Fieldcraft Guidance

It's appropriate at this point to provide a little gentle guidance about how we should all try to behave when out birding.

What is fieldcraft? Put simply, it is some helpful techniques to help you to see birds before they are scared off by you, and, once you have found them, to get the best possible views of them. Most of it is common sense, but it does no harm to give it a little thought, as it can make a huge difference to the pleasure that you can get from going out birding.

It starts before you leave home! Think about what you are wearing and how that is likely to be viewed by birds in the field. Avoid wearing white or brightly coloured clothes as these will be more easily noticed; try to choose neutral colours like greens and browns which help you to blend in more with the surroundings. If you are wearing a jacket or rainwear, it is better if these don’t rustle and swish at every step (most birds have very good hearing and will be made aware of you long before you get in range); if you are choosing items of clothing like this, then try to select fabrics which are quiet when you move.

Once you are out, try to move slowly and avoid making sudden movements which are much more likely to be noticed; try also to move quietly, making as little noise as possible – if you are birding with someone else, then keep conversation levels down. Birds are also more likely to see you if you appear against the skyline or are silhouetted against a different colour background, so aim to avoid this if you can. Hides are a huge help in getting close to birds but the effect can be totally ruined if simple rules aren’t followed. Open the flaps slowly and quietly and don’t stick your hands/arms/head out of the window - and don’t be tempted, if the hide is full, to look round the side or over a nearby bank as I have seen happen on occasions. It is a sure way to ruin the birding for others and upset a lot of people!

There are also some extra things to think about if you are part of a Group. Noise levels can easily rise if a few conversations are going on at the same time, so again, make sure that you talk quietly. Apart from not alerting the birds, it will help the leader, who may well be listening for bird song or calls. Please don’t go ahead of the leader, who may be aware of birds ahead that you haven’t seen; you may also flush birds that other members of the group further back would like to see. If a bird is found and other group members haven’t been able to find it, avoid pointing at it when trying to show it to others; birds seem particularly aware of being pointed at, and rapidly depart! It is far more effective to describe where the bird is.

Remember always that the birds must come first. Disturbance of the birds and their habitats should be avoided.

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