Monday 10 October 2022


Autumn for me has not really yet got going. I have been away - not Shetland or Scilly, I missed all that drama, although most of it seems to have played out online rather than onsite, which is nothing if not predictable. Lots of people saying other people should take a long look at themselves, but also suffering from a distinct lack of introspection. It is just too easy to bash out a tweet, a comment, a whatever, from afar without really thinking about how precisely the same thing happens daily much closer to home. I am not taking sides, if you want to bash twitchers and autumn rarity-seekers, you go right ahead. The photos from various sites look pretty crazy I'll grant you that - my tolerance for birding in a crowd gets smaller every day and the recent scenes have done nothing to change that. Equally if you want to go birding on Shetland and see skulking eastern birds you'll never see anywhere else, carry on, and ignore the haters - mostly they're just jealous I expect. I've been to Shetland many times, it is an amazing place and great fun - a sense of palpable excitement in the air each morning (which is sometimes over by 10am!), and the birders on there are united in their desire to look in bushes, walk ditches, peer over walls and slog through iris beds. If you are on Shetland and you don't want to be doing that, and are just hoping that one of these sibe megas is going to pop up right in front of you without any prompting then you are mostly going to be seeing nothing. It is not a cheap trip, and you are wasting your time and money. It does happen of course, but mostly you need to work to see birds as their natural inclination is to hide from you. And especially from big crowds of people all dressed in green.

I skipped it this year, not because of any of the above, but because I had no time. I've been birding abroad instead, and as my holidays are limited I have to make a choice. This year I've prioritised birding travel over domestic rarity hunting. You get to see many birds entirely by yourself that would draw enormous crowds on places like Scilly and Shetland, and increasingly I find this to be far superior to big lines of people along narrow lanes. I have been part of that of course - a Falcon, a Shrike and a Gull this year, and very exciting they all were too. I am glad I went, variety is the spice of life, I find a little of everything works very well. 

Toygartepe, Istanbul

So I suppose when I say autumn has not really got going I don't really mean that. I spent a morning on a hill above the Bosphorus and watched over a thousand Lesser-spotted Eagles sail east into Asia. If that isn't autumn then I don't know what is. I counted hundreds of Red-necked Phalaropes spinning on a shallow pool in California, and found bright Warblers feeding in tamarisks before heading south into Central America. Again I wager this is most likely autumn. I guess what I meant is that I have not done much local birding, or that is what it feels like. I have not yet had one of those remarkable vizmig sessions where you are acutely aware of passage. And I have not yet seen a true vagrant on these shores. And so now my focus will change. There is still plenty of time.