Sunday 27 November 2011

A twitch with a twist

The definition of 'twitching', according to Wikipedia, is

a British term used to mean "the pursuit of a previously-located rare bird."

Long suffering readers will recall that I generally frown on this sort of behaviour and try to stay faithful to my local area or patch.The phrase has also expanded in usage to cover other wildlife species, rather than solely birds. Accidental twitches, where I've inadvertently turned up at a site hosting a rare bird, do not count!

Today, however, I found myself in a cleft stick...

13.30: A text from The Admiral arrived on my mobile phone. "It's on the bench!"

13.35: I phone back...

Me: "Is it still there?

Admiral: "Yes, I'm watching it now."

Me: "On my way!"

Now whatever could've caused good old Tense to be in such a flap? Well, as is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction.

As I grabbed my camera, jumped into our truck and scampered the half a mile to the local nature reserve, I contemplated the incongruity of the situation.

13.45: Here I was, driving a short distance to try and spot a particular animal. It was a species that is abundant in this area, and in much of the UK come to that. I have seen it on innumerable occasions, including at Tense Towers, and they have even bred in our garden.

So not your classic twitch for a mega-rare species, then. So why the urgency and excitement?

13.50: I arrived in the car park at Hanson Environmental Study Centre and was greeted by a big grin from Ted, one of the regular birders. He knew what this meant to me! For what had been found was not so much a rare species, as an anachronistic one. There, basking on a bench in the weak Autumnal sunshine, was a Common Darter dragonfly. On the 27th of November. Now, ok, it's been a mild Autumn, but this is still newsworthy. On a personal level, in previous years, I had not recorded any Odonata any later than the 6th. Hence my excitement. On a Buckinghamshire County level, as the County Recorder informed me later, the record for latest flying dragon had stood at the 25th of November. Hence The Admiral's frisson on the phone.

On a national level, we're nowhere near the record, but hey, we're patchers not twitchers, remember.

The Common Darter in question was a reasonably pristine male specimen, without any of the signs of damaged wings that might be expected in an individual at the back end of the flight season. Given enough warmth from the sun and a steady food supply, he could technically make it to Christmas, but usually a hard frost is all it will take to finish him off. He had already survived one icy morning this week, so who knows, it's possible that he may hang in there until December at least.

He certainly made my day.


Spadger said...

Ah, the excitement - it certainly beats watching paint dry! Congratulations.

Imperfect and Tense said...

STOP PRESS: Hard frost last night, I doubt if the little fella made it to this morning :o(