I first became interested in birdwatching when I was in my early teens,
and was taken on a walking holiday with a friend's family in the Lake
District. My friend's brother was a keen birdwatcher and I remember his
father screeching to a halt when we were driving along, because Ben had
seen a flock of Golden Plover. I also remember seeing Twite, which I
had never heard of before. The interest had obviously been kindled,
because the next time I went for a walk along the shore of Morecambe
Bay, I started to take an interest in the flocks of waders.
Conservation volunteer trips with the school to Leighton Moss further
whetted my appetite, and I suppose a pair of binoculars soon followed.
Am I a twitcher?
Definitely not! Although I see no harm in it for others, I have only
been to a couple of twitches, and hated every minute. It is rather like
a football match - huge crowds of people waiting for something to
happen, and just as football supporters often don't actually play
football, so twitching is the passive version of birdwatching. In fact
I used to ring Birdline specifically in a negative way - to find out
where to avoid the crowds. That way I could avoid Elmley in Kent, one
of my favourite reserves, if there was a, say, Squacco Heron - I would
rather miss the Heron than the peace and quiet of the countryside.
My favourite reserve?
Very difficult to answer, although I suppose it would have to be
Titchwell in Norfolk. If you time it right and there aren't too many
people about it can be heaven on earth. Leighton Moss, Nagshead and
Elmley would all come highly recommended.
I found a Baird's Sandpiper at Elmley which was accepted by the British
Birds Rarities Committee, although the most exciting moment was when
the person sat next to me in a hide relocated an Oriental Pratincole.
Long Tailed Tit. A flock of these delightful creatures on a quiet
winter's walk is always a bonus.