Saturday, April 02, 2016

Birders and 'Birders'.

After a short wander around the patch this morning, taking in the 'wheateary' places along the coast I had plenty of time to think as there was very little to actually see. Not one migrant did I have. None. In fact all I did see were 3 Skylarks, some Meadow Pipits, 2 Shelduck, 2 Stonechat and at sea an Eider or two, a few Curlew but I scarcely lifted my bins as most of these birds are seen and that's that.

A mini highlight came as I arrived at our back door when I noticed 3 male Lapwings tumbling and calling over the field behind our house. Lets hope they breed. I've emailed the estate office to see if anything can be done to help them ie leave the field alone, so we will see what happens. At the minute it has been left for ages as a barren type of set a side but there may be plans for it this year?

Back to my train of thought, birders and birders. A friend once said to me when we were discussing another birding colleague, 'You know Stewart, they aren't birders like us.' What  was meant by that? Well' it could mean many different things to different people I suppose and we are all of a 'tribe' but I know what he meant.

Lets start by saying that we are talking about so called serious birders here, not the casual who feeds the birds and does the garden bird watch. No, here we are talking about keen birders of varying abilities and experience who are in the field regularly seeking out our avian beings in a deliberate fashion.

This group can be divided into two. Those who go out looking for birds in a methodical, maybe philosophical way, ie the bird finders and those who like an easy life ( but arguably more stressful) by just bypassing the learning, planning and research stage and just going for 'the'.

'The' can mean anything. How many of you have passed a fellow binocular wearer to be asked ' Have you seen the......'? Or maybe 'Can you tell me where to see the.......' If the dots equate to a Wallcreeper, Black Lark or even a Wryneck then all well and good but what if the space filler is say a Tree Pipit or Whinchat or Black tailed Godwit.....? All nice birds, but where is the element of surprise here?    Some people even talk about a bird like its the only one left in existence ie 'Have you seen THE Slavonian Grebe?' [At a place 15 miles from where you are currently having this conversation].

What I say is 'Oh no, I haven't' but what I really want to say is ' No I'm not interested in seeing THAT Slavonian Grebe because, by doing some research and ground work I found that they are not to difficult to find wintering in Northumberland and anyone can go and find their own if only they would go and look.'

Look at my post a couple of weeks ago about the Lapland Bunting. We could easily have just done nothing and waited for a pager report of one at a hotspot, hopped in the motor, driven off and had a year tick. Where on earth is the birding fun in that.

No, what we did was identify some good looking habitat, and with some knowledge of the species requirements, set off to look for a Lap. As you know, 9 times out of ten this will fail, but often you find something else like a shorelark or snow bunting or Arctic Redpoll for example. Then you come home with a glow of satisfaction that you have been successful in your quest. Even an outright failure can just drive you on to be more diligent next time. This is how birding skills improve. This is how any skills improve.

So that's off my chest. I'm not really saying that twitching all and sundry is wrong, each to their own, but come on, just sometimes take the time to plan a day out, set some targets and see if you can find your own goal...I do it every week!

[ In case you're wondering, this week I have checked the weather and there is a light SE with some showers forecast. This might drop in a migrant or two and its peak time for Black Redstart in Northumberland so I might have a look at some local rough rocky corners on the coast to see if I can find one. I probably wont but hey ho, its all about the chase...Unless I just go to Tynemouth for the one that's there....]

Can you tell me where the......


DorsetDipper said...

twitcher or a local patch birder? Here's the test

a scarce bird turns up 30 miles away. do you:
a) go to see it?
b) go to your local patch in case something scarce has turned up there too?

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

that lovely soft grey of a black redstart...

Steve Gale said...

Spoken (or written) like a pure birder Stewart!

Unknown said...

Hi Stew,
I loved reading this blog post. You share my exact opinion on the matters you discussed. I've also noticed a third breed of 'birder' seeping up through the ranks, the casual photographer.

Drawn in through Facebook photography pages, every local highlight is becoming reaped by the casual, easy photographer looking for a like.

Cresswell Barnies
Lea's Shorties
Trow Little Owls
Killy Great Crested Grebes
Gosforth Bitterns
St Marys Shorties
the list goes on and on....