Red-billed tropicbird in Cornwall

This video says about itself:

12 June 2012

A visit to the tropical island of Saba to study the rare and beautiful Red-Billed Tropicbird.

From the Daily Telegraph in Britain:

Sighting that left twitchers afraid of being gulled

When a rare tropical bird never before seen in Britain appeared off the coast of Cornwall, it seemed it had chosen the perfect spot.

By Nick Collins, Science correspondent

7:45AM BST 01 Sep 2013

On the clifftop were 40 of the country’s most avid birdwatchers, their binoculars ready for a sighting of it.

But the fleeting appearance of the red-billed tropicbird, which usually lives off the African coast or in the Caribbean, was spotted by just one of the group, 49-year-old Tom Whiley.

And while the sighting was undoubtedly the highlight of his 38-year birdwatching career, it was only the start of a long struggle to get his version of events accepted. The episode has quickly become highly controversial among birdwatchers.

Although Mr Whiley took photographs as the bird flew past, he faced scepticism from others. Details of the incident have been scrutinised on birdwatching forums, amid frenzied — but unfounded — speculation that he faked the entire episode.

The group, some of whom had come from across Britain, had gathered near Pendeen, at the tip of Cornwall.

Mr Whiley, an electronics engineer, had set up his tripod down a slope, a short distance away from the main group, who were on the cliff above him. He spotted the bird as it was flying more than 1,000ft off the shore.

“I got it in the binoculars first and thought I needed to get shots of it because it was something I hadn’t seen before,” he said.

“I leapt down to my tripod and banged off two bursts of about 20 shots apiece.”

When he checked the image on the digital camera’s screen, he approached the group, fearing some distrust.

“I had predetermined what I would do because it can get really bad. They were all still sea-watching, so they hadn’t seen it.

“There were top sea-watchers from the UK there, so it is all very embarrassing for them. I am sure if they had put their scopes on it would have been obvious, but it didn’t happen.”

Mr Whiley, from Torquay, believes he eventually convinced the group about the veracity of his sighting.

However, since the coup, on Aug 18, birders have been dissecting the incident, expressing doubts on online forums, with hundreds of comments posted.

Some doubt that such a highly visible and unusual bird — with its bright bill and long tail feathers — could have been missed by so many seasoned watchers.

They have also tried to undermine his story, claiming that from his vantage point, he would have been unlikely to spot the bird.

Some also noted that as there was no coastline in the shot, it could have been taken elsewhere. One has even suggested that the shadow of the wing is in the wrong place for the time of day, implying the photo had been digitally manipulated.

A blog entitled “So what really happened at Pendeen?” described the sighting as “the greatest prize in UK sea- watching”. It was written by a birder who was present but describes as “unforgivable”, the length of time Mr Whiley waited to alert others.

Red-billed tropicbirds have been seen in British waters on a handful of occasions.

It is thought to have been blown off course by stormy weather, or to have followed the gulf stream.

Dominic Mitchell, editor of Birdwatch magazine, which records all sightings, said: “I am completely happy that it is a genuine record, and we will be publishing it as such.”

6 thoughts on “Red-billed tropicbird in Cornwall

  1. That’s amazing sighting – and I don’t doubt it: other birds from the other side of the Atlantic turn up from time to time, and not just birds of the ocean. An American Robin has been recorded in Scotland A black-browed albatross 8000 miles from home also turned up in Scotland (and the first Bahamas sighting of one was recorded in July). So why not a tropicbird? RH


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