vulgar errors

To: "John Leonard" <>
Subject: vulgar errors
From: "Dave Torr" <>
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2007 10:30:26 +1000
I am sure that any person with a hobby finds just as much ignorance in the
general public - we can't all be expert (or even feign an interest!) in
everything. My eyes glaze over when people start to talk about "footy" (as
in Aussie Rules) and I expect supporters of that code think of me in similar

You should be grateful that at least your colleagues are showing SOME
interest - you may even (with time and patience) corrupt them into being

On 06/07/07, John Leonard <> wrote:

I have just been thinking about some incidents recently where I have
discussed bird-related topics with non bird-watchers. The background
to this is that I have decorated my work-space with some of my
bird-photographs and so people often come up to me with their bird
The observation I have made is how non-bird-watchers don't seem to
have any idea of a bird as a dynamic, living thing. For example, a
colleague asked me about a group of 'funny-looking' birds he had seen
when he stopped his car on a trip out to Broken Hill. I guessed they
were Apostlebirds, and pointed to an Apostlebird photo I had. He
replied: 'Yes, they looked a bit like that, but they were puffier.' To
me as a bird watcher this is absurd: obviously if you have two
individuals of the same size, shape, colour and habits, with the only
difference being 'puffiness', then they are the same species. I
suppose people generally don't realise how most birds have
comparatively tiny bodies, surrounded by a shell of feathers that can
be puffed out or sleeked down depending on the bird's temperature,
mood, movements &c
Another interesting habit people have is to look at a picture of bird
in a field guide (I sometimes have a field guide with me at work and
use it to answer birding questions) and say: 'Oh yes, that looks like
it, but I don't remember it as quite that colour'. Again, the
knowledge lacking is that the colours in field guides are products of
the printing process subsequent to the artist's labours, and can vary
considerably between print runs even of the same edition, and that the
colours that birds have in the field are strongly influenced by the
lighting and background (after dark, for example, most birds are
entirely black :-) ).
What can we do about these common habits of thought? I suppose it's
too much to ask that bird-watching be a compulsory subject at school.
Which brings me on to another topic… most people seem to have no sort
of species concept…

John Leonard

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