Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Too much information

I cannot make up my mind as to whether or not the instantaneous feed of other birders sightings is a good thing or not. To the pure lister it is all a gift from heaven. It lessens the guesswork, the effort and the time that might otherwise be spent travelling to and searching for the target species. The choice of venue for a day's birding can made based on up-to-the-minute news. An itinerary can be cobbled together thanks to the input of tweets, blogs and websites.

But does this not take the adventure, the surprise and the joy out of birding? Does it not reduce us to a pack chasing the good fortune of others? Are we failing to discover, for ourselves, what is out there?

Apart from the old twitcher's grapevine (based on who you knew and having access to their telephone number), finding out 'what's about' was through word-of-mouth (normally by bumping into birders out in the field) or actually being out in that field yourself and looking. My early trips to Pagham Harbour, Staines Reservoir and Dungeness were leaps of faith into the unknown, and all the more exciting for it. Many was the time when, on arrival, I would be given the good news about a present rarity, or be told that I "should have been here yesterday". Now, if I were to go down to Dungeness I could almost take you, blindfolded, to each and every avian attraction that is present even though I've not trodden the shingle since November. Yes, I could still wander off and do my own thing, but it would be a bit like paying to see a film and already knowing the ending.

Maybe this is why, after 43 years of birding, I tend to bird the places that are off of the radar - I don't know what was there yesterday. Everything is a surprise. Limiting, may be, but undoubtably satisfying.

16 comments:

  1. Your last paragraph is how it used to be and should be, I have no time for these modern "birdwatchers" that birdwatch via pagers.

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    1. Derek, how others go about their birding is down to personal choice, although the older I get the less I can see why a large number of them follow a well-worn path...

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  2. Do your own thing, see what you see and forget everything else, that's my philosophy.

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  3. I have birded off piste now for over 15 years, avoiding the reserves and hotspots like the plague, but in doing so, I have also missed some birding tales of legend. Big days, when mates of old would say, Where were you? You should have been here.... I kind of missed it a little bit. This was reinforced last autumn when we had megas at every turn in the county, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the twitch. So, as I've said, I am going to lighten up a bit. Its easy to take on the holier than thou approach ( well quite tricky some days) and go for finders glory, but this year I am going to diversify. I'll go for some nice birds without the manic 'must see' attitude, and I will venture to my quiet zones in between times when I'm sick of some shite patter from god knows who. Hopefully, I'll get the best of both worlds. This year I've seen some nice birds already and most have been watched by me alone or with a good mate, ie GGShrike, Waxwings, Shorelarks, Bean Geese, Glaucous Gull, Great Northern Diver etc. Granted the Pacific Diver was a scramble, but the crack was good!

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    1. It is a tricky line to walk Stewart, and I am aware that it can come over as appearing to be holier than thou, which I am not trying to be. The birds at Dungeness are tweeted out ad nauseum at the moment, each several times a day. There are tens of people (hundreds at the weekend) wandering from bird to bird. Our current bird news filters are so good that for many they just follow the latest tweet. If that rocks their boat, then good for them, but I find it soulless following in their footsteps. And that is my problem, not theirs.

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    2. Maybe its because it is busier in the south east? People do go bird to bird up here too, but they can be avoided.

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  4. Twitching is alright, it's the modern twitchers who ruin it. Too noisy, no field skills and the incessant clickety clickety clickety clickety click of the big lens. The money they cost you'd think they could fire the shutter silently! Anyway, it's all Dick Filby's fault. He killed old skool twitching.

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    1. None of this nonsense on Uig - unless you find the big one Seth!

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  5. Ivory Gull at the pier December 2014, White-billed Diver in the bay February 2016... I'm just waiting for that Gyr to forsake the Outer Hebs and come this way!

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  6. Succint as usual Steve. Oh for the good old days. They and the numbers of common birds that went with them will never return. For gods sake, Black Redstart, Yellow Wagtail and Wood Warber (to name but a few) are now pager birds to be hounded day after day by folk that have no interest in a Dunnock unless it is from Siberia.

    Now where did I leave my Dan Dare stamp album?

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    1. Speaking of Dan Dare Phil, I had the honour of having the originator and illustrator of Dan Dare - Frank Hampson - as a tutor when I was an art student. Lovely man, humble and a real gent.

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    2. And finally got around to linking up with your blog Phil...

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    3. Although my grandad Keith Watson did his fair share of illustrations!

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    4. Indeed, he worked in Frank's team and took over the illustration when Frank left. Two fine illustrators!

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  7. My grandson now has the Dan Dare stamp album. Lots of stamps from "the colonies" that no longer exist and German stamps worth millions of Deutschmarks!

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