Sunday, 1 September 2019

Collecting Stuff

Well, hello. To any who might be visiting NQS on the off-chance of a new post: I salute your optimism. I hope it's worth it...

I haven't bothered all that much with Twitter just lately either, but a couple of recent happenings have finally inspired me to creak open the laptop again. A bird and a butterfly. Let's start with the bird....

The Brown Booby in Cornwall is su-u-u-u-ch a serious mega. I mean, come on! Thirty-something years ago I'd have been all over it myself. And what fun it would have been! No 'roll up, there it is' job, this, but all the thrill of the chase, by the sound of it. So when it perches up at close quarters on a St Ives rock, in front of a gaping crowd of happy twitchers (and their cameras), are we surprised to find multiple shots appearing on our Twitter feeds? Of course not.

And the butterfly? Well, Long-tailed Blue of course. On my own Twitter feed, almost as ubiquitous as the booby. Even I jumped on the bandwagon. Look...

Bank-holiday Blue...or something like that. Male. Axmouth, Devon.

And to be fair, this wasn't a 'roll up, there it is' type scenario either. In fact, Mrs NQS and I were there with a couple of others for a good hour before one showed. We arrived about 10:30, just as the dull, cloudy morning was beginning to show signs of brightening. Would the coming sunshine work its magic? Well, we hoped so.


Of course, you already know the outcome: it was a good one. And if you follow me on Twitter, well, there was my photo, cluttering up your feed. In fact, I would imagine most bird and nature-oriented UK Twitter feeds are right now heavily laden with Long-tailed Blue pics. Ditto Brown Booby. And if you read the comments - especially the birdy ones - there'll be loads of back-slapping "Nice twitching, mate!" "Well deserved!" and so on. Blah blah...

So, let me pose a question. Does all that get on your nerves a bit?

Before you answer, let me offer this for consideration...

I was born long enough ago that, as a kid I collected both birds' eggs and butterflies. While I was still at primary school my maternal uncle passed on to me a small collection of birds' eggs that he'd put together in his childhood, probably in the 1930s and 40s, and I added a few from the local hedges. Similarly, a paternal uncle (with the same name as me) was a keen butterfly collector in his young days, with several cases of specimens which filled me with awe. I don't think my own butterfly collection even reached double figures (I couldn't afford proper mounting equipment, and my mother certainly refused ever to sanction a killing jar) but it's true that, in their way, both uncles - and their collections - stimulated in me an interest in the natural world. And I would imagine that many of my contemporaries could tell a similar story.

How things have changed in 50 years! Thankfully. Or have they...?

In reality, I would suggest that collecting is still rife. Except that most collectors these days do it with a camera. Or even a pen. If you keep a list, well, isn't that just a virtual collection? I say 'most' collectors, for a reason. When Mrs NQS and I were trying to add Long-tailed Blue to our own virtual collections we were conscious that the previous day some dodgy geezer with a net had been intent on adding it to his physical one. As far as we knew, he hadn't succeeded, but as we stood there waiting... Well, we all know that birds can do the off quite easily, but it's many decades since twitchers of birds have had to worry that their quarry might have been 'collected' in the literal sense. Rare, migrant butterflies, on the other hand, are fair game, legally speaking. Well, they are if you have no conscience...

So, am I bothered when modern-day collectors have a harmless little boast on Twitter, with their multiple, almost-identical photos? When the alternative might be a glass-topped box reeking of camphor and filled with sad, crispy little pinned


  1. Welcome back! It's been a while.....but I've now found you on twitter. Stephen Root

  2. Gav, there does appear to be a compulsion with many people to collect things. When I was a kid, everyone seemed to have a collection of something or other, be it matchboxes, stamps, birds eggs and so on.

    Now the collection fever involves social media 'hits' and 'images'.

    In running we have those who collect 'parkruns'. Some have several hundred of those. I mean, that's one per week for years and years. And vast numbers of runners have done this.

    Sometimes I feel I must have missed something.

    From a distance (safe) I'm comfortable in knowing I haven't.

    1. Agree. Don't think you've missed anything Ric :)