Thursday, 21 September 2017

The moral high ground!

It's really amusing to read the various blogs and tweets of some of the people who joined the crowds at Burnham Overy in an attempt to see the recent Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler. I should imagine most of those present behaved very well and kept to the public footpath - some may even have seen the bird from this vantage point. But quite a large number (judging by the discussions on BF) crossed a barbed wire fence and ditch in order to a) get closer b) take part in an organised flush.

My experience of rare locustellas is confined to a single Lancie and a single River Warbler. The River Warbler happily sat on top of a bush and reeled away for hours: the Lanceolated Warbler was a different kettle of fish! Initially found by Martin Reed, Bob Walker, Linda and I, the bird would disappear in the grass at our feet for minutes at a time, before reappearing within inches of where we'd last seen it. At one point it ran between Linda's trainers!

This experience was part of the reason Linda and I elected not to join the PGW twitch, even 'though we were just ten minutes away: we just weren't sanguine about seeing the bird. Even more at the front of our thinking was the inevitability of the twitch turning into an unpleasant experience. These fears were vindicated by the well-viewed Youtube video of a couple of Holkham Rangers being verbally abused by some twitchers and by the knowledge that actual damage and trespass had taken place on numerous occasions.

I've seen this before: I walked away from the Golden-winged Warbler without seeing the bird when I witnessed people breaking down garden fences, and from an Isabelline Shrike, where an elder statesman of Norfolk birding was shoved and abused by an over-zealous photographer.

What's fascinating is how many bloggers / tweeters / BF posters are now trying to re-attain the moral high ground by making retrospective apologies for their actions: you and I know that many of these will, at future twitches, be banging on about their conclusive two second flight view with not a trace of remorse!

Let's be honest: birding, twitching, bird photography are all hunting type activities: we try to sneak as close as we can with our bins / 'scopes / cameras to obtain our trophy, either in the form of a memory or a photograph. For some (especially, it has to be said, for those whose prime motivation is membership of an elite group of 500+ listers) there is a huge element of competition and desperation added to the mix. But saying sorry and then repeating your actions at the next big twitch is a trifle cynical, IMHO!

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