Tuesday 29 January 2013


Awful news. I have just noticed that I'm losing acolytes at a rate of knots! The other day it was a massive 144, a couple of days ago it dropped to 143. Ah well, people do die I thought to myself. Today it's down to 142...another four and a bit months and it'll be none at all!

It's probably because I shouted at that old woman on the Flats at the weekend. Hours of pent up anger all came out in one go when some people flushed some Fieldfares I was stalking. Yes, you understand me correctly, it wasn't even her, and yet she copped the flak, including the use of those filthy words "bloody", "people" and "dogs". To her credit, and beleing her old age, rather than gasp with a prim "well I never" and run away, she said I should move house if I didn't like it. Touché. But how could she have possibly known I lived here? I might just have been visiting.....

It has been bad lately. The number of witless acts I've been on the receiving end of, both at home and further afield, has really been getting to me. Testy at the best of times, downright unfriendly at other times, I've become prone to snapping quite quickly. It will get me stabbed one of these days. Though not, I hope, by old ladies. Actually, maybe I hope that it is by old ladies, as I might just stand a chance. It's just that there are too many people using too small a space, and any aims and ambitions I might have are completely incompatible with urban London. Birders are a grumpy lot for the most part, it is no surprise that many leave London for less well-populated climes. The answer is probably a combination of a stagnant patchlist on the one hand, combined with a certain amount of world-weariness and loathing of their fellow man on the other. Factor in rising house prices and it's no wonder many of them jack it in and move away. A long way away. Lately I've been feeling the same, though I doubt this has come across in my blog. Not that I get much opportunity to get out on the patch of course, but when I do the level of immediate (and idiotic) disturbance I face is perhaps doubly hard to bear. Half the time I don't even feel like going out as I know that somebody is going to ruin it for me within a hundred yards. And that's a fact. It's not a maybe, or a perhaps, it's a cast-iron certainty. Be they dog-walkers, people out for a walk, Polish drunks, model airplane fliers or whoever, none of them understand what birding is about, and less than none of them understand bird photography, which is of course my major gripe. 

Perhaps I am being unrealistic, but would you walk in front of a camera that someone was clearly aiming at something? Would you continue towards the person clearly looking at something through binoculars directly between you and them? Is that a level of understanding too far? Maybe it would depend on your mood? I still remember with great affection the man who slowly and deliberately threw a stick into the water for his dog right into the middle of some close-in Tufties I was photographing on the Heronry Pond, and when I looked round gave me a little wave. Although this was several years ago, I was pleased to find his photo in my extensive files, and so for the first time can share it with you. I had called the image "Tosser" for reasons now lost in the mists of time. Perhaps it will come back to me.

Clearly this was blatant git-ism; most of the time it is of course completely innocent and people just do not realise. It would be nice if they sometimes showed a little grace when the error of their ways was pointed out to them, but hey, this is London, and as I've proved recently, grace goes both ways.


  1. I've think I may have diagnosed the problem 'acute Wheatear withdrawal syndrome' or AWWS! If you can hold out for another 5 or 6 weeks I think the smile might just return to your face - at least in the short term!

  2. Hi Jono,
    Maybe your strapline should be "Latterly mostly about ranting". That picture of me you took a couple of years ago came out nice, didn't it?

  3. I know how you feel and I don't live in a city or even a town! Just laying on the shoreline photographing turnstones with yards and yards of space behind me and this total prat comes walking with his dog right in front of me!!
    Even yelling what I thought of him and his parentage didn't phase him, just carried on as though he was the only person in the world. The world has gone mad!

  4. Most people are oblivious to others' needs, sadly, especially so in a crowded city. Dog walkers are often guilty of this, but to be fair there are plenty of responsible and considerate dog owners too, its just that the annoying ones are the most noticeable! People walking between you and the bird whilst you are blatantly watching/photographing it is really annoying and downright antisocial and I think these people are just unaware of anyone else's existence. I think the reaction depends on the situation, as you say some (most) people do it unwittingly and can be politely asked. If it's deliberate, then no need for politeness, of course.

    Watching the Bearded Tits at Hyde Park after reading your post about the 1000s of people coming up to you and asking the same questions was interesting. They asked me the same kind of thing (Yes, I was even asked if they were nesting...). Whilst it was a bit annoying, I found that I could politely inform them about the birds while continuing to look through the 'scope, my reasoning being that by being friendly it might help the overall cause of conservation a bit. These Bearded Tits didn't seem to be about to fly off, so there was no hurry and there was time to engage with passers by.
    You never know who these people are, some may even be influential corporate or political types and by giving them a small window into the world of wildlife it may make them more sympathetic towards conservation issues. Generally speaking, showing people wildlife has to be a good thing, and everyone I spoke to seemed happy to have seen these birds in the middle of the city, rather than just walking past what might have seemed just a few scrappy, empty reeds. If you show them these birds through a scope, they will be amazed, and these people may not have looked at birds much before.