Birders, Brits & STats

To: Julian B <>
Subject: Birders, Brits & STats
From: Ed Williams <>
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2013 09:49:18 +1100
No worries Julian!  Thanks for the offer - and if I'm in the area I'll let you 
know :)

South Stack in Anglesey was always one of my favourite day trips as a child. I 
certainly miss the cliff seabird colonies from back home... It's a real shame 
Auks never made it down south - the cliffs around NSW and the South Coast would 
be perfect for them.  The acclimatisation societies of old missed a trick 
there! (Cue next debate - haha!)

Happy Birding and a very Happy New Year to all, 


Ed Williams
Kingsville, VIC

On 04/01/2013, at 8:43 AM, "Julian B" <> wrote:

> Yes, Philip, the 16 500 [550 x 30] was an absurd exaggeration, as is the oft
> touted fallacy that there are few or no birds in Britain.  I had a teaching
> colleague who, on returning from a year's teacher exchange in London,
> bemoaned the lack of British birds: sparrows and starlings with a few feral
> pigeons to spare.  Puzzled, I asked exactly where had she gone in search of
> birds and was flabbergasted to learn that apart from one trip to Stratford
> to see a Shakespearean drama she had never set foot beyond The Big Smoke.
> Nor was that the thrust of my point.  Numbers are irrelevant in this debate.
> What does it matter whether Britain has 50 or 500 fewer species that
> Australia?  Australia is 30-times the size of Britain and has habitat types
> [e.g. deserts, rainforests] not found in Britain.  No one doubts that
> Australia has more bird species than a small European outpost and therefore
> all those defensive parries [e.g. lack of birders makes it difficult to
> discover the true Australian total; more than half of the British list (?
> Evidence based or another stab in the dark?) consists of rare vagrants] were
> unnecessary and rather missed my point by the proverbial country mile.
> I was simply trying to dispel the seemingly widely held antipodean view that
> there are only a handful of rather drab and lacklustre avian species in
> Britain.
> Given some of the responses [both in this public forum and emailed
> privately] it appears to me that a number of correspondents are in danger of
> comparing apples with oranges - equating Australian birdwatchers [birders]
> with British "twitchers".  
> Twitching is not unique to Britain and alien to Australia - and anyone who
> doubts that was obviously not present when the Blue Rock Thrush arrived at
> the "Devil's Kitchen" on the Sunshine Coast.  And I do seem to recall one
> rather well-known former Queensland politician/birder dropping everything to
> race off in pursuit of a reported Great Reed-Warbler at Port Macquarie.
> Nor. of course, are all British birders mad twitchers.  Lee Evans does not
> hold sway over all!  Penny gives a fine example of this.  
> I would add my own contribution.  Back in the early 1990s, having to return
> to Britain on family matters, I took the opportunity to chase down that
> elusive Puffin.  On arriving at South Stack [Anglesey, North Wales] I was
> amazed to see the number of family groups enjoying a picnic while birding.
> I fell into conversation with one such family and moments later their
> 14-year old son [along with the nine-year old daughter] called me over to
> their telescope in which they had a Puffin!
> Fay and I hail from Staffordshire where our local patches included
> Blithfield Reservoir [for which read "dam"] and Cannock Chase [a "chase" is
> a large woodland area not owned by the Crown].  This was our
> bread-and-butter birding.
> Yes, we twitched on occasions.  We were there for the White-winged Black
> Tern [a Staffordshire rarity].  We were among the crowd for the Salisbury
> White Stork as we were for the Red Phalarope BUT these were anomalies.  Our
> birding consisted of regular counts at the Doxey Marshes, the Uttoxeter
> Quarry, at Belvide Reservoir, etc.
> It is surely an exercise in futility to maintain that it is better or worse
> birding in Australia than in Britain [or vice verse].  The birding is
> Here in Australia you can attend your local patch, any patch, and be largely
> confident of the birds you can record.  Yes, there are always the
> exceptions: the Javan Pond Heron of Darwin; the Black-headed Gull at Broome
> Sewage Treatment Plant; the Franklin Gull of Salisbury Plains; etc.  But
> they are random; there appears to be no rhyme or reason behind their sudden
> and unexpected arrival on these shores.  You wouldn't hold your breath
> awaiting the next one.
> In Brittan, on the other hand, especially at both the Spring and Autumn
> passage seasons, one can be reasonably confident that something strange,
> rare of unusual will appear somewhere, either from across the Atlantic or
> overland from the farthest reaches of Siberia.  
> In part it is that expectation that fuels many twitchers or simply warms the
> cockles of the most humble patch birder.
> Other debateable points have been put forward in this thread but my final
> [public] word is simply an apology to Ed.  I seem to have usurped your
> innocent parting quip to a fellow Pom and birder and turned it into a
> diarrheic comedy of mostly misused English grammar and lacklustre logic.  I
> would make it up to you should you ever find yourself in my neck of the
> woods [the South Burnett, some 280km NW of Brisbane] with time to watch [or
> twitch] a few of my local birds.
> Julian
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