birdwatchers - spiderwatchers?

Subject: birdwatchers - spiderwatchers?
From: "Lynne Kelly" <>
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2008 23:38:42 +1100 (EST)
> david taylor wrote:

> With all the talk of spiders it prompted the thought why other
> creatures such as spiders or insects,  lizards or even mammals doesn't
> attract the same level of participation as birds and birding seems to.

Birding leaves the rest for dead in terms of numbers, activity and general

I've been involved with mammal groups, reptiles and, obviously, spiders as
well as birds. Like most other naturalists I know, I started with birds as
a child because I could see them and they are beautiful and safe. You can
go birding every day all the time. I love watching the same birds I see
every day because they are just beautiful to watch. I will say the same
for spiders, but only because I have worked so hard to know how to find
them. I was very strongly motivated to do so because arachnophobia was
really interfering with my life.

Birds and mammals are the two groups who are accessible, in that there are
exhaustive field guides. So the puzzle (what bird is that?) aspect can be
satisfied. That is what EXACT bird is that? That is also true for mammals.
Probably for reptiles, but they are much harder to see in the wild, and
most people will never see more than one or two species at home and none
in the bush.

I do a lot of native animal stuff in schools and take the kids out into
the playground and show them how to use a bird guide. They love it and I
can be sure of at least two birds anywhere I am doing workshops. I can't
do that with any other group of animals.

> Are there  full scale spider listers or mammal twitchers or the
> lizard watchers club?

Spider twitching is impossible. To fully classify a spider you need to
catch it, kill it and be an arachnologist who can read genital shapes. So
apart from the common ones, you will hit a blank wall straight away. Even
to get to the stage where I can identify most to family level took a great
deal of work. And it's not going to be much use socially - there are no
groups except for the tarantula pet owners.

There are mammal and insect groups (Field Naturalist Club of Victoria - I
met husband Damian through their mammal survey group decades ago!) but
they are small groups. Nothing in the same league as birders.

> Nikolas Haass wrote:

> Everytime when I go out "birding" I try to identify mammals, reptiles,
> amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies and spiders. Try that as well and
> count the positively identified species in each group. You'll find out
> that the birds are by far the largest group in your count. Birds are the
> easiest to find AND to identify (with regular tools) group of animals.

Agreed totally.

> That's why they are used as bioindicators rather than other similarly
> sensitive groups.

There is a move too use spiders! I can give cite.

> And that's also why listers love them: it's more fun to
> come home with 100+ species "in the bag" as opposed to 5, or 10 or 15...

Exactly. And they are universally beautiful.

> John Graff wrote:

> I think one of the major reasons is the relative difficulty involved in
> finding mammals, reptiles etc. When you think about the last time you were
> out in the bush, you saw maybe 30 species of bird, but how many reptiles,
> mammals, spiders or other creatures did you see?

Lots and lots of spiders - far more than birds. Because they use silk and
burrow, once you know the signs you will discover they are there in huge
numbers. But it takes time and noticing details. You won't just see them,
as you will with birds - with the exception of the larger orb weavers.
Much as I hope to change the world and convert everyone into raging
arachnophiliacs, in my more rational moments I have to acknowledge that
they will never have the attraction of birds.

Although there is one advantage I think spiders have over all other
animals, including birds. If you start getting to know an individual at
home - web or burrower - then you can watch all aspects of their traumatic
lives and know you are watching the same individual. That, for me, is the
big advantage over birds.

But when I sat at lunch watching the common bronzewing in the garden with
the sun catching the bronze and green and shimmering in the light, I had
to admit that no spider is ever going to wow like that.

> It is also much easier to identify birds than it is to identify a lot of
> mammals, particularly the smaller ones (dunnarts, antechinus, rats etc).

When we were involved in mammal survey work, the only way was to live trap
them under permit for (in those days) Fisheries and Wildlife. I just don't
like doing that but could see the importance. Birding is hunting with
binoculars and a camera - no traps, no guns, no interfering with the
birds. It is a really wonderful past-time as well as being a serious

The only way birds could be even more beautiful is if they had eight legs!


Lynne Kelly

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