Recently in Hampshire, England a Spanish Sparrow has appeared and causing quite a stir. A twitch it´s called. Twitching is a term used to describe the “pursuit of a previously located bird” according to Wikipedia. Basically when someone sees a bird not normally seen in an area, word spreads via the internet, social networks and even mobile phone text-message updates to people who then flock to said place to observe the bird. To be honest I find it a part of birding that is a bit weird. Some people spend a lot of time and money twitching, for example travelling the length and breadth of a country, hire boats or charter flights etc. And it´s basically to just tick a box on a list, although you could argue it´s just to see a bird not normally seen in your region, country or continent. Listing then is another thing. Some people are compelled to keep lists and have to have more ticks on their list than other listers. They frantically travel the world in search of additions to their lists.
Some twitches can draw huge crowds. The recent Spanish Sparrow has drawn hundreds, a Golden-crowned Warbler drew 2,500 in Kent, England, and in Ireland hundreds went to the west coast to see a Western Reef Egret a few years ago and recently a Ross´s Gull. Some listers spend their whole life running around spotting as many birds as they can.
I´m not sure if I have been guilty of having a twitch or not. A friends blog said there were Red-knobbed Coots at the Tablas of Daimiel last year and I drove 30km to see them. However, I regularly drive 30km to the Tablas to see the Tablas. Is that twitching? I keep lists, or at least I started to last year on the well organised site bubo.org however rather than an obsession, it´s more to keep track of what I see during the year. I´m very disorganised generally with respect to a field notebook but am making an effort this year to make proper recordings in the field. Is that listing?
Regardless of the hobby you have though, everyone has their own take on it. My father loves trains and riding on them, but he´s not a train spotter. Some people watch horse-racing at the track, others in the betting shop, my Uncle watches it at home and doesn´t even gamble. Some people simply watch birds, others only photograph them, some only twitch and some only list. Or there are those that combine any combination of these four things to certain degrees. What´s important though is the welfare of the subjects, the birds. We should always be aware of the fact that their welfare comes first.
So anyway, regarding the Spanish Sparrow in England, why bother travelling to outside someones house on an estate with hundreds of others in the cold hoping to see this bird? Jump on a cheap Ryanair flight, come on down to Spain and see thousands! Every evening on the reedbeds around here they gather in enormous flocks. The food is better, the wine is excellent, everything is cheaper and the weather is brilliant for the most part. You might even see some more birds you wouldn´t see every day at home to add to your lists.
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