Book review: The Big Twitch written 12 years ago!

I was looking through my old filing cabinet last week and I discovered a hand written book review: The Big Twitch, by Sean Dooley. Now I have the great pleasure of working with Sean in the communications team at BirdLife Australia, and so it was very sweet to read the review, written so long ago and without an inkling that we would one day be colleagues! ah life! 🙂

Here it is – pretty much word for word – with the title: “What I got out of the Big Twitch.”

I have always considered myself a field naturalist, and a birdwatcher, as opposed to birder or twitcher. I have been so anti-twitching I have purposely not counted all the bird species I have seen, despite being an avid birdwatcher since the age of 7 or so.

After reading The Big Twitch, I want to go through my diaries – count ’em all!! I also realise that twitchers love birds as much as I do!

I am more of a Gilbert White style of naturalist: get to know the plants, birds, reptiles, mammals, rocks, etc of an area of 20km intimately rather than gallivanting about holidaying with birds. I live in the Wombat forest, so I am well placed.

The other thing the Big Twitch did for me was remind me that birdwatching and field natting is so much about the people too. After devouring the book in three days, I contacted two old friends from my “bat boxing” days at Organ Pipes National Park. Like Sean’s ‘Glossowary’ – we field nats use terms incomprehensible to ‘normal people’ or as he calls them ‘dudes’.

‘Bat boxing’ = visiting Organ Pipes once a month to check wing bands, weigh and assess microbats who have taken up residence in various nestboxes.

Typical plant nerd behaviour photographed in the field in 2018 – note female nerd has a small baby strapped to her chest! I think it was a rare type of pea they were examining…

The Big Twitch is a fantastic celebration of being quirky, being a field nat, or a freak! I am rabidly interested in scats and pellets and bones at the moment, so I completely resonate with Sean’s hilarious descriptions of just how odd one can seem to dates, friends, and even your own parents. Plus Sean and I are the same age – 33 – a young age to be in any field nat/bird organisation.

My favourite nature writers such as Peter Matthiessen write beautifully and lyrically, and often with sadness. Sean’s book is nature writing combined with humour and warmth, a character driven story about a man coming to terms with who he really is, and feeling the pride and quiet joy that comes with being authentically true to yourself and your roots.

Brilliant and inspiring!

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