The Crown Jewels
Dougie Holden's comparison of finding the Eastern Crowned Warbler being like 'winning the World Cup' is very apt. Most birders will never find a first for Britain in the same vein as most footballers will never win the World Cup. He has literally discovered one of birding's crown jewels. Along with co-finder Derek Bilton, Dougie has written a place for himself in local birding folklore. I spoke to Dougie last night and congratulated him on their find and whilst it was a pleasure to talk to such a genuine guy, the real pleasure was from hearing the sheer utter joy at the stunning find in his voice. It was almost like speaking to a proud new father and as a birder I can empathise with that entirely. It is what drives many birders to get up on damp cold mornings and motivates them to go back to the same place they went to yesterday and the day before, and the day before that, and... The knowledge that through an incredible set of chance events that begin on the other side of the world they could be the first person to set eyes on a new bird, never before identified on British shores.
It can be incredibly frustrating of course, many of the birds we try and see and identify are small, mobile, incredibly well camouflaged and often extremely difficult to tell apart from other similar species.
In fact I've often thought that birding should be a core subject on the National Curriculum as it teaches so many good skills, observation, awareness, attention to detail, patience and acts as a daily memory test.
The Eastern Crowned Warbler has been a classic example, a bird seen and well photographed and initially identified as a Yellow-browed Warbler, in itself a scarce migrant, was re-identified via pictures posted on the Internet as the rarest of the rare in birding terms.
This particular bird could so easily have been overlooked had it not been for the initial enthusiasm and dedication of Dougie & Derek and then the diligence of Mark Newsome Durham Bird Club county recorder who was checking through photographs posted from the Durham area when he came across this one and as Mark said "felt the colour drain from my face."
What should not be overlooked either is the benefit to the local micro economy around South Shields. I predict there could be as many as 2000 visitors all needing food and drink and parking over the weekend as long as the bird remains (and is still present as I write).
Read more about Eastern Crowned Warbler at South Shields here.