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Twitcher warns of danger of obsession


A dedicated twitcher has warned about the dangers of being too obsessive, citing an incident on the Isles of Scilly as an example.

Writing in The Spectator, Sean Cole admitted that he understands the urge, having once travelled from the Isle of Rum in Scotland to near Land’s End to see two different birds.

He said: "When I hear that there’s a bird around that I 'need' [haven’t seen] I won’t rest until I see it. I just don’t feel right until I do, and if I decide not to try to get there and I hear that other people have seen the bird, that can haunt me for life."

However, he said he is concerned about twitchers - birdwatchers who will go to great lengths to view new bird species - who become so obsessed with their subjects that they are prepared to put them in danger.

He related the story of a grey-cheeked thrush, freshly arrived on the Isles of Scilly from America, "which ended up hopping further and further away from the crowd of over-zealous twitchers until eventually a large wave swept the exhausted creature into the sea and drowned it".

Likewise Bird Therapy author Joe Harkness, who uses birdwatching to help manage his obsessive compulsive disorder, said he gave up local twitching when he realised it was making him feel worse.

He is quoted as saying: "I went on this twitch where there was this bird that appeared in Norfolk. There were hundreds of people. It was horrific. They were encircling this bird. I leaned forward, saw it, and then this bloke asked me if I’d seen it. When I said yes, he physically picked me up and lifted me out of the way so he could see it."

The article 'Wildlife Obsessives Must Learn When to Back Off' by Isabel Hardman appeared in The Spectator.

Photo of twitchers on Scilly in 1984 by Simon Davey.

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