Sunday, 17 November 2019

Why tell?

A fellow birder recently asked me the following question:

" Why do we want to let others know what we see?"

That really got me thinking. Don't we just chuck our observations out into the public domain without given it a moments thought? Or maybe we do have our reasons, our ulterior motives, for doing so. I had a bit of paper nearby and jotted a few thoughts down as they entered my head. After five minutes the following had been written...

To contribute to and create an accessible database

To inspire others

Self aggrandisement

Sharing data and success

To inform others of what's about and where to go

For entertainment value

To educate (or at least to arm others with information)

Because data is important

To act as an alert to those who may be interested

To justify what we do and to give our observations meaning

As you can see, plenty of overlap but also many diverse reasons as to why we pass on our observations. All of the above are why I do so, or at least these are what entered my thoughts unbidden - you may have many other reasons for doing so.

The way we pass on this data has changed in recent years. When I started birding, I would send my observations (by post) to the county recorder, with phone calls being made to close birding friends if I found something of interest. Part of it was to advertise my presence in the birding world (through initials in bird reports and acknowledgement from recorders) but it was also a public celebration of what I was getting from my bird watching. Now we have many ways of alerting others to what we find - Twitter, Facebook, What'sApp, blogs, phone - but the premise is the same, that of letting others know of your success/luck. So is it really down to showing off? Some of the time almost certainly. Why not bask in the glory of finding a rarity, as it doesn't happen all of that often. But we will also announce a good sky or sea watch, one full of common birds, and such an event is surely not a case of blowing our own trumpet. Maybe we are just advertising the fact that we are out in the field and paying our dues - but it isn't as straight forward as that - we are also wanting to let other observers know that something is happening which they to can also enjoy if they just get outside right away and join in. And what about a simple tweet that tells your followers about a Firecrest in a hedgerow or some Brambling feeding in a field? Neither are rare, neither suggest that you are manfully facing the elements in a time consuming search of the skies or sea - maybe these are true examples of altruism, just wanting to give others the opportunity to watch desirable species. All of the above most probably apply some of the time, it's not a black and white decision as to why we do release our sightings out into the public domain. Shades of grey rule!

And then, just when I was about to send this off to post, I thought of another reason, possibly THE reason.

We want to belong

We want to belong, or at least feel as if we belong, to a network of like-minded souls who get their kicks from this passive art of birding. There, that's the whole thing sussed then - it's all because of our human need to connect with like-minded souls....



Derek Faulkner said...

All very well if you are one of the like-minded people that you generically class as "we".
There has been various debates on blogs/facebook this last week about this matter - "Dodgy Birders" on Gavin's blogs and suppression and the like on KOS and Kent Birders facebook pages given the fact that three individuals had their photos posted for being inside a private area in pursuit of the Great Grey Shrike. Me, I'm a loner birder, don't feel the need to be liked or part of a community and have committed suppression of rare birds in the past, purely because I don't want my patch being invaded by hoards of twitchers/long-lensers.

Gavin Haig said...

Interesting post Steve. Like Derek I would mostly class myself as a loner birder, but while I sympathise with suppression and Derek's reasons for it, I mostly wouldn't do it because I also consider myself a member of a birding community, albeit not a very sociable member! That said, I think I can safely say that I would happily suppress a Long-eared Owl (as one example) unless it was roosting on an island in a lake, at least 100m from the nearest shore! In other words, I want to belong, but not that much.

What motivates me to share news (and write a blog?) is at least partly a desire to inspire, but I'm sure there are other aspects that I'd probably not want to examine too closely...

Dylan Wrathall said...

I was almost tempted to write a post based upon this subject but, as Derek and Gavin have set the ball rolling I'll give my two bob's worth here! Why share information? It's purely a decision for the individual. You do so because you want to, absolutely no other reason, it's neither a moral or vital part within the enjoyment of wildlife. If an individual is so minded as to "make it up" - who's the loser? If you're prepared to lie to yourself then there really is no answer.
Gavin has aired his own views about "Dodgy Birders" in his excellent series of posts, now this. What needs to be said is that none of this is of any importance beyond the clique mentality of those affected. You've seen an Ortolan, so what? Under no circumstances is there a law which states you must pass this information on. I catch fish, watch birds, moths and umpteen other types of wildlife. How is this of interest to others? I agree with Gav that blogging about such encounters might inspire others to follow suite, so by reporting my adventures might be of interest. That I play no role in some data gathering system is neither here nor there. How heavy was that fish? The only person it concerns is me. I screw it up - no one dies. A Honey Buzzard flies over my garden - who really needs to know? It's not suppression just the individuals right to make choices about whether or not to be involved with "the system"

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

I'm glad I just enjoy seeing birds without feeling I have to chase after them

Steve Gale said...

Thank you all for your comments. We are all different, our take how (and why) we release information is varied and the other responses that I’ve had to this topic only goes to prove that!

Gavin Haig said...

I love it when you post stuff like this Steve. It's thought-provoking, and I enjoy a good think :-)