a (longish) note on twitching and twitchers

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Subject: a (longish) note on twitching and twitchers
From: "Andrew Stafford" <>
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2003 22:41:04 +1000
Judging from the stories submitted by Denise, Terry and Carol, I may have been gilding the lily somewhat when I stated that all birders were drawn by the birds rather than the numbers. There are obviously always exceptions!
One of the strongest threads that came through Mark Cocker's book, which I quoted in my original email, is how being part of the community of birders is dependent to a large extent on a shared oral history. Some great tales are repeated in its pages, and of course many of the best and funniest stories revolve around the lengths individuals have gone to twitch (or dip on) a particular bird. By definition, twitchers are the most obsessive members of the tribe, and obsessive people are, let's face it, a great source of comedy.
Colin Reid is right, too, when he says that Cocker's book will be of particular interest to the hundreds of British expats who have played such a gigantic role in the establishment of birding in Australia. They will recognise many of the stories and names therein.  Of course, the Australian birding community has its own set of characters and litany of stories, and it's interesting that for the most part these haven't yet found their way into either printed or online mediums - in a sense, those tales remain formally "unspoken".
Many of them, of course, couldn't be repeated without the names being changed. Some of the most beloved characters in Australian birding history - notably, the late John McKean - were twitchers of the best/worst kind. In fact, I'm sure there's a story out there of John attempting mouth-to-mouth on a recently deceased vagrant that he wanted to tick.
Perhaps the story's apocryphal, and someone on the list can probably confirm or deny it. But I don't really care too much. Point is, it's stories like these that draw a network of like-minded people together, at least those that can laugh at themselves, and is worth celebration as such.
Good birding everyone
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