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"NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A rare Asian hooded crane, normally seen only in Southeast Asia, China and Japan, apparently "took a wrong turn" and has joined sandhill cranes wintering at the Hiwassee Refuge in southeast Tennessee, bird experts say, drawing flocks of curious birdwatchers along with it. "It's a great thrill," said Melinda Welton, conservation chair for the Tennessee Ornithological Society and a bird migration researcher. "People are coming in from all over the country to see this bird." Welton said local birdwatcher Charles Murray has been keeping a log of visitors to the town of Birchwood, near the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency refuge. "He has had more than 700 people come and visit from all over the country to see this bird," she said. "People have come from 26 states and from two countries, including Russia."
We move on to the late 19th century, when a group called the American Acclimatization Society was reportedly working on their pre-environmental-impact-statement project to introduce to the U.S. every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s scripts. Clearly, the Bard abided birds—his works include references to more than 600 avian species. A Bronx resident, drug manufacturer Eugene Schieffelin (a street bearing his name isn’t far from my house) seems to be particularly responsible for the starlings’ arrival here. Well, his chickens have come home to roost. Pop. (The society also brought the house sparrow to our shores, a pair of which nest in a vent on the front of my other, human, next-door neighbor’s house.)
The Acclimatization Society released some hundred starlings in New York City’s Central Park in 1890 and 1891. By 1950 starlings could be found coast to coast, north past Hudson Bay and south into Mexico. Their North American numbers today top 200 million. As bird-watcher Jeffrey Rosen put it in a 2007 New York Times article, “It isn’t their fault that they treated an open continent much as we ourselves did.”
Twitchers. The term is British. When a rare bird shows up, twitchers are people who will drop everything and rush to the scene.
They used to have phone trees, then for a while it was beepers. It’s cell-phones and e-mail now. Here is an interesting thing: if you look back to the early days of twitching, the 1960s and ’70s, you see them using an alert system that’s eerily similar to the formal regime for planespotting developed by British civil defense during WWII. Direct copy, inspiration, accident? I wonder. Does anyone here know?
Anyway. Your classic twitcher will leave job, family, or church service behind, seize camera, binoculars and notebook, jump in the car, and roar off to the copse where the black-bellied whistling duck has appeared for only the third time in Britain since 1937.
Twitching is found in several European countries, including Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands.