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.


2 thoughts on “Breaking the birdwatching stereotype – Anyone of any age

  1. Reblogged this on Common By Nature and commented:
    A rather good blog by A Johnson regarding the stereotypes associated with birding. Have to agree that there seems to be a consensus that most keen birders are in fact older gentlemen. This seems to be changing, though not fast enough for my liking. Organisations such as Next Generation Birders are going a long way to breaking the stereotype however so I live in hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I came across this post via James Common’s blog- have been reflecting on this, and the somewhat related topic of getting children (and what I hesitate to call “young people”, but there you go) interested in birding and wildlife generally.

    One of the challenges is that birding requires patience and silence and a certain focus and attitude of mind. All this is rather contrary to much of the wider culture of instant gratification, but I wonder is the issue more profound than that. Wildlife reminds us that there is a literal world out there which, while profoundly affected by what humanity does, is also something that has an existence and being beyond the confines of human apprehension. Even more so than instant gratification there is a deep narcissism to much of what we see in contemporary culture, and this aspect of birding (or any other pursuit that involves a deep engagement with nature) is one that perhaps makes it more than a little countercultural (literally!)

    I’m not sure what this comment adds to the specific topic about stereotypes, but I do think any pursuit a little outside the mainstream very often becomes mocked and painted in a certain way.

    Liked by 1 person

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