Saturday, January 5, 2013

"People will think...."

Still unable to upload any new pictures to my blog, I am left to my own devices to create an entry. I have been thinking a lot about the every-day folk who see all of us birders prowling about neighborhoods and clogging up walking trails. It was just this week when I was sitting in my car with my binoculars trained on two groups of feeders in an effort to catch the Orange-crowned warbler at a suet feeder. My camera lay on my lap, all set and ready for fire if the bird should appear.

I was startled by a man who came out of a home behind me, and in a stern voice, he repeated multiple times, "People will think you are looking in their windows." He said it three times before I could reply. I told him how lucky I thought he was to have a full-on view of these feeders on any given day. Then, I told him about the three pretty rare birds that were frequenting the area.  Slowly, he came around and told me about a lot of different birds he had seen at the feeders, "... birds typically seen on the Southern Shore," he said.

That incident really got me thinking about the growing number of birders attracted to bird-active locations in an attempt to see the marvels of nature that just "happen" in the winter in St. John's. Whether it is fortunate or unfortunate (depending on your perspective,) these birds are appearing in densely populated areas or frequently-walked trails.

En masse, we show up with high-powered binoculars, cannon-size cameras and gear, and maybe even scopes. What must the general public think? There is an organized gang of "gawkers" infiltrating St. John's?  It certainly helps to take the time to talk to the concerned or interested by-passer.

Sometimes, taking the eye off the bird to do that is very difficult. Birds can be particularly elusive, skittish, secretive, or flighty. Look away for one minute, and the bird is gone, and may or may not return in a timely manner. It is a dilemma.

I think that for the greater good it is important to embrace the curious when ever possible when watching birds. Educate the public about the rarity of the bird, the enthusiasm of the birding community, and the joy of the experience.  Bruce Mactavish's weekly article in The Telegram, the occasional spot on TV or radio such as the one Alvan Buckley conducted on CBC yesterday, and the everyday encounter that the many birders have with people will go a long way to demystify the droves of birders who flock to a location in the hopes of seeing a recently-reported rare bird.

There are many potential birders out there who may be converted by one small brush with the birding experience. Judging by the number of active feeders around town, the amount of bird seed that flies off the store shelves, and the number of inquisitive on-lookers, there is the distinct possibility that the birding community could grow significantly during 2013.

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