Sunday, June 23, 2013

What's In a Name?

What are we – birdwatchers, bird watchers, bird-watchers, (ugh), birders or twitchers? Yep, getting desperate for a blog entry.

‘Twitcher’ apparently arose in England in the 1950s when two eminent birdwatchers Bob Emmett and Howard Medhurst would together scour the countryside particularly for rare sightings, using Bob’s motorbike for transport. Howard riding pillion would often arrive at their destination chilled to the bone. Whether it was just the cold or combined with the excitement of the ride and probably the anticipated sighting, Howard’s response was to shake uncontrollably for a time. Amongst their friends it became a standard joke and soon ‘twitcher’ became a common term for a serious birdwatcher.

Twitchers are often list chasers or ‘listers’ and in some circles they may have an undeserved derogatory reputation. Most birdwatchers it seems would prefer not to be referred to as a twitcher.

Although ‘birder’ and ‘birding’ are used more frequently these days, they are not especially modern. Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1602, contains a line “… her husband goes this morning a-birding.” The ABA is the esteemed American Birding Association. ‘Birder’ and ‘birding’ appear in most dictionaries now and are considered synonymous with birdwatcher and bird watching, (not birdwatching however). The British body Birdwatch describes itself as ‘the home of birding’.

My label does not concern me at all. I simply know that spending time watching birds and plants in their natural environment is one of the most soul satisfying things I know. Some would say I’m easily pleased.

Of late I have been pleasurably engaged by a Scarlet Robin on the golf course. I see this same bird almost every day. Every day I look forward to seeing it again. I can’t explain that. The bird appears in the same place at nearly the same time each day. Perhaps it’s the other way around and it comes to see me? I just sit quietly and it approaches cautiously and we eyeball each for a few minutes. Why should I feel chuffed about that?

I have some standard answers to those who question my favourite pastime –
Birds are beautiful.
Birds are fascinating.
It’s always good to learn something new.
Bird watching can be done almost anywhere.
It’s a relatively cheap recreation.
It’s a healthy, relaxing outdoor activity.
Bird watchers are friendly people – usually!
Now I think I will add – bird watching feeds the soul. 

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