Tuesday 26 July 2011

Birding Blogs are for Saddos

As is my wont, I was perusing various birdy blogs the other day. I came across one that had no lists, yet the author had just been writing about his new garden list. I'm sorry, but in order to for a blog to be classified as a saddo dweeby birding blog it has to have visible lists of birds. Garden lists, house lists, patch lists, that kind of thing. You will note that my blog has these lists very prominently displayed right at the top, and that I update them assiduously. I would not want my blog to be known as non-nerdy, thank you very much. I pointed out this glaring ommission to the author, and happily he remedied the appaling situation very quickly, and now has a couple of sad bird lists for all to see. With totals - this is important - as nobody cares what you have seen, only how many. So good on him, we would not want anyone thinking that birding can in some way be a normal pastime undertaken by normal people. We must continue to present ourselves as a bunch of pathetic weirdos so that the general public can laugh at us on regional news programs as we queue up to see a bird, all dressed identically. Similarly with blogs, should an unsuspecting member of the non-birding fraternity stumble upon one, he or she must immediately be directed to a list with a number at the bottom of it. They will quickly realise that they would be better off elsewhere, and go and click on a website that shows which crackpot drug-addled musicians died age 27 (and there are lots apparently).

Back to this particular blog I was reading, exciting times are ahead. The author has moved to Grays, and whilst I do not envy him living in Grays, mainly due to the legions of utter morons he will encounter walking their illegal breeds of dog along the seawall, he faces the Thames, and as such has already had such gems as Black Tern from a position of extreme comfort, rather than from a position of extreme wind and rain. Were I him, I doubt I would ever leave the flat, and not just for fear of getting mugged or treading in mountains of dogshit, perhaps simultaeneously. I expect many gripping posts about gratuitous river-watches.

But why, you wonder, would I want to read about what birds some bloke sees out of his window and writes down on a list? It is a good question - well done for posing it - and one I have attempted to answer many times. I'm talking about bird blogs in general now, rather than this one particular blog. This question, even if unanswered, leads to another question, which is why do I write this blog? And why, of course, do people read it (other than to appreciate the magic of blinding prose)? I have an answer, for this would be a pointless post if I didn't.

The answer is that I am performing a vital service to the birding community. By writing, drearily, about exactly the same things that they think about day in, day out, even if they don't write about it, I am normalising their sad hobby. As they read this blog, or indeed the one now being written from Grays, they realise that there are people out there just as pathetic and uncool as they are, and this makes them feel better. For a brief moment, I allow them to experience feeling normal. The effect may even last after turning the computer off, and they can pass an evening thinking happy thoughts, adding numbers up, that sort of thing. As soon as they leave their houses the next day they will of course be shunned, and rightly so for they are a bunch of maladjusted weirdos, but for that short period they can feel happy. Bird-bloggers are basically the Mother Theresas of the birding world. Selfless, thoughtful, in many ways... Saintly.

Sorry, I appear to have wandered off topic. I was intending to write a post about what a fulfilling and complex hobby birding is, how lists are actually cool, how birding blogs are incredibly interesting, and how birders are (by and large) in fact just everyday people. I seem to have strayed slightly, but I'm sure you get the point.

PS If you don't have beard, please consider growing one. I might when I grow up.


  1. Wendy Peterson26 July 2011 at 17:06

    Sad and nerdy and proud of it. That's me too, and now I know why I read your birding blog. If you could just add in blog posts about knitting and insects (not moths though, moths are a bit too cool) then I really could be happy. Thank you.

  2. What is a normal pastime Jonathan. The general public do things like; going in betting shops every day, collecting money for the "older cats society", sticking stamps in books, sitting on the edge of a lake or river all day staring at a float, going to see Neil Diamond for the 100th time singing the same songs, watching eastenders or emerdale ect, growing the biggest onion. Dave Mc.

  3. Don't think I haven't spotted where your going with this one J, I admire your sharp commercial thinking here and don't begrudge the sponsorship deal with Canon if you get it.
    "The Wanstead Birder - Canonized by Canon" has a certain ring to it.
    The only flaw in the process is the necessity for a second posthumous miracle. I'd be happy to help if I could, a Slender-billed Curlew should just about do it, just drop me a message where and when.

  4. Some kind of recursive meta-blogpost about bloggers blogging. I like it.

    As for reading other blogs, yes, a huge part of it is the feeling of being slightly more normal than we are. Though DMcG makes a good point - when you boil any hobby down they're all fairly irrational.

    Glad to hear you appreciate the lists, though I wish I had a garden from which to list... And you're right, the best bit of Grays is the view from it.

    I'm only a part time musician but I'm a full time 26 year old, and only for a short while longer. I'd better not get into drugs, though while I'm a birder there's no chance of anything so cool as that...

  5. Jono

    your Singapore bird is more than likely a young Brown-throated Sunbird.