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UK Self Found List (4/4/22)

January 14, 2022

George has been claiming all sorts of outlandish things lately e.g. over 300 species in 1980. But even that was topped by an incredible claim on the 8/1/22 of his UK self found list of 448 species. Most birders follow the Punkbirders self-find rules which are here. A huge number of birds that George claims as self-finds do NOT adhere to these standards.

On Surfbirds George was shown as 23rd in the self found rankings with 305 for the year 2005. Graham Catley was number 2 with 324. Ken Shaw has set himself a target of self founds to 350 which is probably a reasonable target given that there must be a ceiling to how many new species can be found by one person.

On Bubo Graham Catley was shown at 322 as of 1/1/2018.

In June 2005 George was on 305 which was twenty or so birds behind the self-find leaders. Its simply not possible to get from 305 in 2005 to 448 in 2022. This is roughly over 8 brand new species per year for the last 17 years.

Often one list will mention different birds to another list. For example, a list shown on the UK400 website in June 2001 used the weasel words “I have personally found or been involved in finding at least the following …..Upland Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, …., Grey Checked Thrush”. However these 3 major birds are NOT mentioned in his 2005 list or latest list.

In November 2000 UK400 Editorial George stated “Lee is appalled at accusations of not being able to find his own birds and simply just chase people’s other finds. He prides himself on his birding ability and has been instrumental in identifying or first finding at least the following”. The Editorial then showed a huge list of birds which is shown below. This includes Black Stork and Subalpine Warbler which are NOT mentioned in his 2005 list or latest list.

We are aware of a large number of occasions where George has claimed other birders finds where the identity was already fully firmed up (e.g. Radde’s, Dusky Warbler, RCS, Pect. Sand, Blackpoll Warbler) but he then claims the already found birds as his self-found and sometimes even submits a description!

This is typical of claiming birds that belong to others. We could give many more examples of where George has claimed a bird as self-find but it was NOT a self-find. However if we did publish these further examples George would know who our sources are and also we do not publish without the permission of the source and those affected. George has been known to give death threats to other birders some of which have been reported to the police and they have investigated them. Other times he has contacted the birder’s work boss saying that the birder is birding or doing other things in company time.

Here is an example where permission was obtained. A ex-BBRC member and a couple of mates found a Blackpoll on Peninnis Head, St Marys. George was not there when it was found, but got there within about 30 minutes or so as the news got out. George didn’t know the features that separated Blackpoll from similar species, however they did and were happy to point those out. That evening another well-known birder came into the pub to tell the actual finders that George was going round the Cressa telling everybody how these 2 old ladies pointed out a funny bird to him that they didn’t know and how he had quickly identified it for them as a Blackpoll. Needless to say the actual finders were far from happy and quickly finished their pints to go have words along the lines of “if you’re claiming to have found our bird, then let’s take this outside with fists”. George quickly changed his story and denied all knowledge of trying to claim the bird!

George’s name is rarely in the Isles of Scilly bird reports but its much more often in BBRC reports. Normally the Isles of Scilly committee passes names in their report over to the BBRC. This is a sneaky way to get your name into BBRC reports for birds you did not find or identify.

He has also been caught out inventing rare birds national and locally that do not exist. He often invents local birds with the latest being Iceland Gull in Bucks on the 18/12/21 which did not exist on that date in Bucks. Dave Bevan posted seeing it at Marlow on the 19th and on the 18/12/21 it was in Surrey at dusk and not Bucks. Certainly no records from Evans of importance would be accepted by Bucks without undoubted corroboration and a photo would be inspected for EXIF Data. George is well known for his Bucks Photo String.

Using the UK400 checklist featured on the RBA website as a starting point because the BUBO UK400 checklist is a little out of date we took the birds claimed by George in his 448 list above and added in possible species. That got us to a figure of 347 which is nowhere near his claimed 448. This list was vetted by more than one person. However this 347 includes many birds we know he has strung as finding e.g. Glaucous-winged Gull – details are below.

We have obtained a substantial amount of evidence from numerous birders and have concluded that George’s self-found list is under 312 using UK400 standards or 304 using BOURC/IRC. Its possible that George has not even found 300 BOURC/IRC species. A number of well known birders who have known George for over 40 years all have made comments to the effect they think he has a small found list. One example is below.

One of the recent comments to this blog says “I don’t believe his true found list is even anywhere near 300. He’s an out and out twitcher, not a bird finder. I’ve been birding over 40 years and have never heard of ANYTHING rare he’s genuinely found himself. Literally nothing. You need to find a lot of rarities to get to 300, and in most cases live somewhere good and be birding there all the time, not travelling all over the country looking at other people’s finds.”

George is not known for his rarity finding skills but rather for his listing activities. Although George has stayed a lot of time on Scillies he is hardly mentioned in the Isles of Scilly Bird reports as a finder of birds.

There was a putative Glaucous-winged Gull (GWG) in the winter of 2008/9 that visited several sites near London. The critical point is that this bird was rejected by BBRC as a GWG and George DID NOT FIND IT in March OR IDENTIFY IT in March before other birders. In early March George thought it was an Iceland Gull. Its very handy that the self-appointed ‘judge, jury and executioner’ and ‘policeman’ of birding, the one man UK400 committee i.e. George can accept this putative GWG as a real GWG.

Note the date of the following link is 23 April some of which is shown below:

http://uk400clubrarebirdalert.blogspot.com/2009/04/putative-glaucous-winged-gull-this.html

His 2005 list has Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter and Broad-billed Sand but these are NOT mentioned in his 448 list!! There are many birds on his 448 list which are not listed on his 2005 list e.g. Yellow-breasted Bunting, Isabelline Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting, Red-breasted Goose, Two-barred Crossbill, Blackpoll Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Pacific Golden Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Saxaul Grey Shrike. We strongly doubt that George found some of these (e.g. Black-headed Bunting).

Lets look at a few of his claims – we could have chosen other examples. Yellow-breasted Bunting was not mentioned on any of his self found lists before 2022. His name for YBB does not appear in any of the BBRC reports. This is a very rare bird away from the Northern Isles where George rarely stays for long periods so perhaps George can tell everyone which one he found.

We also like to know what Saxaul Grey Shrike he has found. This is a very distinctive species. Perhaps he re-found the 2009 bird on St Mary’s on 26th September. It was first found on St. Martins on the 25th and BBRC assumed it was the same bird. A re-found is not a found bird.

George did not find or identify the Sussex Long-toed Stint. It was identified by Jerry Warne and Dave Willis and NOT by George.

George has not found any Yelkouan Shearwaters/Menorcan types accepted by BBRC.

It is noteworthy that when George did an interview for the book Behind The Binoculars published in 2015, he was asked what do you see as your birding achievements. He mentioned a number of porkies (e.g. 682 species in one year for his Western Pal list – click here to see his WP claims) but nothing about finding rare birds!

George’s website in November 2000 in the UK400 Editorial claimed a huge number of birds and stated “Lee is appalled at accusations of not being able to find his own birds and simply just chase people’s other finds. He prides himself on his birding ability and has been instrumental in identifying or first finding at least the following: 12 Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Little Bittern, several Night Herons, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egrets, Great White Egrets (including two this autumn on the Hayle Estuary), 3 Purple Herons, White Stork, Black Stork, Snow Goose, Falcated Duck (the eclipse drake at Grove Ferry in August), numerous American Wigeons, several Blue-winged Teals, Ring-necked Ducks, King Eider (at Wick), several Black Kites and Red-footed Falcons, Sora Rail on Scilly (from photographs), lots of Common Cranes, Black-winged Pratincole (with others at Minsmere in August 1985), American Golden Plover (at least 3, all on Scilly), White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpipers, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitcher, Upland Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Phalarope, White-winged Black Terns, 5 Yellow-billed Cuckoos, 2 Alpine Swifts, Red-rumped Swallow, Blyth’s Pipits on Scilly, several Red-throated Pipits, Isabelline Wheatear (with Ray Turley on St Mary’s GC), several Aquatic Warblers, Subalpine Warbler, Greenish and Arctic Warblers, Radde’s Warbler, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, at least 5 Red-eyed Vireos, 2 Rose-coloured Starlings, Two-barred Crossbill and several Little and Rustic Buntings.

The above Nov 2000 list would be very impressive if it was true especially given that George had not done much long distance birding before the 1980s’ (born Oct 1960) and he lives inland in Bucks. Of course this list is rubbish. Note the claims of big totals e.g. numerous American Wigeons, several Blue-winged Teals, several Night Herons, several Black Kites and Red-footed Falcons, 5 Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s, at least 5 Red-eyed Vireos.

His claims of big totals like above are just not true. George is also well known locally for exaggerating his bird totals. For example, at Penn Woods on 4/1/2022 he claimed 213 Brambling on eBird.

This claim will not be accepted by the Bucks Bird Club. Reliable counts by competent birds at this site during the week were at least 50% lower. We wonder if eBird knows that its database is getting populated with garbage.

This Nov 2000 list references 5 birds on Scillies (i.e. Sora Rail, 3 American Golden Plover, Isabelline Wheatear) but none of these birds are in BBRC reports with George’s name. In fact George’s name does not appear much in BBRCs reports and even then sometimes they are fabrications anyway.

The Nov 2000 list also gives different figures from the June 2001 website list which was just 7 months later. The June 2001 list was also shown in the Birdwatch mag November 2001 and also below which starts with the weasel words “I have personally found or been involved in the finding”.

So George was claiming in Nov 2000 “5 Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s, …. at least 5 Red-eyed Vireos”. Then in June 2001 it changed to “Yellow-billed Cuckoo (4) ….. Red-eyed vireo (3)”. So the numbers of Yellow-billed Cuckoo had been reduced by 1 and Red-eyed Vireo by 2 just 7 months later. These later figures were shown in the Birdwatch magazine November 2001 i.e.

Note that George’s name only appears in the BBRC reports once for Red-eyed Vireo (i.e. 1983) and twice for Yellow-billed Cuckoo. However his name is NOT mentioned in the Isles of Scilly report for the Tresco 1983 Red-eyed Vireo. Its not uncommon for his name to be in a BBRC report and NOT in the corresponding Isles of Scilly report. Normally the Isles of Scilly committee passes names in their report over to the BBRC. This is a sneaky way to get your name into BBRC reports for birds you did not find or identify.

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One Comment
  1. Derek Grebe permalink

    I don’t believe his true found list is even anywhere near 300. He’s an out and out twitcher, not a bird finder. I’ve been birding over 40 years and have never heard of ANYTHING rare he’s genuinely found himself. Literally nothing. You need to find a lot of rarities to get to 300, and in most cases live somewhere good and be birding there all the time, not travelling all over the country looking at other people’s finds.

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