Monday, 5 November 2012


Well I'm pretty much loathed by alot of my local birding community so I felt it was about time I wrote about this subject. I also felt the need to write about this in greater detail after I made a comment on Mark Avery's blog about the right number of birders in a  group. Visit Marks Blog and click on "blog" at the top. I decided to put my experiences down here so as not to hijack someone elses blog.
Now, I've always considered myself a birder the moment I started birding, and yes I haven't been birding for that long, 6 years, in that 6 years without going to any twitches I've clocked up 325 species, and not one of them a "stringed" bird. Now when I first mention 325 "serious" birders (always older blokes) scoff and say "is that all?". But who cares, my real gripe with these elder birders seems to be the attitude towards anyone under the age of 35 and especially towards anyone who dares to carry a camera. You only have to look through the letter section of any of the birding magazines moaning about photographers. I'll be honest, I have seen some pretty crap behaviour from some "toggers", chasing birds, flushing birds, endless chit chat in the hide, but at the same time I've seen exactly the same behaviour exhibited by "scope carrying birders" but I will not label all "scopers" the same way they will tarnish all photographers. I can remeber one photographer who managed to get an image of a Skua tucking into a bird and recorded the events. The images appeared in magazines and in the following issue he was labelled "cruel", "how could you sit there photographing that", "you must be sick in the head to enjoy photographing that", yet the same people will watch a wildlife documentary as a Lion rips into a Zebra and enjoy watching it and why wouldn't they, thats nature, cruel and beautiful and amazing. Though i do know of one photographer who would turn the telly channel over and can't watch things like a Sparrowhawk predate a bird.
But my real gripe has come about recently. I knew this lad, he was 17, and a photographer and used to come out photographing with me and a few mates. He stopped photographing birds, why? We were in a hide at Cley and I was outside smoking a fag when I heard this man say "if you don't stop photographing you and your camera are going out of the window", big mistake to say that to one of my mates, so I went into the hide a challenged the bloke to "chuck" me and my camera out of the window, he wouldn't and soon cleared off. But myself and a few of my other photographing mates have had the same, from people tutting and moaning at shutter sound (I didn't make the camera). Yet the same people will put cameras to scopes with "point and shoot cameras" that every time the shutter goes makes a sound like an arcade machine, hypocrits. I know of three people who have stopped photographing and birding (Ben the Plumber being one) because of these attitudes. In September I was at Summer Leys a few birders I don't know were in there, and this kid about 13 turned up with his mum, binoculars in hand and field guide, he sits down and starts scanning the scrape. I can see from my position he was looking at a Green Sandpiper, flicking through his book, trying to figure it out. Eventually the lad said " can someone tell me if thats a Green or Common Sandpiper".....silence. Now I was furthest away from the lad so didn't chip in straight away, but as the silence grew longer I had to chip in, "There's both out there mate, which one are you looking at?", It was the Green Sandpiper, so I pointed out the Common and showed him the "white V" on the Common and how to tell the difference etc. The lad promptly wrote down the time, what the bird was doing etc...proper birder. I ended chatting to his mum and him for a while, until they left with a thank you. The birders once they had left said (no joking), "why bother, he won't be birding by the time he's 18", "How do you know that?" I answer. It reminded me of that documentary were a well known "twitcher" wasn't exactly entharalled by the fact some young girl turned up at a twitch he was at and even remarked if she would still be birding when she's older, not with attitudes displayed by that prick...there are some great old timers out there John "jake" Ward and his wife Ruth spring to mind always showing me images of their latest trips out, helping out with bird id (I'd have to put Mike Alibone in there too, but he ain't old lol) and John Peacock, who funnily was strictly a birder who then started photography and Bob Bullock too, But sadly I met too many with a real shitty attitude who look down at you whilst talking to you like an idiot, demand you not to take an image (like it's up to them what I do) unfortunately I have had more than "one or two" up against the wall with my hands securely around their throats, but I can do that, some younger birders who carry a camera can't or won't (because they generally more level headed then myself) and just end walking away from birding, take this as a word of warning these sort of attitudes will kill birding off. After all once the "old timers" have sadly passed on, who's going to replace them? It's just not me, after all Richard Bedford wrote on his old website and the perils of photographing birds and the "attitude" he's encountered, and he's a "nice bloke" who wouldn't dare flushing a bird just for an image. NOR WOULD I.


  1. Nice piece Doug.
    Sadly those types, (I refer to them as 'grown ups' on my blog), are becoming all too common. The ignorance of some of them, like the refusal to help out the young lad, is quite amazing.
    A friend and I went to Amwell a while ago. A Redstart had been seen. I did a post about some 'grown ups' searching for the bird, and managed a picture of the bird behind them, watching them. lol

    I've met Ben the Plumber at Summer Leys; shame he's given up, his pictures were excellent.

    And before this turns into a mini blog post, I'll just add that the friendliest birders I've encountered have been in north Wales.

  2. Keith, I was starting to think it was just me who had encountered this attitude, I had at Summer Leys one "grown up" say "you saw a Purple Heron, I didn't see it, so you must've been mistaken it for a grey heron", 10 minutes later it was seen in the reed bed along side the railway line and a load of birders turned up to add it to there "tick list" it was even attributed to this birder as his find even though I saw it fly in at least an hour before!
    Ben was alot more then a great togger, I've known the bloke since I was kid, I hope he starts back up again, but I fear he won't.
    Welsh birders are a good bunch, friendly and full of advice, same with the Scot's I met on the west coast, maybe it's an English thing?

  3. Great piece Doug and I support your sentiments 100% I have been shunned by many local birders but I enjoy a challenge!! At Brandon, the conservation group had taken up residence in a hide and were moaning about photographers, but thought nothing about shouting to people along the line about a recent holiday in Lesbos! I'm a birder who carries a camera and enjoy taking images of common garden birds as much as a rarity. My life list is a lot less than yours and I hardly ever twitch, but I'm happy with my lot! I do tend to avoid my local patches preferring to visit out of county patches.

  4. Kevin, you've touched a raw nerve of mine, BRANDON MARSH, a great reserve, but ruined by the "FRIENDS OF BRANDON MARSH GROUP". A small part of their group regulary hook up and come down to Summer Leys. Most of their group are ok, but there was four indviduals who came into the hide one morning I heard them chatting away as they approached the hide, came and sat down (one smoking a fag) leaving the door open, they asked this lady to move so they could plonk their scopes into position and gave her nowhere to sit, this old lady (80+) lost her husband who was a birder and was chatting to me about all sorts of things (think she was lonely), they told her and I qoute "SHUT UP YOU'RE SCARE THE BIRDS AWAY", "LOOK PUT YOUR FAG OUT, NO SMOKING IN HERE AND HAVE A BIT OF RESPECT, AND CLOSE THE DOOR, PLUS I HEARD YOU TALKING LOUDLY AS YOU APPROACHED,SO DON'T BE A HYPOCRIT" SAID I, I gave my seat to the old lady, "NON SMOKERS, BLOODY TYPICAL", "WELL I DO SMOKE ACTUALLY"..It went quiet, they then started to moan about the number of trees and how would encourage Sparrowhawks, which baffled me yet at the same time confirmed to me I was in the presence of numpties....The same members then saw me at Brandon trying to photograph snipe, they walked in and walked out, 10 minutes later the person I saw at reception came in and asked me to LEAVE!!!! I did. She offered me my money back, but I declined it.

  5. As a young(ish) birder myself who often also carries a camera reading your blog post was almost like entering my own thoughts - I have experienced much of the same behaviour myself whilst out birding, from people belittling you because youve not got a 400+ list, calling you a tosser because your camera makes a slight noise or just generally ignoring you when you walk past and say hello. But the most annoying experience (to me anyway) happened again at Summerleys. Twice (same bloke both times) has a fellow birder noticeably tightened his grip on his belongings as I approach him....just because I'm under 30 and wearing a hoodie doesn't mean I'm going to rip his binoculars off his neck as I pass. The same fellow also turned off abruptly down another path when he saw me approaching on a different occasion. Doug, that behaviour mentioned at Brandon is outrageous, I havent actually visited the place in ages, and have no desire to change that fact.

    1. Hi Hoodie,
      Yeah I've had the same thing at Summerleys. One birder (who will remain anon) actually said to me,once he got to know me, that when he first saw me he thought I was the "type" of person more likely to mug him then an actual birder!! Funny how they can spot the difference in plumage of certian species yet fail to notice you're carrying a camera,scope or binoculars.
      Or the time I was at Fineshade and a black birder came into the hide, it went quiet and one by one everyone left, I turned to him and he just smiled "I have that effect" though I could seriously see he was well annoyed, we had a pleasant chat and laugh, years later I recognise the bloke (he's a bit famous now), very odd attitudes from some sadly.