The ornithological world was in shock last night, following the breaking news that a digitally manipulated Night Parrot has been found... in Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire, UK. This extremely rare species of nocturnal Australian parrot is only known from a few roadside corpses and was widely thought to be either extinct or perilously close to becoming extinct. In July 2013 the rediscovery of the Night Parrot was announced (full details here). However, this week hard working internet birders discovered that the images of the Night Parrot appear to have been manipulated (see here). Last night the story blew wide open, as local birder Tom, recounts:
"It was another normal day in Cuddesdon: I had seen nothing. I rounded the corner from North Field and headed south. I took in the view of Wittenham Clumps, before a movement in the winter wheat caught my eye. Even with the naked eye I could see this was something good, but it had a strange look to it, like it had been photoshoped or something. Putting aside these strange doubts, I focused on what I could see. I nearly fell over with shock: it was a species of Ground Parrot, Pezoporus!":
Realising the magnitude of this record - a first for Britain, the Western Paleartic, the Northern Hemisphere and most importantly, Cuddesdon, I tried to capture a few photographs. This was not easy. The bird moved with strange hops and was also perfectly camouflaged in a nearby rapeseed crop. At least I managed a photograph of the Parrot with a Corn Bunting, for scale:
I tracked the bird on foot for an hour until dusk began to fall. As the light went, the Parrot became more active and confident, I felt I could approach more closely:
By this point I was fairly sure I was watching Cuddesdon and Britian's first ever Night Parrot - indeed, one of the very few ever to have been seen alive anywhere. And then I noticed the plumage details: it only appeared to have one wing; and there was something very odd about the feather pattern on the back and body. Slowly the incredible truth began to sink in. I had seen this bird before, on the internet. Not only had I single-handedly discovered a new species of bird for my half of the planet, but it was the very same bird John Young had seen in Australia! It was the very same famous digitally manipulated Night Parrot! What were the chances of that? Using the flash on my camera I took this final image of the bird on the verge of the Cuddesdon- Wheatley road. This images confirms the crucial feather details:
Tom concludes: " The modern world is an amazing place. Not only is it now possible to live in a countryside devoid of most wildlife and birds, mainly thanks to modern farming methods, but it is now easily possible to claim you have seen a new species of bird just by just tinkering with a picture in Photoshop Elements, thus saving the price of buying the full version. This has certainly livened up my birding around Cuddesdon. Thank God there is an army of people out there with nothing better to do than examine the mantle feathers of parrots in incredible detail on their computers. We need them. Keep the faith".