Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A letter to Lee Evans

On the Surfbirds forum, in response to last nights BBC4 programme about twitching, Lee Evans posted an open letter, asking, among other things, whether or not he ought to pack it all in. He felt that his popularity was waning and the antagonism against him building. I did reply...

Hi Lee,

I am commenting on this situation as a lapsed twitcher and somebody that has only met you a few times, and that was back in the late 70s and early 80s. I am still an active birder and, although I rarely go to a rare bird, I know plenty who still do.

You are correct in stating that you do have your critics, but I am sure that you would expect this when you set yourself up as a ‘policeman’ and ‘judge, jury and executioner’ to the birding world (I think that they were your words, and if I’m incorrect, forgive me). As you have never been elected, or asked to keep a watching brief on all the UK birders lists’ (as to accuracy and honesty), then again, you cannot be surprised when this causes offence or indignation among them.

There are over a million members of the RSPB and viewing figures for BBC’s Autumn watch well in excess of that. I doubt that any more than a few thousand of them have heard of you, the UK400 club or any other twitcher for that matter. Therefore the pool of birders who you have (or have not) annoyed is quite insignificant compared to those who get enjoyment out of ornithology. That is worth keeping in perspective.

People who join the UK400 club are willing members and as such agree to abide by the rules as set out by the club (and by ‘the club’ I assume that means you). If they do not agree with this then they can leave. Those that are left are under no illusion as to what to expect. What anybody else in the birding world thinks is, to be quite honest, not your problem. If some of the aggrieved are within your club membership, then that needs your urgent attention.

You have asked for feedback and for what it’s worth my humble opinion is that you needn’t worry about what others say, you don’t need to close your club and you should carry on doing what you are obviously passionate about. Those that have a problem with you can just ignore you and your club, because whatever you say, whatever your club rules are and what species you accept or dismiss is of no relevance to them. Maybe your need to ‘control’ other birders lists is an area that you should address if you are serious about building bridges. This appears to be a major area of conflict.

I think it’s good to have characters in all walks of life, and you are certainly that. One less would be a great shame.

Kind regards,

Steve Gale

1 comment:

Graham James said...

Anyone who claims that 30 per cent of birders are cheats and quite a few are incompetent cannot complain if his popularity has waned.
It seemed from the programme that Lee rules the twitching roost but has little respect for (or from) the twitchers.
As he said, he trusts no-one. That being the case, surely he shouldn't adjudicate on sightings.
Surely any decisions over birds seen and whether there has been any 'cheating or incompetence' should lie with the BBRC or the county records committees and not with just one man's opinion.
I think Lee had a golden opportunity to portray himself as a likeable and fair leader of 'his' twitching community but failed miserably.