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The Slender-billed Curlew in Northumberland, 1998 - 'plate 164'

bird photo - Slender-billed Curlew

The following is a response by the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) to the discussion, which has appeared in the discussion group, of plate 164 in British Birds Volume 95: page 272.

"In the sequence of images leading up to that plate we wish to show that, contrary to what has been written in the discussion group, the bird in plate 164 is indeed the Slender-billed Curlew present at Druridge Bay in 1998, and that there is absolutely no doubt both about that fact and its identity. What the image highlights is both the danger in assessing a record from a single image and the credit that must be given to Tim Cleeves for going public when it was such a rare and difficult bird.

We would like to point out that the committee spent many hours examining the submissions of a great many observers, some of whom, like members of the committee, had experience of Slender-billed Curlew (in Morocco). The decision to accept it was unanimous. In addition, the fact that this image appeared at the front of Tim Cleeves's article about the finding of the bird was an editorial decision and did not form part of the assessment process.

The whole sequence actually consists of twelve photographs starting with image 1 and ending with image 4 (published as plate 164 in BB). Taken from the North hide overlooking the meadows by Colin Bradshaw using a 500mm lens with1.4x converter balanced on the edge of the hide, some of the photos are not as good as they might be and so we show the best four here.

Click on any of the images for a larger version.

Image 1 (below) shows the Slender-billed Curlew with two other Eurasian Curlew close to the edge of the pond. The small bill, the blackish scapulars and the amazingly bleached coverts of the Slender-billed are obvious.

Image 2 (below) shows it picking at the bank.

Image 3 (below) is slightly soft, but shows that it has moved near to the position mid way between the two Eurasian Curlew. Despite the fact that the slide is fuzzy, it is still easy to see that the
coverts are bleached and contrast with the scapulars as in plate 1.

Image 4 (plate 164 in BB and also below) is sharper and shows the Slender-billed Curlew turned having moved very slightly to the left. There can be no doubt about the identity of the bird in plate 164 as the Slender-billed Curlew. BBRC"