I see lots of postings & letters to magazines slating photographers, so I think it is time a photographer put his point of view.
We need photographers to record the birds otherwise there would be no magazines, no websites & many more rejected records.
Also, birders are not angels as they can’t even tell an Amur Falcon in the field even with top-of-the-range scopes!!!
We are all guilty of less tolerance towards other bird enthusiasts, but we need birders - to find birds; We need ringers to sort out the more difficult birds & We need photographers to record them.
Firstly a photographer is no different a person than a twitcher, ringer, birder,etc. He just has a camera. Therefore we are actually talking about bad behaviour - are we not?
Bad photographers & bad birders are a pain to EVERONE. This is usually just caused by bad fieldcraft & ignorance. The bad person can be educated & should be treated with respect not abuse. Most people would move back if explained what the problem was.
There is however a small number of birders & photographers that are basically prats, bullies, or both.
Personally I see more bad behaviour among birders rather than photographers but this is just because there are statistically more of them. Most are relatively new to the hobby & have not learned fieldcraft through experience.
Today’s restrictive paths & hides do not allow birders to try & approach birds stealthily, so don’t know the limits.
When I find a rare bird, I take my photos & get my enjoyment from it BEFORE I put the news out. In the past, I used to release the news, only to find birders having a dig at me when I tried to get a record of MY bird a few days later after I had given them chance to see it.
Firstly birders can see a bird well at a distance with today's scopes & they see no reason why a photographer can’t do the same - BUT this shows total ignorance of the photographer’s art on the part of the birder.
A photographer must get close to a bird to achieve his goal of getting a good shot & the closer the better. Otherwise, he has basically dipped as his whole reason for journeying to see the bird in the first place is to get a picture & not just to see it.
Imagine trying to take a portrait of the kids or someone's face - you don’t stand 200m away!
A Steppe Shrike is about the same length as a girl's breast - how close would you stand to make sure that her nipple is sharp – licking distance I bet!
So why should the photographer give up his pleasure, just for the birder to add a tick? - That is selfish on the birder's part while both parties can enjoy their respective hobbies.
That said, there are unwritten rules as neither party want to flush the bird. So a good photographer knows when to stop.
If it flies, then nobody is happy.
The photographer armed with fieldcraft knows how far he can push things without flushing the bird away from the scene altogether. He is fully aware of the needs of the birder & waits for them to see the bird & does block their view.
But why not allow him to move to a position where the bird may come closer to him if he patiently waits?
This seems to be a big problem for some birders as they can't abide anyone closer than themselves, even though they are getting good views.
Unfortunately the hobby has grown so much, that there is no longer a period when the birders have had their fill & the photographer can approach.
I no longer travel to photograph rare birds because I am prevented from using my fieldcraft by birders ignorant of a photographer's needs.
Birders have also become sheep. They can only ID a bird when the pager says what it is. They do not find their own birds & are totally ignorant of the ecology of that species. They therefore do not know the natural limits of how to approach a bird. Most birds are actually flushed by birders rather than photographers. It is just that the birders are all together at the time, so don’t rant about it.
A GOOD photographer on the other hand, finds his own subject & needs peace & quiet to get the full benefit of capturing the bird behaving naturally.
I find that if I stalk a Pied Fly or Firecrest, some .... comes running up to me to see what I am photographing & flushes it in the process or thinks I am a prat because it is only a common species & I have wasted His time!!!!!!!!
In the good old days, when there was just Cotteridge, Loseby & a handful of other photographers, birders were happy to watch from a distance, but also allow them to go closer because they wanted to buy a photograph from them or see a picture in BB - both parties were happy & got from the hobby, what they had paid for.
The birder knows that 1 or 2 people closer than him, sat still & taking pictures would not cause the bird grief, but if all the birders walked closer, then the bird would fly off. They should still accept this.
In the past, birders actually helped by standing opposite the photographer, thereby sending the bird away from them but closer to the quietly sitting photographer.
There is no reason why this could still not be the case?
But the growing number of both birders & photographers naturally make this more difficult.
I currently wait until all the birders have seen it well, and then try to get closer to take some pictures, only to find that other birders are still coming. So I wait & wait
Then more come, so I wait, then after waiting 8 hours, it is too dark & I still have not got a picture, while the birders have all gone away happy.
The only way to please birders is to become a digiscoper - but this means boring pictures of posed still birds & nothing of any real quality.
No exciting flight views or moving images.
At the recent Alder Flycatcher, not one photographer caused a problem, because there was no way to get close to that bird. But there was still trouble.
There were several abusive birders that got aggressive because they were frustrated at not being able to see the bird. Most of this was frustration, but of course there is always a psychopath in every hobby.
I was stood above the main group & from the hill I saw birders get some stick from a birder with a Brummy accent. This particular guy did have some kind of mental problem but this shows that bad behaviour is not restricted to photographers.
Then, those birders arriving late, blamed ringers for causing the bird to leave.
Well lets just stop & think a minute.
1 – the ringers found it in the first place – they could have suppressed it.
2 – they waited 2 days before trapping it – long enough for any serious birder to get there & see it. Even those on Scilly could get to it!
3 – without the bird being trapped, it would not be on any birders list as an Alder Fly. It is impossible to ID this species without trapping it or hearing it call. So we should thank them - instead they get abuse.
There will always be a loser, no matter how well intentioned one's behaviour is.
If you are a birder, try being a little more helpful to the newer photographers & encourage them to get a little closer by directing them to sit next to a certain bush. Help them & let them know the limits rather than waiting until they annoy you or go too far.
Also accept that for every good day you have in the field, the photographer will never get the perfect photograph. He rarely has a successful day.
A tolerant photographer, birder & ringer