Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Why bother...

I probably shouldn't write or send this post - but I'm going to.

First of all, a brief summary of recent events.

A few days ago news broke of a Devon first, a Dusky Thrush, present in a private garden in Brixham for about eight days. The situation and location meant the decision was taken by the locals that news could not be released nationally whilst the bird was present.  As County Recorder I was informed of the presence of this bird, but as any County Recorder would do, the wishes of the land/home owner had to be respected. A horrible situation to be in yes - but it's one of only a few down sides to being County Recorder, compared with endless up sides. 

Once the bird had departed, I was asked to join the discussion about how best to release the news. Do we wait until the BBRC report is published in 2014?  Well in my opinion, there was no reason to withhold the news any longer - the bird had gone so the reason for withholding the news had gone. Any further 'supression' would have been pointless.

With the news release, I felt there should be some pictures to go with the text. I was well aware of the discussions about the purity of the Kent Dusky Thrush earlier this year, and thought including photos would help/enhance this discussion. Not only that, it would also show everyone instantly that this was indeed a Dusky Thrush and not a weird leucistic Redwing or such like. If photos weren't released when the news went out, how long would it have been before people asked to see photos?  A few minutes? 

Ok, now I am removing my County Recorder hat. This is Steve Waite the patch birder...
 
Now I certainly think my opinion was wrong about releasing the news so soon. In fact my opinions have changed about many things in many ways over the last day or so. 

First of all, I must state I'm only talking about the absolute minority here.  Thank you to most for being understanding about this difficult situation.

1/ Do home owners have any rights?   I am a home owner - should I ever have to explain why I let certain individuals into my house? Surely it is up to me who I invite in - for whatever the reason. Should I also be expected to open my doors wide for anyone and everyone to come in?  Please, I've only been a home owner for a year, so I need to be told if I'm wrong here....

2/ Why do some birders/twitchers think they have the right to see every bird? Or think they have the right to know about every bird immediately...

3/ Why do people who do not know the full facts, think they do and speak like they do. And even more annoyingly, think they know MORE than the people that DO know the full facts. I don't know the full facts about the Dusky Thrush, but I trust the judgement of the people that do. Does that make me naive/stupid, or just a normal person?

Something I do understand entirely is how this news release would have been a right punch in the face for so many - a bird as epic as a Dusky Thrush right here in Devon! But that is no excuse for the above, or for the down right nasitness aimed at the lucky ones that did see it (although I'm sure none of them 'feel' lucky at all!). And how about the poor chap who found this crippling rarity? What on earth has he done wrong!? And I can't begin to imagine how he must be feeling. 

I'd just like to stress yet again, this isn't a moan at birders/twitchers in general. It is me feeling extremely exasperated and quite simply stunned at the behaviour of just a few.

In my ten-ish years of what I'd describe as 'being a birder' - I have never felt so low because of my hobby. So so much worst than missing the Pacific Swift that flew directly over my parked car - that I was sat in! And boy was that painful. This is on another level altogether.

This episode has made me question the whole idea of birding, my number one (two if Jess reads this!) passion in life - it's what I enjoy doing day in day out and it has always given me so much happiness. This is the first time this has happened to me, and I'm finding it so very sad. It is the reason I am up at 2am posting this when I should be asleep. All very upsetting to witness, so much nastiness created by one bird.  One blob of feathers.

Before last week I would have dreamed to have a major rarity in my garden. Not any more. In fact do I want to find a major rarity ever again? What's the point.....

   

26 comments:

  1. Well said Steve. Torbay is one of the best areas anywhere in the UK for getting information out and that is down to local Birders. If eight local Birders saw the Dusky Thrush then that is better than none at all. I am sure that if the bird had not been in private gardens and only viewable from inside houses then the information would have been released immediately.

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    1. Thanks for that Roger. It is amazing how quickly all the good times/positives get forgotten at times like this. So thanks for highlighting them.

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  2. Steve, don't let the prats get you down. County Recorders do a great Job and have the responsibility thrust upon them to respect the wishes of the land owners and bird finders alike. If you kept it totally quiet from all your friends you would have no friends. Letting a select few locals know is fine, letting the masses know is another thing.

    I have been in the same situation with Pallid Harrier and Scops Owl and have had the same sort of comments from the same 'comedian' shall we say, giving you a load of grief on twitter. It should always be the locals who get to decide if the place is 'twitchable' and not someone from Buckinghamshire, for example! It is OK to say that 'something could be arranged', but I have been to twitches that have been well organised for the first weekend, and then when Monday comes and the organisers have to go back to work or 'Bucks', then it all goes wrong and property and the surrounding countryside gets trashed. Look at the state of the fence and roadside at Cley when the WC Sparrow was there, it was a disgrace! Some people need to get a life! @TheAngryBirder

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    1. I stuck to my brief as a CR and told not one person. Obviously it is not what I'd have liked, but it's what I had to do. Thankfully it would appear that people have respected and understood that, as of yet no eggs have been thrown at my front door.

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  3. Great post Steve, I've highlighted it on my blog. There are a few buffoons out there who spoil it for the rest of us, if we decide to inhabit their 'birding world'. One of the reasons I diversified if truth be told.

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    1. That's very kind of you Steve - many thanks.

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  4. Hi Steve, a very well-rounded viewpoint with which I agree almost completely - it's not the "blob of feathers" that's the problem, but a very small (though vocal) minority who shouldn't be allowed to dictate the rules. Dusky Thrush is a terrific find so obviously it would have been a popular bird, but it's no-one's fault it turned up where it did. Well done to all involved for managing the situation so sensibly. To everyone else, there'll be another - there always is. (Well, almost!)

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  5. Thank you all for taking the time to comment on this post, and for the support. Dom, very well said, it is no-ones fault that it landed where it did. Does really make you wonder how many rares go unseen in private gardens that aren't owned by birders, or by people that even notice birds - must be so many!

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  6. Very sensible post Steve. Try not to take to heart. It is the comments of the same 'keybord warriors' on turdforum that have ruined the site imo. I no longer look forward to reading the rarity threads. Instead of info, id disussion and photos the slighest bit of controversy sparks an inevitable series of high-minded posturing and carping.

    Glad you got to see a 'proper' Dusky Thrush. No doubt some of the adverse comments are from those who saw the dodgy Kent bird!

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment - and for the wise words! Just for the record though, I didn't see the bird in question.

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  7. Steve hi, as an ex bird recorder (Bedfordshire) I fully understand how you feel as I too had to supress a few goodies for similar reasons; although I`ll admit nothing quite as hot as a Dusky. Back in the pre-digital days of the 1980`s things moved a little slower, but the spiteful remarks of the few were still hurtful all the same. Don`t let the b******s grind you down, as they`re not worth it, you did the right thing and I promise you a month or two down the line it won`t seem so upsetting. Good birding, Paul

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    1. Hi Paul. I have to say I've not really had any nasty remarks aimed at me - but it doesn't stop me being shocked by the behavior of others to others.

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  8. As you have clearly inferred, you have two hats and they will conflict with each other now and then. It is an awkward pickle to be in at times but don't sweat it as after all, it is only a bird.

    Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thanks Andrew. I think I wear about eight hats in all to be honest - I could do with eight heads!!

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  9. Steve, as the county recorder you are excused from conflicts of this nature.

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    1. Thanks Ric - and thanks for confirming this! I don't feel so bad now about the Desert Warbler that's been running around in my garden all day.... :-)

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  10. Sreve you have acted correctly in your remit. I was really pleased that we had found a good bird and made a better fist of recording it than the Margate one.As for suppresion well I think that is only when it is only done for one upmanship and knowing some of the individuals concerned it would have been well debated and potential consequences understood yet you still did it. That takes balls and morals - you should be proud of that. Internally there might be some fall out but outside the Society's image will have been enhanced as people will be more likely to come forwards with stange birds knowing they wont always have 300 cameras in their living room and after all isnt that what the society wants? the largest number of records possible and greater participation. Goes down as a win in my book matey!!!

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    1. Sorry - to clarify, the we in the second sentence refers to devon birdwatchers as a collective , just realised how it reads. Dusky Thrush will have to be another day for me he says optimistically.

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    2. Hi Tim. I can't tell you how good it is to read such a sensibly written comment and point of view. From what I've heard the Kent bird hasn't even been submitted to BBRC yet, despite how many people seeing it? The Devon bird was seen by a tiny fraction of observers compared with the Kent one, but I bet a submission will be with BBRC by the end of this month!

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    3. Steve , I live only 100yds from the bird so maybe this is my Pacific Swift moment, Has it been in my garden I wonder? At least I now believe I have a chance of seeing a wonder bird. The issue could have so easily been mine (if I was good enough to spot it in the first place!!!!) and I have to say I would have made the same call once my "experts" had confirmed my enthusiastic very amateur "guess". I am lucky in that I have 5 very proficient birders within quarter of a mile and they would all have been called .........no repeat of the NA racecourse fiasco earlier this year. They should not feel pressured into not coming by voluntary ethics, the reality is we need them to come to ensure accuracy. Actually ,what an opportunity to ask a local primary school to bring a class to see the bird instead, tell them the story of the bird journey and why its such a "special bird". Some might construe that as 2 fingers to the establishment/elite? but if we can inspire 1 person out of that class in the right way the bird will have served a much better purpose for us and birding in general. But then again you know I am new and naive !!!!

      I am also very sadly aware that we may have lost a valuable vault of knowledge,passion and resource over this.

      Of course the even sadder thought is that all of this WILL happen again sometime all the time you have a voluntary code of ethics no matter how noble they might be. I have lived with it for 50 yrs in my other life as a sea fisherman so believe me I know..Sigh!!

      The good news for Devon Birdwatchers is that we have people that know how to manage it correctly.

      Anyway cheer up,think yourself lucky you only have a desert wheatear to deal with, my purple gallinule and killdeer kept me up all night with their constant bickering.

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    4. Tim

      What a great suggestion re the school going to see it...Now that would have been a great idea!

      Josh

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  11. Steve, a very good friend of mine - and a veteran birder - wanted me to let you know his thoughts on all of this. He is totally supportive of you and believes the best thing for you to do is resign your post as recorder and allow the malcontents to take over the task. You will free yourself from such situations and they will suddenly realise that the job of recorder is not as easy as they believe.

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    1. Hi Steve - thank the veteran birder for his support. I have to say, my passion for Devon Birds the society, and birding in Devon, does come in way above the hassle this bird has caused. I don't think the 'malcontents' would take on this task in a million years, and the regular few who have to pick up the pieces would end up being up to their neck in it. I couldn't do that to them.

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  12. Hi Steve, just want to offer my support and say thanks for all the hard work you're putting in - and please ignore any suggestions to resign. I don't know the full story and I don't much care whether some saw it who shouldn't have. I can only say I think the way you've handled has been spot on. News was withheld - correctly under the circumstances, news then released when the bird no longer present - also the right decision in my opinion. Some clearly feel an unwritten rule has been broken, maybe but certainly not by you. Whatever fallout there is - and I expect it'll blow over soon enough - I can't see how anyone can fault the way you've dealt with it.

    You're doing a great job, we're lucky to have you.

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  13. There is another way of looking at this. If word got out that the worlds sexiest woman was streaking in some private gardens at random times during the day would anybody think it was reasonable for a few hundred people to turn up against the home owners wishes and wait around on the off chance of seeing her?

    Please never doubt you made the right decisions. Integrity and concideration for others are both getting rarer. You have demonstrated that you have both of these unlike the 'small but vocal minority'

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