Birders, Brits & STats

To: Dave Torr <>
Subject: Birders, Brits & STats
From: Tony Keene <>
Date: Fri, 04 Jan 2013 01:28:35 +0000
It's more a measure of awesomeness rather than area. Might have to make a proper scale of this one day...


On 04/01/2013 00:40, Dave Torr wrote:
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
    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...


    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
        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

        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

        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
        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.



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