Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Good Old BirdForum

It's not often I visit BirdForum these days. A bit sad really, because 15 years ago I was on there several times a week and contributed regularly. But things change. I discovered blogs and blogging, and became a bit fed up with the car-crash TV of some of the 'Rare Bird Information' threads. But I'll be honest, it was the prospect of exactly that which tempted me back just recently. The Exmouth Northern Mockingbird had just made the BBC News for all the wrong reasons and I was childishly curious to see what the BF regulars had to say...

The headline, and a relevant extract

The Rare Bird Information threads are almost always about the latest rarities, and sometimes contain helpful links, photos and, yes, information. But occasionally they descend into another realm entirely, and the Northern Mockingbird thread is a fine example.

In normal circumstances this bird would have been a massive February treat for hundreds of twitchers. I say twitchers, but I'll bet quite a few birders who rarely bother with twitching would have been tempted also. But it was discovered in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, theoretically putting it out of bounds for all but the most local of birders. A number of posts on the BF thread debate the pros and cons of the government's 'stay local' guidelines, and a few rationalise how tiny are the C-19 infection/transmission risks of a solo car journey and socially-distanced peer into someone's garden.

It seems pretty clear that a number of twitchers have travelled a long way to see this bird already, so the question of whether some will succumb to temptation is moot. Rather, the question I would pose is this: what have they left in their wake?

Information in the BF thread suggests that access to view the bird is down a narrow alley between houses or gardens, and that you need to stand on a wall for best results. Obviously I have no idea how accurate that is, but nonetheless it seem likely that any twitcher is going to be rather 'on view' to the general public. Again, the BF thread suggests that some 15 twitchers were present on Saturday morning, and the above excerpt from the BBC report infers that one or more local residents got the hump and called the police.

Whatever one's view of Covid-19, lockdown and all the rest of it, one thing is almost certain: somewhere on that Exmouth housing estate will be individuals who take a very dim view of anyone who travels from afar to see this bird. They will think it an irresponsible liberty, reckless, even dangerous. They might not mind local Exmouth birders walking or cycling round for a look, but what about when they learn that matey has driven down from Norfolk or Yorkshire? And where are all this bloomin' lot from...??

Anyway, it seems already to have reached a point where tolerance has given way to resentment. And action.

I do get twitching. I've been there. The thrill of a new bird - or just the prospect of one - can be almost a physical thing. But there is, and always has been, a small minority who seem not to give a stuff about the consequences of their actions, just as long as the bird is nicely tucked away on their list, thank you. And it rather sounds like they've been at it again...

One day I suppose the lockdown will be lifted and travel restrictions eased. And if the bird is still present, Northern Mockingbird twitchers will descend upon Exmouth. I would like to think they'll get a warm, friendly reception. Their current restraint deserves one, but I'm not optimistic.

Meanwhile, a few local things from the last few days...

Not sure I've ever photographed a Treecreeper before

A couple of lunchtime Avocets on the Axe Estuary yesterday. New arrivals.

Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush comparison. Horse's rump adds to the confusion potential.

Though Hares are regular at East Bexington, I think this might be the first one I've seen at West Bex.


  1. Motivation Gav?

    It's taken until this Covid-19 business to appreciate the motivations of other people. I'm motivated to do things, but don't my actions to affect anyone else. Which is why I'm going out on the bike, at @ 03:00am.

    Others I notice, really don't seem to understand that anything they do, can and does affect others. It all about them. Only their course of action matters. I do wonder if some part of their mind has been compromised in some way, or maybe only some of us have had the empathy gene switched on?

    Treecreeper? I remember the very first one I ever saw. Bluebell wood. Right in front of me climbing the trunk of a Hawthorn tree. I looked up and there it was. I think my heart missed a beat. It was a kind of shock/wow moment.

    1. All so depressingly predictable too...

      Bluebell Wood. That takes me back. Wasn't that where we found the juv Tawny Owl on the deck? Must be almost 50 years ago!

  2. I wonder how many will want to see the mockingbird now that the Media has done such a great job of advertising it?

    1. There are some who won't be put off by anything Dave!

  3. Yes Gav, it was. For those who don't know, you and my brother Phil were in the same class at school.

    However it happened, all three of us ended up wandering through this remnant of woodland and brother Phil simply on the basis of a large hole in a long gone giant Elm tree, said " Let's show you the Owls nest".

    This I found wildly optimistic for two reasons. First was that Phil hadn't even seen an Owl in the woods. I had. And secondly, it was just a hole in a tree. Anyway, no sooner had he said that, we turned the corner and found that juv Tawny Owl.

    The adults were perched nearby. I guess they were standing guard, but with three of us there? To be fair, on reflection, that hole in the tree now seems a perfect site for a nest.

    That woodland was also where I saw my first ever woodpecker. A LSW no less.