presumably following Mr Carey’s logic they should also be barred from membership of the RSPB and any other conservation organisations to which they belong. Incidentally, I would have thought that the welfare of the bird should be the over-riding concern, and should certainly come before the interests of members of a bird club (CBWPS Press Release). I fail to see how a mass twitch involving many vehicles would have improved this bird’s welfare. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I am one of the “criminals” who suppressed this record. Having witnessed the behaviour of a number of idiots who insisted on getting out of their vehicles to “get a better look” at the Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Davidstow, I am convinced that suppression was the correct course of action and allowed a tired and disorientated migrant to recharge its batteries in peace.

  6. Paul Freestone Post author

    Thanks for your honesty Martin, Im sure you’ll pass on your comments to Mr Christophers who was spotted walking across the mud/marsh ? at Crowdy to find it, in front of other birders who obviously knew nothing of its presence. For someone to be then gloating about the fact that he had been watching it for 15 days, 100’s of photos etc maens it was obviously well fed and quiet tame as a lot of these yank waders are. Suppression as far as Im concerned is done by one person who has the welfare of the Bird at heart, not one who phones round his cronies so they can have a look and no one else is allowed. The Plover could have been properly policed by the finders and at the same time could have raised money for the Society or other charity. I fail to see how you or any of the others that saw it can justify not putting the news out on such a rarity. Why did you not show the same level of concern for the Semi p sand, Buff breasts, lB dowitcher etc when they were at Davidstow? All were seen by the masses, all rested, fed and went on there way. You’re argument about the welfare of the bird is flawed. I wonder how many of those birds just mentioned are on your yearlist, thanks to the finder putting the news out. Selfish. Nothing but selfish. The other thing is, why wasn’t the news put out once the bird had departed? Just kept to yourselves until it was eventually leaked out and now you’re all defensive about it. I trust you will think about this incident when you and your group are at the next rarity found by someone else.

  7. Martin Wightman

    We’re never going to agree on this one but I can assure you that malice or spite played no part in it. I have no idea who the person who submitted that post on Birdforum is. It certainly wasn’t me or any of the other 3 people who I saw it with. That kind of gloating oneupmanship doesn’t interest me in the slightest.

    The reason the plover was able to feed up was because it was left in peace, something which I contend, again, would not have happened if hundreds of cars had descended on the site. If people can’t contain themselves at the sight of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper, what chance would a Semi-palmated Plover have?

    I disagree with your view that the other waders were left in peace. I was at Davidstow for 5 consecutive days and all I saw were birds constantly getting spooked due to the actions of idiots. Incidentally, the only reason why no-one else saw the plover is that everyone went up there to see a Buff-breast and a White-rumped (or later, a Semi-P Sand and a Dowitcher), and once they had seen them they legged it – they couldn’t be bothered looking to see if there was anything else there. So, yes, I’m “guilty” of the heinous crime of suppression, but the many other people who I saw at Davidstow over that period were “guilty” as well – of being lazy and wandering around with blinkers on waiting for the next magic “beep” of their pagers.

    Finally, Mr Christophers can read just as well as you or I can, so there’ll be no need for me to pass on my comments to him.

  8. Andy Carey

    Mr Wightman clearly does not understand my point. The fact is this is 2011 and the CBWPS, whether he likes it or not, needs to operate in a modern way, and, as a membership organisation, is reliant on it’s membership for its existence. Only 15 members and it will die!. Mr whightman and his ilk are NOT the sole arbiter of what is good for a bird, and as such, those with no concern for their fellow members have no place in a position of responsibility within such an organisation, in my view. it is even worse when a selected “inner-sanctum” is informed and permitted to view!!

  9. Darren j hughes

    you guys I was down there at the time (ok should have looked a little harder but if someone had known maybe a few more would have picked it up)There shed loads Ringed plover there.
    Are we regesing 20 years or what.Personally I don’t give one but I’m sure there are plenty that do

  10. Darren j hughes

    Just actually read all of the above OH MYWORD it’s a bloody Ringed Plover from the other side of the Atlantic get a life(must be getting old) And buy the way when I find a Sib B Robin I just can’t be arsed to tell anyone I’ll just send the photo’s

  11. Darren j hughes

    Sorry guys seen it all before (not supression)In Dorset in the eights and on the isle of wight in the ninetys.New has to mix with the old or you will be battering each other and not doing what you are supposed to be doing

    And before the old school start I have been birding west Cornwall for the best part of 20 years spring and summer/autumn

  12. Darren j hughes

    Mr Wightman
    No pager have never had one never got out of the car 35 years in the game from north to south havn’t been ticking for 12 years stay in the car on Davidstow SLOWLY not a prob

    getting my goat now

  13. Martin Wightman

    Mr Carey clearly misses the point that CBWPS is governed by a set of Rules which it publishes every year for all to see in its “Birds in Cornwall” report. If it is felt that those Rules do not reflect the needs of members of the Society, then it is up to the members to introduce changes. Going along to the next AGM might be a good place to start.

    I do agree with Mr Carey that it is not up to me to decide what is best for a bird. Fortunately, the Birdwatcher’s Code of Conduct does that quite nicely, and it is quite explicit in stating that the welfare of the bird must always come first. If Mr Carey needs to see a copy, the Birdwatcher’s Yearbook publishes the Code in every edition. For the record I am not, and never have been, a member of CBWPS. I have, however, contributed to its annual report since 1990, and will continue to do so.

  14. Chris Griffin

    I find it completely disgusting to see this kind of thing happening still. I heard about it when I first arrived in Cornwall, but tried very hard to disbelieve people could be that selfish.

    Unfortunately I have had the stories re-affirmed by this incident. As to the ‘welfare of the bird’… as long as the twitch was policed properly (as PF quite rightly says) which would have been extremely easy to do (why not think of guided car trips…. people could just wait their turn and pay £5…. just think of the donations to CWPBS – if only 300 birders (no doubt there would be more) came down that’s £1,500… quite a significant sum don’t you think?)…. then everyone could have enjoyed this bird and I (no doubt along with the rest of the birding community) firmly believe that the bird would not have been disturbed or stopped from recharging it’s batteries. Also, Mr Wightman (whoever you are), you wouldn’t have lost the respect (if you had any to start with… probably not by the sounds of things) of pretty much the entire country’s birding population.

    I understand and I agree about some aspects of ‘suppression’ (not that I like the idea of it) of birds on sensitive sites and know that if birds appear on private land then release of bird news has to be thought about very hard and more often than not the news cannot be released due to landholders discretion (I have had my fair share of these instances and I hated every second of not being able to tell anyone), but at a public site? Mindless.

    In the end, it’s happened, there’s nothing we can do about it, thankfully I did see the Dawlish bird, but there are many others that I know who regularly bird the valleys and their local patches every day hoping to find something special to share with everyone else who stay in Cornwall and don’t go twitching other counties…. I take it Mr Wightman you saw the Dawlish bird too? You’ve let those hard-working birders down and unfortunately undone alot of the excellent work that this site along with CWPBS and Sennen Cove have tried to do to erase the memories of suppression from the past.

    By the way… if you do have photographs of it, surely that would mean that you guys will have probably chased it from one end to another trying to get photos?? (On a side note… why haven’t they been published for proof?)

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  15. Andrew Carey

    Mr Whightman needs to stop trying to have his cake and eat it! We are all aware of the code of conduct and I am very aware of the CBWPS rules. He has participated in an action that has received widespread condemnation, clearly shows no remorse for his and his pals actions and does not accept that, being at odds with a significant number of members at CBWPS is in any way detrimental to those of the 15 cronies who hold seats on the committee. At least Stan is honest about it & has, I believe, nothing to do with CBWPS these days.

  16. Roger Smaldon

    I must agree with comments expressed by Martin Wightman.
    Although I cannot condone the fact that news did not get out to others, it is up to the finders of rarities whether they make the news public or otherwise. No one has the right to see everything. As Mr Wightman says behaviour at Davidstow is far from good on occasions with many birders only bent on seeing their quest and/or getting the closest photographs.
    There is a large element of sour grapes being expressed in many of the comments.
    Besides as I understand it the bird was on view for most of the time it was on site. And with all the visiting twitchers to this location for other Yankee waders, no one else had the wit or skill to find it? That surely says it all.

  17. Vic Theaker

    If you dont want all the country birders to turn up why dont you do the same as the Lound Bird club do When they Visit there Local patch The Idle Valley have a Mobile Phone club who finds the bird sends two tex messages to the next two birders on the list till it goes all way down the line this means your club members get first bite of the cherry.Then you can let it go world wide as my wife says when you have once seen a bird you have seen it why keep going back,From the man up north

  18. Archie Archer

    Martin, I wonder whether the only reason you and your pathetic little club stumbled upon the plover was because you were there to admire other birders finds? I find your behaviour pretty childish as well as extremely selfish….. and please don’t try and feed me the old ‘tired migrant/bird’s welfare’ chestnut as it just doesn’t wash.

  19. Paul Freestone Post author

    Roger, i agree that it is up to the finder of the bird to decide wether a mass twitch would effect the bird’s welfare. However, on this occasion, the finder decided to tell a small group of his cronies, who then enjoyed the bird all to themselves. I am reliably informed that Stan Christophers was seen walking across the marsh at Crowdy to see the plover and has recently deliberatley driven next to birders cars at Davidstow inorder to prevent them seeing or indeed finding the plover for themselves. This shows no such welfare for the bird at all. As for the wit and skill to find it for themselves, the skill of being able to identify birds comes very much from seeing them in the field. This would have been one such opportunity for those having not seen a Semipalmated plover to observe it at relatively close quarters and gain said skill so that next time they might ID one for themselves. (I have seen them in the Uk and abroad BTW so no sour grapes here!), so that does not say it all. Anyone who actually saw the bird after the finder and has already been to Davidstow for the other stuff must therefore fall into the ‘no wit or skill’ catagory? That then must include yourself and the others that saw the Plover. The fact is the bird was on public open land and would have been accesible to all, not just a chosen few. If Mr Bosistow had chosen to keep the news of his find to himself then all well and good, but as soon as he let the dirty douzen know, the incident became a disgraceful act of suppression. Im sure the ones who were told about it were hell bent on seeing it once they got the news!? Or did they stay at home and think, “No the welfare of the bird must come first, I won’t go onto Davidstow in case I flush it”. No did they fuck. They got in their cars and rushed there to see it, so don’t take the moral high ground with that comment. The opening line of your post states, “Although I cannot condone the fact the news did not get out to others….”. You should have stopped there as the rest of your post seems to condone their actions.

  20. Paul Freestone Post author

    Hi Vic, we currently have a twitter news feed from Cornwall Birding that goes straight to your mobile phone with all the bird news for cornwall. CBA mambers will have access to that facility in early November (When I get back from the Scillies!!)

  21. Northern Birder

    Maybe these people who look for their own birds (and clearly make good finds) don’t want their patches overrun for days on end by people who spend most of their time sat on their arses waiting for a pager to bleep? When they appear on others’ patches, some of them have no regard for personal niceties, no regard for sensible parking, no regard for where they should or should not be, and probably not much of an idea of what they’re looking at.

    However, the gloating on BF is not needed and will only serve to wind people up.

  22. Paul Freestone Post author

    Northern Birder, THEIR patches??? Davidstow is public land and used by dogwalkers, learner drivers and the like, as well as birders. It is not their private birding domain! The bird was initially found at Crowdy Reservoir then moved (or flushed) to Davidstow, where it was re-located. The airfield was already well watched by the hoards as the bird was present at the same time as semi p sandpiper and as for finding their own birds! I would’nt mind if they didnt go and see other peoples finds. One of them deliberatley drove their car between the birds and another birders car to stop them seeing or finding the Plover. I suggest you read ALL of the comments on here before making comment. As for sitting on their arses etc. This is a very narrow minded view. Have you never heard of a bird then gone and seen it? If not, then thats very commendable, but Im sure you have. We’ve all been at work or home when a mate has phoned and said, have you seen your pager, or, have you heard about the such and such at Wherever, if you haven’t then I suggest you get some new mates! This in itself is twitching. Even if its just a locally scarce species. I agree there are those that do not comply with the rules and stop at nothing to get the tick. However, there are also those of us that would have liked to have seen the bird to further our knowledge of the species ID points or at the very least get it on our County lists! Oh, and apart from a Yellowthroat, that was also suppressed, Im not aware of anything ‘good’ that the watchers of this bird have found. The gloating on FB is only a very small part of the winding up these idiots have started.

  23. Colin Selway

    Roger! in regard to your reference to ‘sour grapes/invidiousness’ I ask the question who in their right mind would envy these sorts of reputations, attitudes and behaviours? The saddest thing of all is that a few more naive pawns have been sucked in to this ugly game. As for your elitist, arrogant inference that ‘no one else using the airfield could possibly have the wit or inclination to be looking for a SPP in autumn’ just speaks volumes, I know for a fact that a Ringed Plover (date temporarily withheld for obvious reasons) showing some characteristics of SPP has already been submitted to the county recorder with good photographs, I’m not suggesting that it’s the individual claimed by some as a SPP how could I possibly know that? Just making the point that the airfield is open to all birders.

  24. Helen Dawson

    As a novice, female, scottish birder I look forward to my annual fortnight birding in cornwall, with a wee day trip to the scilly’s thrown in. The birders I have encountered have been friendly and informative, keen to share their experience/information. I find this recent incident very sad indeed. The select few must live with their own inaction and the knowledge that they have deprived others of sharing in the joy of spotting a rarity – it would have made my holiday. However, in the wise words of the Beatles we should ‘let it be’. It is in the past and we should all move on. p.s. Highlight of my holiday this year was having the company of 3 choughs for my picnic lunch – I’ll be back again next year.

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