There is a group of birders who stake out Beddington Farmlands (aka Beddington Sewage Farm). They are a mixture of rabid twitchers, dedicated patch workers and frontier birdsmen. The group was formed some twenty years ago, with modest but worthy aims to record the birdlife of the farm and publish the findings. A healthy Tree Sparrow population was studied through the ringing of nestlings. As time went by, various schemes to extract aggregate from the farm and then infill with refuse were hatched by big business. Some of these have come to fruition, but the group were there throughout consultations and public enquiries. Through such actions, patiently and calmly carried out, they now have a political presence that has given them a seat at the table to plan what will be a superb urban reserve when the digging and infilling is complete. This is down to 'birder power' which has been handled intelligently.
My second example is how one individual can make a difference to the perception of local people to the bird life around them. David Campbell is only 16 years old. He is as keen a birder as anyone you will meet. He does twitch, but this does not lessen his passion for the local patch. He has thrashed Canons Farm into submission, found a raft of excellent local species, but his most impressive skill-set for someone so young is his grasp of public relations. He manned a stand at the local country fair, spreading the wonder of the local bird life; he has set up a wiki for the farm that has many visitors, not all of them birders; he engages with the local dog walkers and shooters; he has got involved with the downland conservators when scrub clearance nearby threatened the wintering home of a small flock of Firecrests (that he had found).
These two examples are a lesson to us all, but particularly to me. In all the time that I have been birding, 95% of that time has been spent purely looking and recording. OK, that has meant that my observations have been collated by county bird clubs, the BTO and other wildlife bodies, so it hasn't been without its worth. But, if all that any of us did was just record the wildlife, then we would be falling short as a whole. We need these individuals and groups that go beyond that. We need the people who engage with non-birders, who debate with local authorities and lobby for habitat protection and creation. I should get involved and maybe I will. For the time being I'm using this post to say a big thank you to those that already do.
Tomorrow I may be back in a grumpy, frivolous mood and post more pictures of obscure insects or discuss how things really were better in the crappy seventies.