Lesser-spotted Grebe

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Saturday, 15 May 2010 12:46

This is a bit of a strange one but I think this blog is exactly the place for this! Most of my friends are not naturalists and birders and they find what I do anything from fascinating to hilarious. Explaining birding to people that really do not know much about birds or birding is a great way to expose yourself to ridicule but fun none the less. However, I have experienced on enough occasions for it to be inter sting (5 or 6) a strange phenomena whereby I am asked if I have ever seen a Lesser-spotted Grebe and this happened again last night down the pub. This bird is as real as a Unicorn or a Honest Politician. It led to an interesting discussion about collective consciousness and whether there was perhaps some cultural reference that had infiltrated our subconscious minds (the works of Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore and possibly the Python team were suggested). A quick look on the internet continued the trend with a few references to this 'species' one a piss take of Tolkien's work and another in an episode of Bob the Builder! Actually this was the Lesser-spotted Grebe-warbler in the classic episode 'Bob's Hide'. A quick look in 'Grebes of the World' confirmed there was no such species globally, the closest being our familiar Little Grebe and the Central/Southern American Least Grebe. So where did it come from? The rather pedantic double adjective 'lesser-spotted' is perhaps the sort of thing people would associate with anorak wearing bird spotters (it also contains the word 'spotted' and confuses non-birders in its meaning - is this a bird that is less often spotted?). And grebe is again a bird that few non-birders know but seems to encapsulate birdwatching. So maybe this is an inevitable choice for a bird which somehow represents the negative image that bird watchers often have, despite it being ficticious! I challenge you to find more information on this and to see if we can find a cultural reference or maybe a photo of this elusive species!

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