Friday, 23 November 2018

Hide Life...

I do like Twitter. Admittedly, on occasion it's annoying, but for me the benefits currently outweigh the negatives. Take earlier this week for example...

It's Monday lunchtime, and I park the van at Coronation Corner on the Axe Estuary so I can check the gulls while eating. Nothing obvious on the deck, but scanning around I pick up a high and fairly distant flock of something-or-others heading north up the valley. Until I raised my bins I thought they were going to be Cormorants, but they weren't. Now bearing NE, and labouring a bit in the headwind, I could see big white wing-covert patches. Could they be Egyptian Geese? The flock numbered eight. I couldn't get much else on them really, and they were clearly heading purposefully away from the valley so I mentally shrugged and let them go.

Early the next morning they popped into my head again, so I punted out a hopeful tweet...

Oops, I got the date wrong. I meant 19th...

Well, nothing from E Devon, but I did get two replies (from Joe Stockwell and Portland Bird Obs) reporting that a flock of 8 Egyptian Geese had gone NE over Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay late the previous afternoon. The respondants had no way to know that I'd mucked up the date, so this information fitted even better than they would have realised. So. I'm having them. A flock of 8 Egyptian Geese over the Axe at approximately 13:00 on 19th November, 2018. Mega! Well, maybe not quite that, but the first I've seen locally since 2012, and by far the most.

Anyway, also on Twitter just lately has been a bit of post-writing inspiration: THIS thread, presumably in response to THIS blog post.

Ostensibly it's all about hides, but I think really it's all about people.

My birding friends will know my view of hides. I loathe them, yet recognise the necessary evil of their existence...


Like many birders, I have seen the inside of countless hides. The photo above illustrates a typical example, the Island Hide at Black Hole Marsh. In the right season it affords terrific views of nice waders etc, and I've seen some great birds from it. But look at it. It's a shed with slots, and I really do not want to bird from a shed. That is far and away my number one reason for disliking the things. Yes, give me the proper outdoors any day, with an unfettered view of the sky and horizon.

My number two reason has absolutely nothing to do with hides themselves...

The first hide I can definitely recall entering was at Elmley Marshes in 1981 or '82. I ticked Rough-legged Buzzard from it. I noticed that a couple of guys had set up camp inside with their flasks and sarnies, and were clearly set for the long haul. They were friendly and chatty, and told us about a White-tailed Eagle in Suffolk, which subsequently became our first big twitch. And dip. Those birders were my first taste of hide life, and their helpful attitude left a good impression. So that was nice, wasn't it?

However, since that occasion something very profound has happened: I have aged by more than 35 years...

In that time I have met a very wide spectrum of birders in hides. Non-birders too, of course. And, like when you meet a wide spectrum of people in almost any context, some have been delightful and some truly vile. As the years pass I find I am less and less inclined to put myself in a position where I might have to deal with horrible people. I am not alone in this; it's a trait I recognise in many of my contemporaries. In fact some will steer clear of situations where they might have to deal with any people! While I'm not quite that bad, I do sympathise. Entering a hide is a bit of a lottery, isn't it? You are stuck with whoever comes in. And if (like most of us I guess) you have buttons, someone there may well press them. Or, you may press theirs...

Which brings me back to the inspiration for this post.

I've never met Jono Lethbridge, nor Jo King. Jono I know only from his blog, which I have read since day one. Wanstead Birder is one of my stand-out favourites, and through the writing you get a sense of the personality behind it. I suspect I would like Jono. I don't know Jo at all, and don't follow her Twitter feed, so have little idea what she's like as a person. However, what I find really fascinating is how a medium like Twitter can link Jono and Jo and me, and umpteen other disparate characters who might never meet in real life, and allow a conversation to happen. And when that conversation is on a shared interest, well, all good.

You think?

If you want lessons in how to be glibly (and rudely) judgemental, study Twitter. Perusing a thread like the one linked above is all rather sad, and I see little evidence of any of the qualities that make being in a group of people bearable: empathy, tolerance, humility, unselfishness, etc. In fact, such an exchange just reaffirms my resolve to mainly avoid birding crowds, and of course, especially those in boxes.

2 comments:

  1. Well I'll come clean, despite my blog post I am actually *not* a fan of hides. I am however a fan of internet reaction, and I have found the spectrum of responses, both positive and negative, extremely illuminating and rather tragically predictable - keyboards bring out the very best in people.

    Anyone who has met me will know that I take almost nothing seriously, and whilst all of the behaviour I outlined did actually happen, I simply set out to write an amusing take on "birding for the masses" in 2018 - some saw that humour, others did not. To those that did, I am glad you enjoyed it, as I very much enjoyed writing it. To those that didn't, whether because it hit a little too close to home or because causticity and cynicism just don't come naturally, please keep on enjoying birding/photography/organising your patio from hides - you will likely not encounter me for quite a while!

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    Replies
    1. As I've already said somewhere, it can be tricky to convey the twinkle in your eye via a keyboard. One or two of my early BirdForum efforts at humour were misconstrued and taken too literally, but hopefully that doesn't happen much now. Sadly, many consumers of online content do seem to take offence rather easily, and by choosing to react that way (with what seems almost gleeful haste sometimes) they are missing out on the lighter side of our pastime. Actually, in a wider context, the lighter side of life generally perhaps...

      I enjoyed your tale of hide life, but wasn't too surprised at the response. Someone was bound to call out the self-important, snobby, pompous, supercilious, condescending writer of such bilge for pointing the finger so judgementally at them personally. Especially when they would *never* do such a thing themselves.

      Except on Twitter maybe.

      It's a jolly good thing we don't all struggle to laugh at our own antics on occasion...

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