Friday 6 January 2017

The Risky Twitcher

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.


  1. I've experienced similar twitchers, exhibiting the same traits myself, you can point out all manner of good birds to them but no, it has to be that one bird they're after, hence my dislike of them. What fascinates me is what goes on in their minds the second that they've seen the bird, are they depressed or deflated that the "buzz" has suddenly ended and so many risks taken to achieve it.

  2. All I can say Derek is the buzz must be strong to put your livelihood at risk, and as for racing around the highways of England(having done it for many years in business)that is most definitely not a pleasurable experience. Sadly I`ve also known more than one or two birders down the years who`ve come a cropper in pursuit of ticks.

  3. Didn't the infamous Lee Evans suffer just such a fate.

    1. Yes, indeed he did, many years ago, but I can recall several others who died on the roads in pursuit of birds.