Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Back to the Future?

There seems to be lots of soul-searching going on amongst my forty something peers. Several of them are ruminating and contemplating the future and beginning to yearn for an idyllic past or at least a simplification of all that has become our hobby over the last twenty years.
Stewart is the latest and cites others such as Gavin Haig & Steve Gale, I'll include myself in the list for this post and even Thing has passed on the Coots for one day in favour of a little nostalgia.
All this reminded me of a few passages from Ian Wallace's book 'Birdwatching in the Seventies where he looked ahead rather than back at what might happen to 'birdwatching in the eighties'.
He was right about some things and he was wrong about others, I've no intention of producing a whole critical analysis of his piece here go and get a copy and read it, it's worth it simply for his illustrations which are still inspirational.
One question though he did ask was 'Will the perception of the inspired individual observer (so characteristic of our ornithological ancestors) survive?
I think what we are seeing at the moment, using the technology of the 21st century is that, despite many of us veering off at times in search of the rare or the bigger list, Ian's 'inspired individual observer' has found a new place and new voice in the world via the medium of blogging. It may be that this phenomenon that we are now firmly a part of will be the means by which younger birders can access the knowledge and experience and measured ways of older birders.
So whilst I hope all those listed above (and more) find the pureness of experience and simplicity of a basic approach they search for I sincerely hope that they keep sharing that with a wider audience who would be the poorer if it wasn't available.
In that spirit I walked in Scotch Gill woods again this morning to partake of the Chiffchaff. My search for Green Woodpecker and Kingfisher goes on but a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch that obviously thought I was planning on photography as it posed stock still for thirty seconds with that bill in the air saying cheese kind of way. Long-tailed Tits in woodland rather than a garden don't provide a headline although the riddle of the disappearance of the Morpeth Goosander pair was solved as the male and female 'angel wing' bird motored past.
Finally a few words from IW "The crucial catalyst to better balanced behaviour of all future birdwatchers is the continuous interpretation of the marvellous grace to be found in regular contact with another class of being...this must tempt the intellect and spur the foot to wider interests than a long life list...and must not involve dictation and bureaucracy, for such threaten the freedom of action and spirit so beloved of all birdwatchers"

3 comments:

Thing said...

The phrase 'modern birding is rubbish'has been used by me and others and no doubt will come up again and again and....

And I'd better just point out that I'm not quite through the four-oh threshold yet. ;-)

Steve Gale said...

Great post Alan. I feel a 'new movement' in ornithology starting up, where members burn effigies of certain 'well known birders' for what they represent and pray at the alter of Wallace, Alexander and Tunicliffe.

Stewart said...

DIM Wallace, my hero! I have his old pages from 'Birdwatching' mag from the eighies and early nineties and I nearly know them word for word! He might be a stringer but what an inspiration.