Mother – “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

Child – ” I want to be……….a Twitcher!”

Mother – “Sorry son, you can’t do both”

Don’t believe me?   Click on these mentalists arguing the toss…


made up names

So there I was, perusing the notices on Birdguides to see what was about.  Got.  Got.  Need.  Got.  That kind of thing, when my eyes fell on two words which have left me in an occasional funk of ornithological despair.  Channel Wagtail.  Never ‘eard of it you say.  Nor me.  I’ve been reading field guides of various sizes and quality for over thirty years, and have yet to see reference to such a beast until yesterday.  For your elucidation, here is a screen dump from Birdguides (other news services are available)…

birdguides doing screen dump. is this theft?


Oh, I see now.  It is an intermediate form between two sub-species of a normal bird that has been given a name so it can gain validity and then get put on lists as another tick by desperate List addicts.  In other words it’s been made up.  Nonsense.  I’ll have no truck with that.  If I should see one of those, it will go down in the book as a funny looking Yellow Wagtail.  Channel Wagtail my arse.

I might go and see some Dotterel today.  I might not.

about time!

I can now get rid of my self titled moniker of The Only Birder In The UK Not To Have Seen Waxwings This Winter, when I eventually connected with them in the place where I first did many moons ago – click on this old link to read more.

There are few words that can be added to the volumes that have been written this winter, or any photographs of this most photogenic of birds that can add to the quality out there, other than the fact that this photo is mine, and therefore my favourite – and I am fully aware of it’s technical shorfallings.

Waxwings rule.  Fact. 

Waxwings that you have been seeking out for months but fail to see but then find 55 in one spot rule just that bid more.  I fucking love ’em.

waxwings doing truly brilliant

egrets, I’ve had a few…

On Saturday I went to see a bird.  It was in Marlingford.  It was a Great White Egret Egretta alba, and it looked like this.

An Egret doing airbrushed

Except that it didn’t.  For the sake of demonstration, if you have this picture on your monitor,  walk to the other side of the room, squint your eyes and pour some water over your head.  You will now have a similar view to the one that I had.  You can come back now, as the demonstration is over.

I had never seen one of these birds before and was mildly pleased that I did see this one.  And that’s all.  Mildly pleased.  I got to write it in my book and I got to mark it off on the Lister Demon© handbook (on three lists – Life, Norfolk and 2011) and that gave me a modicum of pleasure.  You may have expected, and I kind of expected myself, to be full of joy and jumping up and down because I had just got a lifer and it was a bloody great big rare white bird and only down the road and it was bloody brilliant!!  But it wasn’t.  This was pure twenty-first century twitching, I found the information on Birdguides, it gave the directions to exactly where it was, I drove there, saw some twitcherers on exactly the spot described, the bird showed, the heavens opened, I left.  Rubbish.  Now I don’t go twitchering very often for just this reason, rare birds are nice but the whole process of twitching is unsatisfactory, and doesn’t come close to the thrill of finding a new bird on the patch and over the last couple of weeks I have had patch ticks which did get me much more excited – and that’s the rub I reckon.  Patch birding is better than twitching, but I would say that wouldn’t I.

Moan over.  Tomorrow it is March.  March means migration.  Migration in a coastal patch in Norfolk can mean only one thing.  Wheatears, Sand Martins, Little Terns, Ring Ouzels.  Four things then.  Bring it on.

accidental twitchering, sort of…

See, there were a fair few peeps at Buckenham Marshes yesterday, me included.  To see birds and what not, but unbenkownst to me and probably most of the grumpy folks on the marsh (why is it that the more expensive your gear, the more attitude you have?  Does it come with the free lenscloth on stupidly expensive optics?) there had been an alert on the twitchering pagers that the Lesser White-fronted Goose was back.  Ohhhhhh, yyyyyes.  Arguably the rarest escaped bird in the country that had spent a lot of time this winter in the Yare Valley marshes had returned from a week long exile and reappeared on the little beepy-lit-up-thingy, due to it being on Buckenham Marshes.  There was a twitcherer there that was keen to point it out to those that passed.

And here it is!

a goose doing debatable


Another high quality image methinks.  So there you have it.  A rare goose.

But lets scan back and have a look at his mates…

another goose doing 'oh dear'


Yep, that’s right – it is a Greylag Goose!  Which by default means that the LWFG (get me!) is not the wild bird at all! Why the hoo-ha?  Why the report?  Why the fuss?  The twitcherer seemed ever so keen for it to be the (THE) bird but for what reason I cannot fathom – the very fact that it’s cohorts are feral means that it is not wild and really he and the original reporter should really have known this.    There wasn’t a Bean Goose anywhere in the vicinity. 

It does conform to the old two bird theory.  It wasn’t until I read up on this situation beyond the provenance of the other bird, that I found out  that this bird (the newly reported rare, but not at all rare bird)  has been knocking about all winter with the Greylags and is considered by some to be a hybrid (with what I don’t know) so all the time that the supposedly rare bird has been knocking about there have actually been two birds, and I wonder how many people have seen this bird and taken it for the ‘real’ thing?

Anyway, the local Bean Geese may have recently left for the winter and perhaps taken their exotic Swedish friend with them ( if you don’t understand that geographical reference you will probably fall asleep by the time the explanation is finished) which does give the percieved wildness of the other bird a little boost, but enhances it’s overall dodgy provenance, sort of.  Regardless, as far as I’m concerned, neither bird is tickable.  But the whole exercise has been quite illuminating.

Ooh, it’s a veritable ornithological minefield.

a twitch

You may think that this is going to detail a recent field excursion to see a rare bird, but no.  Quite the opposite.

Today (dependent on the weather I guess as there is a fair bit of the white stuff about) I may well take Mrs Thing Waxwing hunting.  I have a fair idea of where they have been recently and have had the good fortune to stumble across them in this area before, and it is in that area that I went on my first twitch.   Now,  I can count the number of dirty-filthy-twitcherings that I have gone to by only using my digits.  I may have some birds on my list that would cause people to twitch but many are there because I went to reserves with fingers crossed.  Largely waders, and largely in north Norfolk.  But that’s how it goes.  My first proper twitch was for a Waxwing, which is why this memory comes to mind.  Let me tell you a little story…

My friend Mark and I (he claimed to have seen a Lesser Kestrel but hadn’t) did a bit of voluntary work for the RSPB.  On a particular day we went to help out in the local (Norwich) office (when it was in Bethel Street) – this is in the 80’s don’t you know.  In those days the chaps in charge were Tony Prater and Chris Durdin.  Tony Prater co-wrote a book called Shorebirds, which is jolly good indeed.   Chris Durdin runs a birding tour company (or something like that).  I digress.  When we got there we were informed that there was a couple of Waxwings eating Rowan berries in the car park behind the Granville Saddelry.  Unless you know where that was, it is meaningless now as it doesn’t exist anymore. 



We had only seen them in books, and new that they were pretty classy looking birds so decided to sod the volling, and got back on our bikes to head for Stafford Street (probably after getting permission from home in all likelihood).  There was of course, nothing to see and nobody there.  Apart from an empty tree.  We hung around for a bit and nothing turned up.  Just as we decided that it was time to go (mums, dinners, etc) they flew into the tree.  Smiles, wows and a fair bit of ‘brilliant!.  First twitch, and mighty succesful.

My last twitch was for a Waxwing.  In Finchley of all places.  And it was this year.  I don’t need them on any list that I keep (apart from Patches of course).  So why go and look for them? To paraphrase Louis Armstrong – if you have to ask what a Waxwing is…