(David Fix and Jude Claire Power)
To those of you who have criticized my post about the reported Common
Redshank in California, I thank you for honestly expressing your
indignation. Criticism is nothing new to me. I learn from it. So be it
here! At the same time, I stand by my remarks. Allow me to explain how I
Many of us have seen 'stint fever' happen when a rare shorebird shows up.
It can run wild. In the wake of the discovery of an amazing bird, the
processes of caution, thoroughness, and elimination of other more reasonable
possibilities that ought to attend difficult identifications sometimes are
not followed as fully as they ought to be. Having done this myself, and
having seen this type of thing done innumerable times, it was reasonably
apparent to me---and a number of other birders---that an actual Common
Redshank was not involved. Nothing in the Bird Box reports indicated the
full set of characteristics pointing to this species, although after such
looks as evidently were had, those features should have been noted. Rather,
one or two features were repeatedly stressed, which in themselves clearly
did not diagnose a Common Redshank. It should be noted that the details
related did not even point to this mystery bird being a Tringa.
Having (a) been involved in this game for so long, (b) knowing how tough it
is for even the most expert and experienced birders to attempt to divorce
initial preconception from objectivity, and (c) recognizing that many
birders are keeping a close eye on what is reported here presently in the
wake of the Greater Sand-Plover and the Common Greenshank, I felt it was
appropriate to stem what could very easily have become a continent-wide
rumor that there was a Common Redshank happening. Rumors like that tend to
take on a life of their own. That it had not been conclusively ID'd as that
species, and that experienced third-party confirmation had not been
forthcoming, might easily have been swept under the carpet and a frantic
manswarm may have begun.
- the comparative inexperience of the observers who reported it (this is in
no way 'harsh' nor pejorative; it's frank),
- the viewing conditions,
- the lack of a compelling description eliminating all other far more
- the atmosphere of 'anything is possible right here and right now',
it seemed appropriate to downplay the report to prevent a wild chase
scenario based upon an unsubstantiated sighting.
I feel an obligation to the birding community to simply tell it like it is,
and to do others the courtesy of providing advise when something like this
occurs. I offer apology to any one of you who have felt personally injured
by my comments.