When is a twitch not a twitch? What IS a twitch? I suppose it's any trip to see something, whether you've seen it before or not. Is twitching all bad? I got very jaded when working at Pagham Harbour and hoardes of twitchers would descend to see a rare bird. The majority would be fine but there was always the oxygen-thief who would need to walk through a high-tide wader roost to get a better photo of a bird or try and flush a rarity from cover. And the majority would always, surprisingly, remain silent. It was fairly amusing to see the reaction of these idiots when told off by a woman (yes, they were all men. Sorry.) Was it scary? Yes, sometimes. But I believed in what I was doing and became hardened to sticking my head above the parapet. It wasn't just twitchers of course, but bad dog owners, eastern european foragers, brainless morons encouraging their kids to throw stones at swans.... Anyone who thinks that wardening a popular reserve is a dream job should seriously think again!
Championing the natural world comes at a price though, ultimately I lost my job (and tied house) because I wouldn't keep quiet about what was wrong. But it led me on to (completely unrelated) better things and I don't lose sleep at night worrying that I sold my soul for a quiet life.
So, twitching has nasty connotations in my mind! But I have travelled to see various 'glamorous' species this year for the sheer pleasure of their beauty, rarity or sheer weirdness. So I am, I suppose, still a twitcher.
And I twitched last week. Brian Laney posted about the stick insects in Hampshire and I instantly recognised where the photograph had been taken. It transpires that Bacillus rossius has been established on the south coast for at least 5 years yet their very confined range and excellent camouflage meant that I hadn't seen them, despite visiting the site regularly. During the last week of October I record plant species still in flower for a long-term phenology project and I hadn't had a trip to the coast for this year's survey, so two proverbial birds....etc etc etc. I had pictured something around the size of the pet sticks commonly kept whilst I was at school but had a pleasant surprise when I found the first which, although it was sub-adult, was a good 3" long. Further exploration revealed another 8 individuals, mostly adults, of both the green and brown forms. Some were dropping eggs as I watched them so it looks as though they are going to remain in situ for the foreseeable! What an incredible day, temperatures up to 20C in the last week of October, watching stick insects and migrant Udea ferrugalis.