Friday, 18 February 2011

A confession

I have been looking at many photographs of the Oriental Turtle Dove. I sit here, vicariously ticking, thinking that the dove is not that far away. Drivable within an hour. Just waiting to be observed. To be added to my list(s). But....

Something is stopping me. It's not the travelling (it's not far and I've driven to the corners of Britain for dragonflies, moths and plants before). It's not the fear of dipping (that's something I've experienced enough to become slightly numb to it). It's the crowds - and the sort of people that are in them.

I saw a newspaper clipping from The Metro, with a photograph of a line of several hundred birders queueing along a residential street waiting to be let into the garden that the dove was favouring. Most of them were dressed as if about to enter a jungle. Most of them were over 40. All looking slightly out of place, grown men appearing a little absurd. Don't get me wrong, I know that if I were there, I too would be dressed in the same manner and I am certainly over 40. I also know that I would be standing there highly embarrassed. Squirming in my boots if truth be told, averting my eyes from the (assumed) horrified gaze of the 'normal' people that live in the area.

"Mummy, what are all of those strange men doing?"

"Don't stare - they're most probably all on a register!"

There, I've said it. I would be feeling ridiculous. It's my problem, I know, but I cannot help feeling a complete prat in a public place with my binoculars on show, let alone also exhibiting a scope and a tripod. I become an apology of a man. A social misfit. I feel like shouting out "I'm married! I have normal interests too!" If, when I look around at my fellow birders, I think that they are all a bit odd, it's odds on that they're looking at me and thinking exactly the same thing. Maybe we could carry it off if there were plenty of George Cloony, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp look-a-likes among us, but in reality we are more like a convention of Timothy Spalls. If for no other reason than this, the Oriental Turtle Dove in Oxfordshire is out of bounds to me. Unless it turns up somewhere that normal people don't go...


  1. of al the reasons not to go (its very like a Turtle Dove so not visually exciting, strong chance of not seeing it, no chance of anything surprising turning up), pubic ridicule is one that never crossed my mind. But then I am a banker ...

  2. Steve, you've absolutely hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. I didn't go either for pretty much the same reason. I'd far rather go to Thursley Common, where birders with scopes and binoculars blend into the background, and enjoy watching the Great Grey Shrike 200 times than drive to Oxfordshire to join a frenzied throng of eccentric trainspotters queuing up at someone's house (what's that all about?) to gawp at a pigeon. Just doesn't do it for me. It's...embarrassing. There's no other word for it.

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  4. I agree that walking along a suburban street carrying bins and scope does make many of us feel self-conscious but I also think that the nerdy weirdo image of birders has changed over the years and most non-birding members of the public understand why we do it.
    As for the garb birders go for these days, it does tend to be the army style and this is probably because it is still the most practical gear to wear but this in itself draws attention to birders. It does, however, give a ‘harder’ image to what is anything but a hardnut pastime.

    As for the twitching scene, I have never really got into it and cannot say that I have enjoyed any of the few twitches I have attended, mainly because I lack the competitive need to see every bird that reaches our shores (and I don’t think that seeing rarities necessarily makes anyone a better birder) but also I have found quite a few twitchers to be derisive of those who do not share their need to tick every rarity reported.
    There are many local patch birders who are more knowledgeable than many of the twitchers on the scene today – unfortunately, I am not one of them!