Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Rarity or spectacle?

What is that you remember most about your birding? What gives you the biggest kick when you are out in the field? What do you hope for more than anything else when you are looking?  For me, all three questions are not fulfilled by rarity, but by sheer spectacle.

I've seen my fair share of rare birds, and some of them were firsts for Britain at the time. I may have travelled miles to see them. But, apart from a very few, they are but a tick on a list.

If I were to compile my Top 10 'greatest birding hits' then it would be mostly populated by sheer spectacle. Off the top of my head I can vividly recall sea watches where skuas, terns, wildfowl and waders streamed past on a conveyor belt of awe; clouds of thrushes tumbling out of pre-dawn skies, calling in the half light; vast finch flocks wheeling over farmland; coastal bushes heaving with warblers and chats; hirundines arrowing by in a controlled frenzy of migration.

Such events cannot be twitched. By and large you have to be present at the time to witness them. An hour later and the happening can have ceased - all that is left is empty skies and vacant bushes. Couple this with the primordial instinct behind the avian action and you have a very special event indeed.

550 Ring Ouzels or a Radde's Warbler? 90,000 House Martins or a Mamora's?

The numbers win every time.


Derek Faulkner said...

For me, the overwhelming thing about birding is simply the opportunity to be able to be out in the countryside and looking for birds, it's certainly and never has been, about rare birds, not that I've seen that many. I guess the rarest bird I've seen was the Oriental Collared Practincole, but that came to me on my patch, I certainly wouldn't of travelled to see it.
Like you say, such events can't be twitched, you simply have to be present at the time to witness them - not chasing after something somebody has found for you.

Dave Boyle said...

Nothing wrong with Marmora's Warblers!

Stewart said...

Spectacle every time Steve. I love big seawatches and big viz mig days and big falls in particular. These 'big' things beat the biggest of massive 'rares' to me. Give me 6,000 Little Auks ( yes on my patch it did happen), 300 skylarks, 1000 Redwings, 2000 Sooties everytime , I'm gettinga buzz just thinking about it! Bring it on!

Steve Gale said...

We all agree then! Even Dave does really, he only mentioned the Marmora's because he found the Spurn one :-)