Saturday, 24 October 2009

Seize The Day

The unprecedented news coverage afforded the Eastern Crowned Warbler should be welcomed by birders and birding businesses, organisations and clubs up and down the country. Yes certain tabloids have displayed complete and utter ignorance and an amazing ability to get even the basics wrong and the local BBC radio station journalist sent from Radio Newcastle needs a lobotomy but.... it has thrust birding into the mainstream media in a way that has never been seen before. Media attention of this nature creates an opportunity, whether it be for the RSPB to enthuse children, local Bird Clubs to attract new members or wily business operators to piggy back on the news and the name to attract customers.
I've long believed that bird identification should be on the National Curriculum, it teaches observations skills, patience, regularly tests memory and recall as well as countless opportunities to 'engage with science'. How often have you heard or read older birders wondering where the next generation of birders or atlas workers etc is coming from? Surely it's capitalizing on events like this that could provide the spark that fuels a new wave of British birders, not that there aren't some already. So I'd say to all the movers and shakers in birding, get your thinking caps on, how do we use this for best effect, for birds, birding and birders new and old? How do we build on the momentum that has been started?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm struggling to come up with any 'positives' Alan...[maybe it's because the clocks went back last night and me heads fuzzy]...but i will try..

'Events' such as this, in my experience, don't really promote good birding techniques/field ID etc...or new generation [what i wud call]..'proper' birders. In fact...quite the opposite..it attracts 'the wrong sort'! People will want to go straight into rarity hunting instead of learning the basics and this leads to...[well..we all know what this leads to]..!!
Okay...so 'such' people will buy bins n scopes.. camera's...pagers..all good for birding 'business'...but not for birding itself.
'Skills' seem to be going down the proverbial shitter...and these media events are part of the reason why...[i think everyone who's been around a while knows this]. However..it's not all bad i suppose. Conservation organizations hopefully benefit if new folk take an interest in birds. I have no problem whatsoever with new recruits...the people who might take up birding because they are genuinely interested in 'the birds themselves'...[and not just the rarity value..which they can't really appreciate anyway]...
I suppose, thinking about it, itz all very well me moaning about the 'state of play' in birding...but if it weren't for that guy who took the photo of 'that' warbler..i wouldn't have had such a happy Friday!
Maybe in the future there will be no experts 'in the field'..they'll all be behind computer screens sifting thru thousands of pix for a 'rare'..!!! Perhaps there could be a command center where one could instruct various local 'armies' of bird photographers to cover an area of coastline...snapping everything in sight..??! Save on 'legwork'...no?

ps....enuff woffling for now...i need to get in the field...birds to see n all that...

Beast

Steve Gale said...

Hi Alan, I wish that I possessed your positivity about all of this. I didn't go to see the warbler, but would guess that all those present were generally over 40 and most of the people that read or listened to the media accounts were older still. How do we get youngsters involved? Ban them from social media, computers and mobile phones until they get to 21 so that they look around them, and take in real people and the real world. Radical? Not radical enough.

Alan Tilmouth said...

Come on lads, think positive. Of course the 'event' in itself doesnt promote good firld technique but it can act as a spark to generate interest. Does it matter how kids get started as long as they do? Plenty opportunities after that to guide them and nurture them in the right way.
Steve, I think the exact ooposite approach re: technology is required. I remember reading an interesting on line conversation not too long ago between a birding pro and a birding travel writer in the US that struck a chord, the technology is here to stay so maybe the way to get kids interested is through the technology rather than vice versa. I'm still amazed you can't get Wii birding yet.

Anonymous said...

I don't think 'kids' will pay much attention at all to such media events...and if they do...they will only think 'what a load of old jerks'..and totally 'uncool' jerks at that..!
When it comes to the magical world of the 'interweb'...i'm always in at least two minds about it's positives verses negatives...so i can relate to Mr.Gale on that one! The tinterweb is an absorbing 'other-world'...a very seductive one....highly informative..but not connected to reality. Could it be used to get younger generations interested in birding and the like?...maybe! I do hope so...but i feel the only real way to connect with nature is to get your hands dirty...that's where it's really at...

ps...i am now going down the pub and will try to come up with some positive thoughts whilst there...[and while i'm there i will canvas me birdy mates about this subject to see what they think]!

Beast..

Alan Tilmouth said...

Beast, dont assume I'm referring simply to the Internet when I refer to technology, I think there are loads of opportunities whether it be through Geocaching using GPS, DSLR photography, Iphone Apps etc to get kids involved with birding. Technology is their world and if we want them to appreciate ours then we might need to step into theirs to do it. Uncomfortable it might be for us old gits but it needs to be done.

Steve Gale said...

My rant against technology doesn't come from the stance of a technophobe or that technology, per se, is an undesirable element in the life of young people. Technology does, without doubt, insulate them from 'doing' such things as participating in sport or outdoor persuits such as birdwatching. It isn't just birdwatching that is suffering - there were just 28 applications nationally to study botanical science at degree level last year, and the study of such specialist interests such as fungi, mosses and obscure insects is falling at such an extent that it is hard to see how a serious attempt at any national study can be made in years to come. It will take more than an Eastern Crowned Warbler to kick start a recovery.

Alan Tilmouth said...

Steve, I agree technology can insulate them from 'doing' things but surely the challenge is to use the technology to change that?
It will no doubt be wiser heads than mine that develop the answers but a 'recovery' or kick start is needed and I guess the point of my post is that whether it be bird clubs, the RSPB/BTO or whoever strike whilst the iron is hot.
I thought Graham Madge took an interesting angle on his RAdio 5 interview talking about the 'miracle of migration' effectively widening the discussion away from one windblown stray to the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

Point taken Alan...!
I do understand what you mean about the use of technology in order to attract the 'younger generation'. A very tuff task indeed...and almost a contradiction in terms i feel.
Most technologies have great benefits to society as a whole...but also increase..[perversely]..disconnectedness with the real world..[as most perceive it]!
I am reminded of a Dylan Moran gig i attended recently...[the Irish comedian out of tv series 'black books'...the one with Bill Bailey in it]. At one point during the gig this younger chap on the front row was just waving his mobile phone in Morans face...recording the 'event' instead of enjoying 'real life' directly. Dylan went berserk...he said something like...'will you stop waving that feckin device at me and experience the gig here and now..as it's happening right in front of you' etc...
Technology was getting in the way of reality....trying to get the two to meet is some quest...!

ps...have just returned from the pub and me mates thought very much like myself on this subject...[and i did push them to come up with something positive]...!

pps...i am sure that one day some phone will be produced with an 'app' for feckin everything...and they will have forgotten to put an 'app' on for actually making a piggin phone call...

Funny old world ain't it..?

Beast...