I've never been very good at joining things _ RSPB, Wildfowl Trust, BTO etc etc _ all hugely valuable organisations, but I get uncomfortable in a big crowd.
It's probably down to my complete lack of patience in the field when confronted with large groups of people "watching" birds _ invariably talking, occasionally shouting, and without fail displaying the fieldcraft and stealth of a battalion of Panzer tanks full crank.
I never have the heart to explain to people in big groups why they might have missed a particular bird, but my advice here may provide a clue:
* DON'T wear blue/yellow/white rustling clothing
* DON'T shout to each other while standing on the skyline and gesturing wildly
* DO switch your mobile phone and pager to vibrate (it won't startle the birds as much and can be quite a pleasant sensation...), alternatively, don't bring the bloody things with you
* DON'T sit in a hide with the windows closed (it may be nice and warm, but the windows steam up and you can't hear anything passing over)
* DON'T move about in groups of more than four people
If this makes me an anti-social sod, so be it, but all I'll say in my defence is that the biggest lister I know ALWAYS makes a point of walking away from the crowds at any twitch, preferring to find the bird himself, and working on the theory that an invasion of blue and yellow kagouls with a decibel level set on max may be quite distressing to the skulking bird everyone is trying to see.
Neill is invariably proved right, and frequently has the satifaction of wandering back to the crowd to announce the bird is 200 metres away from them _ cue stampede etc etc
Anyway, before I descended into that rant (sorry about that) I was talking about organisations and joining things, and I have to say I quite liked the Council for the Protection of Rural England when they hit out at windfarm development in the UK today.
I've never been a big fan of the CPRE, but it struck a chord with me (see www.cpre.org.uk).
I don't like windfarms, they maybe greener than a hippy encampment producing lentil-and-hemp trousers at Stonehenge (maa-aan!) but they are shooting up around every estuary in the UK, every ridge and valley and every attractive horizon I can think of (that's not quite true, but I'm not going to name non-turbine sites in case someone goes and puts a windfarm up there too).
For those still dancing around the issue of how many migrating birds windfarms mince, can I point you to any number of articles earlier this year about the raptor charnel house that is Altamount Pass in California (search www.usatoday.com/news).
There have been 4,000 odd turbines here for nearly 20 years, and the blades have swiped tens of thousands of birds of prey from golden eagles to burrowing owls out of the sky since then.
4,700 raptors a year are estimated to fall foul of the turbines each year.
Now I know we don't have passage on the scale of the east or west coasts of the USA, but we do have tens of thousands of migrating waders on our estuaries, nationally important flocks of scoters in Liverpool Bay and hordes of wildfowl coming into the north west to winter _ all grist-le to the 'mills to my mind.
Okay before I go _ watch (and listen) out for Lapland buntings, with a few in North Wales this week, the Great Orme is a good bet (as forecast here last week, ahem).
A bittern has been reported from the Wigan Flashes, and the pec sand is still at Martin Mere apparently (will it NEVER move on????)
The golf loving chough has been reported again up at Knott End _ one hell of a Lancs tick.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies.