Am I a twitcher?
A friend of mine emailed an article about an extremely rare Red-flanked Bluetail spotted in Los Angeles. This is a small bird from Siberia who was way out of its range. The email notification about the article started this way, "Hundreds of hard-core birders and twitchers from across the nation have been flocking to South Los Angeles this week..." Twitchers? What the hell is a twitcher? So I Googled it. A twitcher is someone who regularly goes chasing after rarities to add to their life list, year list or other important list.
I thought about this and wondered, “am I a twitcher?” Is it fair to say I’m not because I had never heard of the term? My friend calls me a twitcher now and we laugh. I’m not sure if he’s laughing with me or at me. Either way it’s ok—all in good fun.
So, am I a twitcher? Sometimes? Maybe. Here’s why.
Thinking long and hard about this, I remembered only a few instances where I might be considered a twitcher. Early on in this hobby, I started receiving rare bird alerts by email from the American Birding Association. When I saw a few instances of a Snowy Owl being seen in an area about an hour and a half away, I was drawn to go see him. A friend alerted me once to a rare Red Phalarope who wasn’t far from me; I saw him but didn’t get any photos. In January 2016, we drove 3 hours south to find one Streak-backed Oriole who decided to visit the United States for a few months. Last February, we drove 3 hours east to find one Ringed Kingfisher; she stayed in that area for quite a few months. Our first Texas Spring migration trip, we planned to visit a specific area hoping to see a Blue Bunting; after waiting patiently in the area for a few hours, we never saw it.
While I would love to tell you more about those adventures, each of them is unique and deserve much more than a paragraph. While I would love to share photos of these birds with you right now, I’m going to hold off until I can share those stories with you in complete detail.
I did not take the drive to L.A. to see the rare Red-flanked Bluetail, and I don’t regret it. I’ve been alerted to other rare sightings that I could have traveled to but didn’t. I’m not sure what my motivation is in determining whether I should seek out one lone rare bird or not. But what I do know is that I’m not one to be in a flock of people to seek out one bird. I enjoy the opposite.
So the question remains....am I a twitcher?
Other words used to describe birdwatchers:
Birder - A person whose birdwatching status hovers somewhere between an obvious twitcher and an obvious dude.
Dude - A casual birder who likes to go birdwatching but doesn’t make it a high priority for themselves. Dudes prefer to go birdwatching in nice weather and easy to access areas.
Elitist - Any experienced birder who doesn’t believe what you saw.
Lister - A person who obsesses about the size of their life list.
Protobirder - A new birdwatcher and usually one who thinks they know more about birds and birding than they actually do.
Stringers - A birder who regularly reports rare species which turn out to be more common birds.
Yabow - A non-birder who scares off all the birds from an area either due to their carelessness or their hyperactive dog.
NOTE: You can be a dude, but please don't be a yabow!