And so, it's official: bird-watching is the new must-have string to the millennials' bow.

Once regarded as the preserve of middle-aged men, a survey of Britain's hobbies and interests has discovered that 32 per cent of men aged between 16 and 25 have been birding, reports the Daily Telegraph.

That revelation follows a recent Conde Nast Traveller magazine profile which described bird-watching as "2017's unlikeliest craze".

The article cited former Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Elbow singer Guy Garvey as arch proponents - although the crueller among you may point out that they are, in fact, close to being middle-aged men themselves at 48 and 43 respectively.


There is a also a growing number of young women getting into it, setting up online groups with names like Next Generation Birders - further proof that birding has entered the hipster pantheon.

To paraphrase Gordon Gekko: grebes are good.

One can only anticipate that we will soon be flooded with sockless young twitchers wearing trousers so high they barely tickle their ankles, more likely to post an Instagram snap of a mistle thrush than a Friday night "squad" selfie.

As somebody who has ridden the crest of this cultural wave (and at 32 can still claim to be holding on to the coat-tails of the millennial generation), allow me to offer some advice every wannabe twitcher should know.

Blur frontman Damon Albarn apparently enjoys bird-watching. Photo / Natalie Slade
Blur frontman Damon Albarn apparently enjoys bird-watching. Photo / Natalie Slade

The lingo is important

I soon realised when I took up the hobby proper in my mid-twenties that most bird- watchers deeply resent being called "twitchers".

Twitchers are the die-hards who travel halfway across the country to catch sight of the likes of a blue rock thrush when it touches down, and have even been known to charter planes to see a rare bird.

For example, in 2013 a group of twitchers made it all the way to the Isle of Harris in pursuit of a needle-tailed swift which had only been recorded eight times in Britain in 170 years.

Sadly, soon after they arrived, they watched it fly straight into a wind turbine.

You don't have to sit in a hide to see birds

Bird-watching does not have to be about shivering in a hide (camouflaged shelter) on a bird reserve all day.

When you get to know what you are looking, and listening, for you realise there are rich pickings even in the most unlikely locations.

Think peregrine falcons nesting on the Tate Modern and waxwing munching berries in inner-city Sheffield.

Your friends will laugh at you

No matter how much birding inches towards the mainstream, you must still be prepared to put up with a quite brutal amount of ribbing among the non-enlightened.

Worse still, be braced for feigned interest among family and friends.

No sooner have you started a fascinating discourse on the difference between chaffinch and goldfinch song, than you notice their eyes glaze over.

Respect your elders

Every birder needs a mentor.

These hipster Johnny-come-latelies may be armed with their bird identifier apps and faux-vintage Canon PowerShot cameras, but nothing beats a bit of experience to teach you what to look out for.

Most likely you will never see the particular bird you have set out to watch. Photo / File
Most likely you will never see the particular bird you have set out to watch. Photo / File

Don't try to wear cool clothes

Having just spent the weekend searching for raven nests in the rain-lashed Yorkshire Dales, I can confirm that, while waterproofs may not be a good look on the streets of east London, they are vital for a day's bird-watching.

So too, is packing your own lunch.

Die-hard hipsters can, of course, take vegan raw cakes and charcoal water, but enthusiasts know that a cheese and tomato sarnie is the lunch of twitching champions.

Do over-share

"Seen anything interesting?" or "anything showing?" are seemingly innocuous questions that will inspire even the most taciturn bird-watcher.

Sharing information with strangers is a key pre-requisite of birding.

Obviously, for needy millennials, schooled in posting the minutiae of their young lives online, this will not be a problem.

You will never find the bird you are after

In an era of instant gratification this is perhaps why bird-watching is proving so popular.

Most likely you will never see the particular bird you have set out to watch.

Even if you do, it may be fleeting and you will not be able to properly identify it.

I have spent whole days traipsing vainly in the futile hope of glimpsing a curlew or whinchat.

Finally, if you don't see a bird, never make it up.

They call this a "string" in birding slang, as in a ropey record. And really, young hipsters, you will only be lying to yourselves.

This story originally appeared on the Daily Telegraph here.