Birdwatchers seem to live a precarious existence. At first, there is much joy to be had discovering the birds around us and then seeing other birds for the first time. Then there is all the other nature to be enjoyed while we are out and about – the butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and plants that make nature such a wondrous thing to be amongst.


But for some, there is a dangerous event lurking around the corner. Because the quest for more and more new birds can lead to a dangerous obsession, which if not managed can result in a catastrophic event – a turn to the dark side of birding. You can spot these turned birders or ‘Darth Birders’ by their misery. Nothing makes them happy. For example:


Last week we were graced with 3 pectoral sandpipers, a vagrant from North America or possibly Siberia. The birds appeared on Bottom Tank, visible from the Phil Stead Hide. There were other waders with them, plenty of black-tailed godwit and ruff, and last Tuesday: 3 curlew sandpipers.   This should have kept everyone happy, and for our scrape management, was something of an achievement. But while lots of visitors enjoyed the spectacle, a few didn’t. We had complaints. Some of them verbal, some of them tweets.

Our 3 pectoral sandpipers photographed by Peter Garbutt.


The complaints were about the water level, which at that time was low. This is intentional. It appears that some visitors think we manage water levels on a scrape so that the birds can physically feed, ie not too deep for their little legs. But in fact, scrape management is about maximising the food in the mud. The food being Chironomid midge larvae which feed on organic material. We maximise this food by repeatedly flooding and drawing down the water level. And these birds were present as a result of that management.


It is bewildering that anyone could look out at those birds and complain about the view. But Darth Birders will live out the rest of their lives in this miserable way unless we can turn them back. We should all ensure we continue to enjoy the world around us. Nature is therapeutic in this modern world:- stay happy and don’t give in to the dark side.