Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bird Watching: A Past Revealed (part 1 of 2)

Bird watching is also called birding.  The first term birding was used for the practice of fowling or hunting with firearms.  More and more people are travelling long distances to spot rare species of birds, these people are called twitchers.  The goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one’s lists.

Some bird watchers look at bird watching as a healthy competition.  They aim to get or accumulate the longest species list.  The act of pursuing a rare specie is called “twitch” or a “chase”.

Showing interest in observing birds can be traced back as early as 1700s in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare.  During the Victorian Era, it was fashionable in Britain to collect eggs and later skins for artefacts of interest.  To obtain rare specimens, wealthy collectors have contacts in colonies that will move and collect for them.

But the collection and collectors went to far.  In 1800, bird hats were all the rage.  Harriet Hemenway tok the lead in fighting the millinery trade or feather industry.  She went on to shut down the interstate bird skin trade, she founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

Rosalie Edge, another hero, bought Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania then turned it into the first sanctuary for birds of prey, which were otherwise being slaughtered. Florence Merriam wrote a guide for newbies.  This served as the early field guide fir bird watching which was incomprehensible for the average hobbyist like them.

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