Some time last November, after bingeing for several months on nature writing, I decided I was interested in birds. It really was that simple, and I took the kids out to the leaden, shit-strewn park for an inaugural twitch.
It was something akin to a religious experience. The hoot and rattle of Puławska St. faded, and I entered another dimension. Here was another world which had always existed alongside mine, and which I had never looked at before. A pair of magpies hopped across the sodden ground, and the desolate hedges turned out to be alive with tits.
I watched David Attenborough’s series on birds, seeing what it takes for a pigeon to get off the ground and observing the mating dance of a grebe for the first time with a sensation that could only be called wonder. I played recordings of blackbird and chaffinch song on youtube over the breakfast table (boring the pants off everyone else, as a good twitcher should).
The pace of my walking also slowed to approximate that of a pair of 3 year olds, which was a useful adaptation. Peering into a hole in a tree in a Pruszków in the middle of winter, I was surprised by a rush of yellow -green as a woodpecker flew out in a panic. I watched the winter rook roosts forming in our park and came back from Australia to find that the fieldfares were back too, from somewhere or other.
Now I’m about halfway through my first twitching year. I am comforted by the presence of birds, which provide some counterpoint to the trudging human masses. I am invested in the success of their nestlings and am not above shooing off a predatory, nest-robbing crow in a futile attempt to save a baby fieldfare. I watch for them when I run, listen for them when I wake up, count species out the window while I’m folding the clothes. My world is suddenly richer.