On a (Red)Wing and a Prayer

Someone told me the other day that I didn’t seem to have any limits on my range of interests. Well actually what they wrote was “milits” which, apart from giving me scope to be rude about a typo, was a pretty good segue into another area of what may indeed be termed my anorakness – that of twitching.

Now, before we look at this new confession, a brief (hah! don’t know the meaning of that!) word about a word – in this case the not quite derogatory but certainly mickey-taking term “anorak”. I have always regarded its definition as being the term used for those who demonstrate an obsessive adherence to a hobby and its minutiae. To use the term derogatorily would imply that one is sneering at such people, but my own use of it with regard to others has been accompanied by a sneaking admiration for those whose level of interest reaches this height – irrespective of what I personally think of their chosen subject. Why should someone who devotes their lifetime to the study of, say, the origins of Swahili be considered an “academic” while those who spend an equal amount of time in the studying of Routemaster buses be considered “anoraks”? Does the mere fact of getting paid in a university or whatever mean you are an academic? Since I am not in a university, am I an anorak? Probably not, because I have many interests, none of which I would consider myself an “expert” in or take to extremes. I always was an inquisitive child and wanted to know about things I saw around me. Having recognised early on that not all trees were the same, it seemed only natural to me to find out what they were all called and what the differences were. The same with flowers, animals and so on. As a teacher it is a constant source of irritation that kids do not seem remotely interested in what they pass by every day or why it seems to be “unfashionable” to be interested in things at all unless it is pop stars and overpaid sports personalities. I’ve never seen satisfying one’s curiosity as being something to be sneered at. It probably explains why I am a huge fan of the TV show QI and its parent website – http://www.qi.com. Am I alone in finding things quite interesting? Don’t think so. I would suspect my milits buddy of pretty much the same tendencies, so there are at least two of us out there.

But back to the anorak form that is Twitching. I have always been interested in birds – ever since my mother nearly caused a multiple pile-up on the M1 by screaming at my dad to stop the car so she could take a picture of a heron. Fortunately he didn’t, otherwise my twitching career may well have ended right there and then. I have never pursued it to any significant extent other than having been a member of the RSPB since I don’t know when and more recently of the WWT so I am not a real anorak. I do not travel the length of the British Isles in search of a rare bird. I would however spend hours waiting for one to come by if I was in the vicinity of a sighting. The Lochwinnoch reserve and the WWT centre at Slimbridge are, and will I suspect always remain, among my favourite places. My interest was rekindled recently through a chance sighting of a group of redwings in, of all places, the car park behind Marks & Spencer in Greenock. This prompted a search for suitable pics and took me and my friend Jill and god-daughter Amy to the very exotic location of – the Darroch Park football pitches in Gourock! By one of those strange twists of coincidence, Amy’s dad had been a bit of a twitcher and had spent a lot of time and energy looking for redwings. How weird then that we should chance upon them in such number the day before her 21st birthday, having never seen one previously.

My current imposed freedom (oxymoron again) has allowed me the scope (pun intended) to indulge in some hide work. There will be pics a plenty on here of my efforts to photograph some elusive birds. Already ticked on the list are Long Tail Tit, Redpoll, Brambling, Redwing and Fieldfare. I have spotted a greater spotted woodpecker and am now getting obsessive about getting the perfect photo. Once I do that, it’ll be the Kingfisher. Nothing like a challenge eh? Ah well. Another plus of this whole thing is it is making me get acquainted with the more intricate workings of my digital SLRs and weaning me off point and shoot. Another anorak needed for that hobby too d’ya think?

Blue Tit with Attitude

Great Tit (oh stop sniggering!)

Great Spotted Woodpecker

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