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What makes a birder...well, a birder? (1 Viewer)

PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
But in those circumstances I think the difference between a birder and a non-birder, would be their reaction if they suddenly heard a call that was either unfamiliar or rang an alarm bell, or if a glimpsed bird didn't fit anything expected at the location.

I'd agree. I was thinking of a small bird at a distance: you're not close enough to get much more than a small bird flying in the distance but you may be able to get more detail through your binoculars.

That said, I'm probably in the small minority here but I'd rather hear the familiar sounds of spring and summer than an unfamiliar sound.
 

lilcrazy2

Well-known member
United States
I'd say a birder is anyone who spends much of their time actively looking for birds, and is constantly aware of any birds that appear within earshot/view wherever they happen to be and whatever else they happen to be doing. They would also be incapable of not attempting to identify every bird they happen to see or hear. If you don't passively notice every bird around you and attempt to identify it, (even subconsciously with common species) then you're not a birder 🙂
If I do this on my porch, do I qualify? ;)
 

Euan Buchan

The Edinburgh Birdwatcher
Supporter
Scotland
I’d say a Birder is someone who enjoys looking, watching & listening to birds. When they are out actually birding with binoculars and notebook to write down what they saw or doing other activities but look at birds aswell. There is so many titles but I have seen a lot of ‘Bird Photographers’ who aren’t that bothered looking through their binoculars and writing what they are saw they are too busy looking through their camera lances and clicking away which I actually find bit annoying sometimes the amount of clicking I hear usually causes the bird to disappear.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I’d say a Birder is someone who enjoys looking, watching & listening to birds. When they are out actually birding with binoculars and notebook to write down what they saw or doing other activities but look at birds aswell. There is so many titles but I have seen a lot of ‘Bird Photographers’ who aren’t that bothered looking through their binoculars and writing what they are saw they are too busy looking through their camera lances and clicking away which I actually find bit annoying sometimes the amount of clicking I hear usually causes the bird to disappear.
This is simply not true and I am really tired of seeing it purveyed as fact. Over the years I have been on Scilly when crowds have been shrieking at birder photographers that they will flush (the Dotterel, a species one can generally walk up to, or the Isabelline Wheatear that has then flown towards the photographers and landed right in front of them). Birds are flushed by passing raptors, people dropping binoculars, letting hide doors bang, talking loudly, not realising the sun is reflecting off their bins (why do you think big lenses have very deep lens hoods?), moving quickly instead of slowly and calmly. "Birders" - whose skill levels vary from expert to utter incompetent, and the correlation is not with age, duration of birding hobby or presence/absence of camera - sometimes flush birds and often don't, the birds departing through some internal or environmental stimulus of their own.

Also, nobody who is not looking through the lens in question knows what is going through the mind of the birder wielding it, or what their birding experience is, or whether this is the best view they've ever had through the camera, and claiming it is this or that or the other without that knowledge is arrogant and stupid.

John
 

Thotmosis

Well-known member
Netherlands
You can be a birder if you are not a bird. But if you are a bird you can not be a birder. Both birds and birders can have a beard though.
 
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Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I’d say a Birder is someone who enjoys looking, watching & listening to birds. When they are out actually birding with binoculars and notebook to write down what they saw or doing other activities but look at birds aswell. There is so many titles but I have seen a lot of ‘Bird Photographers’ who aren’t that bothered looking through their binoculars and writing what they are saw they are too busy looking through their camera lances and clicking away which I actually find bit annoying sometimes the amount of clicking I hear usually causes the bird to disappear.
I know of some excellent birders who also are into bird photography, so I don't think you can lump all photographers into this category. That said, I have noticed for sure more birders at late who often just photograph things at random with the intent of identifying them later. I came across this in the Dry Tortugas with at least one person taking tons of noddy photos with the goal of going back home and looking for a Black Noddy amongst the more common Brown. I think it's one thing to take a photo of a bird you know is odd and you want to double-check with references at home, and just not even bothering to try to find something in the present because you can't be bothered to learn the field marks or take the time.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
We don't need to write anything down, we have the photos as record :)
But unless you are a videographer (and I'm not, I do stills almost to exclusion of video: the requirements are different, I want a bird to be still or some decent light to freeze movement, a videographer wants movement) recording behaviour that takes time still requires a note, and my notebooks are full of such jottings (along with who was in the crew that day, how many miles we covered by car, bird highlights or full day list, some counts of birds.....)

John
 

Prestdj

its good to be back
Ukraine
I'd say a birder is anyone who spends much of their time actively looking for birds, and is constantly aware of any birds that appear within earshot/view wherever they happen to be and whatever else they happen to be doing. They would also be incapable of not attempting to identify every bird they happen to see or hear. If you don't passively notice every bird around you and attempt to identify it, (even subconsciously with common species) then you're not a birder 🙂


nailed it to a tee

i bird anywhere......... 2 red kites over the m62 looked great, hearing 3 swifts over the suburbs of leeds made me dash outside to hear them screaming overhead

i love birding
 

Peregrine Took

Well-known member
United Kingdom
My wife and I visited our first RSPB reserve last week (Minsmere... it still feels like a nice dream!). Didn't know the protocols, or if there were any, for asking questions of other people. Happily, those who were obviously really knowledgeable could see how interested we were and offered their knowledge freely and enthusiastically. We must have 'swapped notes' with 30-40 people in all - some even less knowledgeable than me! - and every one of them seemed united in one thing, a love of nature and of birds.

There are people who claim superiority in all walks of life - who look down on people with less knowledge, less expensive this that or the other, but we didn't encounter any of this on our visit. My guess is that the RSPB reserves attract like-minded people, from all walks of life, where all the trappings of the outside world are cast aside and forgotten, while in pursuit of a common interest.

Just as there are different varieties of bird, I think there are many different varieties of 'birder'. Surely anyone with an interest in birds, or has the interests of birds at heart, is a 'birder'.
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Farnboro John

Well-known member
My wife and I visited our first RSPB reserve last week (Minsmere... it still feels like a nice dream!). Didn't know the protocols, or if there were any, for asking questions of other people. Happily, those who were obviously really knowledgeable could see how interested we were and offered their knowledge freely and enthusiastically. We must have 'swapped notes' with 30-40 people in all - some even less knowledgeable than me! - and every one of them seemed united in one thing, a love of nature and of birds.

There are people who claim superiority in all walks of life - who look down on people with less knowledge, less expensive this that or the other, but we didn't encounter any of this on our visit. My guess is that the RSPB reserves attract like-minded people, from all walks of life, where all the trappings of the outside world are cast aside and forgotten, while in pursuit of a common interest.

Just as there are different varieties of bird, I think there are many different varieties of 'birder'. Surely anyone with an interest in birds, or has the interests of birds at heart, is a 'birder'.
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You are right on all counts. But there are two important types of birder that people need to decide between for themselves: those who want birding to be a community, recognising like-mindedness, exchanging information, anecdote and humour; and those who identify cadres and raise divisions and knock anyone who birds differently from how they themselves carry on.

I've just got back from touring Scotland, during which all the birders I met - wardens, volunteers, nature tour guides and participants, birders on tour of all abilities and experiences - went the camaraderie and information exchange route, because birding Scotland is difficult enough, for anybody.... I know where I stand.

John
 

TringBirder

Well-known member
I'd say a birder is anyone who spends much of their time actively looking for birds, and is constantly aware of any birds that appear within earshot/view wherever they happen to be and whatever else they happen to be doing. They would also be incapable of not attempting to identify every bird they happen to see or hear. If you don't passively notice every bird around you and attempt to identify it, (even subconsciously with common species) then you're not a birder 🙂
I must admit of late I was wondering what other people consider a birder to be. Having bought and read Bill Oddie's 'Little Black Bird Book' decades ago I have always taken a birder to be as defined in that book. I think it was someone with a reasonable degree of identification competence and fieldcraft and who was reasonably serious about it, and I don't mean someone lacking a sense of humour! I would add in without being elitist and discriminatory about it, but that might just be contradictory. Certainly when people call me an ornithologist I politely say I am not. While I don't know that you have to have a qualification to be an ornithologist you do need to have scientific knowledge and apply a scientific approach to studying some aspect of birds and draw verifiable conclusions for me to think you are an ornithologist.

I am inclined to agree with Larry's definition as stated above. Importantly it says attempt to identify every bird they see or hear, it doesn't say what your success rate is and to me part of being a birder is recognizing that you haven't seen or heard something well enough to be able to identify it. I would be skeptical of anyone who says they have identified every bird they have seen or heard and people who think they can are probably best avoided.

Having relatively recently got into moths I do find some of the skills used for birding are transferable - although obviously not being able to identify calls isn't a handicap with moths:D I know a number of good birders who are also interested in insects, mammals, plants and other life forms so to me it doesn't have to be exclusive. After all there seem to be plenty of 'birders' out there who are only interested in birds who can't identify common birds.

I think in some respects my view of what a birder is defined as has become out of date. These days people go and buy a pair of binoculars, or not, and go out looking at birds and call themselves birders. I guess since we can always add a qualifier in front of 'birder' it doesn't matter too much. Newbie, casual, average, good, top have all been put in front of birder as descriptors, as have other words that can't be repeated here. I am wary of anyone who claims to be a good birder as I think that is for other people to decide to be honest and anyone who tells me they are a top birder is likely to be laughed at, they may be right of course but seriously😂🤣😂
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I must admit of late I was wondering what other people consider a birder to be. Having bought and read Bill Oddie's 'Little Black Bird Book' decades ago I have always taken a birder to be as defined in that book. I think it was someone with a reasonable degree of identification competence and fieldcraft and who was reasonably serious about it, and I don't mean someone lacking a sense of humour!
I am inclined to say this is still a reasonable definition of a birder, although perhaps with the slight alteration of "a reasonable degree of identification competence or at least the desire for that competence". I think we can all look back at the beginning of our time as birders and realize that we were not always very competent :).
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I am inclined to say this is still a reasonable definition of a birder, although perhaps with the slight alteration of "a reasonable degree of identification competence or at least the desire for that competence". I think we can all look back at the beginning of our time as birders and realize that we were not always very competent :).
We had a lot of fun though.... and some of our elders and betters made some howlers that gave us laughs as well!

John
 

KenM

Well-known member
Each to their own so be it, interesting that no one has touched on “finding”.
For me it’s “the core” value, ie doing one’s daily patch day in, day out, logging all that pass before, taking pleasure in ID-ing all that call or bound into cover (or at least trying to).

Then totally unexpectedly (normally when you’re contemplating a total opposite) you hear an unfamiliar call desperately “running it through the wiring” without success until Bingo! You’ve put species to call/song and you can’t quite believe it…until it morphs into view!

Conversely as before, bird flys into view before disappearing into cover, your instinct tells you that it’s “interesting”, however you say it can’t be and you default to the nearest commoner species.
Then after much angst you see it (or don’t) and the realisation that your gut feeling was correct and the famous Anglo Saxon two word expletive is issued…..

Being a “better” birder doesn’t come into it as far as I’m concerned, just going out hunting successfully or otherwise and enjoying what might come your way….and if you carry a camera, more joy to your day.

Cheers
 

Steve Babbs

Well-known member
Birder: very keen, no other hobbies, has a regular crew, goes out most days before/after work, goes out at least one day a weekend somewhere more distant. May well holiday Mallorca or Lesvos. Twitches several times a year over some distance. Bores non-birder friends in the pub, though would probably argue they do the same to him with motorbikes or football.



John
I'm a bit worried I don't qualify John, all these years I've been kidding myself! Far too knackering a job to go before work and I rarely have the time after. If I'm honest first light these days is something I see in Africa/Asia/North or South America. Plus I have other hobbies and I never talk birds to non-birders down the pub. I have been to Lesvos/Mallorca. Perfectly pleasant but not among my favourite trips. I've been kidding myself for 40 years!

For me a birder enjoys watching birds, take pleasure from good views, interesting behaviour etc. But just HAS to know what it is he/she/they is watching. In my mid-teens, years before I'd ever travelled to SE Asia, I dreamt that I found myself in Thailand but I had no field guide or way of getting one. It was hell and I woke up in a cold sweat. If you don't get that and think "I could just enjoy the birds without knowing what they are," then, for me, you're a birdwatcher/bird-lover.

Re birder/bird photographer in my view, a birder may well be a keen photographer but they reach for the bins before the camera and if they had a choice of getting a good view OR a good photo it would be a good view. I still kick myself for a time in Brazil, over ten years ago, when a tapir (I admit not a bird but the same principal) appeared. I did see it through bins but reached for the camera after only a second or two after seeing it through bins thinking it would stay for a bit. It didn't. I should have got satisfactory views through bins before worrying about a photo.

@Mysticete

"Part of me does wonder, if for some folks, spending all your time thinking and teaching and writing about birds starts to make your hobby feel like an extension of work. Rather than a fun escape."

In my experience yes. I mainly did bird surveys/research for about 13 years. Putting a pair of bins on in my spare time did begin to feel like dressing for work towards the end. I had a real increase enthusiasm for UK birding/wildlife watching (I never lost it for birding abroad) when I switched careers.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I'm a bit worried I don't qualify John, all these years I've been kidding myself! Far too knackering a job to go before work and I rarely have the time after. If I'm honest first light these days is something I see in Africa/Asia/North or South America. Plus I have other hobbies and I never talk birds to non-birders down the pub. I have been to Lesvos/Mallorca. Perfectly pleasant but not among my favourite trips. I've been kidding myself for 40 years!

For me a birder enjoys watching birds, take pleasure from good views, interesting behaviour etc. But just HAS to know what it is he/she/they is watching. In my mid-teens, years before I'd ever travelled to SE Asia, I dreamt that I found myself in Thailand but I had no field guide or way of getting one. It was hell and I woke up in a cold sweat. If you don't get that and think "I could just enjoy the birds without knowing what they are," then, for me, you're a birdwatcher/bird-lover.
Same here...I enjoy birding and it legitimately is a good stress release valve, but sometimes work just leaves me to mentally and/or physically tired to head out. Especially during the heat of summer or cold of winter, when things could be slow. And I very rarely get to bird with folks nowadays. Or do much of anything with other people actually.
 

TringBirder

Well-known member
I'm a bit worried I don't qualify John, all these years I've been kidding myself! Far too knackering a job to go before work and I rarely have the time after. If I'm honest first light these days is something I see in Africa/Asia/North or South America. Plus I have other hobbies and I never talk birds to non-birders down the pub. I have been to Lesvos/Mallorca. Perfectly pleasant but not among my favourite trips. I've been kidding myself for 40 years!

For me a birder enjoys watching birds, take pleasure from good views, interesting behaviour etc. But just HAS to know what it is he/she/they is watching. In my mid-teens, years before I'd ever travelled to SE Asia, I dreamt that I found myself in Thailand but I had no field guide or way of getting one. It was hell and I woke up in a cold sweat. If you don't get that and think "I could just enjoy the birds without knowing what they are," then, for me, you're a birdwatcher/bird-lover.

Re birder/bird photographer in my view, a birder may well be a keen photographer but they reach for the bins before the camera and if they had a choice of getting a good view OR a good photo it would be a good view. I still kick myself for a time in Brazil, over ten years ago, when a tapir (I admit not a bird but the same principal) appeared. I did see it through bins but reached for the camera after only a second or two after seeing it through bins thinking it would stay for a bit. It didn't. I should have got satisfactory views through bins before worrying about a photo.

@Mysticete

"Part of me does wonder, if for some folks, spending all your time thinking and teaching and writing about birds starts to make your hobby feel like an extension of work. Rather than a fun escape."

In my experience yes. I mainly did bird surveys/research for about 13 years. Putting a pair of bins on in my spare time did begin to feel like dressing for work towards the end. I had a real increase enthusiasm for UK birding/wildlife watching (I never lost it for birding abroad) when I switched careers.
Hi Steve,

John did say the definitions were tongue-in-cheek. Bearing in mind that John has other interests too so he doesn't qualify as a birder using the definition he mentioned. I have other interests too so also wouldn't qualify under that definition.

Cheers

Roy
 

Steve Babbs

Well-known member
Same here...I enjoy birding and it legitimately is a good stress release valve, but sometimes work just leaves me to mentally and/or physically tired to head out. Especially during the heat of summer or cold of winter, when things could be slow. And I very rarely get to bird with folks nowadays. Or do much of anything with other people actually.

Hi Steve,

John did say the definitions were tongue-in-cheek. Bearing in mind that John has other interests too so he doesn't qualify as a birder using the definition he mentioned. I have other interests too so also wouldn't qualify under that definition.

Cheers

Roy
John and I know each other very well and I consider him a good friend. We have been on four foreign trips together. I'm sure he realises that my comment was very tongue in cheek too.
 

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