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"Birding" and "Dawn chorus"

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Old Friday 3rd July 2009, 16:14   #1
s. james
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"Birding" and "Dawn chorus"

Was wondering about the word "birding" and the phrase "dawn chorus". When were these coined? I think people sometimes complain about "birding" thinking it's a modern variant on "birdwatching". To me "dawn chorus" just sounds like it's been invented for a glossy nature reserve events booklet.

However I've found both (in the correct context) in a book written in 1940. Anybody know of any earlier references?

Shakespeare did write about going "a-birding" but he apparently meant with guns.
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Old Friday 3rd July 2009, 23:46   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by s. james View Post
Was wondering about the word "birding" and the phrase "dawn chorus". When were these coined? I think people sometimes complain about "birding" thinking it's a modern variant on "birdwatching". To me "dawn chorus" just sounds like it's been invented for a glossy nature reserve events booklet.

However I've found both (in the correct context) in a book written in 1940. Anybody know of any earlier references?

Shakespeare did write about going "a-birding" but he apparently meant with guns.
No idea of earlier references, I´ve just checked through all the books on my shelf and come up with nothing. "Dawn Chorus" sounds the more authentic of the two to my ear....whereas "Birding" (i.e. not with guns), sounds like a euphimism invented by birdwatchers when the term "Birdwatching" became the butt of too many "Trainspotting" type jokes. Certainly I never remember the activity being called "Birding" in the seventies.
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Old Saturday 4th July 2009, 17:11   #3
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The OED (the big unabridged 20-volume job) finds the first reference to "birding" in the modern sense (sort of) in 1927 (Daily News, June 16: "Miss Fry plays the flute and joins in the arudous sport of 'birding'. This consists in following across country any strange species of bird, & of playing the flute beneath the tree on which the melodious songster performs"). The next (in the completely modern sense of the term) is a ref. to 'birding equipment' in Brit. Birds XXVII (1934). After that come "pure birding" in Peterson & Fisher (Wild American, 1956), "popular birding spot" (New Yorker magazine, 1977), "'birding terms'" (Daily Telegraph, 1980), & (finally, the term now being presumably fully established) "the whole wonderful world of birding" (Bird Watching, 1986).

As Sancho says, the term's current popularity is surely a matter of image, with "birding" having a lot more hair on its chest than "bird watching"

"Dawn chorus" According to the OED (again) its first use was also in 1927, in a book called the "Charm of Birds" by Viscount Grey of Falloden (I remember seeing this book on the shelves of used book stores years ago, though I've never read it; I believe it was quite popular in its day).

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Old Saturday 4th July 2009, 17:53   #4
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I like Bill Oddie's take on 'birding' (Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book, 1980):
"A birder is seriously involved in studying, identifying and collecting birds. He or she goes watching birds, but on the other hand he or she doesn't go bird-watching – he goes 'birding'. This implies a fair degree of conviction and expertise. Moreover – and I think this may explain some of the word's appeal - it implies a certain ruggedness, almost athleticism. Bird-watching does sound a bit passive. Like you sit quietly and hope the bird will fly to you, and if it does, you watch it. Birding is more active. You definitely move, quite quickly if necessary; and if the birds don't show themselves, you get out there and find them. Track them down, and flush them out. And you don't just watch them, you study them, identify them, and move on to the next lot. Here's excitement, here's dedication ... here's birding. Not bird-watching, or spotting or fancying – birding. Got it?"
Richard

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Old Sunday 5th July 2009, 01:37   #5
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Interesting! 1940 seems to be a reasonably early reference to "birding" then. Thanks for replies.
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