Sunday, October 21, 2012

Twitching - Not A Naughty Word!

Its October and I will as usual be off twitching in my favourite migration hotspot, Spurn Head.  This always gets a few tuts from a couple of acquaintances busy with the serious matter of BTO Surveys, and got me musing about why.
As young beginners much of our birding is of a casual nature, with haphazard notes, bits of lists, and a general lack of purpose.  We are aware that birdwatching is perceived by much of society as a bit pointless, seen as people just keeping lists like train or plane-spotters.  Of course nothing could be further from the truth, the general public have no concept of the science of ornithology.  The great advances in our understanding of avian biology and behaviour, painstakingly and brilliantly pieced together by ornithologists over the last 50 years, is unknown to non-birdwatchers.
Consequently most birders quickly progress to scientific, studious birdwatching, a reaction to being thought of as a bit odd.  Even if Joe Public remains ignorant the studious birdwatcher can feel aloof, safe in the knowledge that whatever anyone else may think, he or she is actually involved in important work, not just a quaint amusing hobby.

This is all very understandable but unfortunately carries its own downsides.  So engrossed in ‘proper’ birding do some become they forget to go birding for fun sometimes.  Twitching is dismissed as pointless and going out not doing some census work or other as a waste of good survey time.
I think every birder needs to let their hair down once in a while, to go out without a notebook and just have fun.  If you see a flock of ducks don’t count them!  If you find yourself mentally keeping lists of species stop it and have a word with yourself!   Just go out with your bins and enjoy seeing what you see, you see?
My work centres around ecological surveys so I am perfectly aware of the value of serious ornithology.  The danger is in trying (perhaps sub-conciously) to always make our birding important and purposeful that we get sidetracked by things that are frankly not really important at all.  Like trying to devise a standard list of English names for all Anglophone countries to adhere to, or arguing about the order birds should be in field guides.  If ever the term ‘pointless’ could be applied to birdwatching it is to these two great wastes of time!  So it is with head held high and pager strapped to head that I am off to Spurn for some heavyweight twitching, not a waste of time but a whale of a time, bring it on!

.......thought of as a bit odd for some reason.

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