Archive for Oct 12th, 2020


Bloody Photographers!

As I pulled up at the Hoopoe site in Norfolk I could tell it had recently showed well, but was no longer present. There are certain things that give the situation away. Everyone is not looking in one single direction, some people were climbing back in their cars and photographers had their heads down ‘chimping’ (looking at the back of their cameras reviewing the photos they had taken)

As I was putting on my coat and piecing together my camera gear a chap, who had seen me arrive, paddled through 15 metres of mud and seemed to take more than a little schadenfreude in telling me the bird had ‘just’ flown off down the field. Apparently, I was told it went ‘way’ into the distance. My heart sank in my chest. I’d followed the coast hopper for a full 10 miles in third gear at no more than a crawl to get here. It was only a short outing I’d managed to squeeze into my day to take a few photos of the Hoopoe and it seemed it had been for nothing. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained. I mustered up a ‘thank you’ and positioned myself behind the hedgerow viewing the muck-heap where the bird had obviously been frequenting. Just another very polite couple and myself now remaining.

A rather noisy threesome then arrived (birders) who seemed to think they needed to almost stand on the muck heap to have any sort of connection with the bird. I muttered under my breath, but said nothing. Anyways as they moved away the Hoopoe came back. Much loud talking ensued and the lady in the threesome who couldn’t see the bird started walking towards it. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any more. The situation elicited a comment from me that if she went any closer she would be stood on the bird. More loud shouting ‘Where is it?’ ‘Is it still there?’. Of course the bird flew off again. Even the polite couple had enough. We rolled eyes at one another, they thanked me, and they left. So did everyone else.

As the Hoopoe was not present and I was alone I walked to look at the other side of the muck-heap and then I’d have to be off home. A Wheatear. Oh and what’s that? A Jack Snipe! A photographer arrived. He walked in front of me … the Jack Snipe walked off into the vegetation. He didn’t see it. As he got back in his car the Hoopoe flew back in. Almost within touching distance of him. He got out of his car and started photographing the bird. The closer he got the more it shuffled away from him … towards me. Result. As long as he didn’t flush the bird. A birder who had just arrived asked him how close he needed to be. That halted his advance but the bird remained on a shuffelling course for me. I went rock still. I froze. I’d got myself into a position where I’d got the light behind me, the bird close, and getting closer, but I couldn’t move not even to get a better lower angle. The last thing I wanted to do was flush the bird. I’d got myself inadvertently into an awkward position. If I moved a muscle, made a sound, I’d be no better than those who I’d been slating. Sometimes it hid itself in vegetation and I could see others moving to get a better angle. I’ve been in situations like this before with cetaceans; when on a boat remaining the respectful 200m distance from a whale. Sometimes the whale doesn’t read the same guidelines, does its own thing, and makes a close approach.

I remained back breakingly still. The Hoopoe stayed for around 30 minutes and, after eating the largest leather jacket I’ve ever seen, departed over my head and away. I left.

Photographers nearly always get a bad name with birders from getting too close. Sometimes getting close is not the photographers fault. The bird may do the approaching. Sometimes a good photographer can spend a long time carefully approaching a bird only to have a birder or another photographer flush it by just bowling-up and standing next to the photographer.

What I’m getting at here is sure some photographers feel a need to get close when they shouldn’t or get close in the wrong way. However, so do some birders. More often than not it’s not down to ‘are you a photographer or a birder’. It’s down to how sensible you are.

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Oct 2020


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