BTO recorded 10 sightings, before the 1st of April 2014 across the south of England. The earliest being Jan 23rd ! one in Feb and six in March. Two on April 1st.
As long as you are comfortable with your own sightings then that's all that should really matter to anyone. Once posted then any subsequent discussion can often be educational rather than critical. Bird watching is often enjoyed on ones own and the one thing that I have come to expect over the years is to expect the unexpected! Please keep reporting.
I fully agree with you that we should all actively encourage observers to report and share sightings (subject, of course, to carefully assessing any risks to the bird, or its potential breeding success, before doing so). Widespread reporting of sightings help us to better understand the distribution and movements of species, which enables enhanced targeting of finite conservation efforts and resources.
However, in the case of unusual sightings, I would urge observers to provide details of exactly what they saw, including behaviour and the plumage or other features that they believe points towards a particular identification or can be used to exclude a similar species.
This MessageBoard has hosted many such examples in the past that have invariably led to informative, educational and good natured exchanges, including generally reaching positive conclusions.
I'm rather bemused by your statement that ... 'As long as you are comfortable with your own sightings then that's all that should really matter to anyone'…
Isn't that like attending a football match, witnessing a goal that was disallowed by the referee but concluding that you were personally comfortable that it was legitimate. So you go home claiming that your team won 1 - 0 when in fact the official result was a draw!
Why do you think that virtually every national, regional and county ornithological society or organisation has a Records Committee? Surely one of their key roles is to assess (as best they can) records submitted by observers for potential inclusion in the historic record.
For example, without a Records Committee operating in Somerset, I feel sure that the Annual Report would contain perhaps a dozen or so sightings of Rough-legged Buzzard in the county annually. The observers may well feel comfortable to see their reports published but this would present a completely false picture of reality. Would you really be content with such an outcome?
Best regards and great birding,
The records that appear on this Message Board are not validated by the editorial committee of the SOS which is ultimately all that matters.
Observers should send their records to the County Recorder with full description for those rarer species listed on this web-site.
Whether they are correct or not here is for the reader to assess and lengthy 'discussions' here are not very edifying.
Hobby just flown N over Westport...