As I mentioned in a previous article, there is a difference between a birdwatcher and a twitcher. A birdwatcher will sit, as I am doing now, and watch whatever birds come to the feeders on the patio. He may go for a walk in his local wood and just see what he can find:
Or take a stroll along the beach, taking care to have his binoculars, and probably his telescope and tripod, to hand. He will have a rough idea of what he is going to see, but nothing is pre-planned:
A twitcher is somebody who finds out where a rare bird has been seen and then sets off in an effort to see it. In previous articles, I have revealed how I used to be a twitcher. As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, I used to be a “twitcher”, the sort of birdwatcher who might travel hundreds of miles to see a species which is rare in whichever country he lives.I have already published articles about a trip to Dorset for a Terek Sandpiper:
I told you about going to Norfolk for a River Warbler:
Twitching was a very popular pursuit when I used to do it, back in the 1980s and 1990s. Here is a Golden-winged Warbler:
And here are the crowds that went to see it in Kent, myself included:
Even now, a very rare vagrant may attract several thousand twitchers over the course of the bird’s stay.
Twitching first began, on a very limited scale, in the 1960s, when news of a long staying bird, such as the Dusky Thrush in Hartlepool during the winter of 1959-1960, were circulated by letter and postcard:
How long has twitching been going on? What bird was the subject of the first twitch? I thought about this for a long while and my eventual conclusion was that it was possibly the Houbara Bustard present in Suffolk from November 21st to December 29th 1962.
Here is a Houbara Bustard. They are very rare birds:
And they will get even rarer if the Pakistani hunters in Baluchistan continue to think that this is sustainable hunting:
Even if the Houbara Bustard wasn’t the first ever twitch, the photographs reveal that this was very much an event in the distant past:
Just look at the clothes.
Just look at the car.
Just look at the telescope!
The bird was about the size of a turkey. It fed in a mustard field and could also be found in a stubble field:
Here is another view:
The Suffolk Houbara of 1962 was a rather eccentric creature and it often seemed to prefer to walk rather than fly. It could frequently be observed very easily by parking the old Morris Oxford at the side of the lane between its two favourite fields, and waiting for it to saunter past:
The full story of this bird, in much more mature and scientific prose can be found here.