Sniping

I nearly called this post Great Snipes as a not particularly original pun. I didn’t because I’ve never seen a Great Snipe, it isn’t about that species and I didn’t want to draw people in under false pretences. It’s more a case of small ‘g’ and small ‘s’ as I return to the psychology of birders and birding, and not being kind.

You might think that a forum where people are invited to post pictures of birds you don’t recognise for an identification would be a good place to post pictures of birds you don’t recognise for identification. But then if you read some of these forums you might be less sure. Here’s a taste of what you might be treated to having asked a question in all innocence:-

You post a picture of a common and widespread species:

  • you are advised you should have bought a book to work it out for youself
  • someone will make an in joke that probably means nothing to you if the bird in question is a Dunnock
  • if the bird in question is farmyard duck or a game bird some tremendous wit will say ‘dinner’

You say ‘what is this bird called’ in all innocence:

  • someone will respond with ‘Bert’ or ‘Colin’ or similar even though there is nothing wrong with the way you have phrased the question

You have a go at identification and you get the incorrect species:

  • some people will put a laughing emoji reaction
  • comments like ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’ may be made

You have a go at the identification and are considered by the cognoscenti to be significantly wide of the mark:

  • unbeknown to you your error may be cut and pasted into a separate group you aren’t in purely for people to have a laugh at your expense

Going back to points I made at the time of the Belted Kingfisher twitch, we want people to report their sightings but then can often be condescending or downright rude. If anyone wants to throw my known intolerance of inappropriate use of bird news WhatsApp groups at me at this point I think anyone should think ‘is this appropriate’ before sending a push message to hundreds of people. And anyway I discovered you could mute individuals in a WhatsApp group this week and I am not going to complain any more, it’s a godsend.

There are probably many ironies about all of this, but at this moment in time after a long ‘hump day’ in the office two leap out at me:

  • why do people who don’t like bird id questions being raised on internet forums choose to join those groups to then complain about people using the groups for their intended purpose
  • if the bird you photographed and have no clue on the identify of is actually something rare, and it does happen quite regularly, instead of being chastised you will be showered with congratulations and invited to write a finders account even though you haven’t actually done anything different

It’s all well and good lobbying for male and female ducks to be the same size on bird identification posters, but that won’t have had a significant impact on people taking an interest in birds and starting to try identifications for themselves. The way birders often treat people finding their way in the hobby undoubtedly will.

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