Sunday, 18 November 2018

Why I like hides

So why do I like hides? Well, lovely comfy benches for a start, and big bright windows from which to look out. They are frequently heated, and also have tea and coffee making facilities. OK so I might have made that last part up. What I really like about hides is of course other hide users. 

Today I spent five and half hours in a hide trying to seeing a Bittern. Had I passed six I doubt I would be here to type this. Mind-numbingly dull, and frequently so irritating that I very nearly exploded. Me and hides do not mix.

Let me try and describe the scene. 

Somebody comes in. Thump. Whack. Creak. Thump. Bang. He is dressed in camo from head to foot, has no binoculars and a large camera. The lens is a piece of plastic junk but it too is covered in camo. Two more follow with even larger cameras. There are even more bangs. They get seated and things begin to quieten down. Then they notice a Lapwing

Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. 

Then the Lapwing turns and faces them. It is fully 30 metres away.

Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

A couple of ladies come in wearing binoculars. One sees a Snipe feeding on the edge and tries to describe where it is. Ten minutes later the other is still none the wiser. I decide not to mention the ten Snipe asleep on the bank.

A small bird flies in. Pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click. Brrrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrr. 

"Wagtail!" exclaims one of the camotwats. It is a Water Pipit

A Wren starts calling from behind the hide somewhere. "Oooh, that sounds like it could be a Grey Wagtail!" says one of ladies. What is it with Wagtails today? 

The Lapwing has moved closer to the hide, but is into the sun. The sharp angle and terrible light seem to encourage the whole hide, almost all of whom have a camera of some description. The noise of shutters is unbelievable, like a press conference. Gigabtyes are consumed. My camera is still switched off.

Pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click. Brrrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

As if the hide is not noisy enough already a few of the camotwats start discussing camera gear.  What is the point of wearing pattern-disruptive clothing if you are going to sit and have a loud chat?  "I made a bid of a £5000 on a xxxx lens but the guy rejected it. I can get it brand new for £6500 from blah blah. Should I get that or a new body?"

I resist the temptation to say that he could use an empty tissue box and a toilet roll with clingfim on one end, colour the whole lot black, write Nikon on it, and get images that were approximately similar. 

One of the camotwats has brought his wife with him. She is even less interested in birds than he is, to the extent she is stood at the back of the hide listening to music on headphones. She is really getting into it, and starts tapping her feet to the beat on the wooden floor. Initially I ignore this, let’s face it this hide is not exactly a library today, but eventually it gets to me. I look over at her but she is oblivious.

After a few minutes I actually turn around and ask if she can please stop doing that, but of course she can’t hear me. Luckily her husband takes a break from distant Lapwing photography and gets her attention.

Taking an earphone out she asks “What?”  “You’re tapping!!” he says, and laughs raucously. This is clearly very amusing for some reason, but she does actually stop tapping. One timbre is replaced by another as Lapwing photography resumes.

A Snipe appears even more distantly. An old boy pokes his lens out of the window and focuses repeatedly on it without taking a photo. Admirable, except that when his camera focuses it beeps. 

Beep. Beep. Beep beep beep beep. Beep. Beep. Beep beep beep beep. Beep beep beep beep. Beep beep beep beep.

After a few minutes the bird moves. 

Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap.

The camotwats have not realised a bird is 'on show', and desperately raise their cameras to join in the action. Lenses and wood collide. Bang. Thump .Bang. Scrape. Bang. 

Pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click. Brrrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

Five thousand collective shots later they stop. Facebook is going to take a real beating tonight.

"So I could get the 1Dx2, or I could get the new 500 lens, what should I get first?"

They are discussing spending thousands of pounds on photography equipment that they have no idea how to use. They are insane. 

One of the ladies' phone rings. Loudly. Rather than answer it she unsuccessfully tries to flick a small switch to silence it. Her friend has to help and finally it stops. A conversation then ensues about how she never answers numbers she does not recognise. 

The same unknown number then rings again, whereupon she answers it.

It is Kevin, and she explains to Kevin she is in a bird hide and can't talk now.  It is only a small area of patio at the back that she needs doing, and yes, OK. Yes, OK. OK then, that would be great. OK. If that's not too much trouble. OK, bye now, talk later. What's that? Oh yes, that's right, yes. Ok then. Bye. Yes, bye now.

Even though the whole hide knows that Kevin is lined up to lay her patio she explains to her friend that that was Kevin, and outlines the work she is having done.

A new photographer enters the hide with a friend and finds a space. They are tooled up with large Canon lenses. Up until now nobody seems to have noticed the sleeping female Shoveler on the small island directly in front of the hide. These guys however do not miss a trick.

"Ruff!"

Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

So far I have resisted saying anything to anyone but this is too much.

"IT'S A SHOVELER!!!!!" I scream.

The Shoveler wakes up and swims away. Two Gadwall then appear from around the back of the reeds, and in the ensuing chaos I decide to leave.

I never did see the Bittern

41 comments:

  1. A normal day on the ranch...I enjoyed our early hour...

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    1. It was amazing H, you could not make it up! The first tranquil hour far far better.

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  2. This is so brilliant. I too loathe hides. I remember when I started birding in the mid-70s, they used to be places of relative peace and quiet. I've heard a few wrong IDs in my time, too, but never one to top a shoveler being mistaken for a ruff. Classic.

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    1. I was amazed that they had even heard of a Ruff actually. They had probably seen it on the sightings board is what I'm thinking, and had a quick look on Google on the way over.

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  3. I bet those guys with all the £1000's of gear also complained about the price of a cup of tea and bacon butty at the visitor centre...

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    1. There were a lot of sandwiches and flasks in the hide, they were all pretty cost conscious....

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  4. Replies
    1. These are but a few choice moments from a four hour period. Imagine, if you can, the constant clicking of cameras for all that length of time, each one offending my sense of what makes a decent bird photo. Imagine each new person coming in struggling to find a Snipe and then of course desperately needing to take 300 pathetic photos of it. And I've only listed the best ID gaffes, there were many more. It was torture.

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  5. Plus the ones who have to show you pics of any bird they have taken in the last 5 years [always still on the camera, strangely]; the discussions of all the places they've been in desperate oneupmanship. Excellent ranting.

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    1. Oh yes there was a lot of that! To universal praise and critical acclaim I might add, which only goes to reinforce and confirm that their approach is one of artistic genius, as opposed to total muppetry.

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  6. When you’d left I can imagine them saying “What’s Mr Grumpy’s problem?”

    Excellent rant.

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    1. I almost certainly got called an elitist snob for correctly identifying the Shoveler.

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  7. Oh dear - it all sounds horribly familiar. The plague of modern birding I'm afraid.

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    1. Judging by all the comments and tweets I have had I think this is indeed a common theme. As my mate Mick says, there are aeroplanes....

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  8. Ah, I thought that post title had the whiff of irony about it...

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    1. I thought about titling it "Why I don't like hides" but somehow found it less satisfactory, I can't explain why.

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  9. In the good old days (70’s) you could walk into a hide and ask “Anything about?” and people would eagerly point out what they’d already found. Then it changed and seemed as though people were too scared to open their mouth for fear of making a twat of themselves by misidentifying something.

    Ego’s no doubt.

    We all had to learn at some point.

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    1. That's a good point you make. It may be because hide visitors these days are no longer actually interested in what is out there, it just has to be a bird and any will do. Hence no binoculars, photography (ahem) is the sole purpose of the visit. It is certainly easier to learn by studying birds with binoculars rather than engaging in frenzied papping of everything that moves, but they're not there for birds really. Instead it's all about gear and short term ego massaging. I'd also say that none of the people appeared particularly concerned about making twats of themselves....

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  10. Love it, and so true. I avaoid hides like the plaque these days

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    1. I'm finding I'm going one stage further and simply avoiding England....

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  11. I recognise some of that. But i would add the entrance of a group from a bird club with bins and scopes. Too much aftershqve and perfume , i can no longer breathe. I squeeze further into a corner so they can all sit down. No-one speaks to me - i am invisible. Clatter clatter. A herd of elephants. The bittern that was here as they entered is long gone. And off they go to the next hide ,must not take too long as the coach leaves at 5 on the dot. I return to the best window. A birder enters. Afternoon. Anything about. A bittern i reply. He sits. I tell him that if he wants my window please just ask. He says thanks. After a while a bird i dont recognise emerges. I quietly ask he what it is. He tells me it is a ruff. I focus and take a shot. My drive is on silent mode single shot. I thank him. Later at home i can read up about ruff. He asks me about my camera. I cant answer as i have not a clue about the speeds of its discombuberator and nor do i care. We watch in silence again ,in awe of the ducking and diving of the common tern.

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  12. And I thought I was a grumpy old bastard...Dont go in the hide if you know you'll be offended...Simples!!!

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    1. Normally I walk right past, but the place to see this Bittern (a long-wanted site tick) was from this hide, so I braved it. I had forgotten just how cretinous it would be.

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  13. Nothing wrong with hides. They’re great. The problem is some of the people in them. A bit like England really.

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    1. I agree that England does have some rather objectionable people in it. In hides however they appear make up the majority, at least in popular, easy-access reserves.

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  14. Excellent. I really don't get it. Why would you go birding/twitching without bins/scope, to look for a bird you cant see (no scope), cant identify and only know is rare because someone else told you so, or you read about it on social media. And yet it happens up and down the country every day.

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    1. Because you can take a shitty picture of whatever it is and get a million 'likes' on Facebook.

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  15. Did I ever show you my ruff shots?

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  16. I've been putting up stickers in the worst places. Wordingvas follows:

    'Bird-watching hides, viewing platforms and observation towers are for us all to enjoy. We come to watch or photograph birds.

    We find that the birds stay closer to the hide and that we disturb the birds less if we keep quiet, still and stop talking.

    That way we get better views and better photographs. Which is the whole reason to be here. If you won’t do this, we politely suggest you pursue another interest elsewhere and allow us to enjoy the birds.

    THANK YOU'

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    1. Stating the bleeding obvious, but a bit mini-Hitlerish perhaps?

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    2. Firm but fair, I call it. Posting stickers is an alternative to what what I am minded to do on occasion, which is to throw a wobbly and chase them out. If you want to sit and chatter about deals at Tesco and the merits of your new car, for pity's sake, do it somewhere else.

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    3. I had so many imaginary conversations with myself on Sunday.

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  17. Spot on and an honest appraisal Mick..........oops, sorry, I misidentified you.

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    1. No excuse, that's an easy one. Mick wears a tshirt that says "Jono loves gulls"

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  18. I love it even more when they publish their shit pic with hundreds of appreciative comments until someone who is a birder actually questions the identification. Cue hundreds more comments where the birder giving reasons why it is what he says is discounted.

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    1. The echo chamber of universal praise is certainly a factor in the rise of the camotwat, at least in my opinion.

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  19. For $50 you too can be a Camotwat. This is must have gear for Wanstead Flats.

    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mossy-Oak-Breakup-Country-Men-s-Leafy-Bug-Suit/55047850

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