Friday 26 November 2021

Forty Years of Bird Information 1981-2021 - Introduction

This morning a Brünnich's Guillemot drifted past Holkham and round into Wells Harbour, where it beached on a sandbank and eventually died. The whole saga was broadcast live on Twitter and the bird information services, from start to finish. I say 'live', but of course the bird itself went from that happy condition to 'moribund', to 'dead' with each news update. Anyone twitching it could, at the same instant, examine both their chances of getting there in time and their morals.

Such is the speed and efficiency of bird news dissemination in 2021.

To many birders, bird news is important. Especially when it involves rare birds. So important that they are prepared to pay for it. In the forty-odd years I've been birding, a number of individuals have made the most of this fact and turned bird news into a commodity. Eleven years ago I had a stab at documenting the emergence and growth of that market, but the time is ripe for an update. So, over the course of a few posts I shall endeavour to describe the Bird Information Revolution, and chart its course from Grapevine to Smartphone.

Of course, the chances are that someone, somewhere, has already done this, and done it better than I ever could. Certainly, many will know the story better than I do. Even so, the NQS version will be unique. Its errors and inaccuracies will not be mirrored elsewhere. They will be found only here, the product of my unreliable memory, and mine alone.

I shall close with a disclaimer:

What follows will be up, and if any names, places, activities or motives attributed to the genuinely fictitious characters herein bear any resemblance to real life, that is utterly coincidental. And anyway, suing me for libel would be very unbirderly.


  1. I have popcorn and beers, ready when you are buddy.

  2. Be careful Gav, it sounds like a perfect way to inflict a depression upon yourself. But I look forward to your results.

    1. Ha ha! Nah, I'll be fine Dave. It will make me feel old though!

  3. From a distance I could see the benefits of a hard won and deserved birding network reduced to a mere commodity where the raw material was provided free of charge and vast profits reaped by those simply for passing on the message.
    It must have cost me about £5 to Birdline before calling time on that means of discovering 'what's about'? I'd rather miss out than shell out.

  4. I've got me 3D glasses on. Looking forward to this Gav.