Wednesday 23 July 2014

Inexorable fall and rise

The numbers game is an easy trap to fall into, list at your peril. Here's the deal, drive round the country, see rare birds, adulation is yours. Simples. But it does you no favours. I'll let you into a little secret - when I twitched the Spectacled Warbler in Norfolk a few weeks ago, I had forgotten how to use a scope. But my UK list is now well over 400. How can this be possible? I honestly don't know. Well, I do actually. It's because I rarely go birding any more, and when I do, I am not likely to carry a scope (people don't hate me enough if I carry a scope, I need a camera for that). There are a number of reasons, the largest is obviously time. I may have managed to squeeze in most of the decent rarities this year, but I've committed almost no time to decent days of proper birding. This shouldn't really be allowed, but I have paid the price. Such meagre skills as I may have acquired have dulled. Waders confuse me, and I can barely handle my scope. A sorry state of affairs indeed, but entirely my own fault. Spare time, such that there is, I devote to other things. Family, Travel, photography, drinking....

It's a shame, as I really enjoy birding. It just I enjoy other things slightly more at the moment. Things will change though. I have a weekend in Finland soon that I plan to spend wandering around places with better birds than here, and I have a long weekend at Falsterbo over migration. That, I am told, is superb birding, and I can't wait. I am also half considering booking up Shetland this October. More precisely I am considering gate-crashing some mates that are going. Shetland is proper birding. It separates the wheat from the chaff, and you have to properly go at it. I love it (for a few days), and when it really kicks off it's one of the best things ever. When it's dead, you revert to drinking. Win win. Last year I found an OBP. Imagine that! Instinct kicked in, I knew I had something, I knew it was good, but I hadn't seen it well, it hadn't called, and didn't know what it was. The feeling was totally awesome. 

The point being that is it about time I eased myself back towards birding a little. It's been a tough year, I've done a lot, but the pendulum has swung a little too far off course. Once a week round the patch, especially as it becomes interesting again. Why not? The upside to rampant twitching is that I need never worry about certain birds again. When a Semipalmated Plover appears somewhere I'm not going to give two hoots. When a Snowy Owl arrives on a distant Hebridean Island, not even one. Great Knot, no interest. Brunnich's Guillemot in Thurso harbour, not for me. The odds are moving in my favour. Sure I'll miss a few, I always do, but if I'm away when the big one breaks, it won't be a big deal. And despite my hectic schedule, I seem to do OK. Pretty good even some might say.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler early on, followed by a mammoth weekend of a trio of (boring) Yanks in Scotland. And then Spectacled Warbler, Short-toed Eagle, Great Knot and Ross's Gull in the summer that kept on giving. A tidy haul indeed, especially as I was out of the country when three of the final four broke. Best bird so far? Either the rogue Caper in Scotland, or the Long-tailed Skua just recently. Or that really friendly Shrike in Morocco. Or perhaps the Pied Wheatear in Cyprus (mmmm, Wheatear). Or maybe the......Whichever, I just love birds.


  1. When the oil reaches it's tipping point, which it has in a number of producing regions, the government has taxed people out of using cars and aeroplanes for foreign trips everybody will have to bird locally (which is a depressing thought where i live) fine if you live in North Norfolk (Permit Only) but that's not the real world is it? When i twitched, extensively, in the 80's we never went anywhere without a full car and gen was only available via Nancy's. How anyone can either afford or justify twitching solo is beyond me but they do, i suppose it's still a hobby that attracts insular types? Even locally i, sometimes, bump into people wearing binoculars with nary a word from them! I am still the only person to be seen around town shopping etc with 'bins round my neck. There is certainly a high % of birders entering the hobby that have all the gear, never do local patching, do not take any field notes and have more than enuff money to sit in a car with their iphone and Garmin sat-nav constantly being updated by other peoples sightings and not moving from the house until it's a 'cert'.....

    Nice shot of my fave Maroc bird.

    ATB Laurie -

  2. Jono, the hate bit is nothing to do with bins or cameras! Have you thought of putting a Barn Owl box up on your patch Jono? Dave.