I have learned that there is a term for me in the birdwatching world: I am a dude.
A casual birder who prefers pleasant surroundings and nice weather. Usually satisfied with quite common birds that would drive a twitcher insane with boredom. Dudes tend not to be too hot on identification either, but on the plus side they keenly enjoy the birds they do see and not just as ticks on a list. Nothing to be ashamed of. (However, there are some irritating dudes who think they know far more than they do and run up lots of stringy records (see ‘stringy’)).
Well, not quite.
It is true that I am, at best, a casual birder (I prefer “enthusiastic incidental watcher of birds while performing other outdoor activities”, but they don’t have a term for that). It is also true that I am not so hot on bird-identification. And I definitely don’t have any lists from which to tick off the names of birds that I have incorrectly (I prefer optimistically) identified.
What is untrue is my preference for nice weather. I’m reasonably happy to be out in all kinds of inclement weather for a walk or cycle and usually enjoy myself – either I actually enjoy myself while being rained upon, hailed upon, blown about or beaten up by sleet (a recent example being an all-weather visit to Dartmoor), or I enjoy the outing in retrospect (e.g. our cycle head-on into a storm in St Malo, France; that was lots of fun afterwards and the memory of even performing and surviving such madness makes me all goo-ey, glowy inside and desirous of a repeat performance. I guess I am the outdoors type.)
How on earth did I get onto finding a definition for the half-assed but enthusiastic adventures I take into birding? Some kinda tit (I think coal – it’s definitely not blue, great or long-tail) is nesting under our living room window, in the wall cavity. I want to know what it is! Blogs are an excellent way of identifying wildlife – fauna & flora – and I like to google things like, ‘south England birds’ in Google’s blog search.
As I read my way around a few English birders’ blogs, I noted that people kept talking about ticks, and some talked about mega ticks and I thought, “Hmm, I get ticks every now and then when walking etc but I’ve never seen a mega tick – unless that’s what you call one that has spent all day gorging itself on your blood,” when it occurred to me that perhaps they did not mean the blood-sucking horrid disease carrying parasites but something else, something only birders know about. After all, context suggested ‘ticks’ were a good thing (e.g. I got me some good new year ticks). Also, they kept talking about ‘lifers’ and ‘dips’ and this, too, perplexed me as context told me that they were not referring to these things the way I would.
- Ticks? Horrible, blood sucking, disease-carrying parasites whose removal must be performed carefully and then cursed.
- Lifer? Someone imprisoned for life, therefore usually someone found guilty of murder.
- Dips? Oh, yes please. Preferably hummous.
No, indeed. Not to a birder.
A tick is when you have seen a bird and hence can mark it off a list (imaginary or real) that you have seen / want to see etc.
A lifer is a bird you see for the first time in your life. For me, puffins last year. Woo boy – but let’s not go there in case I am incapable of writing any more as I dissolve into a puddle of excited puffin cuteness remembrance.
Dips – going out for a bird sighting but then not seeing the bird. This was a possibility for me when visiting Skomer Island last year and if I had ‘dipped’, I may well have been inconsolable (although some hummous would probably have made things better).
As much as I like birds, birdwatching is a little too sedate for me. I marvel at the myriad creatures birders see and the fact they see more than a glimpse of a bird as it flies away. My plan is that the day I become too decrepit to walk, hike and cycle, I will become a birder. (Not that I am suggesting all birders are decrepit; only that if I am fit, then activity is my preferred way of enjoying the outdoors and bird-sighting is incidental.)
So, can anyone out there help me identify this bird?