Web Twitching

This page has no links and is just a collection of birding terms which may interest birders. The first section explains terms in common use amongst British Twitchers [and for the most part all English speaker twitchers]. The section section is a list of bird names used by twitchers [and to a lesser extent birders] in the UK

Twitcher’s DictionaryArmchair tick – this is an addition to the life list without the birder even leaving home. A bird seen in the past (probably as a subspecies at the time) is then split and recognised as a species in its own right, thus a new tick to be added to the life list.Birder – refers to anyone in-between an obvious twitcher and an obvious dude. Keen but not obsessive, well genned up on identification and stuff, and well acquainted with the local hot birding sites. Birders find the rarities for twitchers, and are generally happy to help dudes with their ID of LBJs. Blocker – this is a bird considered difficult to see in the UK (that is on your own turf), that maybe only has appeared the once, or the last appearance was many years ago. If is does reappear and is seen by twitchers it is then unblocked. Boggie Bird – this is a bird which is a not particularly rare but one a twitcher hasn’t seen – probably having dipped many times in the past BOP – Bird of Prey. Although many BOPs are big and impressive, they aren’t always readily identifiable, so this generic acronym can come in handy. Many BOPs never get identified at all. (Note that this term in Australia refers to the Birds of Paradise). Claimed – someone has reported the record but it hasn’t been verified. Sometimes it never is verified and, disparagingly for the observer, may always be referred to as claimed. Also used as meaning not valued as in the twitcher saying I don’t value the record, seems pretty duff to me.Clamp an iron – verb meaning to ring [band], as in they’ve now clamped an iron on it (= the bird has now been ringed).

Cleaned-up – everything at the given site, location, country – every bird there, all possible species (or new ticks) were seen.Crippler – a mega (or megatick), which leaves you emotionally crippled by its beauty/size/whatever as well as its extreme rarity. (Not all megaticks are cripplers, since a lot of very rare birds are actually small and grotty with no potential to cripple whatsoever).Dip out – fail to see a particular bird, usually one you’ve gone out to twitch. It had gone, or was there but you didn’t see it – you dipped on it. The bird in question may then be referred to as a dip. Dude – pronounced as ‘dood’. This term refers to a casual birder who prefers pleasant surroundings and nice weather to go birding in. He or she is usually satisfied with quite common birds that would drive a twitcher insane with boredom. Dudes tend not to be too hot on identification either, but on the plus side they keenly enjoy the birds they do see and not just as ticks on a list (nothing to be ashamed of). The term is also used generally for those who are not in the twitching fraternity e.g. if a Sunday birdwatcher is seen in nice new birding clothes, smart and pressed, they would be immediately labelled as a dude. There are some irritating dudes who think they know far more than they do and run up lots of stringy records.

Duff – refers to a very questionable or totally wrong record.Duff gen – is wrong info for finding the bird (maybe the wrong directions), or the passing on of other information that is not right.Flush – to flush is to go and disturb a bird putting it to flight, sometimes accidentally, other times intentional – particularly relevant with species that are skulkers, but also to put a bird into the air to see other features and to positively ID it. Some over keen [and disreputable] twitchers (and also some photographers) get labelled flushers.Grip someone off – if you dip out on a bird and someone else doesn’t, then he (or she) has gripped you off. This usually happens through the vagaries of chance (you turned up too late, went to the wrong turnip field, or whatever) but the intense rivalry of twitchers can lead to them intentionally gripping each other off, through deliberate misinformation, suppression of information, or even scaring the bird away before anyone else can see it. Petty, maybe, but it has been known to happen. (Though knowledge of some rarities is suppressed for more practical reasons, such as to keep armies of twitchers away from private land or the breeding sites of vulnerable species.)

LBJ – literally a Little Brown Job. Actually, twitchers never use this common saying, as it`s been adopted by, and now associated with, dudes. An amazing number of birds [especially in the UK] are small and brown or some other unexciting colour, even in sum plum, and they all look almost exactly like at least a dozen other species. Female or immature birds are quite likely to be LBJ’s, and identification can be tricky even for the experts. Lifer – a species that you have never seen before in your life anywhere in the world…..ever! In other words, a tick for your life list. Mega – sometimes said as a megatick – an extremely good tick, by virtue of the bird being very rare (and just maybe very colourful or awesomely huge to boot). A good tick not just for you, but also for any birder, even the most jaded of veterans. Need – as in I need Pec Sand (this translates as I have not seen a Pectoral Sandpiper and I would really like to see one so I can enter it onto my personal checklist)Old badger – a rough, ugly and well-used female birderOld duffer – a person who has come into birding late, may have all the latest clothing and bins but is clueless about birds and the birding scene On the deck – the bird’s on the ground.

Plastic – this refers to an escapee, or a bird of dubious origin as opposed to it being a wild bird. (Commonly heard with conversations on rare ducks). Sometimes used to describe any bird not of originally native origin – even although they have a wild breeding population [such as Ring-necked Parakeets in the UK, or house sparrows in the US].Scorch – alternatively to grill it or burn it up – this means to study the bird (particularly through a ‘scope) to be absolutely sure of all ID features.Seawatching – just like the word twitching this has now been adopted everywhere as a general term. Sitting for hours and hours on a wind-swept clifftop, beach or harbour wall, eyes glued to the sea in the hope that something interesting will fly by – eventually. This is usually tedious beyond description, but the only way to see some of the more ocean-bound species away from their inaccessible breeding grounds. It helps to have a good telescope, since the birds might be miles away (literally, sometimes), and someone to talk too is a good idea unless you really want to go mad. The only rule of thumb with seawatching is that it is only likely to be worthwhile if the weather is truly foul (however, foul weather doesn’t guarantee productive seawatching). This activity is strictly for the dedicated.

Sibe – a bird that normally lives in Siberia (or at least breeds there) but has got lost somewhere along the way and pitched down in some grotty housing estate in northern England. Usually small, uncolourful, but rare bird. Skulker – a bird that keeps down low in cover, not coming out into the open, and therefore very difficult to see. Splits (its direct opposite being lumps) – with reference to taxonomy; these are species that have been newly separated, or split, from one species into two or more species. Lumps are the opposite where two (or more) species are found in reality to be only one species. Twitchers prefer splits for obvious reasons! (see Armchair Tick)Stakeout – the long term watching of a known site to see a given species of bird. Also the bird is staked-out meaning those already at the site are currently watching it.Stringy – any suspect identification – that is a claimed rarity that turns out to be something more common. Birders that do this on a regular basis get tagged as stringers. Sometimes this derogative label is justified, other times it isn’t. A dodgy record can have string attached.

Sum plum – means summer plumage. A lot of rare (and not-so-rare) birds are only likely to be seen in Britain on their autumn migration, by which time they’re normally in their dowdy winter plumage, so getting one in sum plum is a bonus.Suppress – to withhold the information on a bird or its location. Again some people get labelled as suppressors because they regularly cover up sightings of rare birds.Tart’s tick – used as in the birds a tart’s tick, meaning it ain’t rated very highly! This is on the false assumption that if any woman sees it she is bound to be a less skilled birder than any man. It also displays the misogyny of many twitchers who are stuck in a time warp where persons of the female gender are seen as sex objects only.Tick – a species new to any of the various lists you might keep, as in year tick (new for the year; you get lots of these in January), British tick (you’ve seen it abroad, but not in Britain), trip tick (new for whatever excursion you’re currently undertaking), garden tick, shed roof tick etc. Not that you have to keep any lists at all, but most birders do. [Some even keep a toilet list – birds seen from latrines only – saddest of all are TV Ticks which are all species seen on TV programmes, except ones that are actually about birds, as these are excluded]Tubes – binoculars; usually used with reference to Zeiss, Leitz, Swarovski because of their design.

Twitcher – said to have originated from seeing birders arrive to see a rare bird and start physically shaking from the hype [or still shivering having driven 200 miles on the back of a motorbike in mid winter]. Now in general use by the media for someone simply interested in birds. In reality, however, it is an obsessive list-keeping birder who goes after rare birds found by other people. Twitchers might cross half the country overnight to see one tatty brown thing sitting half a mile away on a bleak expanse of mud. Twitchers invariably have huge lists that only impress other twitchers. Some are excellent birders in the field, and well-read, as birding is their life, their raison-d’etre. Conversely, some are not good at identifying birds, because they leave all that tedious business to others. From twitcher you also get the verb to twitch, which is to go out with the deliberate intent of seeing one particular rarity you`ve been told about, and you don’t need to be a dedicated twitcher to do this. Twitcher’s Moll – a twitcher’s girlfriend; seen normally following along, often with no interest in birds and looking very bored, she can’t join in with the conversation (because she can’t understand a word being said). UTV’s – untickable views. The bird needs to be seen better and cannot go onto the list – because all you saw of it meant it could just as easily have been a Dunnock as a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler! Of course, there is no consistency at all here! Each to their own on what are tickable views – be it on one’s own conscience.Vis mig – means visible migration. Most birds migrate to some extent, and it’s one of the most attractive things about birding that almost anything can turn up almost anywhere. Migrants are often found after they’ve pitched down overnight, but you can also see them actually on the move. Theres something rather exciting about this overtly purposeful movement, even when the birds in question are really quite common. It’s not every day you see a woodpecker bounding over the waves or a big BOP flapping over the local shopping centre.

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