Monday, November 08, 2021

Work? I don't think so...

Somewhere in an alternate universe there are people who have this grandiose idea that when they go birding, they are actually grafting real, sweat-breaking, toil. Can you imagine?

A recent online article has described the 'retina burning' 'thigh aching' disappointment and shattered dreams of a 'holiday' to Shetland where the authors actually failed to find a first for Britain. Oh no, really! They had set their sights on a Baikal Bush-Warbler ( a what?) or a Yellow- rumped  Flycatcher maybe. 

Now I may be a pessimist but neither of these species has occurred here in the last 200 years so why one would arrived in their 10 day window remains to be seen. Shetland is home to some of the UK's top bird finders who, I'd hazard to guess' may be better positioned to turn up a real mega, simply due to the time in = birds out method.

As it happened, no mega rare birds were found only multiple Little Buntings, a Rosefinch ( by using a thermal imaging camera), 3 species of Flycatcher and a few Yellow broweds. They could have battled through the pain barrier and seen Arctic Redpolls, White billed Diver, Bonelli's Warbler, Woodchat etc too. 

This left the observers broken. Lads, lads, lads, get a grip. Birders with this outlook really do need a reality check. If its you, its time to have a word with yourself!

If I had spent the thick end of a grand for a holiday my main concern would not be the disappointment of not finding rare birds ( they are rare after all, the clue is in the name), it would be coming back with the attitude that I deserved those megas, and all else was an abject failure. 

I am so pleased these birds don't perform on cue...

So that's what one looks like...

One I have seen, a spring Yellow rumped Flycatcher...

In other news, I was saddened to learn yesterday that the great DIM Wallace had died aged 88. 

Ian Wallace was my birding hero. His books and articles are things to be kept and re-read over and over where each time they give inspiration, excitement and joy. Scarcely a month passes where I don't refer to a Wallace writing in some way. Usually for solace, after reading the 'disappointment papers' maybe and as said above, real inspiration. Sitting here writing this I can reach out to seven books and three ring binders full of cuttings connected to him.  

It is a regret that our paths never crossed. I've thought about this for many years and often considered writing to him but could never muster the courage. What could I say to this great man, the founding father of modern birding? In recent years I pondered that Ian was getting older and would not be around for ever so I should take the plunge but never did.

What would he have made of the 'disappointment' piece? Wallace was never disappointed, how could he be, he laid the path we birders tread today. He mingled with historical greats like HG Alexander, Kenneth Williamson, Eric Ennion, Guy Mountfort, Eric Hosking and even Meinertzhagen briefly to name but a few. 

He always had a plan, always seeking out new places and new things to learn, right to the end and it is with this attitude we should learn from and move forward. 

The thermal imaging and rare smelling graft can wait...we should strive to be worthy of tying DIMW's shoelaces.  

Rest in Peace Ian...



  1. Oh, that's a shame about DIMW. I know most of the younger generation(s!) of birders will probably perceive him as a stringy ol' dinosaur in a funny hat, but I owned one of his books when I was a teen "Discover Birds With..." or "Birdwatching With..." or somesuch, and at the time it was truly inspirational! All I really recall of the book now was a section about tracking flightlines, which I did with the evening flights of gulls over my South London garden (birding by bus!) and with the roosting Magpies on my local patch (some came in from over three miles away). Plus a drawing of two birders "discovering a rare warbler just before sunset". Whether he was a bonkers has-been or whether he was the grand daddy of it all, he was an inspiration for many, chose his own path to walk and will be missed. RIP DIMW.

  2. Yes Stew, that article left me with a similar feeling, but you've expressed it better than I could. I found it a bit depressing really.

    Contrast that with the DIMW's writing. Full of sheer joy, and so inspirational. Just makes you want to get out there. You've picked a couple of cracking examples. Thanks for sharing them.

  3. Seth and Gav - Cheers for the comments.

    Seth, many of today's birders are so fixated on 'rares' (God I hate that term) that everything else disappoints. The finding of such Holy Grail species is great but if thats all I hoped for it wouldn't be worth going out! I try to set myself realistic targets like a Black Redstart or Snow Bunting or Emperor Moth or whatever. Anything better just makes the day...

    Gav, These birders need a proper job of work instead of swanning around being ecologists or what ever ;) Give me the likes of DIMW any day...

  4. Agree with everything above!
    One of my favourite books was - and is - 'Birdwatching in the 70s' Still a great read: as were his articles in 'Birdwatching'.

  5. Stewart,
    That is the best blog I have read this year.
    Well done!

  6. David and Gordon, cheers for the comments...

  7. Anonymous5:05 pm

    Good blog, and agree - don't really think any birding is "hard work" if one is comparing it with say, hard manual labour or difficult coding/research etc etc. You're setting yourself up for disappointment with crazy, unachievable targets! After a poor spring it felt unlikely that autumn would be good. It is sad seeing some apparent attitudes where almost everyday seems disappointing to them (or that's how the tweets read). Amy

  8. Thanks for the comment Amy. Some of these 'grafting birders' are a bit pretentious....