I've just been looking at a certain person's birding website. On it is listed the Cost. Per. Bird. I'm sure you know who I mean! Think stupid T-shirts, silly hats.... Oh my God!! It is proof, if any were needed, that twitchers and listers are surely the strangest people in the whole wide world. I wondered momentarily if I was, to the outside world, one of these strange people. I realised immediately, and happily, that I could not possibly be remotely like these people in any way, and so quickly flipped over the screen to blogger and started writing this post. Before I left though, I noticed that to get from three hundred to four hundred birds in the UK took Baggers about two and a quarter years.
It took me just over four.
Gah!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean, I'm not one of them, am I? Could I be? Am I really? It can't be. I mean, I have that information, but I don't publish it anywhere. Apart from on Bubo..... Shiiiiiit!
Oh dear, I would appear to be a sad, obsessive, weirdo-freak. The only thing missing is the beard. And actually Baggers doesn't have a beard, in fact not many twitchers or birders I know do have beards, it's a myth. For sure there are a few of the stereotypical anorak brigade, straggly hair, green jackets, personal hygiene issues. But worryingly a lot of them - a lot of us - appear perfectly normal. They blend in, they lead normal lives. Sleepers....until a rare bird is found. Would you know if the person you sat opposite every day was in fact a nutjob? The odd unexplained absence perhaps, a bad back, a heavy but fast-appearing cold, but would you know they keep secret lists of places, of names, of dates? Be afraid, be very afraid.
When I look back at the last few years, I've seen an incredible number of birds that only a few years before that I would never have even imagined I might see in this country. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper one day in Kent when I was bored? Whatever. And look at me now! Black-and-White Warbler, Yellowthroat, Cream-coloured bloody Courser! And I'm SLOW!! I could list a ton of things I've not bothered with - easy things that required perhaps an hour in the car and an ability read a map - but that when it came to it I was in one of those "meh" kind of moods and moseyed off to do something else. Then of course there are all the birds that turn up in the week that are just impossible - I had a brief run of luck whilst unemployed and living the dream, no doubt irritating the hell out of other birders I knew, but I didn't really capitalise all that much as I still had responsibilities. I refuse to go too far (Shetland is about my limit these days), and of course I have a huge fear of dipping, so only go when a bird is very likely to still be present. I mean I like excitement as much as the next man, but come on, where's the fun in not knowing if something will be there or not?!
I toyed with the idea of the Dusky Thrush being the last one. 400 - the target - finally attained, my place in history secure. Before you know it I've been to see a Roller. A then a Bridled Tern. And they keep on coming! 2013 has seen a huge glut of rarities, and if you were to look at what I've seen this year you would think it's amazing (if you're a sad loser that is), but actually far more impressive is the list of birds I haven't seen! It's been a stunning run - Thick-billed Warbler, Eastern Olly, Frigatebird, Needletail, Pacific Swift, Mourning Dove, Sora, Hermit Thrush, Cape May Warbler, Orphean Warbler. Oh, and a Tropicbird! Looking at that little lot is enough to make me weep, but such is life. But the fact that I didn't immediately drop everything and hoon off to whichever far-flung headland or island they were at does at least confer on me a slight air of normality. As well as relegating me to the eighth division or some such nonsense. Yup, unbelievably it seems I cannot be taken seriously as a birder unless I have seen an arbitrary number of birds. If that's the case I'd rather not be a birder.
Twitching is fun sometimes (I hope it is fun tomorrow!), the camaraderie on the trip, the banter, the beautiful places it takes you to, and yes, even the birds, but there are plenty of times where despite all that I'm simply not up for it in the slightest. I like to think I'm pacing myself - a marathon, not a sprint. Except it's a marathon that requires a lot sprinting. I've never much liked running now I come to think about it.