Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds

Friday, 11 May 2018

Montagu's or Capulets?

I recently found out the bitterly disappointing decision by the Surrey Bird Club Rarities Committee that my male Montagu’s Harrier, that cruised high over Allden’s Hill on May 7th two years ago, has been deemed non-proven. Aside from the deflation such a verdict causes, it also presents a mild dilemma as to the historic list of birds recorded here.

The Monty's over Allden's Hill, as depicted by my 
girlfriend for the 2016 report front cover.
After all my other submissions (Cattle Egrets, Honey-buzzard, White-fronted Geese etc) were accepted in the February meeting I decided that, after some long thought, I’d align the Thorncombe Street list with the birds that will officially go in the historical Surrey database. This meant a farewell to the putative Little Bunting Matt and I heard and saw on the Ridge in 2015, and of course left the Monty’s in the balance.

If I’m truthful, I was quietly confident of the Harrier being accepted. I thought the description was detailed and honest, and the clarity of what I saw remains a joyful playback in my mind whenever I choose to relive it (which is often!). It’s without a doubt my patch high. I now must choose whether I take it off the site list, but such an action seems both ridiculous and very hard to do, given the nature of the encounter.

As for future rarity submissions, we’ll see. There’s no doubt Surrey has had (and continues to have) birders who don’t submit all their descriptions due to what they perceive as questionable decision-making processes. I await the rationale of the Montagu’s decision with interest.