By large, birders are a nice bunch and bad behaviour and poor etiquette among devotees is, thankfully, rather scarce – though this does not mean it does not occur. Many of those boasting a penchant for the hobby will have witnessed such behaviour, the practice of tape luring birds during the breeding season for example, and I doubt I am the only one to cringe whenever the term organised flush is uttered. Which it is, whenever a particularly cryptic species turns up and onlookers desiring more than just a fleeting glimpse take it upon themselves to deliberately scare it from cover.
Generally, bad behaviour among birdwatchers falls into two distinct categories: actions which cause damage to property or habitat (bad) and actions detrimental to the bird itself (very bad). Both of which appear to have been rife at the recent Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler twitch in Norfolk.
The video below, kindly posted to Youtube by SuperPeckinpah, demonstrates perfectly the behaviour which, at present, is giving birders a bad name. Trespassing, damage to habitat and organised flushing, coupled with arrogant individuals behaving like petulant, kaki-clad children. Hat’s off to the wardens of Holkham Hall Estate for confronting these individuals and acting in the best interests of both the bird and the law – it must have been hard keeping a cool head given the selfish and, at times, patronising drivel being spoken by some within the crowd.
Ultimately, if behaviour like that displayed in the above video continues, it will be we birders who lose out. If the ignorant minority continues to do as they please, ignoring best practice and the wishes of landowners, bird news will simply stop being published – leaving all of us in the dark. It is promising to see so many within the birding community highlighting and pouring scorn on this behaviour – just look at this thread – but it is up to all of us to remain vigilant and ensure that idiots like those featured above are kept in check.