Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A bloody good moan

This blog used to be about things other than 'what I have seen recently'. Apologies for my slipping into the safety of uploading images of moths from the back garden and neglecting the seething inner me. Such internal energy needs to be released...

My first moan is about the books to be found populating the natural history section in 'all good bookshops'. Whoever orders what appears on the shelves needs to go on a course designed to inform them on what the customers really want. My local Waterstones is a curious mix of the bleedin' obvious, with titles such as 'Johnny Kingdom's 100 species of large mammal to see before you die', 'The RSPB book of Quaint Garden Birds' and 'Bats - they are really nice and not at all scary' vying for attention alongside a plethora of natural history writing which has been infiltrated by a trend in reprinting the flowery diaries of long-dead Victorian gentlemen. If you wanted to buy a selection of field guides to start off exploring and identifying the natural world in Great Britain you'd be hard pushed to find a bog standard field guide for anything. Therefore fewer people will bother to do so, but more will become celebrity presenter stalkers and follow Kate Humble on Twitter.

Pan-species listing
This activity has me hating myself on a regular basis. Am I really kidding myself that I can possibly identify even a small proportion of the fungi, beetles, flies etc, etc that I come across. Should I confess to being totally incapable of using identification keys. Should I come clean and admit that I have to leave quite a few tortrix moths alone, particularly the ones that look like bird shit. Am I big enough to accept that there must be quite a few stringy identifications on my pan-species list. And does it matter?

My lovely Swarovski scope lies neglected in a cupboard. Even though it came down to Dungeness with me for the month of July I hardly used it. I didn't bird much to be honest. I was looking at plants, insects, watching the Tour de France and imbibing in the odd pint. Call myself a birder? I used to...

Bird food manufacturers
Do they think we're stupid? In the good old days we used to put bread, fat and peanuts out for the birds and the population levels were OK. Now they suggest that we buy all sorts of exotic seed mixes to cater for 'Goldfinches with delicate stomachs' and 'Gluten intollerant titmice' and charge us top dollar to do so. And what happened to buying small bags of the stuff? You need a fork-lift truck and a 7.5 tonne van to get the bloody sacks home! And another thing - we used to spread it out on the grass and let the birds come down and feed. But now we are invited to buy bird feeders that are designed to look like ornate ironwork stolen from the Paris Metro.


  1. Ahh - some gems in here.

    Bookshops - went into Waterstones myself last week, absolutely pants in terms of any sort of natural history selection (though exceptionally good for the kids books we went in for). I blame the plethora of excellent on-line resources (of course when I say blame, I mean use).

    Pan-species Listing, in order of each of your questions: no - but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy seeing varied new things and getting the satisfaction of a few IDs; not necessary - we all struggle with them; no clean-coming required - they can be exceptionally tricky; unless everything is independantly verified, is it possible to list anything without some string (not necessary deliberate); no - unless you are a paid field biologist!

    Birding - ditto.

    Bird food - bog-standard sunflower hearts, fat balls and lard drenched tit-bits are all my locals get offered.

  2. Thanks Skev - you are the angel on my shoulder reasoning with my inner Devil on the other...

  3. Neglecting your scope for the Tour de France and the odd pint? Isn't that what all birders do in the summer? I like it when you sound off like a proper middle-aged bloke - it makes me feel normal...

  4. Yes Gavin, it takes one curmudgeon to flush others out. By the way, what are your plans for next July? Team Sky may be looking for new riders for the next tour...

  5. We have just been saying, me and my mate have hardly lifted a scope this year. We are even talking about a short trip to Spain next year and are debating whether or not to take it! Is it just that we are getting older...

  6. I think I have not even used my binoculars this year, never mind my scope. I almost bought a new pair earlier this year but asked myself what for? I do have a birding trip to Norfolk with friends planned for October so it will be interesting to see if I bird or not.

    I also find myself wondering why I am still automatically walking into Waterstones. Maybe it's the smell of books that I like.

    Maybe choose one field of study and focus on it for as long as you feel like with casual forays into the others and field events.

    Socks! Why do they sell multipacks with at least one colour that you will never wear?

  7. Stewart - not older, just more discerning...

    Andrew - don't start me on socks!!