Kicked in the Southern Chestnuts

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 13 October 2013 13:51

WARNING: This post contains the details of an offensive encounter, some of the most shocking behaviour I have ever seen in a birdwatcher and a moth-related euphemism that triggered a painful trip down memory lane. It's about 90% rant and 10% wildlife.

Yes a lot went on yesterday. For those with less time on their hands, here is the abridged version: I ticked Radde's Warbler on the edge of Brighton and saw Southern Chestnuts at Ambersham Common.

Now the long version. Where to start with such a day? I was in the middle of some work when I heard about the Radde's Warbler up at Sheepcote Valley, just to the east of Brighton. I needed this bird so I legged it up there only to find it had not been seen for three hours. After half an hour of watching Ring Ouzels flying all over the place (I saw at least six) the Radde's was relocated in a thick bramble bush. It was not showing well, diving out of the top and then flying straight into thick cover and only rarely calling. A birder played calls of it repeatedly before actually crawling into the bush to flush it and play more of its calls to it. Is this normal behaviour in birding circles now?! It was enough to put me off twitching for life. The total disregard for the bird's well being was disgusting, to certain individuals it would seem that tired and disorientated wildlife exists for one reason. Their amusement. I saw the bird, sadly probably because it was flushed. I would rather have not seen the bird. I left the site feeling dirty thinking to myself 'bad things happen when good people do nothing'. So this is my protest to such behaviour. I would like to add thanks to all the decent birders who were not doing this!

I picked up the gang and headed off to the other end of the county to do some real natural history but not before I recall my last encounter with a Dusky Warbler (a bird very similar to a Radde's Warbler) 12 years ago...

...I was at Dungeness RSPB at the time as a residential volunteer. Dave Walker had found a Dusky Warbler at the Obs so I dashed around on my push bike and when I look back it was a very similar feel to the Radde's twitch. Lots of people rushing from bramble bush to bramble bush but birders didn't use bird song or crawl into bushes back then, they used field craft and patience. The bird was relocated some distance from where I was and I jumped onto my bike landing heavily on a rather sensitive region of my body. I fell to the ground in agony as birder after birder ran past and over me without stopping to help! I guess some things never change. Jesus, birders are so unfriendly sometimes. I saw the bird. Memory lane sucks, I'm going back to Ambersham...

...It was cold last night and despite four traps, we only saw about five moths. Grey Pine Carpet, Grey Shoulder-knot, Black Rustic, Red-green Carpet and at least four Southern Chestnuts. A pretty little moth. It wasn't exactly mothing at its best though and I was a bit concerned I might have put Rachael off mothing for life. That said it was a stunning evening with a beautiful sunset and an amazing cold mist that crept in across the heath. Would you believe this was my first time to Ambersham Common?! I really must go to more none SWT sites. We saw one other person all evening, a young lad taking his remote control car for a walk. Pretty strange but not as strange as what happened next. Two strangers from the Midlands were also moth trapping. Friendly as ever, I wanted to talk to them. This is the exchange that happened in front of Rachael and my friend Simon.

Me: Hiya. Are you finding much?
Stranger: I would do if you lot would go away. This place is big enough for us all to have some space.

For once in my life I was speechless! I'd only been in that spot just long enough to net and pot up a Grey Pine Carpet for ID. I think that's the rudest a stranger has ever been to me during a natural history event. I can't imagine how debilitating this behaviour is. We have such a laugh when we go out on events like this, the company is so important, especially as I do so much natural history alone. Why do people sink to the lowest common denominator in crowds?!

We went to the pub afterwards, where po-faced bar maids continued the theme of rudeness.

Rude people of Earth, I remind you of the words of Bill and Ted: 'Be excellent to each other!' A big thank you to Tony Davis, Dave Gibbs, Simon Cullen, Shaun Pryor and of course the lovely Rachael Dover for being, as ever, excellent!

7 Response to "Kicked in the Southern Chestnuts"

oldbilluk Says:

They were possibly collecting Southern Chestnut and didn't want any competition.

Graeme Lyons Says:

They were indeed. Without the landowners or NE's consent. Either way, there is no need to be that rude. Especially when you're in another county!

Tony Says:

And the Sussex birders wondered why I didn't tell them about the Bluetail I found. You've just answered the question for them!

Suffolk Nature Says:

This is shocking behaviour and it saddens me that other so called naturalists could behave in such a rude manner. Honestly, as if you being there would frighten off moths, what are these people on??? Keep up the good work.

Merlin Archer Says:

The world is full of tossers like this. Some of them spot trains; some collect stamps. Sadly, some 'collect' birds, moths, butterflies etc. It doesn't imply that they have any appreciation or understanding of what they are doing. And people like these invariably have all the personality of a sinus wash as well.

davebodds Says:

I do think Paul James has a point re the Radde's warbler - name & shame the offending/offensive person. I think this type of person is sadly on the increase in birding circles & the sensible sensitive people need to let them know their behaviour is not acceptable.

Piers Says:

It's this sort of crap, both in the field and on-line, that pretty much put me off all aspects of natural history about three years ago now.

Lepidoptera are my thing (well, were), and sadly, the worst elements of bird-twitching have deeply infected the world of lepidoptera study.

The net result was an unshakable association between the beauty and marvel of the natural world and the sort of t***** that you describe in your blog.

I am just managing to get my mojo back, but I am now very much of the school of thought where studying natural history is not a social or communal exercise.

These days I have one golden rule: I work alone.

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