David Kelly wrote: "There must be other Birding myths
Alligators in New York sewers, if you know of any please share them to
amuse us over the Christmas period."
Many years ago - well four anyway, when EBN was still alive
and individual country mailing-lists were unheard of and UKBN held only
people with a sense of humour and politically correct intellectual
giants (you know who you are) had yet to discover the Net I collected
(with the help of a great number of people, online and off), a whole
bunch of stuff with the idea of creating an alt.urbanlegends.birds
archive. Then something came up (details on request) and the job was
Well here, prompted by David's post (to UKBN), for the first
unexpurgated (i.e I can't be bothered to edit it) but anonymized (as
promised in my original post) is the entire alt.urbanlegends.birds
NB None of the observation made in this article have been accepted
the rarities committees of the countries involved and as such remain
"When the eagle flies, hide your children" OR "A Black Kite ate my baby"
"Reading some of those brought back memories of birding
Ruins in Delhi - a goodish birding area located next to a shanty town.
Whilst there our attention was drawn to a Black Kite which got off the
ground 20 yards away from us. As it flew it carried something which it
quickly dropped. Walking over to see what it was we were a
bit shocked to find it was a whole babies leg - gruesome! Despite
searching we could'nt find the rest of the baby (admittedly we did'nt
search as hard as we might!!).
I'm not for one minute suggesting a tabloid-style story. Given
poverty of the people in the area, it would not be surprising if the
kites and vultures often feed on human remains.....preumably burial is
costly and economic pressures presumably underly a significant child
mortality where male offspring are desired.
The joys of birding abroad....."
"Pheasant Justice - Zero Tolerance"
"Some years ago I was birding at Valle Cavanata, a large
fishpond near Grado in NE Italy. As I crossed over the road back to my
car I was almost mown down and killed by a white Ford Escort van
travelling at 140 kilometres an hour in the direction of Trieste. A
couple of minutes later I jumped in my car and travelled towards home.
As I rounded a bend a short distance away there was a mass of pheasant
feathers all over the road, in the ditch was a white Ford Escort van on
its side and walking towards a nearby farmhouse were its two
occupants... one clutching his neck... Pheasant Justice - Zero
"The Snake and Mr. Dai.... Die! Die! Die!"
"I also recall birding in southern Thailand a few years
back, and on the
boat-trip around the mangroves, the boatman, a reknowned Mr Dai spotted
a snake, which from his antics was obviuosly quite poisonous. He
started bashing the snake from the mangroves with his paddle, and as the
snake landed, not surprisingly it started striking out.
Needless to say the birders in the boat were all jockying for prefered
seating positions as the contest between striking snake and irrate Thai
boatman took place - this was'nt helped as he temporarily flipped the
snake into the boat, before dispatching it with several swift blows to
the head. For some reason it was a muted journey back through the
mangroves...............the tameness of birding in Britain!!
"Is that a snake in your trousers or are you just pleased to see me"
I also recall walking along a smelly sewer (you've got too
when abroad I
feel) and feeling my foot touch a stick which I kicked out of the way,
only to see the stick coil around my friends leg...never realised he was
so good at dancing, as he spiralled
around trying to kick the snake off...I think you had to be there!
"A curious thing happened to me last weekend ..."
My wife & I spent Sunday and Monday in North Norfolk, staying
In Holkham Pines there had been a Pallas's Warbler and a Yellow-Browed
Warbler the previous day, so I was out there before breakfast, searching
through flocks of tits and Goldcrests, but to no avail. It's like
looking for a needle in a haystack! The rest of the morning I braved
a force 7 northerly at Cley - a few divers and duck going past but no
skuas, shearwaters etc. Despite the recent north-easterly winds it
seemed rather quiet...
After lunch I rang Birdline to see if there had been any sign
Pallas's Warbler - the "headline" bird was a Black-eared Wheatear at
Stiffkey, which was midway between Cley (where I was) and Holkham, so
you can guess where we went. After seeing this bird (with the rest of
the crowds) we went on to Burnham Norton to look for Barn Owls. Later
on I heard that the Pallas's had been seen briefly at the other end of
the woods, and that there had been a report of an Olive-backed Pipit in
the pines as well.
The next morning I searched again, unsuccessfully, for the
Yellow-browed Warblers. There were a few migrants, e.g. Garden Warbler,
Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and a "tristis" Chiffchaff, plus a
Ring Ousel. The Olive-backed Pipit re-appeared - I saw it briefly, but
it was surrounded by birders who were far too close to it, so it was
being elusive - reminding me why I don't enjoy the crowds of twitchers.
Well, it was time for lunch, and we repaired to the pub in Stiffkey.
After lunch, Julie said "Why don't you ring Birdline, to see if there's
anything around?" After yesterday's opportune phone-call I was easily
persuaded, so I walked along the road to the phone box and made the
call, to Birdline East Anglia. The message started "In North Norfolk,
a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Stiffkey, in the little wood just behind
the phone box" !!!
So I walked out of the phone box, round the corner, and there were a
couple of birders. Within ten minutes a lot more birders had arrived,
blocking the narrow road and
trespassing in the wood, disturbing the bird (which was flitting around
in the canopy and very hard to pick up). I managed a brief view for the
record, and then we
"It doesn't matter which way you try to spin it... this is sick:
I like the story that appeared on EBN last year or something,
phalarope was present for some time in the Netherlands or in Belgium or
somewhere. Lots of birders showed up to twitch it, and one day - when
some 50 birders all had aimed their telescopes and large photo lenses
against it, where it was swimming in a small pond - all of a sudden a
large PIKE appeared and swallowed the bird. In front of 50 twitchers...
I am not absolutely sure about the circumstances and if it is true, but
maybe yourself or someone has saved the e-mails about the story.
"Me and my big feet...
The story with the two US twitchers looking for a very rare
rail is also
excellent. One of them suddenly stepped on a specimen, and picked the
dying bird up while calling out loudly for the other birder who was a
couple of hundred meters away. The other appeared after a couple of
minutes, getting terribly angry when he realised that the birder who
stepped on it had PICKED IT UP! Then the bird was handled, and it was
not an acceptable
twitch! The rare bird perished a few minutes later, but this had
obviously not been a problem - if he had only left it on the ground to
die... Also regarding this story, I am not perfectly sure about its
origin and how trustworthy it is.
I think I was the last person to see the Oxfordshire Pied-billed
I'm pretty sure its demise was caused by a low-flying hot-air balloon...
However, I've sent a note into BB about this, so I suppose I should find
out whether they are going to publish it first. (Before you think this
is a typical BB delay, I only sent it in this year after reading the
balloon note published this spring.)
Also, R- B- and I twitched a Grey Phalarope in Staffs only
for it to be
eaten by a pike(?) as we were approaching. We actually saw the circular
ripples spreading out where the bird had been moments before. Thoroughly
pissed off we drove straight to Farmoor to tick it off there.
I know a bunch of guys who were birding in southern France
In the Camargue they found a dead Baillon's Crake, and as one of the
guys was into sketching birds (dead or alive) they decided to hang onto
the corpse. A few days later the group were stopped by the police and
for whatever reason the car was searched. Surprisingly the search ended
rather rapidly when the first object to be found was the long forgotten
nestling in a pair of dirty underpants on the back shelf of the car.
"It was pissing down dear...
I was birding in Pembrokeshire many years ago when I noticed
kettle of Buzzards, Buteo buteo, wheeling over the corner of an
escarpment. I went up the hill and discovered they were above a huge
field of which the escarpment edge made one corner. The field was at
least half a mile long and 400 yards wide, making the hedge at least a
A tractor was working up and down and did not seem to disturb
wheeling Buzzards at all. I hid deep in the hedge and waited for the
Buzzards to come back for a picture. The tractor went up and down, a
flock of Long-tailed tits, Aegithelos caudatus, went through inches
above my head but the Buzzards stayed aloft.
Suddenly, the tractor stopped at one of its closest passes
to me, the
driver got out and wandered over to the hedge where I was hidden from
his sight, and pissed all over me. More than a mile of hedge to choose
from and he scored a direct hit.
Someone from Holland may be able to supply you with the full
the Short toed Lark which was a bonus or a consolation for thoses trying
to twitch the only Dutch Upland Sandpiper two years ago. Under the very
eyes of the assembled crowd it was killed by a Great Grey Shrike!
Unfortunately I didn't witness this as I had the very good
fortune to be
the first witness of the Up. Sand. (I had already been at the site) and
had already headed off by this time.
I don't know whether the shrike proceeded to impale the unfortunate
on a thorn, but if he did I'm sure his dinner would have been stolen and
collected for posterity!
In October 1989 i found a long-eared owl pellet with 13 gold-crest
in it!!!! It was during bad weather at Christiansoe, Bornholm, Denmark.
No news bird arrived to the island - so the LEO had to eat up from
exhausted goldcrest - prefereble the ringed once since they were most
....I have also heard of a still living rat eating itselve
out of a
Herring Gull stomach - after the gull had swallowed it. I read it here
on EBN this year.... I think it was a Norwegian tale...
Our last Bailiff (head of State, Speaker of our Parliament
and head of
the judiciary) Sir Charles Frossard is interested in birds with a bit
more knowledge than most (although not a birder). On retiring he urged
me to take him birding occasionally so when two Lapland buntings,
Calcarius lapponicus, were discovered in a car park on
our west coast I called and arranged to pick him up. We drove to the car
park but only one bird was showing. Suddenly he shouted "Is this the
Flattened into the mud by a car.
I remember this one from a birding-trip (report on Urs Geiser's
Poland last July with a group. and the so-called 'observation of the
millennium' a White-tailed Eagle hunting a Night Heron and this up in
the sky for about 5 minutes.
With about 35 people which were looking at this observation.
amazing how sadistic birders can become. It's not that often you can see
a Night Heron, isn't it. Let it be followed by a WT Eagle and there we
have it: most of the birders asked 'will he be caught ?'.
Until a Marsh Harrier came and got into the pursuit of the
Poor last one get disturbed and the Night Heron escaped. Poor birders:
almost everyone shouted "oh,oh,oh, he missed him".
I travelled to Burghead to see the Grey-tailed Tattler on the
Boxing Day. (I'm sure Tim Inskipp can find a suitable acronym for that
one). A party of four of us travelled up overnight and stood shivering
on the shore next morning. After about half an hour we found the bird
and watched it well for about twenty minutes. It flew about 500 metres
further along the beach after that and we made to follow it. As we
started off after it, we saw it take off again and it flew round an
outcrop and out of
sight. A group of birders who had been further down the beach went round
the corner and reappeared shortly afterwards saying that they couldn't
see the bird but that as they rounded the corner they did see a female
Sparrowhawk standing over a wader. As they approached it took off
carrying the wader with it. The Tattler was never seen again. Allegedly,
one birder arrived later on that morning. He had travelled from where he
was living, on the Canaries!!!, had spent Christmas with his parents in
then travelled up to see the bird. If he truly exists, he has my
commiserations, the temperature that day was minus seven and I felt
bloody cold even though basking in the warm afterglow of a megatick.
(I don't understand this one... PT)
The biggest string of all times in Denmark is from September
Christiansoe, Bornholm where two experienced birders got poor views of
an escaped (Nymphicus hollandicus) at dusk. It was even heard.
They identified it as Scandinavia's first and WP's earliest
Nighthawk. The news was quickly released via the Danish Birdline and
everybody heard about this Danish first...
The local people of the small Christiansoe society still talk
two silly 1995 birders...
PS - I too have heard of the "Scillonian Cow-patch Hawk"
- it is
portrayed on the Lee Evans twitcher program done by I think CBS. The
observer was never found.... There are a couple of similar cases in
Finland. two that spring into my mind are Cream-colored cursor killed
by a Northern Harrier, this was in late 80's. Another one where I was
present was my first Blyth's pipit. 1994?... A pygmy owl killed the
pipit. Right in front of my eyes. The Pygmy Owl, which came out of the
blue was a year bird for me and the Blyth's was a lifer. I was able to
"salvage" the still warn pipit corpse. It is on
display at the Turku University Natural History museum.
A third more sad case happened in UK. I went after a Sardinian
It was somewhere in Devon in 1990. We saw the warbler. A pair of
Peregrines were displaying above us. It was pure enjoyment.. Suddenly
one of them started falling down. Some 3 seconds later we would hear tha
I got a bit of flack from one person on Birdchat when I posted
story a few years ago but some people have no sense of humour. A group
of British birders, form South Yorkshire, whilst visting Point Pelee
found a cut out Chuck-wills Widow on the back of a cereal packet. They
proceeded to cut it out and fix to a suitable tree with a piece of wire
that they put through the eye so that it glinted in torchlight. They
then point it out to a few people and waited for the result. A
significant number of people ticked and a number congratulated them on
the find, saying they had never had such good views of the species.
Also a fiying model Peregrine made it into the Wiltshire Bird
having been confused with the real thing.
Must have been a decade ago, no date, don't have my notebooks
here. First ever twitch of a Lesser Spotted Eagle in Holland, still
badly wanted by many birders.
News came in late that day of a weakly flying LSE in a dune area near
Being roughly 200 km away, my friend and I decided it was too
a try, especially as this was an eagle. Next day. Arrived really early;
we must have gotten up at 3:00 or thereabouts.
To make an otherwise boring story short: we searched all day
the entire area time and again. And we weren't alone, mind you. No
luck. Decided to call it a day at around 17:15, when we walked back to
the car. Getting there, we bumped into a local walking his dog for a
pee. (His or its we don't know.) The man was wondering what was going on
all day: he'd seen us arrive very early that morning when his dog was
doing the first pee. We told him the story; he asked how big the thing
was; we exaggerated but luckily not enough. He pointed us to a small
bush only 150 m away, under which a (the) bird had been sitting all day
Couldn't believe it really, but the story was so strange that
Sure, there it was: a shivering squatter, eyes closed, underneath a big
bramble bush (if that's the word). We weren't even sure it was still
alive. Wondered whether we had to call in some people first, but most
had left, and the area wasn't small. Orchestrated a communal applause,
and just, for a split second, the bird opened its eyes (well, the one
eye we could see). Then, we decided to pick it up, which I did, and
with which it fully cooperated. Took it to a vet some 25 km away, where
it died of lead poisoning the following day: I think, 12+ little bullets
counted in an x-ray. The bird was full of lice, which bugged me for
another few days.
Some people hated me for it . . .
OK then (you asked for it).
I was on holiday in Canada, travelling by train between Toronto
Montreal when there was a bit of a thud and the train came slowly to a
halton a river bridge. We were informed that there had been a serious
accident and we would be delayed for at least an hour. Shortly
afterwards, when we questioned a steward he told us that somebody had
chosen to end it all by putting their head on the tracks in front of our
train. Anyway. it's an illwind that blows nobody any good as I got two
lifers (Caspian Tern and
Semi-Palmated Plover) while we waited for the police and coroner to
"Jack Snipe... the most stupid bird in the world??
At my observation site near Oslo, Norway, we have seen no less
jack snipes. One bird was fatally injured when a friend of mine stepped
Crushed Jack Snipe
In one of my favorite bird-areas in the eastern part of the
the Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) is a rather regular visitor. Since
1982 I counted nearly 600 (!). In only a few occasions I could watch the
bird sitting down, relying on its camouflage. The birds usually fly away
within a short distance of the birdwatcher. Only today
(7 dec 1996) one bird forgot to flee; I didn't see it. My
fellow-birdwatcher saw the wounded bird: I had crushed its skull, quite
a shocking experience. It died soon after.
In "das Handbuch der Vogel ME" I read that this happens quite often.
I wonder how often: I like to know how many times other birdwatchers
have had this experience, related to the total number of observed birds
(in my case 1 out of nearly 600). >Though a sad story I have a piece of
comfort. Only due to my research in
this area (Bergvennen) the habitat suitable for Jack Snipes had been
left in its original state in order to provide this bird one of the best
wintering areas in the eastern part of the Netherlands (Twente).
Re. Snipe Stepping.
It's probably part of alt.urban legends.birds but didn't one
of American twitchers stand on a rare crake, fatally injuring it? Hethen
picked it up to show it to his buddies who were furious because it
hadbeen handled and they were unable to tick it, the bird expiring
As I know the characters involved I can report that the substance
story is true but in reality involved less malice. The birders in
question were working a parking lot on an exposed coastal location on
the eastern seaboard of the US, that in bad weather catches all sorts of
migrants. The attraction of the site is that there is almost no
vegetation and grounded migrants can be found as they hop about in the
crannies of the immense granite blocks that make up the sea wall. There
are tiny patches of well trimmed grass however, and it was while
innocently walking across the grass, that one of these characters trod
on the unfortunate and unseen Yellow Rail (aka crake). He is a career
ornithologist and ringer, definitely not a twitcher. The rail sustained
serious damage to a wing and so was picked up.
His companions, although very accomplished and well known birders,
also very committed state listers, and were disappointed (to say the
least) to first see the bird in the hand since this apparently makes it
inadmissible for ticking. Yellow Rails are much more frequently heard
than seen and this was a unique opportunity lost. The bird was
photographed and then squeezed (aka "put down") because of the severe
and irrevocable wing damage. Shortly afterwards the first birder
flushed a Black Rail from the same lawn - an equally tough species to
see without forcibly flushing - making his companions feel much less
inclined to homicide.
Re: Jack Snipe
"I'm aware of a black rail (not much larger than a jacksnipe)
the Bay Area (SF) in California in late '70's or early '80s. It was a
major twitch for the state. I understand that the bird was found dead
the next day. It was obvious then that somebody had unfortunately walked
Re: EBN Re: Jack Snipe
Actually -- this did happen -- a group of birders were trying
to force a
Black Rail out of hiding in marsh grass. Instead one of them trod on it,
crushing it. The part about "not being able to tick it" is, however,
A friend of mine once found both a Black Rail and a Yellow
Rail on one
of the tunnel islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. These are
famous vagrant traps, all cement save for a tiny bit of grass. The Black
Rail was fine, cowering in the grass. The Yellow Rail, however, was
injured, having been trod on by another birder who was working the
island. Many birds will crouch and freeze, rather than flush, especially
when there is no where else to go.
More Jack Snipe stupidity
A friend of mine who used to work on a nature reserve in the
England told me a horror story about a Jack Snipe. He was cutting reeds
in winter using a petrol-driven brush-cutter or 'strimmer' which
involves swinging the (quite heavy and very noisy) machine from side to
side, the cutting being done by a circular blade just above
ground-level. On one swing he noticed a Jack Snipe hiding in the
reed-bed at his feet, a fraction of a second before the bird
flew........you can guess the rest. He said it was a long time before he
could face using the machine again.
Good birding, and watch where you step!
Re: Jack Snipe
"Just a quick note on the Jack Snipe saga, many years
ago a friend of
mine (who is no longer with us) told me how once when he was warden of
DungenessObservatory (in Kent, UK) a Jack Snipe had got caught between
his legs after his friend had flushed it, close by....apparently it was
a banding tick, so he was rather pleased.
Sick, was Re: Jack Snipe
Subject: (EBN) alt.urbanlegends.birds.thecrake
"To add to the story of the yellow rail.
I heard that before it was trodden on, the mass of birders
having abandoned hope of seeing it. One gentleman remained behind to
(er) osmoregulate. The
cascade of fluid spattered the animal on the head and it broke cover.
The leaking gent called his mates back - one of whom trampled
I think that J- R- (Univ of T) told me the tale.
Re: (EBN) alt.urbanlegends.birds.thecrake
Actually, it's not an urban legend -- these are two separate
The Black Rail was in California. The Yellow Rail was on the parking lot
(or verge of same) of (I believe) Island #3 of the Chesapeake Bay
Bridge- Tunnel in Virginia. They both really happened. In both cases,
the birders were serious birders, but in one case they were trying to
flush the bird by surrounding the critter but ended up squishing it. The
Yellow Rail was more a victim of a accidental careless foot.
Another Unlucky Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)
I no longer remember whether the thread about unlucky Jack
Snipe(Lymnocryptes minimus) ran on EBN or only UKBirdNet. Anyway here's
another for the record...
Going through an old copy (#45 p.68) of Acrocephalus, the journal
Bird Watching and Bird Study Association of Slovenia (DOPPS) I found
On the 22.11.85 Miro Perusek, one of their regular contributors,
cross-country ski-ing near Ribnica in Slovenia when, crossing a ditch he
hit a Jack Snipe with a ski-pole. The alarmed bird made to escape, only
to impale its beak in the bank of snow. He extracted the bird, I.D'd it,
photograped it and (unlike some others mentioned in this thread), it
flew off unharmed. It was the 7th record for Slovenia at that time!
One starts to think that the "minimus" in the latin
name refers to the
species' intelligence rather than its size...
I first saw Laughing Gull Larus atricilla in the summer of
1981 (? - old
notebooks not at place of computer) - a long-staying individual on the
Legend has it that some days later a group of long-distance
approached a birder sitting on a wall scanning some part of the Hayle
and asked the obvious 'Have you seen the Laughing Gull'. The reply was
succinct. The birder simply handed them its corpse, which had been
lying unnoticed on the wall beside him. Were you sitting on the wall?
Were you handed the corpse?
PS - I wrote of 'cowpat' earlier this year - but for those
who missed it
.... "My recollection of the cowpat (dry) incident was that it was
actually claimed as a Nightjar sp.and that message came over the CB.
While many may have been hoping for Common Nighthawk, others wanted it
to be a European Nightjar , a Scillies tick for even more. Thus even
more piquancy was added to the occasion. Unfortunately it was rapidly
reidentified as a cowpat, before most people rushing there had
arrived. So no mass hallucination was involved. Most of the subsequent
few minutes was spent trying to establish which of the several cowpats
on view was the most Nightjar like. Thus the original perpetrator of
this horror slipped quietly away. However one person I know
claims they still know him by sight as 'cowpat', and has promised to
point him out to me as such, should he appear on Scillies this coming
PPS Cowpat was not spotted on Scillies this autumn
>From the Fortean Times
(http://www.forteantimes.com/artic/104/strange.html) -December 1997
Thieves in Ryton, Tyne and Wear, scaled a 6ft (1.8m) fence,
Alsatian guard dogs and forced bolts and locks to get into Bob Hodgson's
pigeon loft. They made off with 40 homing pigeons in three wicker
baskets. Surprise, surprise &SHY; 24 hours later, all but eight of the birds
had flown back to the loft. The remaining eight were fledglings who had
probably not yet learned to fly. Express, 14 May 1997.
Thats all folks... happy New Year!
"I am now way beyond any ambition I ever had."
James Gosling - VP Sun Microsystems