My dictionary says that a twitcher is “a person or thing that twitches”. The same dictionary states that the meaning of ‘twitch’ is “to give or cause to give a short, sudden jerking or convulsive movement”. Most dictionaries also state that a Twitcher is an enthusiastic bird-watcher – but it is much more than that.
You see, a twitcher is a birder who will do everything possible to see a vagrant or very rare bird that arrives in his part of the world. This will include taking time off work, travelling far distances for many hours, forsaking prior commitments just to see a bird considered rare for the area. So I guess the dictionary is correct when it states a twitcher will give a short, sudden jerk on receipt of a rarity report and resort to any sudden jerking and convulsive movements to ensure he gets get his Mega Tick.
No dictionary – not even google will be able to describe a Twitcher – you have to see these people in action.
My first personal contact with these aliens was when we were on a pelagic trip off Durban Harbour in January 2015. The night before a report had come in that a Red Throated Pipit had been seen near Windhoek and this was considered a Mega Tick, in fact a Giga Tick. No one on the boat had ever seen the bird. The entire day inbetween watching albatrosses, petrels, terns and other specials, the twitchers present discussed the best and quickest route to get to Windhoek from Durban. Now if you look on the map, this is a colossal 1900 km’s.
A twitcher is a birder who will do everything possible to see a vagrant or very rare bird that arrives in his part of the world. This will include taking time off work, travelling far distances for many hours, forsaking prior commitments just to see a bird considered rare for the area.
After much deliberation and research once they had internet signal they established the quickest route was to drive to Johannesburg, throughout the night (if they flew they would be too late to catch the earliest plane from Johannesburg to Windhoek), go straight to the OR Tambo airport and fly to Windhoek, then drive to Avis Dam where the bird had been seen. Any normal thinking person can be forgiven for considering these folk as being bonkers.
2016 proved to be a very exciting year with a huge number of vagrant birds that graced our shores and we saw our twitchers all in full action.
Birders from Durban and Johannesburg dashed off to Cape Town at short notice to see the Temmerick Stint, Golden Plover, Rufous-Tailed Robin and Red-necked Buzzard to name a few. Of course these birds did not all arrive at the same time – that would have been very convenient but no such luck. These twitchers found themselves forking out thousands of rands on air tickets chasing these celebrities at different times of the year. We also had twitchers from Johannesburg and Cape Town flying to Durban and racing up the North Coast in search of the Golden Pipit – considered a Giga Tick.
In my opinion the craziest twitch was when a Yellow Throated Leaf–Love was reported just inside the Namibian border in Katima-Mulilo – the first time this bird has ever been reported in Southern Africa. Once again there was a massive exodus of birders on route to this tiny isolated town.
Of course this has a huge impact on one’s finances and hopefully all twitchers have understanding employers when they do no not pitch up at the office suffering from Twitch Flu. One of my FB friends summed this up with her comments on the left.
I have only ‘twitched’ two birds. Both were seen at Sappi Bird Hide in Stanger near Durban, a mere hour from home. The first bird was a Spotted Crake. By chance I was in Johannesburg when it was also seen and I managed to see it there awell. The second ‘twitch’, also at Sappi was the Pectoral Sandpiper.
I don’t consider myself a twitcher although I will do my level best to see a rarity if reported in or around Durban my home town as I did for the Spotted Crake and Pectoral Sandpiper.
However, I cannot cross out that just one day I may end up some time in the future twitching and jerking, giving in to sudden convulsive movements in search of my Mega Tick.
All much more fun than being at home.