British 'twitchers' pay big bucks to view Alaska birds

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2008

ST. PAUL ISLAND - British birder Annie Andreae bristles at being called a "twitcher" - friendly slang in England for someone who will drop everything at the drop of a hat to go great distances to get a glimpse at a must-see bird.

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Al Grillo / Associated Press
Al Grillo / Associated Press

"I'm not a twitcher. I just like watching them," Andrea says. "They look lovely sitting there like that."

The evidence may speak for itself. Andreae flew about 5,000 miles to get to St. Paul Island to see birds. While she dislikes being known as a twitcher, she doesn't mind being called cuckoo.

"We're a mad lot," she says, as she and her fellow British birders stand close to the edge of 100-foot cliffs in gale-force winds, peering over the edge to see nesting seabirds.

Ask Steve Bird (yes, that's his real name) if in fact he's brought twitchers to this remote island in the Bering Sea, and he says, yup, they're twitchers, willing to pay $16,000 or more for a 25-day birdwatching trip to Alaska.

"We have a lot of rich clients that want to go around the world and see the wildlife," said Bird, a 46-year-old wildlife artist from Plymouth, England, who is founder and director of Birdseekers, which offers birdwatching tours at nearly 30 locations around the globe, including Alaska.

The British are the "ultimate twitchers," said Forrest Davis, owner of High Lonesome BirdTours of Sierra Vista, Ariz., another outfit

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