Arise, Sir Birder...
|This is for the Bluetail, soldier|
Jono Lethbridge recently touched on the subject of arrogance in birding - (you can be teased by the promise of a rant here). Now...
One of the 'givens' in this birding game is that it is a substitute activity in lieu of us not going out and being 'hunter-gatherers'. OK, some of us do work and earn money to fulfil this role in life, but the primal experience of hunting down and killing your food is missing. In the evolution of man this is still a recent loss to the day-to-day activity of a human being.
Thus, going out into the field, armed not with a bow-and-arrow but a pair of binoculars, is the modern version of hunting (at least for some of us). And because of this, whether you believe it or not, birding defines your prowess as a man (or a woman if you are one of the 0.009% of birders that is not a man). If you go out into the field and not find a good bird, you are WEAK. If you cannot identify species properly, you are WEAK. If your fellow birders do not rate you as a birder - yes, you are WEAK. This is where stringing, boasting and arrogance come in. Because to be seen as weak in our society is not welcomed, and those who feel as if they need to do a bit of self-promotion to boost their profile will start to massage the truth, manipulate the facts and ensure that everyone else who birds is aware at any small successes that come their way.
Think about it - you find out that there has been a rarity at a local site and the first question you will ask will most probably be "Who found it?". You need to know because we (maybe without realising it), attach importance to this fact. And when we do find a good bird ourselves, think about the smug satisfaction involved as you greet the other birders as they turn up to see it (and you feign indifference as they offer you their congratulations). When a bird report is published who doesn't turn straight to the systematic list to look for their initials against a rare bird, high count or early/late migrant.
If they gave out medals for birding prowess, we'd wear them in the field without a moments hesitation.