Friday 25 December 2015

Best Twitch of 2015

So what was the best twitch of 2015? Really this should be a much easier decision than any previous year because there were fewer of them – nine to be precise, and no big dips. It has taken a few years, and I would in no way claim to be a big lister, but I’ve now seen a sufficiently large number of birds that the chances of something new coming up are thankfully much reduced. And then of course there is the apathy. As I have written many times before (i.e. apologies for boring you...) I go through twitchy phases and distinctly non-twitchy phases, and I find that as the years advance the latter are gradually taking over. I am sure many birding readers will recognise the feelings of relief when a mega breaks and you realise that you saw one of whatever species it is a few years back. Yes! Unless you’re dead keen on county listing, or are Lee Evans, you can sit back and realise that you don’t need to be a part of the no doubt mad panic currently occurring in kitchens, living rooms and offices around the country, as greenhorn low-listers start forming plans. But does the opposite still happen when you do actually ‘need’ whatever it is? For me, not so much these days. For instance a Crag Martin happily spent about ten days flying around first a church spire, and then a sports stadium, both of which were only about three hours from my house. Did I lift a finger, did my ample backside raise itself from its metaphorical sofa? No I did not, and no it did not. I may have glanced at a map, just to check that Derbyshire hadn’t somehow gotten a bit closer to London, but even that was pretty half-hearted. I simply could not sum up sufficient enthusiasm. I do have a sofa by the way, in fact I have several, but I rarely if ever sit on them as I am too busy.

Anyway, I did manage to do a small amount of twitching in 2015, indeed I didn’t hang around, with the first occurring on the first of January which a quick dash up to Yorkshire for a Little Bustard with a bonus Blyth’s Pipit bolted on. Various other birds followed, mainly rare Yank Waders, but it didn’t feel quite like the old days, and the crowd of people I used to zip off to far-flung parts of the UK with are also beginning to lose the urge. And that’s the key to it really, whilst seeing the bird is the primary aim, above all it’s a social thing. I realise this sounds odd, and possibly the last thing that people outside the hobby might think when watching the TV news of a crowd of extremely socially awkward and identically dressed men clutching thermos flasks, and then listening to a dreadful interview or two, but for me given the competitive element fell by the wayside some time ago, a twitch is a now a good excuse to spend a few hours with a bunch of guys I enjoy being with. The anorak-clad masses probably say the same thing actually, but their journeys are filled with tales of birds they saw in 1968 and by the way, is X dead yet?

And so even though the split-second view of the UK’s last Lady Amherst’s Pheasant dashing across a woodland rise in a blue streak left me breathless with giddy excitement, instead I’m going to choose the Hudsonian Godwit at Shapwick Heath NNR in May, which I saw in the company of Nick, Bradders, Tony and Monkey. It’s a fair distance away, perhaps three hours, but the journey flew by mainly thanks to the average mental age in the car being about 12. The average actual age in the car was more like 43, and that’s with Bradders bringing it down substantially, but this crowd are a lot of fun and belie their age, and we had an extremely amusing journey. I have no idea what we talked about, but essentially the day consisted of three hours of nonsense, half an hour with a comatose wader that barely moved a muscle, and then lunch in a pub. On the journey back most of us probably fell asleep, for one of the reasons I gave above…


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