British sports journo Simon Barnes also writes about birds. From his "How to be a Bad Birdwatcher", I learnt two cardinal (no pun intended)rules. Firstly, any small, brown, mystery sighting can be recorded as an LBJ - (little brown job. Most of my bird list could be described thus. Seeing birds on the wing means seeing them backlit. And seeing them this way means recognising a siloquette rather than colour or markings. So LBJ is a neat classification for all those thrilling but perplexing sightings. But seeing birds is more than identification don't you think? For me it's about the witness of wildness.It's proof that the world even in the cities is more than just humdrum people business.
Secondly, says Barnes, buy small bins - the rider being that they be good ones. He suggests a pair of Leicas. I noted the model, hunted them down, raised them to my eyes and felt that I was really seeing for the first time in my life. It was as though everything I had laid eyes on up to that moment had been witnessed through a fog - a pea soup, a fug, a smoke, an opacity. I trained them on the spire of a church, middle distance and picked out with exquisite clarity a clutch of sparrows - their markings, face masks, scaly legs sharp and true. Walking back to the counter I asked the price as casually as I could. The answer left a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.
Today most of my sightings are still LBJs.