If you are a veteran birdwatcher or twitcher – a watcher of rare birds – you are probably aware of and knowledgeable about the birdwatchers’ code. However, if you are new to the activity of birdwatching, you might not have heard of it. The birdwatchers’ code is to ensure the safety of the birds you are watching and to promote acting responsibly, while also promoting the joy of the activity to all.
Here’s a brief rundown of the code and how to stick to it:
Keep the interests of the birds paramount
When you are birdwatching, make sure you don’t disturb habitats or interrupt a bird’s natural rhythms. If a bird is distressed, it could abandon a nest with hungry chicks or leave the nest open to predators. In addition, frequent disruption could use up vital energy needed for feeding if it is a migrant bird you are watching. If a bird keeps flying away or making alarm calls, you are too close.
Be an ambassador
Ultimately, the more people who are passionate about birdwatching and the conservation of wildlife in general, the better. Yes, you want to enjoy the peace and quiet of your hobby, but try to respond positively to passers-by who ask questions. If you’re away from home, consider using local facilities and boosting the area’s economy so that a positive association with birdwatching is formed.
Know the countryside code
Access for walkers to the countryside differs around the country, so make sure you are up to date with the local laws when you plan your trip. Always treat the countryside and landowners with respect and as a polite guest.
Keep a record and send it in
Your recordings are vital for future conservation and understanding of birds and their habits. You can record your findings via the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) websites, or to local county societies. The BTO also holds information on national monitoring schemes you can get involved with too.
There is nothing more exciting for a twitcher than to lay eyes on a rare bird. Naturally, you want to tell everyone. However, exercise caution and judgement when passing on news of a rare sighting, especially during breeding season. Rare birds are at risk from egg collectors, so think twice before taking to social media.
Bear in mind that a rare sighting could well bring lots of visitors to the area. Talk to the landowner before spilling your news, as they might not be able to support a sudden surge of footfall. Often, with a little notice, landowners are happy to facilitate organised visits that protect the land and the birds.
If you keep all of these aspects of the birdwatchers’ code in mind, you will have a rewarding time while respecting the countryside you are visiting and the landowners whose ground you are on. Most importantly though, the birds that you are passionate about will remain safe and happy.