My decent(ish) finds in Feb 2012: 1 Yellow-browed Warbler Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Water Pipit Carnon Downs 04/02, 1 Smew Loe Pool 01/02

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The ups and downs of twitching

I have to admit, I’ve never quite understood the appeal of following directions on a bleepy grey box, just to stand amid a crowd of over-excited, bearded, middle aged men. Then again, getting up at six in the morning to stand amid a field of cows in the cold, wet rain or sea-spray is just as nonsensical: each to their own I suppose. In fact, one could even argue that the former at least offers a reasonable probability of encountering something unusual , even if the “unusual” is as likely to be some bizarre aspect of human behaviour  as anything else. However, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve done anything remotely resembling twitching, and as such, it’s been quite a long time since I witnessed such bizarre behaviour.

Nevertheless, today saw me “twitching” a Dusky Warbler on the local patch.  It was hardly a twitch as for the first 15 minutes or so, I was the only person there. Nevertheless, after about 10 minutes  I found it, and was watching it when along came three bearded, middle-edged men. I casually mentioned that I was watching it and they casually mentioned that their bleepy grey box told them it was by the entrance to the farm track and so they set off to look for it there rather than where I was watching it. Curiously, they didn’t see it and soon gave up and set off to search for some cranes and white-fronted geese instead. Although viewable for most of the morning from publically accessible areas, in their wisdom they thought it better to march straight across several privately owned fields in order to see them.  They didn’t as far as I know, but their departure coincided with the arrival of said geese, evidently flushed, and also a cracking 1st winter Pallid Harrier. Their departure also coincided with the arrival of two local birders in the shape of Andy and Dougie both of whom were afforded excellent views of said harrier.

I’m not quite sure what the moral of this story is. It’s not often three birders that rarely stray from their patch are treated to a combined total of nine patch ticks (if you count sub-species), two lifers (or UK ticks at least) and three self-found tick in the space of 20 minutes, so perhaps the moral is go twitching more often? Andy and Dougie graciously awarded me the kudos of finding the harrier, but methinks they are just avoiding the paperwork:-)

Edit: occasionally there are some additional perks to twitching (see here). 


  1. Just 'how' casually did you mention that you were watching the Dusky Ilya...? Perhaps those three not so wise birding men were a bit deaf...or maybe your spoken words were more of a whisper...?

    Very strange...[very funny tho]...!

  2. I'm certain they heard me, but for whatever reason decided not to believe me. I'm not sure why. Possibly because the bird was being a bit elusive and they couldn't get on to it straight away? I guess I could have been a bit less casual about it, but I didn’t feel like I had any point to prove. I also tend to find Dusky Warblers are less likely to skulk if left in peace, so was happy watching it quietly on my own.

  3. Quite bizarre...!

    I guess those guys weren't convinced that you'd just been watching the bird...more fool them eh..?

    It is great having a species to yourself and watching it closely...i'm envious...haven't seen a Dusky for a few years now...!

    All the best....

  4. Nice one on the Harrier.
    Cant stand twitches, but went for a desert wheatear a mile of patch today.Pretty hard to resist Although the bird was perfectly viewable down to 20 ft from a public footpath a photographer just had to enter a private coastguard cottage to take photos. The gate was shut with a sign saying private. Hope the guy who surveys the area with permission to enter the land isnt effected. Bizarre

  5. I know what you mean Josh! Although I have to admit I quite like those twitches where something fairly good turns up locally, but it's not good enough to attract the masses. It generally good fun catching up with a few of the local birders and swapping stories etc. We've had a few like that on the Lizard. What I can't stand is those twitches where a proportion of the participants feel compelled to flap around like a drunken pigeon shouting every time they see the bird and charging towards it. Not all are like that – I quite enjoyed meeting the birders that came to our Black-headed Bunting on Shetland and I have absolutely nothing against inexperienced birders per se – I’m sure there’s plenty that would view me as such. I just wish more twitchers would serve an apprenticeship by looking at a few common birds so that they gain a basic understanding of how birds behave. I’m sure they’d find the whole process more enjoyable if they did so, as I think they’d learn to appreciate rare birds more too.


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