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Bucks & Herts Life List String (22/4/19)

January 14, 2019

A Bucks birder has supplied us with 6 good examples of George’s Bucks life list string Here which also mentions “it is unlikely any rarities that he reports will be accepted, unless supported by an [real] independent witness”. The rest of this post is mainly about Herts. 

The “policeman of British birding” has strung an incredible 28 rare species and probably more on his Herts life list. He has also strung many scarce birds.

Whilst checking George’s 2018 year list we came across his claim of a 2018 Herts lifer, a Penduline Tit. He was on his way back from his Scottish tour and managed to get to Tyttenhanger within the last hour of light. Before he arrived the Penduline had not been seen for about 15 mins. George claimed that he saw it hop up and then down and put this bird onto his bubo Herts Life List:

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However none of the locals believe he saw this bird. Also others on his Scottish tour did NOT see it!!

pend dip

We looked at George’s 2005, 2011, 2018 lists and input from emails, reports, etc including talking to locals. All three lists have porkies in them and also conflict with each other. His strung rare list is lower down.

George has form on his Herts list as can be seen from a 2011 Herts post which also includes his 2005 list (which is very stringy) and the Great Skua saga post. Clearly George had gone through bird reports and claimed various birds he did not see. Unknown to George for some of these birds it was not possible to twitch for various reasons. Often he will claim a bird species giving dates with supporting information and later give conflicting information for the same species. 

On his 2011 list George claimed a Great Skua for 3/9/83. When confronted with the fact that he was spotted in Cornwall on 3/9/83 and other cheating he stated on 7/12/11 “I know that I have seen Great Skua, Purple Sandpiper and Twite for example but without tracing the records, have no idea when”. Great Skua then remained on his list but without a date for ages. You can download his fabricated 2018-list – note Great Skua, Purple Sand and Twite are not on it!!

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In the 2005 list George stated “I have also NOT SEEN the following species recorded in the county : … Rough-legged Buzzard”. However it was on his 2011 list stating “My first ever Rough-legged Buzzards were seen during the huge influx of this species in early 1975; excellent views were obtained of a long-staying bird close to Kimpton Mill on several occasions in January 1975.” This was air-brushed out of his 2018 list and it just states the Reed, Royston record which many birders saw!! This 1975 RLB claim is typical of George giving lots of detail so it looks like a real record. 

A very well known Herts birder had a go at George about his list in 2005. It shows Purple Sand, Goshawk, Twite, Serin string i.e. here. Just because there is a witness name against a record and/or claimed photo do not think its a definite genuine record. This applies to Herts and UK claimed birds.

On his 2005 list George stated Barry has Fulmar, Gannet … on me” so Fulmar and Gannet are OFF his listHowever on his 4/12/11 list George stated “a few species are still to be added once dates are found (eg Serin, Fulmar, Gannet)” so Fulmar and Gannet are ON his list. On 7/12/11 George sent an email to a number of Herts birders which stated “I have not seen a Fulmar or Gannet in Herts to the best of my knowledge but I know that I have seen Great Skua, Purple Sandpiper and Twite for example but without tracing the records, have no idea when” so Fulmar and Gannet are OFF. On his 2018 list it still says “a few species are still to be added once dates are found (eg Serin, Fulmar, Gannet)so Fulmar and Gannet are ONGeorge saw his Herts first Fulmar on 5/04/12 and first Gannet on 26/09/14. These birds are mentioned on his 2018 list but no mention of any other Fulmar and Gannet records!! Although George claims the 1991 Stanstead Abotts Serin we know he did’nt see it. 

The following 28 strung rare birds is not an exhaustive list: Velvet Scoter, Blue-winged Teal, Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, White Stork, Gannet, Montagu’s Harrier, Rough Legged Buzzard, Goshawk, Honey Buzzard, Purple Sandpiper, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Hooded Crow, Penduline TitWoodlark, Marsh Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Arctic Redpoll, Serin, Twite. In his 2005 list he was not sure if he had seen Green-winged Teal or not, but it was on his 3/12/11 list. However it was not on his 2018 list.

George has NOW ONLY SEEN 12 of these 28 species which means he is NOT really the No. 1 Herts bubo lister. 

George has also strung large numbers of birds as well (e.g. several Iceland Gull & Grey Phal, 5 Black-throats, 3 Red-throats up to 2/8/05). For a no. of scare/rare birds George does not give an exact date which made it impossible to check.

There are a number of other claims we also strongly suspect but are not mentioned in this post. Its unclear if George saw the 2/11/95 Little Auk as it was only available for a couple of hours.There are also examples where an exact date is given when he should have been in school and in the winter time there would have been very little time to get from his school in Luton to the bird in time (e.g. Merlin 10/1/75). For example, on his 2011 & 2018 list George claims “A roosting and feeding juvenile [Night Heron] on the cress beds 8 December 1971”. The 8th Dec is in school-term and is a Wednesday when he was aged 11 (born in Oct 1960). George also gives 1970 dates e.g. an editorial written by George says “My next rarity was a Night Heron in Lemsford Springs in 1970”, e.g. “My first rarity was a Pectoral Sandpiper at Tring Reservoirs in 1969 followed by a wintering Black-crowned Night Heron at Lemsford Springs in 1970″. The BBRC report does NOT give 1970 dates (i.e. 28/11/71 to 19/2/72).

Why does George keep on giving different dates for different birds when he claims to have good recording skills. In the book “Behind the binoculars” he states “I began collating field notes from my earliest outings in 1968 [age 7- 8] …. I was obsessed about taking notes as much as I was about actually seeing those birds, and kept a meticulous record of them in foolscap”. Elsewhere he says: “I keep meticulous notes on all of the birds that I see.” However many times George pretends he cannot find his field notes to determine when he saw a particular bird. 

On the subject of dates, George claims different dates of when he started birding so take your pick. For example, George claims to have been birding from at least the age of 4 (i.e. 44 – 40). (from Herts email group: 25 Feb 2005, Subject: Re: Re: Goshawk ……”I have been in active birding in Britain for over 40 years”). Can you hold a pair of bins at the age of 4? For the record, I started birdwatching in July 1968” i.e. age 7. He “become interested in birds at the age of eight”. E.g:. 

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The above string from George is typical of many county lists (e.g. Hampshire). No wonder he can claim “I am in the Top 10 of virtually every individual county list in Britain.” Some counties have banned him from putting his list on their county birding website (e.g. London, Kent). Of course his year lists are just as stringy.

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