Wednesday 16 October 2013


We live in an age of hyperbole and exaggerated responses to everything. A culture where a sandwich can be ‘awesome’ and where people exclaim ‘OMG’ at the most mundane of revelations. And birding is not immune to this kind of nonsense. Only the other day on Birdforum I saw at least two posts saying ‘well done!’ and ‘congratulations!’ to someone on ‘connecting’ with the Thick-billed Warbler on Shetland.

Yes, I’m sure he was delighted and relieved to have seen the bird, but ‘congratulations’? Really? I’d be embarrassed if someone said that to me if I’d found it, let alone just twitched it. ‘Nice find’ or a jokey ‘good skills’ perhaps, but even finding a rare bird is largely a matter of luck combined with being able to remember the relevant field characters correctly and comparing them with what you can see. A trained Chimpanzee could probably do it with a bit of practice.

Twitching requires even less skill than that, simply the ability to be able to read and follow directions on a pager, phone or website, sufficient money and time to get to the site before the bird buggers off, and then (in the case of the Thick-billed Warbler) the good fortune to be standing in the right place and looking in the right direction when it flies past on the 27th organised flush. All good fun, and I’ve done my fair share of it, but not in any way an ‘achievement’ of any kind, or worthy of congratulations. Unless you’re a Chimpanzee, of course.

If we’re going to start congratulating people on a successful twitch, the next logical step is sending cards. Maybe someone like might be interested in a few ideas (thanks to Mark Reeder for the Lancey photo)...

Wednesday 9 October 2013

A Mega Rare

We haven’t had a song for a while, so here’s something appropriate to the season. With apologies for abusing one of Simon & Garfunkel’s best songs...

Semi-P Plovers,
And harriers, or falcons, whatever,
I've got my credit card
Here in my hand.

So I read the latest Birding World,
And ate lasagne pies,
And drove off
To look for a mega rare.

"Frankly", I said,
As we boarded the Skybus at Land’s End,
“Sumburgh seems like a dream to me now.”
It took me four days
To ID a Sanderling
I thought that it was a mega rare.

Laughing on the bus,
Making claims, ticking races,
He said the man in the loafers and suit
Dipped at Cley.
I said, "Be careful,
He’s recently purchased a camera."

"Toss me that Duivendijk,
I think it’s there in my raincoat.
I saw this warbler an hour ago.”
“Have you looked at the scapulars?
They should be olive-green”,
Then the bird flew over an open field.

"Bugger, I've lost it", I said,
And I thought about cheating.
"I'm tempted to fake it, but
I don't know why."

Counting the dudes
Watching New Grimsby Turnstones
They've all come
To look for a mega rare,
All come to look for a mega rare,
All come to look for a mega rare.