Monday 24 February 2014

Mirror mirror on the wall...

Mirror mirror on the wall, which is the shittest of them all? Don't get me wrong, tick-hungry fiend that I sometimes am (and am at this very moment), I had a pretty sensational weekend, but the birds themselves were all pretty rank. An American Coot, a Black Duck, and an American Herring Gull might all be pretty damn rare, but they're also pretty damn boring. In pure numbers, the Coot is right up there when it comes to rarity value, with a mere six records in the UK. Occupying second spot is the Gull, with 27 accepted records to date. And in third place, almost a dross bird, is the Duck, with 39 UK instances. So which is the real mega? I honestly could not choose between them. All were equally shit, proving what everyboody has known for a long time - that twitching is a mug's game and birds should not be reduced to numbers as it makes a mockery of what is a great and very rewarding hobby for socially awkward people and retards.

Not falling into either of the above categories, I thought I would put the question out there to my three readers. Which is the crappiest bird of the three? And the question is literally out there, up at the top on the right, nothing like a bit of audience participation. I'd be genuinely interested to find out what other people think. Although I enjoyed my weekend immensely, gaining levels of satisfaction usually reserved only for utter losers, at times I could not help but feel that I was just going through the motions. None of the birds excited me in the slightest, they were numbers only and I don't mind admitting it. The thrills came purely from the logistics, and the successful executing of a plan. This may sound overly formal and business-like, but I defy any birder with a list to deny the truth of this. The excitement is very often in the planning and following through of that plan, rather than in the birds themselves. And never more so than in the case of this particular trio, none of which got the juices flowing very much if I'm honest. The Coot was a given, the Duck more difficult than I anticipated, and the Gull the trickiest, as I had always thought it would be. And this is where I gained the most, as connecting with it was never guaranteed, and it was the subtlest of the three. There wasn't a shadow of doubt with the first two, but the Gull was very hard work. Scanning, getting excited, discarding. Wading through cow shit to get to a vantage point. Finding White-wingers. Going through hundreds of Gulls, and finally getting on it, still doubtful. Much as I hate Gullage, it can can be very satisfying when you actually work one out.

Of course, whilst the weekend was all about the potential (and actual) tickfest, I was also in Scotland, birding my heart out. I got something like 30 year ticks, and had some memorable wildlife encounters, some of which I'll revisit. I love the place. Friday in the concrete jungle of Canary Wharf, Saturday morning lying in heather with snow-capped peaks all around. Snow Geese in massive flocks of White-fronts. Hooded Crow the default. Crested Tits and Red Grouse. A White-tailed Eagle on the Argyll coastal route, flapping lazily over the choppy sea. An Iceland Gull landing in my view finder. Flocks of chuntering Eider in the harbours and squeaking Black Guillemots. Violent weather and amazing landscapes. Inescapably Scotland, and I wish I'd had longer to do it justice and elevate it from pure twitchery. Still, 415 now, and that's what it's all about. Err....


  1. Without a shadow of a doubt American Coot is the shittest. No redeeming features and pure dross in their homeland too. There's a subtlety about Black Ducks and it's so passé to slag them off. That American Herring Gull's a monster and personally I'm
    gripped by it. Then again I'm an autistic fuckpig who likes my gulls (and listing).

  2. The Gull wins hands down and is top shelf in my eyes!

  3. Easily one of the best comments I have ever had.