Horse riders and approaching walkers on Compton Down, Ridgeway UK National Trail, June 2013
We do a lot of walking in the countryside, well, not so much now that I’ve had a knee replacement, but I have a question—what is it with twitchers? Twitchers are avid seekers of rare or unusual birds, the anoraks of the avian world. When we walk, we meet all types of people: dog walkers, runners, cyclists, people on horses, shifty-looking single males, couples strolling hand-in-hand, family groups with exuberant young children, and of course other walkers and they all say hello or otherwise acknowledge a greeting even if it’s only a ‘morning or ‘afternoon. But not twitchers. We see twitchers trudging along the path with a hefty tripod slung over one shoulder and a camouflaged camera hanging from their neck with a huge, and I do mean huge, lens protruding from the front like some monstrous alien one-eyed proboscis emerging from the stomach. As they approach us so their eyes go down to the path or up sideways to the trees—anywhere but towards us. If I throw out a happy greeting—seen any good birds today?— there is no reply, not even eye contact. It’s as if we are not there. They simply walk on by, their protuberances swaying gently to the rhythm of their gait.
“There it is, look… just there… no, there… see it? Damn; it’s flown away!”
We also come across twitchers hidden in the hedgerows, peering intently through their camera’s eyepiece, their backs to us, completely unaware of our transient presence. We walk by on tiptoes, speaking in hushed tones and only lightly placing our trekking poles on the ground, aiming for the soft noise-absorbing mud rather than clatter-inducing stones or rocks. Even if the twitchers (they are often in pairs) do sense our presence and turn, it’s with a frown not a smile.
I’ve come to the conclusion that twitchers are not like normal human beings. They live in their own world, inhabited only by other twitchers and the birds they so keenly seek to spot. But what do twitchers do when they spot a bird? If I could find a twitcher who also inhabits my world, I would ask this question. Until that day, I will continue to wonder why twitchers twitch.
I have the same problems with trainspotters!