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Birders Duke It Out on the Trail of the Capercaillie

 by Danielle Maestretti


Tags: Great Writing, birders, birdwatching, capercaillie, Victoria James, New Statesman, Danielle Maestretti,

CapercaillieBehold the capercaillie, a large, elusive grouse that’s the object of much bird-watching lust across the pond. So much so, in fact, that when Victoria James sets out to spot it in the forests of Scotland, she finds the 5:30 a.m. trail crowded with hyper-competitive birders in earnest (read: non-communal) search of same. Her tale, shared in the British current affairs magazine New Statesman, is really quite funny, in particular her sharp, somewhat scientific description of her fellow bird-devotees:

For this is the dark secret of birders, normally the most affable people alive: Until the target has been spotted, it’s every man for himself. Like the object of his fascination, the male birder is both competitive and highly territorial. In the hide this morning, a successful breeding male (the dowdier female and offspring huddle nearby) has staked a prime position for his scope. Behind him, a thwarted smaller male gives a hopping, ducking display of frustration. This is war, except that all the scopes, lined up like Gatling guns, are pointing in the same direction.

Source: New Statesman 

Image by Richard Bartz, licensed under Creative Commons.