Thursday, 22 September 2011

More birding soul searching

A couple of bird species that have recently turned up in neighbouring Sussex have made me question my birding motives. Both Pallid Harrier and Long-toed Stint would be British lifers. Neither are more than an hours drive. Would I like to see them? Yes, I would. Have I been to see them or even seriously consider going to see them? No I haven't. Then why not?

Distance is not an issue. Time and money is not an issue either. I know where to go. I was reading on-line directions to both birds and a familiar wave of nausea washed over me... it's the people that puts me off, and by that I mean the birders. I'd better explain...

Both sites where the rarities are/were have finite parking facilities, so immediately there will be a free for all to get those places. Early arrivals will bag them. There will then be an assortment of sympathetic parking and antisocial parking away from those places. The procession of the green clad hordes (first weekend for both since identification was clinched) will then congregate as one to the viewpoint. I cannot face it. These aren't people to avoid, they are just like me (okay, maybe that does make them people to avoid!)

I'm not anti-social. I like the company of like-minded souls, but not en masse. My interest in natural history was at first borne out of wonder at what there was to see and identify. I used to twitch. I used to seek out the crowd and get comfort within it. But now, I do all of this as much to find peace in a world that I increasingly find alien and confusing. My local patches do have regular birders who I know that I will bump into and I look forward to sharing time with them. But not 50 of them. Or a hundred. That to me is a non-starter.

So, my membership of the 400 Club will never be fulfilled. My twitching peers from the late 70s and early 80s are all way past 500 now, and had I continued even at a gentle twitching pace I would be a 500 plus man. My birding is a strange beast - I'm ambivalent even on a local level, but even so I still venture out, optics at the ready, with hope and ambition in my soul. My expectations are not high although I still harbour hopes of those good birds coming my way. As proof of this, I have been reading up on Pallid Harrier identification, just in case...


Nyctalus said...

Hi Steve,
I love birds and have had immense pleasure from watching them ever since I started with a sparrow's nest in the neighbour's gutter as a lad of ten. However show me this...
and, though I'm fascinated to hear about the Hartlepudlian white throated robin, I'm off over the hill at the speed of light in the opposite direction.
I couldn't even be sure to recall exactly what I've seen over the years. I couldn't give a stuff for how many species it all adds up to.
There's way more wonder and fulfilment to be had in watching and studying than in counting -as the pleasure I got from the 75 species we saw on Colonsay testifies.

Factor said...


I went to see the Pallid earlier in the week and it was splendid! I really would recommend you go to see this fantastic bird. Absolutely gorgeous. Not as many twitchers onsite as 50 - more like 20 max at any one time when I was there. No-one obnoxious either.

I'm hoping to go for another look tomorrow (if I don't oversleep) and hope to see the odd Hen Harrier too. Brilliant area for raptors

Graham James said...

I agree with your sentiments completely, Steve.
I was slightly tempted by the Long-toed Stint but, knowing the site well, I knew that even though twenty cars could probably get into the car park, you would be pushed to squeeze twenty birders into the viewing area comfortably. Also, ticking an unidentifiable distant dot that may, or may not be the bird doesn't really do it for me.

DorsetDipper said...

for me birding is about the moment of discovery, the moment when you realise its something unusual, even if its just an unusual view of a common bird.

The problem with something such as a Long-Toed Stint at Weir Wood is that its rare up until the moment its discovered. After that, its not rare, because its there.