Recently I have been musing on what constitutes a dream find for a birder. This was partly prompted by David Roche discovering a Varied Thrush on Orkney, and a light-hearted suggestion on Twitter that he had ‘completed birding’.
Finding rare birds will always be a mixture of luck, persistence and skill. Logically you might expect birders to be more pleased to find birds that require more skill, and less luck. I don’t actually think that’s generally the case, although everyone tends to appreciate persistence generating reward (time in equals birds out as the old saying goes).
Ultimately I think most birders actually want to find a bird that is no identification challenge at all. The Varied Thrush was a classic example, another current one is the Lancashire Belted Kingfisher (we will gloss over the fact that some people said the early pictures showed a Great Tit). These birds are difficult to miss.
Birders spend a lot of money on telescopes, binoculars, cameras and field guides. They want to be able to make marginal gains by recognising calls of silhouettes passing over, and even these days sometimes have thermal imaging gear so they can identify where birds are lurking they can’t see with their own eyes.
I think I am definitely in the stonker rather than the subtle camp, notwithstanding that birders will take any good find they can get. There’s clearly enormous satisfaction from working out a puzzle and applying knowledge you’ve spent years acquiring. But there’s nothing like the wow factor of something searing your retinas and causing your jaw to drop.