Unlike 99% of my blog posts, this post will feature no sightings, no trip reports, so ID features etc. Instead, I thought I'd use the 'eDiary function' of an online blog and write about my opinions of the recent Dusky Thrush 'suppression' in Devon.
On 26th October, a garden in Brixham, Devon played host to what could well be argued as the prettiest species of thrush on the British list - a Dusky Thrush. Yes, it wasn't quite the adult male as seen in Leigh, Gtr Manchester back in December 2010, but by the look of the photos, it would certainly get the pulses going if it happened to catch the business end of my binoculars! The bird was present in a private garden until the 2nd November and then news was released about the bird on 17th. The reasoning behind the suppression, for me, was reasonable. The bird spent the duration of its visits in 6 gardens in the estate, with all of these gardens only being visible from within the houses themselves. The birder who initially found the bird went around the 6 houses and discussed the possibility of granting access to birders in any of the houses and as the majority were non-birders, the idea of (potentially) several hundred people visiting this quiet housing estate wasn't exactly the most attractive scenario in the world. In addition, the finder even contacted the local police and asked for their advice and understandably, even they suggested it wasn't a very safe idea. The difficult decision of suppression was therefore the most sensible option.
Anyone reading this who doesn't think this was the right thing to do, then you clearly live in your own little world where you're allowed to only think about yourself and don't take into consideration others around you (probably explains a lot about the nay sayers anyway!). I guess the number who think that is wrong is very very small indeed, but the main reason why people are disagreeing with the 'etiquette' of this fiasco is that the bird was actually seen by quite a notable number of non-residents who were invited by the finder to see the bird. Apparently some long-distance twitcher also were invited to see it. This is where most people seem to think the finder broke the 'rules of twitching'.
Here's my view on the decision made by the owner: Perfectly understandable! By 'invitation only', you can regulate the number of twitchers affecting (or not affecting depending on your view!) the local population of the non-birding housing estate. 'Invitation only' means that you know exactly what sort of people will be descending on the estate, which is the responsibility of the person putting out the news at the end of the day. If the whole ladder scenario from the White-throated Robin happened on my street, I think several people would have a hell of a lot to say about it. In addition to this, if you invite people to come, you know who they are, so you can give direct instructions that you know they'll follow to be as discrete as possible when in the vicinity of your house.
Not only this, but I were to find something that I knew would be a nightmare to get people to see, whether there be no parking or whatever, I would do everything in my power to make sure it was possible, but if it's not, it's not. With a twitch, you've no idea how many people are likely to turn up as so many variables come into play e.g. day of the week, geographical location, how many people need it, how many people would be likely to travel x distance to see the bird etc. Inviting close friends etc if perfectly fine I think. Mainly because...they're your friends! You know them, you can trust them, you want to share your little bird of magic in your garden with them.
One thing that really is getting on my nerves about this particular topic is that the vast majority of people who are complaining about bad etiquette and how only in exceptional circumstances would no access be allowed are people that saw the Dusky Thrush at Margate this year, so what on earth is the fuss about?! I was extremely busy with fieldwork when the Margate bird, so had no chance of getting to see it despite it being one of my all time targets to see. If access was granted, I probably would have tried my best to get down there.
I think one of the main pieces of information that people seem to be missing is that this bird didn't appear in a private woodland or cemetery or similar, this appeared in gardens of the general public. There are very few people in the world that would happily let 300 complete strangers walk aimlessly into their home to see something. I remember hearing that people were watching the Oriental Turtle Dove from the owner's kitchen whilst the kids were sat at the dinner table eating breakfast. I can't believe how unbelievably intrusive that image is and how unbelievably tolerable that owner of the house was. There are very few people in the world that are quite so accommodating.
You have to put yourself in the shoes of someone who finds a very rare bird in their garden. If you are fortunate enough to be able to sort out a field for parking and live in an area where 100+ people won't affect any other household, then that's great, but not everyone is as lucky as the owners of the St. Brides house (of which I am incredibly grateful for them allowing access for the Orphean). In my street for example, if someone has a party and 5 cars turn up, the whole street knows about it and that's a maximum of 25 people. What happens if 50 cars turn up (assuming car pooling of 5 people in every car which we all know isn't likely!)? If you think that you'd just put the news out and assume that it would be ok with the neighbours at it would be during the mid-week when they're at work, or would only be a short time thing, you're unashamedly selfish.
When someone finds a rarity, what if they don't own a pager, or a news subscription, or are friends with any local county recorders? They are just local birders who enjoy birding for themselves. Are you suggesting they HAVE to report the bird to someone? No, of course not. Whenever anyone reports a bird, it is done by their own free will and what the guys at Birdguides, RBA, Birdnet etc do by spreading the news is a great privilege. They don't have to sit at a computer every day reporting everyone's sightings across the internet, but they make our birding life more exciting as a result of it.
Twitching other peoples finds is a privelege...not a right. If you are getting annoying by something like the Dusky Thrush, so much so that you have to bitch about it on the internet and bad mouth the finders, then you need a new hobby as a hobby should be an enjoyable past time...why are you playing at?