The American Bitter(n) Saga

It appears once again that a rarity has been unnecessarily been harrassed in Cornwall. It also appears that those who were either not there or didnt see it have voiced their opinions wrongly on popular forums and not so popular websites.

The bird was initially reported as a Bittern by a local farmer. Luckily, Norfolk based birder Richard Moore investigated the report further and managed to get photos of the bird in flight which were subsequently id’d as American Bittern. The bird flew from the pools and was not seen again that day. The news was put out on RBA that night after consultation about parking etc with the local police. A group of about 20 birders arrived at first light the next morning, including the original finder and birders that had travelled through the night from as far away as London. When it was light enough to see, the group assembled at the south end of the marsh to view the main pool. After 3 or 4 minutes the bird flew up from the sedge to our left and flew across the road to the west and appeared to land out of site behind gorse. The bird was not deliberately flushed. The group had waited patiently by the roadside until it was light enough to enter the field at the south end of the pool to view the larger pool where the bird had been seen last the night before. I personally left at 0855hrs after waiting with the others and new arrivals by the roadside with no further sighting of the bird.

What happened next is what I have been told by birder who WERE there. A couple of birders entered the field to the west of the road. These were followed by other birders and the bird was flushed from gorse from where it flew further SW out of view. A few birders then went into the field where it had apparently landed again, despite being told not to. It was then flushed again to the south and was not seen again. It appears now that it may have flown in a loop back to the pine belt near the original pools.

We of course do not condone the actions of those involved in the flushing and tresspass of the bird at 0915hrs and again an hour later. BUT we do wish to clarify that the bird was not flushed deliberately at 0807hrs as stated on the CBWPS website. The CBWPS site also quote from Lee Evan’s himself:  “therefore I expect everyone to be on their best behaviour and keep others in check – I do not want a repeat of the selfish behaviour that saw the departure of the Eurasian Bittern at Beeston Common a few years back” LGR Evans. Whilst we support Lee’s comment he is not the overall governing body of birdwatching in the UK and what he wants and expects, whilst to be respected, is not the law. Maybe the CBWPS, being the County bird society, could put a message on its website to its members expressing its own opinions and expectations. Many of the people in the first group who they accuse of flushing the bird are actually long term members of the CBWPS.

Hopefully this will be the end of the wrongful accusations and we can all get on with enjoying the bird once things settle down. If the bird hadnt been accidentally flushed by the original finder no one would have been the wiser in the first place, I dont see anyone accusing him of ‘flushing’ the bird.

Paul Freestone.

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