The two legged kind! And you have to say that with a leer and a wink. Today I would like to discuss my daughter and her struggle with bloomin’ stupid men who think that people of the female persuasion cannot possibly know anything much about their pet hobby of ornithology.
My daughter has loved birds and animals all her life. It began when she was old enough to notice the two cats we had. They had been part of our family long before she was born and it was important that she learned to respect them. Not only did she respect them, but she loved them, and they loved her! They became her protectors, her extra parents and her best friends. Her reading development went in leaps and bounds as she practised by reading to out cats. Later, she began to notice other animals and birds. My parents often took her to the Washington Wildfowl Park where she loved to feed the birds. It was there, as a toddler still in leading reins, that she noticed how there were many different sizes and colours of birds, and she began a life-long love of them. That led her to study for a BSc in animal behaviour and ornithology, and then to an MSc in ornithology. Added to years of many bird surveys, paid and volunteered, that gave her the experience that led to her being employed as an ecologist for an international engineering company.
By and large, she’s found that fellow ecologists respect her knowledge and experience; no problems there. Where she does have problems, is with retired men who have taken up bird-watching as a hobby to fill in their spare time and get them out from under their partners’ feet. You’ve probably seen them. Whether they go in for train spotting, bird watching, golf, bike riding… they always have to spend as much money as possible on the most expensive equipment. And that money has miraculously given them a wealth of knowledge as well. By osmosis presumably.
My daughter has lost count of the number of times she’s been in a hide somewhere, quietly watching birds through her relatively cheap binoculars, and a beginner has to ask, what is that bird?. Immediately Mr. Hobbyist has to answer, sure that he and only he can possibly know what it is. If she, quietly and politely, differs, she’s sneered at, patronised and given a put-down. She’s a nice girl, my daughter, and she never replies as she could. She just smiles and lets the silly man puff himself up and give out completely false information as much as he wants to.
Sometimes she meets them at bird conferences. where she’s invariably one of the youngest in the room. Those old blokes have a great time, sneering at the quality and cost of each other’s equipment. They’re like old stags, past their prime, but still trying to clack antlers and show off that they’re not ageing, not really. But she can console herself that she is lucky. Having spent all her working life, she hopes, in ecology and ornithology, she will be able to make her work into her hobby, when she’s ready to retire. And I bet, that if she is in a hide, with expensive binoculars etc. she would never look down on a younger person, lad or lass, who knew a thing or two about birds.