Thursday, 20 October 2016

A momentary lapse of reason

"I thought you had stopped twitching?"

I got that a lot at Spurn the other day. Er, yes, well. I'm not staying I've started again, but that bloody Accentor at Spurn called to me for some reason. Very contrary. I've managed to not be arsed nearly all year and consequently not seen some amazing birds, and then when a colourful Dunnock turns up I'm in the car like a shot. As Col put it: "I don't do twitching anymore preachy preachy oh hang on, Sibe what? Oh go on then."

With a frankly ridiculous crowd in the dark, I very quickly realised why perhaps it was that I had 'quit'. Hundreds of people all with the same thought. Must. See. The. Bird. At. All. Costs. A sudden surge to the fence line, like somebody had fired a starting pistol, then the masses sheepishly hauled out of the undergrowth by the local birders. I watched, irritated, from the pavement, and joined the queue that was then formed. This was a million times worse that the Lancey on Shetland, but this is mainland UK twitching in 2016. If you want to see the birds, this is what you sign up to. OK so it was worse than normal, this being the second ever UK record of Siberian Accentor, and the first gettable one without spending upwards of £500 - which more than a few people apparently did last week for the first one on Shetland. Nonetheless I suspect my twitching career could still be in its final throes.

It had calmed down by the afternoon when we went back for seconds, the 1200 or so having been sated, but that early morning stampede was amazing. It reminded me of the Kent Dusky Thrush in terms of the desperation, when will people ever learn? They won't.

Spurn itself was amazing. I've only been a few time before, but today was easily the best. Howard, Sam, Bradders and I were almost overwhelmed by the numbers of birds dropping out of the sky. 6 Woodcock, 15+ Ring Ouzels, 4 Redstart, Black Redstart, Shorelark and Jack Snipe accompanied thousands of Redwings and Robins. Chiffchaffs probably numbered 100, and whilst we didn't see all that was on offer, a Dusky Warbler and another Little Bunting were excellent value. Meanwhile Bean GeeseBrents and White-fronts chugged south as we picked through sheltered spots. A Firecrest in a ditch here, exhausted Goldcrests at our feet there, birds falling out of the sky almost everywhere you looked.


The Little Bunting was a major tick for Sam, his number one bogey bird after a lifetime's birding. I remember being with him on Scilly as we dipped a one on St Mary's and then another on St Martins. In the intervening seven years he still hadn't bumped into one, so when Bradders and H called one along the path at Sammy's Point it was a special moment that I was glad I was there for. It showed well too, albeit briefly, and then with the number of birders about caused gridlock at the end of the road - we could barely get back to Easington. All in all a rather spectacular days birding, even if we didn't see all of what was there - simply too many people for that. When brigade numbers of green-clad warriors are actively twitching a Shore Lark you know something is very very wrong. 

Little Bunting


So will my twitching career now see a resurgence? I doubt it, but as with many things in life, never say never. I once said I would never eat a chickpea again for instance, but I had one yesterday. So the odd choice bird perhaps, but I can safely say that the herd mentality isn't for me. That said the earnest evening phone calls, the midnight pickup and whispered conversations in the driveway, and then the drive through the night (thanks H!).... well it was like old times, palpable excitement building in the car, adrenalin overcoming tiredness. And of course the journey passed with the sharing of memories, past glories and silly stories in good company. And it's that as much as the bird that often make these days as good as they are. A solo drive and a brief glimpse just wouldn't be the same, it's a shared experience, success or failure. Happily it was a success, as it frequently is. Spare a thought however for the eight birders who haven't seen a Siberian Accentor this year.

Dusky Warbler


  1. Great photos, Jono - that Little Bunting is a cracker of a shot, as is the Dusky Warbler. The rest aren't too shabby either, of course.

    1. Cheers, I got very lucky when panto style Howard cried out "It's behind you!" I also edited out an annoying twig. And on the Dusky I also chose not to include the ringer's hand......

  2. "I watched, irritated, from the pavement..."

    Not having been to a mass twitch for a while, I'd forgotten how annoyed I get at the antics of other birders. This line brought it all back, and reminded me that I dislike feeling that way about people and so ought to avoid them at all costs.

    I must remember that when the Hawk Owl turns up in Norfolk.

    1. Mass twitches make you question your sanity for sure. I hate them, but I unfortunately quite like seeing the birds. This is somewhat irreconcilable.

  3. I went to my first twitch in a long time, in Bodum this October. There were about 50 top-notch birders looking into a very overgrown patch of garden for a Lanceolated Warbler. All lined-up waiting, with no show for 30 minutes or so. I managed to find a viewpoint in to two small "rides" of ground. You sat in front of me Jono, a very sensible thing to do as the bird was doing its best mouse impression. I felt I might need to move so stayed upright. After 15 or so minutes the Lancy duly crept passed us completely unphased by the few admirers who spied it. You moved out having seen the sp before. I wanted more though, as this was a lifer. The sighting drew the birders in so I moved out of the way, and went down in the direction it was heading, checking others in our group knew what was happening. I saw it in the open briefly down the far end. It turned around I went up to another spot and waited for a reappearance, this it did very close - at this point someone with a video camera pushed in front of me, blocking my view completely without a word. "OK - if you must push in go ahead" was all I said and moved over. Much later while reviewing this mega sighting in the pub with a few friends I said the C word out loud. They were a bit startled, but I thought the videographers behaviour was really very poor. Obviously he was gripped and oblivious to all around him, but I'm sorry it was just plain rude. Welcome back to twitching. Will it put me off? Well, I will try and behave myself and only insult the deserving.

    1. Thinking back, maybe that Lancey twitch was rather civilized!