One thing that I have been deliberating in this big year so far, is the idea of twitching. For those who are up to speed on birding terminology, this may seem an odd thing to say- many assume that twitching and birdwatching are one and the same. Not so- twitching is a whole different bird game. Whilst birdwatching mainly involves watching birds in all its forms- in the garden, on a reserve, on a walk or by chance, twitching is far more specific. On a twitch, people will travel the length of the country to add another ‘tick’ to their year, UK or life lists*.
Twitching attracts a different type of birdwatcher. If you’re travelling far and wide looking for something rare, it seems all too often that the person in question is more interested in ticking a new species off a list, than observing birds in the locality in general. Whilst I don’t really twitch myself, the impression I get from other birders is that its a far more manic affair, becoming more frenzied the more unusual the bird. Twitchers don’t give off an overall impression of being great bird lovers. Whilst I love just watching birds in general, however common the species, twitching seems more akin to ‘collecting’ birds by ticking them off a list, than enjoying them for what they are and what they do. I’m sure there are lots of twitchers who do enjoy the birds themselves, but its not always obvious when observing them in action. I find the birding community much more friendly and receptive when not rushing around at high speed.
I think this was summed up best by a conversation I heard between two birdwatchers right at the start of the year. They were discussing twitching and that neither of them had ever felt the need to get involved in this type of birding and one of them came out with this gem- ‘I think its one of those things like drink and drugs- you have to go through that phase at some point to get it out of your system’. I couldn’t put it better myself, that is exactly how it seems.
Whilst becoming a twitcher doesn’t appeal greatly, without ‘ticking off’ some more unusual species this year I’m not likely to beat Chris in our big year. I may have a confession to make on this front, which I’ll save for another day- I need to confess all to Chris first…
Look at this chaos- twitchers flocking to see a white throated Robin in Hartlepool in June 2011:
More recently, a local twitch of a Spanish Sparrow attracted this massive crowd last weekend:
* ‘year list’- list of wild birds seen in the present year in total (what Chris and I are competing on), ‘UK list’- all the wild birds you have ever seen on UK soil (or air), ‘life list’- all the wild birds you have seen anywhere, ever.