Thursday 25 February 2016

Nearly there in several senses

Spring is on the way, there are signs everywhere. There were a load of daffodils in a local park that we drove past on the way to hockey at the weekend, and better even than flowers, there is birdsong being belted out from almost everywhere. Song Thrushes seem to be the most prominent, but everything is starting up. This pleases me a great deal. I am fed up of winter and the short days. Short days confine me inside, give me no time outside of the complexities of life with which to play. And above all I like playing. I have far too many interests to have a job really, but somehow I fit that in.

Not right now however, I'm in full-on playing mode, and doing something that right now is close to if not at the top of the list of things that I enjoy. I'm travelling. Again. I had a nice few days off at home after our trip to Spain, during which I accomplished many useful things, some of them that had waited an exceedingly long time for a blank period to appear in my schedule. Things like sorting out the medicine cabinet and throwing out all the various liquids and ointments that were supposed to have been used many years ago. The record one we found was 2005 - it smelled OK but I'm not ill so didn't try it. The kids must have had a terrible 2009 though, there were litres of stuff from 2009 and 2010. So, this and a number of other good deeds done and I felt I was deserving of another short break, so I am actually typing this on the great circle route somewhere above Newfoundland on my way to Arizona for a few days of relaxed birding. Hah, who am I kidding? I don't do relaxed anything...

But that's not what I wanted to write about, that was just a preamble. What I really wanted to get off my chest was where I currently at with twitching. Yes, again. I don't make you click on here. So, last year I got two new birds for my UK list on New Year's Day. TWO ticks. That's more than some of the old timers get in a whole year. It's also more than I might get this year. I appreciate that this is probably my umpteenth post on falling out of love with twitching, but I think something has actually changed this time. The reason is that it's not just me, it's most of the gang that I started twitching with. A few years back if a rarity turned up, it was guaranteed that you could fill a car pretty quickly and be off. I'll always remember taking an afternoon off work, a posse of guys meeting at mine, and then driving to Wales for a Cream-coloured Courser. It was great fun, there and back, and the bird was an absolute belter. I think of this particular trip quite often as to me it sums up the peak of the period, the nadir if you will, of when a bunch of like-minded guys got caught up in the thrill of the chase, and had a lot of fun doing it.

Any old excuse eh?
Today if a rarity turned up and you asked that same carload if they wanted to go for it, I doubt if I'd get many takers. We barely even go twitching at the weekend any more, let alone in the middle of the working week. Ok so it's currently the quiet season at the moment and there really isn't much going on, but that Pacific Diver has been off Cornwall all winter. In days gone by I drove to Cornwall twice in a fortnight. This winter I've not even contemplated it – too far, insufficient enthusiasm. And anyway, I've seen a Pacific Diver in the Pacific. I'm wondering if we've all grown up?

I therefore doubt if I'll ever hit that magic 500, the new benchmark. It's quite possible that my UK list may permanently stall below 450. As I'm typing this at 40,000 feet with no internet connection I am not able to tell you what the actual number is. I'm pretty sure it's 440 something, and I'm also pretty sure that my last tick was that Blyth's Reed Warbler on the North Norfolk coast, but I'm not certain, and that indicates a certain cooling of the ardour. Two years ago I would have had no hesitation in knowing the exact number and probably the last fifty ticks. In order! That no longer seems particularly important. I'm not saying I'm done, but I reckon I mostly am, and certainly the distance I am willing to go has shrunk dramatically. Cornwall? Forget it. Scotland? Hahahahahah. I mean, who does that?

Oh, me. Multiple times. I've twitched Shetland! And the Outer Hebs! I honestly can't see that happening again, even though I really really enjoyed it. Anyhow, be that as it may, it's important to get a post like this in before the start of the next migration period. Why? Well obviously the whole point is to sow the seed of long-distance twitching in the mind of Mrs L, who does occasionally read this. As I said, Spring is on the way!

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