Breaking the birdwatching stereotype – Anyone of any age

For a long time the image of a birdwatcher or naturalist has been stereotyped as an older gentleman, who wears one of those green waistcoats with an abundance of pockets (who really has that much stuff to put in all those pockets anyway?), jumping out of bushes in an artistic fashion and chasing after the latest rarity. And what about the women? Television programs have portrayed birdwatchers as rather ‘out there’ people with strange habits, especially depicted this way in murder mysteries for some reason.

Well guess what we are not all like that! We are young, old, middle aged, and we don’t all dress head to toe in green khaki, sometimes we wear pink (can’t speak from experience there though). When did birdwatching become such an elite club where only those with the right clothes and age could join? Because it’s not. Everyone can enjoy nature – it doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are. Birdwatchers are your average person but who spend their weekends sitting in bird hides having the time of their life (because they just saw an otter from Island Mere Hide at Minsmere, blooming brilliant). We could be students, teachers, bankers, shop workers, receptionists – there are even celebrity birdwatchers including the likes of Bill Bailey, Rory McGrath, Alex Zane, Alison Steadman and Sir Paul McCartney. Not to mention the amazing Sir David Attenborough and other presenters like the Springwatch team who have made nature ‘cool’.

At school I remember everyone laughing when someone made a joke about going birdwatching. I didn’t laugh as that is exactly what I liked doing, but there was no way I was going to tell them that. But now I want to shout it ‘I am a birder’ (albeit this probably isn’t the best thing to do in a bird hide as it most likely would not be appreciated by everyone, and of course I’m a birder, I wouldn’t be there otherwise).

There are so many people out there who like birding and nature so all you have to do is find them, whether this is via volunteering for charities, attending courses or events. There is nothing better than starting your week with a chat about what you saw at the weekend and everyone being interested and sharing their experience. I think it’s amazing to be able to tell what animal just darted into the bushes or what bird is filling your head with its song. I was lucky enough to work for the RSPB over the summer and the whole team were young women, and I have to say I felt pretty cool in the RSPB uniform. But let’s not forget the older gentleman (and women) with those waistcoats because they are absolutely brilliant. They have a wealth of knowledge and kindness, they are the teachers and fanatics which inject us with happiness, energy and information.

Birdwatching and nature is the most inclusive hobby I can think of. Anyone can join in no matter their age, background, job or experience because nature is flipping brilliant!

Oh one more thing, I have recently purchased a green coat with an abundance of pockets – turns out I do have that much stuff to fill them with.

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A Johnson
Conservation graduate and wildlife lover. Find my blog at https://naturenattering.wordpress.com/ Follow me on Twitter @AJohnson2810
A Johnson

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4 Responses

  1. Harry says:

    Great post! The birding stereotype shouldn’t exist and it’s actually embarrassing. It shouldn’t be hard to make nature and birding cool, this needs to change. Anyway, the post was a fantastic read…

    • A Johnson A Johnson says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. The stereotype is such a strange thing because if you tell children something about the natural world they are often entranced but somehow between then and adulthood this stereotype appears which isn’t at all true.

  2. There is a bird watching stereotype and young people are stigmatised in school. Even as an older person, I admit to having been a little daunted at venturing into a hide at Cley Marshes, Norfolk, on a trip back to England. I love birds – any birds, all birds – but my knowledge on specific birds is limited. I could watch birds all day, but it’s easy to feel out of place in a hide with people who have extensive knowledge, as well as the fantastic equipment you mention.(I do now at least have a great little pair of binoculars!). I think views are changing, especially with more wildlife organisations and reserves having programs for families. If schools start to include nature and environment study as a subject in its own right on the curriculum, that would also help to normalise an interest in nature. As you rightly say ‘nature is flipping brilliant’ and everyone can be involved at any level.

    • A Johnson A Johnson says:

      Thanks for commenting Tracy. I agree that events for families might help to change people’s views. It would also be great for environmental subjects to be offered in school! Birding and nature really can be for everyone, no matter what you know or who you are.

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