In an autumn that’s already seen another public confusion over the identification of Sykes’s and Booted Warblers in Shetland, and a retrospective re-identification of said bird by online birders, a new force for settling birding disputes is emerging from the shadows.
Known as the Assessment Team, or A-Team for short, the group comprises four quirky but competent birders outcast from the mainstream birding scene for a birding crime they didn’t commit, neither self-styled ‘punks’ nor come-lately retirees – instead, birders from the almost forgotten New Wave of the late 80s and early 90s, deeply unfashionable by contemporary standards.
John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, the group’s leader said, “We’re not cool, young nor callow enough to call ourselves punkbirders; nor have we just retired and kitted ourselves out in Swarovski. We represent the forgotten generation, birders from a time when birding was about enjoying going out looking at birds, and wasn’t about scoring points over other birders.
“None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. Take the Essex ‘Eastern Olivaceous Warbler’ in August 2002, for example. The photo was in Birding World, but nobody cried foul at the time. In due course the BBRC picked up that it wasn’t one, but where were the keyboard warriors when Birding World was published? Did you see anyone online saying “surely this isn’t an Olivaceous? Surely this is a rama Booted Warbler?”? No, us neither.
“So if you’ve got an identification problem, and nobody else can help, and you don’t fancy being pilloried online for getting it wrong, maybe you can hire... the A-Team.”He added, “dah dah dah dah, DAH DAH dah, dah-dah-dah-dah, DAH-d-d-dah dah!”