I've not been anywhere of late for two reasons - work (as usual) and car gremlins (knackered rear axle bearing). But then, even if I had been out enjoying watching the Great Grey Shrikes at Thursley Common (there are now two of them - perhaps one is the Ash Ranges/Crooksbury Common/Frensham Common bird?) the one place I wouldn't have been tempted to visit is Oxfordshire to view the Rufous Turtle Dove that has found itself the centre of attention in someone's back garden. Unless it decides to park itself in my back yard I can't muster so much as a vague interest in this mega rarity.
It's probably a smashing bird to look at, and I'm pleased for those who have made the effort to irritate/puzzle the local community to see this bird but it's not for me. I have recently been reading Steve Gale and Jonathan Lethbridge's excelllent blogs (see links) on this subject and their views are the same as mine.
Many of those who have paid a visit to Oxford this past week are decent blokes (and they are mostly blokes) who enjoy looking at unusually rare birds in Britain. A small number are the sort of guys you would be happy to share a pint and a good laugh with down the local boozer. But the bottom line is, if you find yourself queuing up for hours down a street in a Cotswold town with your binoculars and scope, with a load of other middle-aged blokes, to look at a pigeon in someone's back garden - you will come across as a bit strange. You look odd - and people stare at odd people, and I don't enjoy it when I see ridicule focused on others, let alone me.
It's frustrating but we have to accept it. Unless Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp or Barack Obama come out and express their passion for twitching, birdwatching isn't going to be regarded as cool, in the same way trainspotting isn't. And I don't know what we can do about it, apart from give in to it and try not to feel too self-conscious.
In the meantime, I will try and find a way of going back to Thursley Common to see the Great Grey Shrikes, and hopefully a Raven and a Red Kite - both of which have been seen recently in the area. Currently I have had a low-key start to the year - I'm only on 83 Surrey species so far, but there is no rush. I want to enjoy my birding, not suffer from it.