Generally speaking I like to wander round my local patch, or some other patch, looking at what’s around. Trying to find that redpoll in a flock of finches. Wondering why the great grey shrike that has perched on that tree at this time of year for the last three years ain’t there today.
But occasionally it it is just a nice change – almost quaint (and there’s a word you don’t hear used in anger much these days) – to drive up to a twitch and find the twitchee ready and waiting to be ticked.
And so it was a nice way to end and start the year. Brunnich’s Guillemot – or thick-billed Murre if you must – in Portland to end 2013, and an American Coot in Loch Flemmington to kick start the new. Well not too new because we only got there a couple of days ago.
But in both cases we drove up, walked up – or in the case of the American Coot, got out of the car and stood up – and saw the bird in question from a distance that meant identification was unmistakable. And the getting on the right bird was even easier given that there were no confusion species, or indeed any other species, within 100 meters.
Now I know that birders are supposed to suffer for their art (science? hobby? passion? mildly entertaining interest?) and that a yellow browed warbler isn’t quite the same unless you’ve had to struggle out to the end of Blakeny Point to see it. Nor is a bonxie a true find unless it’s identified 3 klicks out in the teeth of of a gale amongst a flock of juvenile herring gulls.
But that isn’t true for the blackbirds in the garden, beginning to go about the annual business of establishing nesting sites. I don’t feel I have to do a three mile hike, and then have to work hard to separate them from a variety of other thrushes. I can just enjoy them without any hard work.
And at the turn of the year we were able to enjoy two vagrants to these shores in similarly easy and comfortable circumstances. And do I feel guilty about it? You bet I don’t.