Friday 27 May 2016

On not seeing rare birds

Lammergeier, Dalmatian Pelican, Green Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo - the list is phenomenal and those are just the big ones. Guess how many of them I've seen? None. None at all. Devon, Cornwall, Shetland and the Outer Hebs are not places I can get to in the week, nor really at the weekend without serious advance planning. Yet my twitter feed is drowning in photo after photo of these birds from people who have done exactly that. Well good luck to them I say, if you can drop everything and nobody notices or cares then you might as well do it. 

I can't. I'm jealous I suppose, but my life does not work like that. I'm not seething though, I think I got over not seeing every single rare bird that turns up a few years ago now. Once you have missed a few it doesn't really matter any more, and anyway I was never a massive lister desiring of being at the very top of the green pile. I was keen yes, particularly from around 2009 to 2012, but gradually the burning desire has lessened. It's probably not a coincidence that this cooling of the ardour has occured in parallel with it becoming harder to add new birds, and harder also to find the time if they turn up at all. All part of the great rollercoaster that is a birding career.

It's too early to say if I've given up, signing out at 433 BOU. Part of the reason for that is that I can't help thinking back to some of the fabulous birds I've seen and how enjoyable the experiences often were. Some of those twitches I will remember forever, not just for the bird but for the settings. The Harlequin Duck off a glorious Hebridean beach will take some beating, and that Courser on a hilltop golf course was monumental. Of course some experiences were less wonderful, getting trampled for a Yank Sparrow. Nearly dying of exposure for various birds, ridiculous Lesser Kestrel angst and daft crowds charging through graveyards or blocking traffic. All part and parcel of the great British twitching scene, but these days I'd rather be seeing showy birds of any sort as opposed to rare ones, and without the crowds. That's a challenge here in the south east, so my jaunts abroad are a welcome outlet.

This coming weekend I won't be seeing any rare birds at all. I will however be seeing stacks of common ones in Iceland. Red-throated Divers, Eider Ducks, Snipe and Godwit. Iceland is positively bereft of people too - just 300,000 or so residents makes it the most sparely populated country in Europe. Sounds perfect in my book. And indeed when I went last time it was amazing, with wonderful birds and scenery. Here's hoping for lots more of the same.

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