Over many years of birding, both Down Under and back Up Above, I
viewed the trends in our pastime much as one would perhaps see
in the length of ladies’ skirts. When I was a younger soul, with
around the middle and a lot more on top- and Cannock Chase was my
ground for birds not necessarily of the feathered genre- it was
rather bad form to even be seen with a field guide. Real birders
their binoculars and a notebook in which they recorded details of
not immediately recognized out in hedge or briar. Books were only
after the outing, back in the library, or, more likely, at the
local with a
pint of the landlord’s best bitter to sup while considering the
nuances of plumage, or other characteristic details that separate one
species from a agonizingly similar conspecific. Anything else
been viewed as unseemly.
Much as when ladies carried their skirt hems below their ankles.
hint of exposed stocking would have raised eyebrows, set tongues
Reputations were scandalized on less.
I note with interest Peter’s mention of 'RememBird’, an electronic
one takes out into the field. And yet it has overtones. It can be
with birdcalls and that may be akin to offering a ketchup-smothered
to a delegate of the Slow Food Society.
Some time later in my birding career I came across the first of the
and whistlers or those who preferred to suck on the back of their
They rambled up dale and down vale and never saw where their feet
what their feed trod in. Ladies’ hemlines rose above the ankle.
It wasn’t long after this that I was introduced to the scrap of
and a chard of broken glass. Rubbed together they were a total
any respectable arsonist but could induce the odd bird or two to
for a fleeting moment to see the latest circus in AviTown. Ladies
were becoming visible beneath their hemlines.
Where there’s a perceived need there’s a capitalist prepared to
niche. Some might prefer the adage that necessity is the mother of
invention. Whichever agrees better with your palate, the practice of
attracting birds to artificial calls encouraged the Audubon
flood the market. And yes, Bob, I still have mine, attached to the
my binoculars. Hemlines rose to the knee but it is the devil’s own
locating those small plastic vials of resin needed to revitalize
As technology advanced so we had the bird call tapes and all one
a portable player. At one point it came close to absurdity. The
was not so much whether or not one could recognise the call of a
species but whether one could distinguish the Real McCoy from the
frantic twitchers belting decibels of Pitta calls out into the
The era of the midi skirt had arrived.
And so we have come to the ipod and its ilk. The mini skirt!
Tastes remain personal. As a young man I was always attracted to
minis. As an older man… Some moralists have always loathed the
of the hemline, as if the two were somehow inversely linked - the
hemline, the lower the moral standard. Using calls to attract
to be encountering similar trade winds and it depends on the tack
boat as to whether it is the best thing since sliced bread or the
I very much doubt whether those who don’t will ever be convinced
should or those that do be persuaded that they shouldn’t. In a
without official referees or rules set in concrete each birder will
in whatever manner they feel most comfortable with. After all some
can twitch television programs – and set themselves strict
guidelines as to
what is or is not ‘tickable’-. Who are we to say them nay?
In the end I suspect that the words of Simon King may be a reasonable
compromise. His advice is to use the recorded call up until such
you hear the first response and then stop – never to repeat the
Simon King, alongside the delightful Kate Humble, assists Bill
the Springwatch and Autumnwatch programs produced by the BBC- and
lies another tale of what can be done to attract the average person
street to take an active interest in wildlife.
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