Sunday, October 30, 2016

Listless Birding

I’m a little demotivated today. I hate birding on a Sunday morning when Uncle Tom Cobley and all head away from their TV screens to discover life in the big wide world and take their bikes, noisy dogs, scruffy kids and bored old aunties to normally quiet birding spots. Not to worry. I went to feed the Linnets and then found a birdy story on the Internet that might interest readers. 

The Daily Mail 30th October 2016 by Environmental Correspondent - Chloris Cliff 

“The normally sedate world of bird watching was thrown into turmoil and controversy this week over accusations about bird watchers, or ‘birders’ as they are known in the trade, cheating on their bird lists. 

Serious birders compile lists of birds. Being serious implies knowing about look-alike species and subspecies, the various plumages, and having a systematic-enough mind to not be slapdash when assembling the lists. Bird lists are not meant to be fun. Each entry evokes memories of sometimes expensive, lengthy and difficult journeys to exotic or sometimes dull and dreary places to see a bird. The bird becomes a "trophy" testifying to bird-spotting prowess and a willingness to invest time and boundless competitive energy to see more species than the next birder. 

Any hint that a serious birder might deliberately deceive fellow birders by inflating or inventing part of a list is viewed as a serious matter whereby the culprit is a scallywag at best or in the worst case, someone to be pitied. 

But now one birder at least has been found out, “spotted” as it were, in different locations when he claimed to be in the queue of several thousand dedicated birders waiting patiently to view a Siberian Accentor through a chain-link fence. The rare sparrow lookalike unexpectedly appeared at Easington in East Yorkshire in late October many thousands of miles from its home. The birder concerned later confessed to a birding acquaintance that on that very day he was actually near his home conducting a bird survey on behalf of his local bird watching club and then took a stroll around his local birding patch. He finished his day by ticking the Siberian Accentor via the Internet and a high quality video of the actual bird which had already been posted on You Tube.

Needless to say this particular trusting birder’s confidence was betrayed, and within a day or so he was publicly outed as a fraud and his previously admired list of bird ticks labelled as a work of fiction. 

I tracked “Robin” down but he asked me not to identify him by his real name or birding “handle”, the latter the nickname used by his regular circle of birding friends. If I disclosed his identity he would be subject to an even greater amount of disdain and ridicule than that recently suffered. 

Robin told me; 'I twitched rare birds all the time until recently. I’ve spent years and large amounts of cash travelling the UK to see the latest rarity to appear on my pager, often skipping work and sleep to be amongst the first to arrive at the location. I’m in the Top Ten of birders in the Britain Year List for 2016 and over the 500 mark in the Britain Life List. Recently my marriage broke up when my wife left me for a nine-to-five office worker who is a part time body-builder. And then I lost my job in the PPI call centre because of my poor time keeping and attendance record. I’m trying to pull my life together and get back to normal.'

'And then one at home one day I was idly looking at bird videos on You Tube and the latest rarity pictures on Bird Forum, and I realised that digital and virtual reality, was the way to go. You see, in recent years there are some seriously good photographs and videos of all the latest rarities on the Internet. All you have to do is a Google search and you can be there in good quality video or see whole pages and pages of pictures of most rarities that turn up. It’s as good as the real thing without the financial cost and the mental trauma and anxiety involved in travelling hundreds of miles. And it allows me to get in some real birding in my local area, something I neglected in recent years. It’s Carbon Friendly and my lists are as good and lengthy as ever, up there with the best UK birders. I’m not bothered by what others think. These birds are on my various lists and staying there. Lots of people I know are doing their birding this way now.'

I asked Robin if I could see his bird lists; he told me they are: 
1. Garden list - all the birds seen on his property 
2. Year list 
3. County list 
4. Life list - all the birds since he started bird watching some 35 years ago 
5. Big day list – the maximum number of species he’s seen in 24 hours 
6. The Big Sit - a list of species seen from within a 12 foot radius circle in a 24 hour period 
7. Photo list – the number of bird species he has photographed 
8. Zoo list - all the birds seen in zoos 
9. Television and cinema list - all the bird species seen or heard on TV or cinema
“ Check out Sky Sports – it’s good for Australian gulls” he advised. 
10. Street names that are bird names. Quite by coincidence, Robin lives in Lapwing Close, Warrington.

I contacted the Bird Listing Organisation for Birders (BLOB) for their thoughts on this latest trend in seeing and listing birds. 

A spokesman who did not wish to be named told me 'We do not condone ticking birds seen via the Internet, TV, cinema, books or other publications. Birding is a serious pastime and should always be undertaken in that spirit.'"

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


David Gascoigne said...

Blows my mind!! I swear that for some people the list is more important than the bird. They might just as well be train spotting or something.

David Gascoigne said...

Hi again, Phil. I forgot to mention that I noticed that the people lining up to gain access are nearly all men. There are a few women, but they are very much in the minority. I think the birding fraternity here is just about even between the genders.

Linda said...

Hi Phil, I think you are quite blessed at being able to see such a lovely variety of birds, and as often as you do. Here in Montreal, I rarely get to see them...I mean, I know they are there, but they pretty much stay hidden from view. However, I have seen a male cardinal, a couple of blue herons, ducks, geese...but the ones I most often see are pigeons, sparrows, starlings and seagulls. :)

Russell Jenkins said...

I got an Oriental Stork in Japan this last weekend.......just to brag!

Chris Rohrer said...

WOW! Well, all I can say is, I feel sorry for the guy. His reputation and everything else is a joke now. It's A LOT of work birding. I run them all. Studies out in the field, local patches and chase birds. I figure, better do it now or it'll be too late for me down the road. So MANY birds. This article is funny and yet, I'd not want to be THAT guy. That would be a nightmare:) I've worked hard to keep my reputation. Plus, where's the fun birding via the internet. There's nothing quite like going to the habitat and exploring:)

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) As you know I'm not a birder, but if I was, I know that I would rather have the thrill of the chase, and the discovery of a lifer in the outdoors. It's just not the same to discover a new bird via the internet, and list it as your own birding experience, as it loses the passion and dedication that is so intrinsically rewarding in a birders life. If birding is a serious pastime, as stated by the spokesman, and I do believe this is so, then there should not be two sets of rules and standards, no matter what!!!

mick said...

I loved the story! Glad I don't keep lists!! It al sounds very serious and not much fun!

Margaret Adamson said...

Birding is an outdoor activity. That's the way it should be otherwise you are missing out in so many different ways


No no no!!! That is no way to be a birder? How on earth can anyone say differently?

I wouldn't be able to afford global travel [tho I'd love to go to Australia for the most unique birds], so I limit my travels to the state of Texas and mainly the coastal areas. After all, I'm lucky enough that vagrants do show up occasionally, and I am in the migratory path for both Autumn and Spring. There is one AMAZON kingfisher reported near Lubbock Texas I believe it was, recently, but nope, Lubbock is where God would stick the tube for the country's enema I tellya. [kidding]


No no no!! This is no way being a 'birder'. We must get out and search, scout the area for the elusive bird and if at all possible get a photo of it in its surroundings.

I don't travel globally for birds [tho I'd like to go to Australia for the unique ones there]. I'm lucky enough to live in the migratory paths here in Texas.

And one commentor mentioned that more men are birders...I've noticed that in my part of the world too...the men ARE the majority!!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Wow, thanks to your web site, my life list has expanded exponentially. Are you sure you didn't get this article out of the British equivalent of "The Onion" (parody news site)? It made me laugh anyway -- I don't think we were supposed to take it seriously were we?

I don't know Uncle Tom Cobbley, but his relatives live here -- and in Florida. We never go anywhere on Sunday because they do. (We stay home and do all our birding virtually. Traveling too. We've been all around the world.)

Wally Jones said...

I have just returned from the desk in the other room where I found drawings of a Dodo and Passenger Pigeon. They have been added to my life list and I am thrilled to be among the world's foremost listers. But that walk from the other room has left me exhausted and I shall now retire to the recliner for the remainder of the day. Please page me immediately if any Carolina Parakeets are spotted on the telly.

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