A twitcher falls off the perch

To: Tony Russel <>, birding aus <>
Subject: A twitcher falls off the perch
From: Tim Jones <>
Date: Thu, 9 May 2013 04:05:39 +0000
I went through almost exactly the same thing over 10 years ago, in a different 
situation and I think I know how you feel. I was a hardened twitcher in the UK 
and hated missing vagrants. I would take off from work at the earliest 
opportunity, hopefully combining with mates, but often going on my own anywhere 
in the country (except perhaps the most remote Scottish islands).
After a while I started having the occasional holiday abroad, and my job 
started to take me to interesting locations (like South Africa at least 3 
times). I found it harder and harder to rouse myself for twitches and I was too 
far behind the top blokes to ever be in the top 10 or so listers. I missed a 
couple of birds that way, either going too late or not at all, but it all came 
to a head when a Little Swift was in the country - about a 3 hour drive from 
where I lived. I prevaricated for 2 weeks and then had to go on my own. I 
turned up 15 minutes after the bird was last seen (it had roosted in the same 
place for 2 weeks and frequented nearby fields and its disappearance coincided 
with the farmer starting to plough up the stubble).
As I drove home, I just wondered what the hell I was doing. Petrol is expensive 
in the UK. I had recently seen millions of the things in South Africa. Years 
before I remember coming back from a holiday in Canada once and dumping wife 
and baby straight after landing and screeching off after an American sparrow of 
some sort - again I had seen loads in the preceding couple of weeks! I enjoyed 
the fact that I had been everywhere (man) in the UK, but it was getting 
repetitious. Twitching just lost its sheen. Why spend all that money and effort 
for a number on a list, when you can delight in the same species and hundreds 
more on a proper holiday, with a relaxed instead of pressured situation, seeing 
them in their correct habitat, breeding plumages and experiencing a new 
country? It was weird letting go, but whilst I wondered why I had bothered in 
the past, I put it down to having a great crack at the time, which I really did 
for most of the ten or eleven years I did it.
In the end I found I gained more than I gave up. When I came to Aus 10 years 
ago, I decided I would NOT go on twitches. I've seen all the birds that have 
turned up here as vagrants. I just want to see all the regular species and have 
20 or 30 to go. That's enough for me in Australia (and you can add NZ I 
suppose). Twitching is enormously expensive here due to the distances involved 
- you might as well go to New Caledonia and see a Kagu (that's an ambition for 
me - it would be nice to see at least one bird from every bird family in the 
world - which should keep me going a while!). I still see my twitching mates on 
a birding holiday once every year or two.
Twitching (and I suppose any casual birding really) has no intrinsic value at 
all and in fact might be a realtively minor contributor to pollution etc.. The 
best one can say is that hopefully most proponents of it also have an interest 
in the environments they visit and to some extent might contribute to awareness 
of conservation and/or eco tourism, and usually have some sort of parallel 
conservation involvement.
I just think "each to his own", and have a great time out birding, wherever you 
go. Let anyone who'll listen know how great it is. And try and put a little 
back into conservation (I know we're pushing water up hill, but we can't just 
All the best and see you around somewhere, I hope.

Date: Thu, 9 May 2013 10:25:19 +0930
Subject: A twitcher falls off the perch

Hi All, I've been twitching since the early nineties, feverishly chasing
after vagrants new and rare to Australia. My Oz total now stands at 753
given my last twitch for the Eyebrowed Thrush near Atherton. I have in the
past spent what must be thousands of dollars on fuel, airfares,
accommodation, site fees, food, etc., and many hundreds of hours going for
the latest vagrant arrivals before they disappear or die or get predated.
Great fun.
However, things seem to be changing. In recent years I've thought about
going for the latest vagrants in Broome and Perth, like the Semi-palmated
Plover in Broome  and the Northern Pintail in Perth,, and even the Princess
Parrot in the Centre, but somehow have lost the compulsion to go for them.
Money and time are not the determining factors. I just seem to have lost
The recent Widgeon in WA and the current Wagtail in Alice have of course
caught my attention, but I find I just can't be bothered going for them.
What for? Just another tick in my list? I was hoping to catch up with a
Black-headed Gull in Darwin sometime, but having just been to the UK
(without my bins) I saw hundreds of them.  And widgeons.  So what?
Surely this sort of thinking is sacrilege to  the true twitcher I thought I
was.  Now the thinking is "so what if I don't see them?"
I used to think that lifting my total towards 800 was important to me, now
it seems entirely immaterial. So what if other people get a bigger list than
me? It doesn't affect anything does it .  I collect beautiful pictures of
rare birds on the internet.  Not the same as seeing them in the flesh ? Of
course not.  So?
In the past I've had many a heated discussion with some of our more academic
birdos over the value of twitching, which they of course consider
contributes very little to the important issues of habitat and species
conservation.  I have to agree with them.  What possible useful impact can a
single vagrant achieve before it dies or gets eaten? 
Of course a group of vagrants, like the Canada Geese of a few years ago, if
left to establish and form ever growing numbers, can have effects on habitat
usage, nest sites, food supplies  etc, which upsets the natural ecological
balance and often affect indigenous species adversely.    Moreover, many of
these feral groups are now too well established over time to be eradicated,
and isn't it better to learn to live with them than get all upset about
them. Feral colonies are only good for twitchers but only of nuisance value
for conservationists.
I don't understand how my drop off in zeal has come about. Those disdainful
of twitching might suggest that "Aha, at last he's come to his senses", but
I don't accept that.  The thought of seeing a new bird is still interesting
, even exciting, but I just can't be bothered going after them anymore. I
Googled the creek where the Widgeon was seen in WA, and I thought about
asking Chris Watson precisely which garden in Alice has the Wagtail.  But to
what avail? I know I'm not going.
Is there anybody out there suffering from a similar malaise ?

=============================== To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the 
message: unsubscribe (in the body of the message, with no Subject line) to: 

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU