Birding – No Laughing Matter?

My copy of Birdwatch arrived a couple of days ago, and I opened it tonight. On the inside cover where there used to be a kind of ‘And Finally’ light relief article was a piece on Ruddy Duck culls. Back in the day this slot would have featured some light humour from Bill Oddie. For several years it was where Anthony McGeehan would write incisively and wittily about the current birding scene.

You can read Anthony’s columns in Birding From The Hip as pictured above, some of it has dated a bit but a lot of it is as relevant as it ever was. The pieces by his wife Mairead, or Anthony pretending to be Mairead I was never quite sure, about the frustrations of being married to a keen bird are excellent.

Birding humour has a rich tradition. When I was starting out in birding the ‘Not BB’ series was still just about going, an irreverent send up of British Birds. Subsequently online content came to the fore, with the Punkbirder website being a high water mark of jokes about birding by birders. The rules for counting self-found rarities explained using scenarios involving members of the group Girls Aloud was a particular favourite of mine. Following the punks there was Reservoir Catz, a satirical website in the tradition of Private Eye and replicated these days by The Poke, Newsthump etc whose parodies always involved fictional birder Tom Logan.

I am struggling to think of any accessible written birding humour in the UK in the last ten years. I might be missing something, and if I am please do tell me, but it’s all got very earnest. That has its place of course, and I’m not saying the situation in terms of birding declines and climate change isn’t sobering, of course it is. But sometimes you need to kick your shoes off, pour a glass of whatever your tipple is, and not take things too seriously.

I guess the nearest I have come to this is Lev Parikian’s books. He is a conductor by profession and says he is a ‘hopeless birdwatcher’, which is clearly self-effacing but his first book in particular ‘Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear’ is when he was starting out in birding. I didn’t have particularly high expectations of it, but it was very enjoyable and recommended as is his follow up ‘Into The Tangled Bank’.

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