Wednesday 21 September 2011

Birding is cool

Just been reading Richard Bonser's blog post where he worries that birding is less cool than surfing. You're so wrong mate! Birding is incredibly cool. What other pursuit can you do wherever you are (obviously outdoors) and whenever? You need little equipment, little skill (though increasing both definitely increases enjoyment for some!) and absolutely no neoprene. Also, birders tend to be massively less pretentious, though I suspect true surfers are too busy surfing to worry about their image and it's the wannabes that let the side down. In reality, surfing and birding have a lot in common. Surfers waiting for the perfect wave are no different from birders seeking the big rare find. Keen birders hang out in fantastic landscapes all over the world - just like surfers, though we go for much more diversity. And we all get drawn to the coast at certain times of the year and in certain weather conditions!

The issue with birding's 'coolness' is that whereas all surfers are seen by non-surfers as 'cool', all birders tend to be regarded as old men in khaki hanging about in wooden boxes. This is a myth perpetuated by the media and also not helped by birding's self-appointed spokesmen who do the reputation of birders and birding no good whatsoever.

When I read a lot of the 'cutting edge' birders' blogs etc and hear the stories of the older generations exploits when they were young in search of birds and new birding, they can only be described as cool, and very comparable to, and possibly even cooler than any surfing tale I've heard. In reality the vast majority of surfers are the equivalent of dude birders or beginner birders who claim to be surfers, but perhaps only do it every now and again. I doubt many have taken the whole lifestyle choice, particularly in this country, although a lot of wannabe surfers would like you to think they have!
Birders - and by that I mean serious birders out there patching, exploring, finding stuff - are the most committed people I know and many of them live their dream. For the rest of us though, who have opted for/been lucky enough to secure job-mortgage-marriage-kids, we live the dream in our minds and on the occasions where we can escape the shackles of the day to day life, rekindle our birding passion. Nevertheless for those of us in this situation, we are still absorbed in this passion round the clock one way or another - writing blogs for instance...

But why is birding cool? As birders we share many things, we find ourselves..
  • Hanging out in stunning, remote locations, often by the coast. 
  • Sensing the weather. 
  • Being in tune with the patterns of nature, the intricacies of the lives of thousands of species. 
  • Living in rough conditions. 
  • Being switched on to environmental and nature conservation issues.
  • Travelling light. 
  • Sharing the killer moment with your mates. 
  • Feeling immense cameraderie with our mates, yet thriving on solitude. 
And birds are inherently cool too!

It just depends whether you give a shit what other people think of you. If you are happy and birding gives you a buzz, however much you do it, or are into it, then it is cool. If you worry about what others think of you and worry that the hobby you have is uncool, then it is maybe because you are uncool! Richard, although I suspect you will never read this, please read back through your blog. Sleeping in barns, seeking windblown Arctic waifs, oozing enthusiasm, living your dream. That is pretty cool in my book mate and if others don't think that, more fool them.

And if all this fails, simply grow your hair and go birding in a wetsuit.

p.s. I blatantly borrowed these pics off the t'internet. If you want me to remove them, let me know.