Sunday, 20 November 2016

Helping Others

A subject I've touched upon before on this blog is the grumpy birder. Today I want to mention in particular the negative attitude some birders can show towards newbies. These birders (thankfully few and far between) are just too 'good' to bother. For some reason they can't see the bigger picture that the more people we encourage into enjoying our wildlife, the better it is for our wildlife.

Last night on Facebook there was a perfect example of this. 84 comments and one hour later thankfully the post was deleted. And I must say the original poster wasn't nasty to anyone, there was far more vile language being thrown back at him. 

It all took place on the UK Bird Identification page and the offending post, written by a very good and experienced birder, went something like this...

"I joined this page with an open mind but I find myself banging my head against a brick wall. In the last week help has been asked to ID photographs of common birds like Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Greenfinch, Dunnock and House Sparrow. Some by so called wildlife photographers. Buy a book!"

It was actually a lot longer than that but I can't recall it word for word. 

I take great enjoyment in pitching in my thoughts when it comes to bird ID. Whether it's a tricky immature Gull or something as simple as a Robin. It doesn't bother me how common the bird is, if the observer has asked for help, they want help! I along with a couple of others man the id@devonbirds.org email account, and whenever I see a plea for ID help anywhere on social media I just want to help.

Back when I started out I always found working it out for myself the most prolific way of learning.  But I'm open minded enough to know that this may not be everyone's favoured method. Some people may not want to learn at all, they just want to know what that bird is.  Others may already have an idea what it is and just want a second opinion. But surely we don't need to care about any of this. If someone is interested enough to ask "what is this bird?" Then let's help. It could be the spark that sets off a life long love of wildlife.

If however they log on to the Bird ID page on Facebook with the intentions of posting their unknown photo, only to read an expert moaning about how 'stupid' everyone is for not knowing the common birds...

11 comments:

  1. Well said, I am a fairly new birder and I value the help I have had from more experienced birders like Tim White, David Boult , Dave Stone and Keith Birchall.

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    1. Hi Ronnie, thanks for the comment. Yes thankfully there are far more good eggs than bad ones - I just don't understand why the bad ones behave as they do! Good luck with your learning, I found it the MOST exciting phase of my whole birding career! Although it's true to say as a birder you never stop learning. Best wishes, Steve.

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  2. Thanks for this, Steve.

    Being in a situation where I can discuss what I'm seeing with other folks has been hugely helpful as I've got into birding over the last three years or so. This is particularly the case in the field, and in the majority of cases, the folks I speak to whilst I'm out and about have been more than willing (and able!) to help.

    I'm still far from confident much of the time (particularly gulls and small mobile brown things) but it's been good to be able to help out a few folks myself as well.

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    1. Hi Rob. I am delighted that your experiences have been mostly positive, and so they should. Confidence will come with time, birding is no different than anything else. Wishing you all the best, Steve.

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  3. Good post, Steve, made me think.

    Steve, at the risk of sounding like a patronising old fart I will start thus: in the years I've known you I think you have matured into a superb ambassador for the hobby of birding. Your attitude to the newbie reflects this. If only we were all like that...

    But we're not. I'll put this as kindly (but succinctly) as I can: just as you are open-minded enough to recognise that when it comes to learning not all learners have the same approach/motive/attitude, surely it's logical that there will be a corresponding diversity among birders when it comes to teaching? Shouldn't a degree of understanding and tolerance be extended likewise to them?

    For example, I am not like you. Although I have done stints as an 'expert' guide on 'Wet & Wild' events on the Axe Wetlands, and even looked after a tramful of punters that bitterly cold evening we went up the estuary to listen to the bird sounds after dark, on each occasion I was well out of my comfort zone, to say the least. I also realise I could easily come across sometimes as the 'grumpy' birder (by the way, I must have missed that post!). That said, on a one-to-one basis, when I am in the mood, I can be patience personified. Though I suppose that's really for others to judge!

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    1. Hi Gav, thanks for the comment and those kind words!

      Something I probably did not make clear is I am certainly NOT expecting everyone to be holding hands with newbies and guiding them into the world of birding, as you say we all have our own comfort zones.

      All I'm saying is if you are a 'grumpy birder'(which I can be be sometimes) then don't post things on public bird id forums that should be tools to encourage and engage - no one makes you read the ID thread or post on it. If you don't like it, then leave it to people who do. (by 'you' I don't mean you!)

      Putting it in the plainest of ways, it's the need to spread 'grumpiness' not the act of being grumpy that bothers me. Apologies for not making that clearer.

      All the best, Steve.

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    2. Re the ID forums: fair point!

      And you're right, we mustn't spread grumpiness. We must allow each birder to develop grumpiness in his/her own way, at his/her own pace! ;-)

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    3. Ha! Very true. It comes to us all apparently!

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  4. Great post. As occasional visitors to your area we've had locals point out interesting sights, but also showed less experienced folk stuff we've spotted. My in laws live in Seaton and I enjoy checking out what's happening from afar (300 miles to be precise). I might send down the flock of waxwing I saw in our village yesterday if you're interested ;-)

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    1. Hi 'Derby Tup', good to hear from you and glad you keep an eye on what is going on down here. If the Waxwings don't come down of their own accord please bring them with you next time you're down :-) All the best, Steve.

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  5. Grumpiness isn't limited to birding forums ... there is a photography forum upon which I wouldn't dare to ask a question .... and a recording site where I was severely taken to task for not being able to produce a suitable photograph ...... embarrassed and crestfallen didn't come any where near to describing how I felt.

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