Society for the Withholding of Information From Twitchers in the West Country of England


SWIFT consisted of a small band of active birders in the West Country.  It was not anti birders who enjoy rare birds, nor was it pro suppression per se.  It was against the increasingly disruptive aspects of twitching, where common sense, civility and the aesthetic enjoyment of observing a natural creature has been largely replaced by boorish, sometimes even aggressive behaviour and an often total disregard for the the welfare of the bird involved, habitat, fellow enthusiasts, the general public and property.

The inspiration for SWIFT came from a growing number of distasteful incidents in the West Country.  Some examples:

  • the experience of a very pleasant lady who lives in a valley in west Cornwall.   She has always been tolerant of the birders who flock around her property every autumn. But her patience ran out when in one day her drive was blocked by a car belonging to a birder who became abusive when politely asked to move it; her garden was trampled; and a birder even defecated on her property!
  • the trampling of a large patch of nettles at Shapwick Heath, Somerset, just so that some observers could get 15 feet closer to a singing Marsh Warbler in potential breeding habitat;
  • cars left in extremely hazardous situations by mindless birders in pursuit of a Fan-tailed Warbler at Portland;
  • requirement for police presence following intrusive behaviour by twitchers looking for a Rose-coloured Starling in Bristol.
  • the disclosure on national rare bird news outlets of precise site details relating to birds, present in the breeding season, of a species which has not bred in England for 0ver 50 years.
A return to a more traditional approach to birding in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

Okay SWIFT was (partly) a spoof, as some had already realised.   Sorry for any inconvenience caused by the tanager hoax.  But do not overlook the role of the rare bird outlets in tweaking this completely unverified information and then disseminating it.   All they had to go on was a Scarlet Tanager, in sycamores near a village in south Cornwall.  They "suggested" it might be at The Lizard.  Clever move!  Without this false clue, no-one would have wasted a journey on one possible small bird somewhere along a very long coastline!

On a general note,  let us recognise that some serious and valid points have been raised.   These are particularly pertinent following the recent merciless harrassing of tired migrants in north Norfolk and the debacle on Anglesey. To repeat,  mass twitching often involves a total disregard for the the welfare of the bird involved, habitat, fellow enthusiasts, the general public and property.  These points need to be addressed.