I came across this post's title via firstly a tweet, then a blog post from Jono Lethbridge. I get the impression that the phrase 'internet-based birder' was used against him as an insult (and apologies if I'm incorrect here). This got me thinking.
Birding is no different as a hobby when compared to stamp collecting, train-spotting and following a football team. There are, within the number of participants, varying levels of participation, knowledge and obsession. Being a certain sort of birder (or birdwatcher if you prefer, because the world 'birder' does confer a certain place within the ornithological world) does not mean that all the other sorts of birder are either less competent, relevant or worthy.
We all get from birding what we want - whether that be driving to Wales to look at a lost warbler, watching a local park, or helping out at a reserve in a work party. I have my own personal opinion on what I think is more meaningful, but that doesn't make me right. Nor, logic would suggest, wrong.
Back to being an 'internet-based birder". The suggestion here would be that, rather than paying ones dues out in the field, the person accused spends far too much time writing blog posts and playing around with curves in Photoshop. If that were the case, so what? Appreciation of birds does not have to be expressed by hours spent in the field. To be inspired by their form to produce art is, I reckon, a more creative way of expression than by merely looking through a scope at a bird and then driving a couple of hundred miles before repeating the process.
I've banged on about it before, but what we all do has never before been so scrutinised. It's all our own fault if we insist in telling the world via blogs and tweets what we are up to and what we think. The downside to this is that there seems to be an open season for others to comment on what we do - again, it's the nature of social media.
An example: David Campbell, a young birder who I know very well, has just started a university degree course. He is also in the middle of a rabid bout of twitching. During term time. When he should be at lectures. If he did not tweet and blog about his exploits, nobody would be the wiser. But because he does, he has received plenty of 'comment' about bunking off. Part of me wants to chastise him, but then when I think back to my student days I was just as bad. And, more importantly, what the hell has it got to do with me? Ah.... well, in a way, when somebody uses Twitter and blogging to tell me what they've been up to, then, in a way, I've been invited to comment. When you sign up to these things and create an account you are living in a glass house.
Am I less of a birder in 2013 than I was, thirty years ago, in 1983? I don't think so. I was out in the field an awful lot more. I was sharper in the field. I found more (if we are to use that shallow reference point). But my appreciation of the natural world is far wider now, and I get just as much enjoyment from writing stuff like you are reading now. If the term 'internet-based birder' was to become common currency, it's a moniker that I wouldn't be insulted to have bestowed upon me.