Western Sandpiper – getting some perspective.

So it seems as if the ID of this bird will run and run, the majority seem happy that it is a Western but there are still a certain amount of people who are still very dubious about the true nature of the bird.

Over the course of the last couple of weeks I’ve come to some interesting conclusions and its maybe this process rather than the bird itself that has been the most fascinating. I have to say that perceiving this bird with my own eyes my impression is of a very straightforward Western and I know others who also cannot see any difficulty with the ID. How can this then tally with those are a barely able to see a pro-Western characteristic!? I believe the answer lies not in the bird itself but our perception of it. This is not a question of expertise but confirmation that we all see things in slightly different ways. For instance there has been great debate over whether the scapular patterning is concave or convex, but what do these terms mean, someone with a large perspex sheet can create concave and convex shapes in rapid succession one merging into the other  so where do the boundaries of concave and convex meet and when does one become the other?

Perhaps how we perceive can be attributed down to really some of the simplest, most basic things. IDing birds is very much like playing spot the difference and perhaps a real skill for spot of the difference as a kid makes you are a more astute observer than someone with a massive scientific background!

This then leads to the point that if myself and many of the original finders are able to see the Western characteristics but others are still not completely sure can we conclude that each individual can never truly come from an objective viewpoint and it is always sensible never to truly trust the ego that lies in all of us that keeps on saying ‘I know what is right’.

And in turn is it such a bad thing that a unanimous conclusion has not been reached about this bird? As someone who has foregone the pressurized and competitive side of birding, i.e. not chosing to list, I love it when things remain unresolved and shrouded in mystery. Nature is such that there will always be elements of it that can’t be fit into boxes and categorised entirely. Not only that but if these little blighters keep on turning up and presenting us with such glorious ID challenges that enhance our understanding of ourselves and help us to respect the views of others than that can only be a good thing.


2 thoughts on “Western Sandpiper – getting some perspective.

  1. I have come to the conclusion that this kind of reasoning is more science fiction than science fact, and constitute interesting ideas that can be plaed around with. If it seemed that I at all was beginning to doubt myself my final thoughts on the subject mirror those of a post by ‘junior member’ Killian Mullarney’ on surfbirds : –

    ”While the rather mediocre images that were available on the first day or two were difficult to evaluate without having seen the bird, I think the photos obtained subsequently establish that the Cley bird is actually a pretty classic Western, albeit in a transition plumage that might not be the norm compared to the great majority of Westerns one might see in their North American wintering areas in early December. Judging from (almost) all the stated views of those who have been to see the bird, this conclusion is even more apparent in life, even if appreciation of certain fine detail is still best achieved while looking at photos”.

  2. After reading this I think, finally, I can leave this bird to feed in peace!
    Thanks for the comments Re St. Benets, I have informed the photographer of your kind words, since she feels I take all the credit for the blog.

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