birding-aus Re: Mammal twitching

Subject: birding-aus Re: Mammal twitching
From: "Peter Menkhorst"<>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 11:03:04 +1000

Chris Lester wrote:
I'm not sure about serious mammal-twitching.  It seems to me that too many
mammals are nocturnal, small and/or hard to identify (except in the hand)
for this "sport" to really catch on.  Birds seem much more suited to
twitching, listing or observing, depending on your taste.

where's your sense of a challenge. Are you suggesting that birds are not
cryptic or "small and/or hard to identify"? What about prions, cisticolas,
grass-wrens, calidris waders, least terns, comic terns etc? Twenty-five
years ago I could not work out how to separate Little and Fairy Terns in
eclipse plumage, now its well understood. Solving these difficult problems
is precisely what keen birders get their kicks from.

The problem is that mammalogy in Australia has been the exclusive domain of
museum taxonomist and specialists for 200 years and no culture of field
identification has developed. The knowledge and skills that you apply when
identifying Little Stints or Elegant Parrots have been built up over 2
centuries of bird identification work by thousands of observers. When it
comes to field identification, mammalogy is at a much earlier stage, and
who knows what identification points remain to be discovered, or simply
publicised, once some serious attention is applied to the problem.

It is my hope that a good field guide will be an important step along the
path to enhancing our identification skills leading to greater public
appreciation of our diverse mammal fauna, plus a far greater level of
public input into mapping distributions, understanding habitat
requirements, etc


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