Yesterday found me bound for North Yorkshire, for the second time in less than a week. The intended target of this particular jaunt; the rather eye-catching male Pine Bunting that has been thrilling (and frustrating) spectators for quite some time on the outskirts of Dunnington. A bird which, after an uncomfortable four-hour stay, we laid eyes only briefly; for all of thirty seconds before it disappeared, once again, into the stubble of a nearby field. Not exactly fair recompense for a day spent frozen in place, battered by the wind and perpetually frustrated by a number of misidentifications and near-misses, some may say. I would say differently, however.
With a grand total of nine hours spent staring at the same, rather uninspiring, patch of hedgerow, the Pine Bunting twitch was not a comfortable one. Neither was it consistently enjoyable. It did, however, remind me exactly why I dedicate so much time to the pursuit of our feathered friends. The burst of elation upon actually seeing the bird and the ensuing adrenaline rush quickly banishing the negative thoughts accumulated throughout the day. The sight of the bunting attributing to a gratifying sense of victory; a reward bestowed based on patience and previous exertion. The giddy feeling of delight, the kind that bubbles up when you finally track down your long-awaited quarry: that is why I go birding. The ascetics of the bird itself an added bonus, on this occasion, though this is not always the case.
Of course, there is more to the hobby than the birds themselves and, for me, the places play their part too. From idyllic areas of rural wilderness to sites of urban sprawl, each venture brings something new and unfamiliar. I have, of course, been to many beautiful places in search of birds – from the rugged highlands of Scotland to no end of gusty headlands – yet places such as Dunnington, humble and unassuming, appeal equally. Yesterday’s venture complete with no end of additional sightings; from yellowhammers feeding in urban gardens to tree sparrows, stock doves and, on a more exciting note, a good few Corn Bunting. All of which, at times, fed together in one enormous flock on the town’s edge – a new experience for me and an unprecedented delight to see so many red list birds in one place. A place that I would not necessarily venture too absent cause that was discovered and thus, enjoyed, due to one particular bird.
And then there are the people. While many favour birding for the solitude it can bring – there is nothing wrong with this – I am not one of them. I love the people the hobby brings me into contact with: the locals, the birders, the curious onlookers and the one guy who always gets too close to the bird. For me, each new bird presents a new social occasion; one where you may laugh and joke with friends – such was the case yesterday during the prolonged bouts of nothingness – and share experiences with other like-minded individuals. Of course, I dislike the egotistical listing talk that breaks out sporadically at any such event – comparing numbers is not for me – but for every one such person, there are fifty more willing to divulge useful tips and exciting stories. I learn equally as much listening to birders as I do watching birds, and yesterday trip was no exception.
There are, of course, myriad more reasons why I, personally, go birding. Among these; the constant reassurance provided by a post-dip McDonalds stands foremost among them, though this post gives a good idea of my main motivations. Yesterday’s twitch set my mind to thinking it seems; the experience warranting some thought as to why I engage in a hobby that other people think mad. Well, I believe I have answered that internal question.
Header image: Pine Bunting, courtesy of Francesco Vernosl, Flickr Creative Commons.