Friday 26 October 2012

Farewell to Ceefax

How many birders of a certain age felt a little pang of nostalgia when they saw the news this week that Ceefax was finally being switched off? I certainly did, although I was also amazed it was still going in these days of mobile Internet and instant everything-on-demand whenever and wherever you want it.

It seems hard to believe now, but when I were a lad, in addition to Nancy’s Cafe and the grapevine, we used to find out about rare birds via Ceefax. There was a wildlife page, which I think was something like page 260, and on it, as well as general wildlife news, there was usually some very specific rare bird news. I can’t remember who used to update it, but it was a proper birder, who either had good grapevine contacts or used to ring Nancy’s to get the latest news.

There was one big drawback though – it was only updated once a week! Again, my memory is rather hazy (we are talking nearly 30 years ago after all), but I think it was updated on Thursday mornings. I remember going in to Coalville library to use their Ceefax TV, and jotting down anything of interest, which would then be firmed up (or not) by ringing Nancy’s on the Friday, and twitched (transport permitting) at the weekend. The Greater Sandplover at Cley in August 1985 is one bird I particularly remember finding out about on Ceefax, and there were several others. Even after Birdline started it was still a useful (and free) way of finding out what was around, on a Thursday at least!

It’s not quite hearing about a rare bird by postcard, but it’s not far off in terms of seeming ridiculously antiquated now!