I am not a Twitcher!

Three times this week, people have referred to me, in good faith, as a “twitcher”. I’m not, and I blame lazy tabloid hacks for creating this misconception, which I will now try to lay to rest.

I am a birdwatcher or, if you will, a birder. I like to be outdoors, with my binoculars and sometimes a telescope, to watch birds. I like to travel to different places, such as hills or the coast, to see different kinds of birds, but I also like to watch common birds, like Starlings, in my garden, or as I move around my home city.

[Picture: Common Starling, Sternus vulgaris, from Creative Commons, by Paul Stein; licenced under Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.]

I like to know their life histories, and to read about and study their behaviour, their conservation and their contribution to human folklore.

All together, this brings me a great deal of enjoyment, and helps me to de-stress after spending long hours at a desk in front of a computer, or in stuffy meetings, in my day job. I try to pay some of it back, by sharing my interest with non-birders, and beginners, and by doing voluntary work for the RSPB and the West Midland Bird Club, of which I’m a trustee.

Occasionally, I am pleased to chance upon a rare bird, or to travel a short distance to a local reserve, knowing one is present. The interest in seeing a new species this way is sometimes tempered by the fact that, if it’s a rare vagrant from Siberia or the Americas, it is likely to be exhausted and near death. At the very least, it will never get home or find a mate.

Twitchers, on the other hand, enjoy an extreme, compulsive type of birding, whereby they will hunt out such rarities, competitively, often travelling great distance, at great cost, and enduring considerable discomfort, to do so. They will often prefer to see one bird of a new species, involving a day or more travelling, over the opportunity to spend time looking at a whole range of other, more common birds (which some of them refer to as “trash birds”). There have been cases of twitchers paying hundreds of pounds to charter a boat or plane to get them to The Scillies or The Shetlands, and one once famously left his own wedding reception and missed the start of his honeymoon, to chase after a rarity.

Unlike some birders, who disdain them, I make no judgements about twitchers, and I know that some are very knowledgeable, and are just as likely as other birders to be involved in voluntary and conservation work.

But I’m not one of them. I trust that that’s now clear.

4 thoughts on “I am not a Twitcher!

  1. Pete Ashton

    Ah, gotcha. It’s like when I say I read comics and people go “oh, superheroes and Batman and Marvel and that” and I have to go into some longwinded explanation that while some great work has been done in that genre and Jack Kirby is great it’s not really an area I have much interest in preferring other sorts of comics that are really hard to describe without coming over like some kind of pretentious art-snob. And that’s not even starting on the whole collector thing with the near-mint and backing boards and Simpson’s Comic Book Guy stuff.

    Glad you liked “bird-nerd” though. I was rather proud of that.

  2. Mark

    Spot on birder – could apply to so many things. Finding unpretentious pleasure in detail of apparently mundane stuff is so under-rated and taking time to enjoy the process of the experience and not just the end result can be so rewarding too. But tell me this bird-nerd, and I just can’t resist the obvious pun, if you’re not a twitcher, are you a tweeter, twitterer or just a t…?

  3. brigid

    i typed in birding/twitching + west mids cos Im determined to get out more, and came upon this blog. ‘Mundane stuff being under rated is a good way of putting it’. Does anyone recommend any particular site or group ? I live in open farmland, not far from moor and mixed woodland on Herefs/Shrops border. Would like to meet with ppl + visit more open water. Am useless at estuary and water birds. LOVE seabirds. hoped it was worth leaving a comment. All suggestions welcome.


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