Re: birding-aus Twitching

To: Trevor Ford <>
Subject: Re: birding-aus Twitching
Date: Sun, 07 Nov 1999 20:57:09 -0800
Trevor Ford wrote:
> Has anyone thought that one of the reasons twitchathons might not capture
> the public imagination is because it's such a bloody stupid word?

Everybody else uses 'bird races' but then you have to explain that its
you, not the birds that are racing so its not much better.
> The word twitch was not invented by Bill Oddie, as I've seen written, but
> was an amalgam of the words tick (as in list!) and watch (as in bird-watch).
> It also conveyed the impression of some poor unfortunate quivering with
> excitement at the prospect of a potential tick that he'd heard about, and in
> terror at the prospect of not seeing it.

The true origin of this expression is as follows: In Norfolk, UK in the
late fifties a small band of birdwatchers would travel to see rare birds
all had cars except one couple who travelled by motorbike. Anyone who
knows Norfolk knows its bloody cold and they always arrived shivering
and hence where named the 'twitchers'. It was later used in a wider
context to describe all rarity hunters by their detractors.

> In Australia, going twitching seems to mean going birding.  In the UK, where
> it originated, it means travelling specifically to see a rare bird that has
> been found by someone else and that will probably not be on offer for too
> long. 

This is correct, the name twitcher is used incorrectly to some extent by
the general public for all birdwatchers. Twitching is a specific
activity, yesterday when I travelled (along with some 500 others) to
Cornwall to see a Booted Eagel I was a 'twitcher' today when I birded a
coastal lagoon 20 miles from home I was not!

 At one end of the spectrum (with pagers and telephone bird alerts now
> common), if a twitcher hears about a bird turning up that he has not seen
> before in the UK, he will drop everything and anything that he is doing and
> travel whatever distance, and at whatever expense, in order to see the bird
> as soon as possible.  That is twitching.
Theoretically any travel from A to B for a single bird is twitching, if
the neighbour phones up to say 'theres a nice Green Woodpecker on my
lawn, fancy popping round?' is that twitching? In reality it will always
be associated with rarities. Mind you a Green Woodpecker on a lawn in
Australia would really get the adrenalin flowing!!

> Some twitchers may have to wait for the weekend to travel (jobs and spouses
> tend to intrude) and may even deny that they're twitching.  "Oh, I just
> fancied a weekend in Norfolk, old boy"  when in truth they'd have been
> tucked up in bed at 4 am on a Saturday morning rather than queuing (yes,
> queuing) to catch a glimpse of an immature Ruppell's Warbler.
Queuing for a specific bird is pretty rare, but in a few cases it is the
only way everyone can get to see it. Crowds are most extreme on Scilly
in October where up to a 900 birders can be at a major rarity within a
hour of its discovery. I went every year for 12 years but haven't been
since 1990 and although I miss the rarities I don't miss the crowds.

> Birding World, arguably the UK's best birding magazine, was called Twitching
> in it's first year, but this name was so unpopular it was changed. 

It was also crap until it changed its name, little more than a few notes
on rarities, now its a excellent magazine.

 To much
> of the general public in the UK, twitcher is synonymous with nerd.

If they don't understand what fun birding is then its their loss not
Ian Lewis, Dorset, UK

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