This past week we`ve been inundated with twitchers down here travelling from afar to tick off the grey Stonechat (aka Stejneger`s) at Lydd-on-Sea, and probably adding a wintering Ring-necked Duck to their year lists along the way as well. Some of my more sane (non-birding) friends have commented on the number of "old blokes" they`ve noticed recently loitering by the roadsides hereabouts, peering through paparazzi style camera lens: "Is it someone famous on a film shoot, or perhaps the Orient Express is coming down the power station railway line", they enquire, to which I reply, "nope, they`ve come to see a small grey bird." You`re kidding me", said one local, "I could`ve sworn one of `em said he`d come all the way from Newcastle!...surely not...must be mad..blah, blah, blah...
Now, I`m not about to launch into an anti twitcher post, as I`ve done a limited amount myself in the past, and it`s a free world, so whatever floats your boat and all that, but I am fascinated by the psychology behind the pursuit, all of which has been ably covered in Tales of a Tribe by Mark Cocker.
However, there was an encounter the other day that left me somewhat bemused at the risks people take for their tick. I was birding Lade pits (only one mile from the pale Stonechat) when a heavily sweating fella rushed up to me and said, "have you got it?" Being a wind-up merchant I thought I`d have a bit of fun, so replied, "yep, over there by the reedbed, been here a week or more now, smart bird a Slav Grebe". He was, of course less than impressed, being as he was looking for the chat, and after a brief conversation it transpired he was on a flyer from work, and only had limited time, and did I know where the said bird was likely to be.
Looking to the south I could see a huddle of twitchers already gathered around what I presumed to be the Stonechat, so switching to tour guide mode redirected him. I was about to point out a Great White Egret and a perched Kingfisher when he was off and sprinting like Usain Bolt towards the quarry without so much as a thank you very much or kiss my arse! As he disappeared towards the throng I stood and mused what a funny old world it is. He`d probably driven like the hammers of hell to get here, when he should`ve been at work, and spent five minutes on the bird before hurtling back to wherever. A very risky business indeed.