Friday, 24 September 2010

Birding at technology in the 21st century

 (If some of the text in this post is a different colour then you can click on it as it is a link to another page online.)

There can be no doubt about it; technology has assisted birding hugely over the years. With the invention of the pager allowing the ‘early’ twitchers to get to see birds that often they would only hear about a couple of weeks later! Now of course the pager is somewhat becoming ‘old news’ with bird information now being able to be sent to peoples mobiles, or of course people can check the internet with their mobile phones to see what has been seen. Speaking of the internet where would we birders and twitchers be without it? For one thing we wouldn’t have Eastern Crowned Warbler on our British list see HERE and HERE, read first one then second. Then there is a the many bird news services broadcasting news day and sometimes night so that birders around the country can see what birds they desire. Let’s not forget the countless forums, blogs, and other bird related websites that we use or can use if we need them. Additionally how do you know what many birds you have never seen before sound like? The answer is thanks to technology bird calls and sounds can be recorded and uploaded for everyone on the planet who can access it to enjoy. We are also fortunate enough to view images of birds taken on our doorsteps, counties, and the other parts of the world, on occasions you can view images taken on the other side of the world on the same day they were taken! Technology is great for birding and I am sure many wouldn’t disagree, in fact if you are enjoying this post so far you can’t disagree. ;)

However (you might have know this was coming) technology also has its draw backs when it comes to birding in this day and age, or so I think anyway. You can of course make your own mind up and please do leave your comments in the comment section as I would like to hear them. This post is fuelled by the recent Brown Flycatcher on Shetland thread, until late on this afternoon there was a big debate going on about a photo and how much it looked like a Spotted Flycatcher. It turned out in the end that it was actually a Spotted Flycatcher and the finder said that he couldn’t be 100% sure, good and honest of the observer to actually admit he rushed into the ID a bit. However it got me thinking, we are now always wanting to see photos instead of just taking peoples word for it when they claim rare birds. I personally think that notes and descriptions are sufficient enough to get a bird accepted, even if it is exceptionally rare. Are we not just relying too much on images to confirm if a bird is what the observer(s) say it is!

Don’t get me wrong I like to see pictures but if a picture was of bad quality and features were hard to make out and decipher between species I would take the observers word for it. Am I naive, perhaps? I just think that sometimes birders (myself included) just don’t look at the bigger picture and need to see a photo of a rarity to believe it and if it doesn’t quite look right we question the validity of the record.

Don’t hate me by the way! Until next time, Foghorn out!

ps. Go back to the post with the photo of the Eastern Crowned Warbler on it. Hover over it and see how many views it had. Compare that to the picture next to it. LOL


  1. Hi Andrew,

    Got to agree with you 100% on these things. However I just thought I'd draw you to the attention of what I think is another draw back of technology, especially when you are out in the field. I would say for some individuals, although you may criticise this, the existence of the SMS system can almost get you too attracted to going for 'other people's birds', and can leave you very disappointed. Lets say you're at your local patch and there has been a fall of warblers, nothing particularly noteworthy so far but a good scattering of commoner migrants (Lesser Whitethroat, Whinchat, Redstart, Black Redstart), and you've only been a quarter of the way round your patch. A Dusky Warbler comes through in a place a fair distance a way from where you are birding at the time and nowhere near any of your other local patches (but still in your county), and you are keen to see it. You travel all the way to see it, leaving your local patches behind you. You're excited on the way, but when you get there you find yourself staring into the gorse bush which it has been seen in with no success, and nothing else has been seen there that day. You've failed to see the bird, and you are left very frustrated and thinking it was a waste of time when you could have been trying to find that scarce or rare passerine at your local patch, knowing that you had as good a chance as anyone of finding something because no-one else was checking it.

    My point is really that technology over entices some birders to other people's birds, and that it can have consequences and leave you annoyed and exasperated. Also, but obviously not in all cases, it can stop you finding your own birds, and finding birds is essentially the ultimate reward. I am not applying these points to a particular person, I am half basing it on personal experience and knowing that people in general can be left frustrated.

    Feel free to voice your views on this,


  2. agreeing with Joseph. Since I can't even afford a pager, and can't be bothered to get the news via mobile, i just have to wait until I'm home, like some flippin caveman! ;)

    But i reckon patching is better than twitching unless (1) its a really, really nice bird or (2) its close enough not to really wind you up if you miss it.

    And may I thank you for the first real birding debate I've had since my temporary banishment from BF!

  3. Liam, when it comes to pagers and SMS systems, I am equally 'primitive' lol in that I also wait until I'm home - quite frustrating in its own way! However that's soon going to change as I am signing up to the SMS system for the local grapevine (ABZ Text). I agree with you that patching is better than twitching. However, I would say that you can be left frustrated and wound up as a result of missing a bird regardless of how far you travel, even if the bird is 25 miles away from one of your patches, especially on the day of a fall or a good day in general when there is likely other birds elsewhere that you wish you could have seen.


  4. you just have to go with what you think will be better and not regret it if your pan backfires! And my 'local twitching' more involves going to the place early morning, having a look around and seeing what you can see anyway. You might see what you're looking for and you have as much chance of finding your own goodie here as you do on your patch! :)

    Just out of interest Joseph, how far away are your patches, as on your blog you seem to always have to drive to Strathbeg, Ythan etc? I guess I might be rather lucky its less than an hours bike-ride to most of my stomping grounds! ;)