A twitcher falls off the perch

To: Tony Russel <>
Subject: A twitcher falls off the perch
From: Graeme Stevens <>
Date: Sat, 11 May 2013 13:23:34 +1000
What an interesting range of perspectives on our collective passion that 
As a very infequent "poster" it's always a great pleasure to understand the 
motivations of all the great contributors to the list who debate with passion, 
organise opportunities (like pelagics)  and share info with such great 
I reckon there is no "right" way to enjoy birding/ornithology or whatever you 
prefer - provided we do no harm and preferably contribute to conservation, or 
the body of knowledge, in our own way.
I wouldn't chase the Forest Wagtail in the Alice either for what it's worth. I 
have enjoyed them while living in Asia. And I cant tell you what my Australian 
"count" is to be honest - only the count of species I have "Atlassed". It's 
understanding birds in their environment, the ecology if you like, that gives 
me enjoyment. 
Does that mean I dont get excited when I see a new species? Course not! Would I 
get a kick out of taking a great image of something rare or beautiful? You bet. 
And the great media coverage the Alice Wagtail generated has got to be a 
positive? (never mind the great collaboration and generosity displayed by all 
To each his own I reckon Tony. A great Aussie list and congratulations - but 
like Penny I bet you will always enjoy one of your "locals" singing it's head 
off next spring in the afternoon light?
When you stop getting an extra lift from that - that's when you start worrying!
Thanks for the post
Graeme Stevens


> 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
> steam.
> 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 ?
> Tony

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