‘Twitching’ – i.e. traveling especially to go and ‘tick’ a rare bird found by someone else – is often frowned upon by many birders. For the life of me, I don’t understand why. Sure, it’s a waste of time and money…then again, if you manage to ‘grip’ the bird, you are rewarded by a memory that will be with you for the rest of your life. You will have long ago forgotten about the couple of thousand bucks that it set you back, but as an old man I will remember, with fondness, the moment I first laid eyes upon this bird. And much more than that…I will remember the salty, windy tang of the air as I stepped out of the plane at Cape Town; my agitation at how long the rental car place took before they handed over the keys; the sight of hundreds of flamingos in the foreground, with a promising line of cars in the background; even the taste of the aforementioned banana (which I split with Justin).
…even the taste of the aforementioned banana
(which I split with Justin).
I think there are three components that make twitching so addictive. Firstly, the thrill of the chase. The faster you get there, the more likely you are to connect with the bird. You can’t wait until it’s convenient or until month’s end so you can afford it. You have to act immediately to ensure success. And you never know where ‘there’ may be. It could be as convenient as a suburban garden in Randburg (Collared Flycatcher, December 2012), to a suburb of Maputo (Red-necked Stint, September 2015), to riverine forests along the Zambezi River in the Caprivi Strip (Yellow-throated Leaflove, February 2016).
In today’s fast-paced, regulated world, such spontaneity is rare and precious. Twitching gives you a motivator to live free, liberated and unrestricted. ‘Normal people’ (a.k.a. non-birders) don’t spend an unplanned Thursday outside, alternately scoping birds and applying sunblock all day, at a sewage treatment plant, 1,300 km from home, living off of half a banana. They go to work, come home, perhaps watch some TV, and plan something sensible for the weekend, or perhaps a holiday in a few months’ time. I’m not judging – I certainly spend the vast majority of my life in the latter fashion, but an occasional unscripted day of unadulterated fun in nature really is spiritually invigorating!