Birders, Brits & STats

To: Tony Keene <>
Subject: Birders, Brits & STats
From: Dave Torr <>
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2013 11:40:12 +1100
Ah - a new measure - the milliWerribee! Werribee used to be just over
10,000 hectares so a milliWerribee would be 10 hectares I guess, but now
chunks have been removed for the regional park and housing will be less -
so it may not be a fixed area!

On 4 January 2013 10:35, Tony Keene <> wrote:

> Julian, I agree - it's certainly different and at the same time the same.
>  The same hours spent scoping scrubby patches in all forms of weather (and
> yes, you can get badly sunburnt in the UK in the summer. Sometimes.), the
> same sorts of people from the lightest of robin-strokers through to the
> most aspie of twitchers, the same highs and lows of new birds and dips.
> Even if they are mostly small and brown...
> Moving back to the UK, it's both lovely to see old favourites like Common
> Shelduck and Bohemian Waxwings and at the same time a little of an
> anti-climax compared to the first few months in Australia where almost
> everything was a tick.
> The major difference is the number of people:  RSPB Bowling Green Marsh
> was heaving on 1st January with loads of people starting their year lists.
>  I must have passed upwards of a hundred birders on the way between the
> river and the reserve and there was a constant turnover in the hide, all in
> a site worth about 150 milliWerribees.
> I suspect I shall rarely have the glorious solitude of an Australian
> reserve, but at least I won't be short of second opinions on ID in the
> field...
> Cheers,
> Tony
> On 03/01/2013 21:32, 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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