twitching and twitchers

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Subject: twitching and twitchers
From: "Bruce Roubin" <>
Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2003 05:33:49 +1000
In regard to Andrew Stafford's observation in his previous email "without exception, the birders I've met were drawn to birding by the beauty of birds".
haven't had the pleasure of Andrew's acquaintance, but apart from that I can say that in my case I was drawn to birding by the annoyance of one particular species of bird. It started when I was being woken up in the morning (in Sydney) by the demented "weir - weir - weir - weir" of some mystery bird in our front yard. For a bit of a lark, I recorded this ridiculous call as a voicemail greeting on my mailbox at work (which I could access from any phone to do so). Subsequently a colleague (whose surname happened to be "Weir") identified it as the common koel, even though he had little general interest in wildlife.
Mr Weir had an unpleasant mental association from his childhood, of this call waking him up early, announcing another dreaded day of having to go to his Catholic school. Someone (a parent I guess), had told him what the name of the bird was. I had no such recollection of this call from my childhood - in St Lucia Brisbane - where the main avian bedroom annoyance I had was from the ubiquitous peewee call, which I associated instead with hours of dreary homework after school.
Mr Weir's naming of the species had me look it up in a quasi public library (i.e. bookshop), so that I might recognize this bird by sight (and perhaps hurl a rock at it if I caught it off-guard in the garden). This in fact I did the following weekend.
But the good news is, that the act of so identifying it aroused my curiosity to see what other birds were calling around my house. I soon discovered another, and when next spending lunchtime at the bookshop, identified this other one as a red-whiskered bulbul.
I found this latter act of identication as rather intellectually rewarding, and sometime later I made the plunge and impulsively purchased my first wildlife book - Pizzey & Knight's field guide, from which the above  "weir - weir - weir - weir" call description was taken. This reference book sat alongside others in my bookcase, which were mainly to do with cars and astronomy.
Thus set the train in motion, and I've never looked back. The personal thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of acquiring the observation/identification skills and knowledge is what holds my interest. The same now spills over to all wildlife and habitat species, and so grows a caring concern for same.  Beauty - or aesthetic appeal - is appreciated where it exists, but is irrelevant to holding my interest. Twitching - in the sense of maximising counts of different species on particular forays - I therefore think is an admirable pursuit, inasmuch as better counts demand greater observation/identification skills and knowledge. For example, I remember one Saturday morning last year when I ran into Edwin Vella arriving at Pitt Town Bottoms nature reserve (Hawkesbury region), just as I left. He later published his sightings on birding-aus, and had found roughly twice as many species as I had recorded, including some I dearly wished I had seen!
Bruce Roubin
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