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Spectator article about twitchers and photographers

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 07:20   #1
pratincol
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Spectator article about twitchers and photographers

Isabel Hardman's written an interesting piece about twitchers and photographers in this week's Spectator.
She's become a bit of a wildlife enthusiast herself, so she's seeing things through a fresh pair of eyes.
She talks about people getting too close to the fauna or flora they're attempting to spot or photograph. Also, she mentions a book called 'Bird Therapy' written by an ex-twitcher who gave up his hobby after seeing the downside of mass viewings.
There's a few tales of idiotic behaviour at twitches which are either amusing or disturbing.
Well worth getting hold of a copy of the magazine if you're interested.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 07:47   #2
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It is likely to be an interesting piece but not throwing any new light on the modern day approach to twitching which is seeing a species and then also obtaining an image to either share, gloat or grip others off. We all know this pattern of behaviour and hopefully there's still an opportunity for fun, enjoying time with friends but always respecting nature.
It's a trickier balance to achieve this compared to say the 1970s when there were hardly any cameras at twitches ( notebooks in everyone's jacket pocket ) or a couple of rarity photographers who eaked out a meagre living selling them on site. Probably why many patch workers keep their sightings to themselves and land owners reluctant to be welcoming.
Hope the journalist managed a variety of scenarios in order to cover the differences from garden birding to a full blown mega twitch.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 08:00   #3
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Presumably this is just the online precis? It didn't suggest that rooting out the full article would be worthwhile but I'll have a look......

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/10/...n-to-back-off/

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 10:32   #4
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It should be relatively easy to stop these unethical wildlife photograhers.

Since photograph is a tool for gaining prestige, it is easy to publicize that a close-up shot of animal in a place well-known for disturbance to wildlife is NOT something to be proud about.

If photos are meant for sale, it should be relatively easy for organizers of wildlife photo competitions, wildlife books and so on to announce they will not accept these and these photos. This is a little subculture with good flow of information, and photographers can often recognize particular locations or animals. And they can be jealous and nasty to each other, too.

Bird photography successfully got rid of the problem of photographing rare birds at nest. Other things should be similarly easy to do, too.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 11:52   #5
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Jurek,
You're absolutely correct in theory but in practice it's virtually impossible to manage, police or even enforce in a court of law. Using just the example you've quoted of rare birds at their nest, though hundreds of licences are issued each year to law abiding wildlife photographers, there are countless examples of photographers with the latest equipment ( all the gear, no idea) who have repeatedly approached nest sites in the breeding season, all camouflaged up, to take close ups of adult birds incubating or near the nest.
I know of several examples where the offending persons have been reported to the relevant authorities but it's never gone to court. Citing " not enough evidence" or a warning some may heed the advice but others will just skulk away, thinking they've done little harm.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 12:19   #6
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Having heard many, many, "war stories" about birding on Scilly (and featured in a few) I'm genuinely surprised at the Grey-cheeked Thrush story. Clearly a tale not for re-telling.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 13:44   #7
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My favourite bit,

'‘I went on this twitch where there was this bird that appeared in Norfolk,’ he says. ‘There were hundreds of people. It was horrific. They were encircling this bird. I leaned forward, saw it, and then this bloke asked me if I’d seen it. When I said yes, he physically picked me up and lifted me out of the way so he could see it.’

What's all that about?
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 15:13   #8
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Having heard many, many, "war stories" about birding on Scilly (and featured in a few) I'm genuinely surprised at the Grey-cheeked Thrush story. Clearly a tale not for re-telling.
Actually I'd say it is: this is a typical anti-twitcher distortion of a bird's genuine bad luck (or bad judgement). The 1986 Grey-cheeked Thrush in question was feeding avidly along the tideline (not being pushed) when it was caught by a wave and drowned. Nothing sensational. Just a bit sad.

I watched another in a garden on the Garrison that year (the one between the tennis courts and the campsite) get caught by a cat, at which point the crowd that had been standing very quietly along the garden wall gave a mass growl and a number went over the wall straight at the cat - which unfortunately held onto the bird as it departed post-haste. While deprecating trespassing in general I kind of understand that incident.

As for the photographers in Richmond Park, I tend to think they, while putting themselves at some risk with these zoo animals (lets not confuse this with wildlife photography), are probably less of an issue to the animals themselves than the notorious YouTube dog sensation Fenton. And the only arbiter of the level of risk an individual is prepared to tolerate ought to be the individual - though they would do well to remember that Mr Darwin is always watching interestedly....

Overall the flavour I get from the article is straightforward smug rectitude from a holier-than-thou pompous ass with a newly developed agenda in a subject that they haven't a clue about but have discovered just enough negative anecdotes to hang an article on. The article doesn't reflect 99.999 per cent of the behaviour that I've seen from birders over thirty-five years: for that matter I see far more faces each month that haven't given up than I note absent faces that have because of psychological trauma from twitching.

None of which is to suggest bad behaviour doesn't exist, or that even the most experienced don't occasionally stray. But a confident word usually restores order and there generally seems to be someone to utter it.

John
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 15:18   #9
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Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
Overall the flavour I get from the article is straightforward smug rectitude from a holier-than-thou pompous ass with a newly developed agenda in a subject that they haven't a clue about but have discovered just enough negative anecdotes to hang an article on. The article doesn't reflect 99.999 per cent of the behaviour that I've seen from birders over thirty-five years: for that matter I see far more faces each month that haven't given up than I note absent faces that have because of psychological trauma from twitching.

None of which is to suggest bad behaviour doesn't exist, or that even the most experienced don't occasionally stray. But a confident word usually restores order and there generally seems to be someone to utter it.

John
Maybe 99.1% or something like that (otherwise it would be 1 in 100,000 which might be a bit optimistic ... ;-) )

But yes, otherwise - absolutely.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 15:46   #10
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Originally Posted by pratincol View Post
My favourite bit,

'‘I went on this twitch where there was this bird that appeared in Norfolk,’ he says. ‘There were hundreds of people. It was horrific. They were encircling this bird. I leaned forward, saw it, and then this bloke asked me if I’d seen it. When I said yes, he physically picked me up and lifted me out of the way so he could see it.’

What's all that about?
Well. If it is taken at face value which has already been established would be a surprising stance in light of the inaccurate content of the article in some respects and its almost entirely secondhand nature, it is someone choosing to go and see a specific bird, seeing it and being replaced by someone else to see it. It is also someone finding the experience unpleasant and yet adding to that by staying there and encroaching on the bird.

Is the online version the entire extent of the article or does the published article contain more content?

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 15:46   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Farnboro John View Post
Overall the flavour I get from the article is straightforward smug rectitude from a holier-than-thou pompous ass with a newly developed agenda in a subject that they haven't a clue about but have discovered just enough negative anecdotes to hang an article on. The article doesn't reflect 99.999 per cent of the behaviour that I've seen from birders over thirty-five years: for that matter I see far more faces each month that haven't given up than I note absent faces that have because of psychological trauma from twitching.

John
John

You do have a pretty individual way of delivering both barrels!

All the best
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 16:07   #12
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Originally Posted by pratincol View Post
My favourite bit,

'‘I went on this twitch where there was this bird that appeared in Norfolk,’ he says. ‘There were hundreds of people. It was horrific. They were encircling this bird. I leaned forward, saw it, and then this bloke asked me if I’d seen it. When I said yes, he physically picked me up and lifted me out of the way so he could see it.’

What's all that about?
I can't recall a recent Norfolk twitch where "hundreds were encircling the bird". The only ones would be both at Cley / Blàkeney....... Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler or Marmora's Warbler many moons ago. Though perhaps also the Black Lark at Winterton. Anyone know which bird and where?
P.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 16:31   #13
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John

You do have a pretty individual way of delivering both barrels!

All the best
Beating about the bush is poor fieldcraft

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 16:47   #14
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Beating about the bush is poor fieldcraft

John
Tell that to the Swedes, standard for them, particularly when abroad looking for migrants.
Interestingly I believe that the BTO did or still do bush tapping with a stick
as part of the days programme for young ornithologists interested in bird ringing. Perhaps it's discouraged nowadays for driving birds out of shrubs or towards a Heligoland trap.

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 20:15   #15
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It's not too bad a piece. Even if some details are exaggerated, it is all highly recognisable.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 20:41   #16
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I can't recall a recent Norfolk twitch where "hundreds were encircling the bird". The only ones would be both at Cley / Blàkeney....... Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler or Marmora's Warbler many moons ago. Though perhaps also the Black Lark at Winterton. Anyone know which bird and where?
P.
Red-breasted Nuthatch?

Recall a story of a footprint on someone's back after the poor fellow fell and got trampled by marauding twitchers :)

Of course, this truly is many moons ago.
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 20:51   #17
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Red-breasted Nuthatch?

Recall a story of a footprint on someone's back after the poor fellow fell and got trampled by marauding twitchers :)

Of course, this truly many moons ago.
Recent??!!
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 21:16   #18
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It's not too bad a piece. Even if some details are exaggerated, it is all highly recognisable.
Thought it was OK - a few slightly stretched anecdotes probably third hand. Izzy's heart is in the right place - she's did a load of Orchid twitching this year.

cheers, alan
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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 21:21   #19
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Have to admit I found the sexism in the piece a bit disconcerting ...

"Yes, they were indeed all male photographers surrounding the stag" and a couple of lines below "a woman was gored by a stag a few years ago."

Hang on a minute ... either women shouldn't get too close for (eg) health and safety reasons, or else a woman did get too close?

Which is it ... can't have it both ways?

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Old Tuesday 30th October 2018, 22:36   #20
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This article has also another side.

It looks like for the author (like for me and many more people) big part of value of nature watching is to get away from people and the city noise. But outdoor recreation has increased recently. Nothing is so annoying as, when you want to enjoy nature, you find yourself in a midst of other people and noise. In the past these were often brainless families whose idea of recreation was a picknick with loud music. Now, sometimes, it is a crowd of photographers.

Note to managers of natural places: more space for low-key recreation is needed, because more and more people enjoy this kind of recreation. And more access to spread the crowds, which are often artificially concentrated into one or few publicly open path.

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Jurek,
You're absolutely correct in theory but in practice it's virtually impossible to manage, police or even enforce in a court of law.
Hi Pyrtle,

I am not talking about a prosecution by law, but internal doing within a social circle of photographers/naturalists. If photos taken at twitches where a bird is disturbed are frowned upon on Facebook, and turned down by birdwatching magazines, this should should lessen the problem, if not get rid of it.
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 03:05   #21
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Recent??!!
Missed that word :)
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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 05:51   #22
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Have to admit I found the sexism in the piece a bit disconcerting ...

"Yes, they were indeed all male photographers surrounding the stag" and a couple of lines below "a woman was gored by a stag a few years ago."

Hang on a minute ... either women shouldn't get too close for (eg) health and safety reasons, or else a woman did get too close?

Which is it ... can't have it both ways?

Eh? Without knowing the context of the incident is this a rational comment?

She could have been cycling by and turned a corner into to see a stag on a path.

There could have been a rogue animal.

Your comment is baseless and nonsensical.

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Old Wednesday 31st October 2018, 09:46   #23
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Eh? Without knowing the context of the incident is this a rational comment?

She could have been cycling by and turned a corner into to see a stag on a path.

There could have been a rogue animal.

Your comment is baseless and nonsensical.
Well sure. Note the smiley ;-)

Worse probably was the slightly poor paraphrasing.
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Old Saturday 3rd November 2018, 07:56   #24
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I’m not an ex-twitcher who gave up my hobby after seeing the downside of mass-viewings. It’s a generalised misrepresentation. I only twitched local birds, with a friend, at weekends. I still birdwatch (where possible due to life constraints) at a patch and occasionally the coast - so I certainly haven’t given up my hobby either. I found that twitching wasn’t the approach to birdwatching for me, for various reasons. I have written about it in my book, but that’s not what the book is about, as I explore a range of approaches to birdwatching throughout.

Anyway - the twitch in question was the Citril Finch, Burnham Overy Dunes, May 2015. Hundreds is probably an exaggeration on my part, although it certainly felt like it. It was an experience that I found unnatural and unnerving, and yes, I wouldn’t have helped by being part of it. Due to my own personal reaction to the experience, I wound down the amount of localised twitching I did - but that was a personal reaction, again, explored in my book. Oh and the bird was only ‘encircled’ as when I saw it, it was in the ‘bowl’ at the end of Holkham Pines, this creating a circled effect.
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Old Saturday 3rd November 2018, 11:12   #25
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Joe

Thanks for contributing.

Your blog is excellent and it seems a really interesting project:-

https://birdtherapy.blog/about/

Almost all even hardened twitchers got into it through connecting with nature and almost all still birdwatch local patches.

That said, today, I had a diary clash between the British Entemological & Natural History exhibition, England v South Africa and Arsenal v Liverpool. I chose the middle one but I really want to be looking at a Tengmalm's Owl perched on an Orkney toilet so I admit it can be compulsive.....

(My wife eventually found a copy of the Spectator for me. She is not a twitcher but has seen a number of rare birds and attended a number of twitches. She also knows a lot of twitchers. She had read the article before I got home and her critique of it was the most damning that I had heard. Mind you, she is probably far better placed to express an opinion.....)

All the best
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