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Red crested Pochard, but should I feel bad about counting it?

21st November 2009

I nearly missed out on another patch tick today. Following the reappearance of the broads Ring-necked Duck, I planned to get up early and hit Whitlingham at dawn to look for scarce Aythya species before the whole county descended on the country park. My alarm went off at 6, then went off full stop. I slept in until 10 and thought bugger it. Settling down in the afternoon, a text from Gary alerted me to a Red-crested Pochard that had been seen the previous day (presumably this news was from RBA, there was no news on BirdGuides). The light was poor, but I figured I could get there with 45 minutes of light left, so I power walked down, arriving at 3.15. No sign in the conservation area or on Thorpe Broad, and I was on the verge of giving up when I found the drake RCP, attacking a Gadwall. I watched it as the light faded, unfortunately too dark for a record shot. I then walked home in the dark for a celebratory beer.
The first question should be whether the Red-crested Pochard comes from a sustainable population or is an escape. Unfortunately I can't think of a good way of finding this out. November has seen a large increase in wildfowl numbers at Whitlingham, and if a "wild" bird was to turn up, now would be the time. I'm happy either way really, but should I be? To explain this, with ironic timing fellow UEA alumni the Punkbirders have written an article for Birdwatch about whether it's ok to tick category C species. To be honest I don't really understand it. The suggestion appears to be that as many introduced species negatively impact on native species, ticking them is unethical. I don't really see the link between the impact of a species and its "tickability" personally. Maybe I've missed the point, but in answer to the sub-headline "Is it really ok to tick those Category C birds?" I can't see past the obvious answer. Yes.

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