When rare birds really were rare
37 years on the book still makes fascinating reading. What is most striking is just how few records that there had been of species that today's birders would think twice about crossing the road for. I'll give you a few examples, and remember, at the point of publication these were the total numbers EVER recorded in GB and Ireland: Little Egret (under 200 records); Great White Egret (12); Black Kite (12); Ring-billed Gull (five); Laughing Gull (six); Franklin's Gull (two); Little Swift (two); Pallid Swift (not yet on the list); Red-rumped Swallow (32); Penduline Tit (1 - yes, just one!), Black-throated Thrush (five); Desert Wheatear (18); Pied Wheatear (four); Isabelline Wheatear (two); Cetti's Warbler (17 - yes, you've read that correctly); Red-flanked Bluetail (three); Booted Warbler (five); Sardinian Warbler (five!!); Dusky Warbler (14); Radde's Warbler (11 - I find this and the low Dusky Warbler total hard to believe); Citrine Wagtail (17); Olive-backed Pipit (six).
Most of these small totals are, of course, indicative of the smaller numbers of birders in the field, a lack of knowledge and, maybe, a pinch of genuine rarity that is not now the case (particularly the eastern vagrants). But looking at that list I can see how some of my great twitches in the late 1970s were for birds that today's birder wouldn't even get out of bed for. It is, at best, a reminder of how birding has changed and a history lesson to me of how things have changed even in my birding lifetime.
Recently it was remarked upon that my blog posts have been all about birds. The reason for this is largely down to the naff weather that is suppressing plant growth and knobbling any lepidoptera that thinks about beating a wing. However, the birding bug is obviously still inside me and has been wriggling about and reminding me how enjoyable it all still is...