Bird of the week: Trouble down pit with the Black-winged Stilts
This isn’t really a post about the lovely – all-wings-legs-and-bill Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus – but more an opportunity to grab a guest post from my Alice Springs birding buddy Chris Watson that makes the gentlest but no less effective of sprays at the conduct of a few members of the more rabid class of birders (sub-species Birdus twitterus) some of whom suffer under the delusion that they are the most important people on this beautiful earth and have a god-given right to see those birds – any birds – NOW.
I’ve written about two aspects of this business before – back in 2009 in this trip around the wonderful place that is the Alice Springs Shit Pits and again over at the ABC’s The Drum on the issues that can arise when the rarest bird in the country turns up on someone else’s land.
Very much a story of the right bird in the wrong place at the right time being pursued by the wrong people..
You can see more of Chris’s lovely work at his adventures in Centralian birding and more at Birds Central Australia.
Here is Chris’s open letter that was posted yesterday evening over at Birding-Aus – the Australian birding community web-log.
I thought it pertinent to put out a reminder to anyone visiting Alice Springs and hoping to access our magnificent sewage ponds. Power & Water have recently changed the process for gaining a key for birding access.
The main difference is that you now have to complete an online induction before your application for access will be processed.
I’ve gone to a fair bit of trouble to explain all the steps required for access on my blog, and concocted a brief guide to the facility, but I’m still getting many emails (some not so friendly) from disappointed visitors who have arrived expecting to arrange their key on arrival.
The process now takes considerably longer, but should still run smoothly if you organise it before your visit.
Please spread the word. You can view further details, including links to Power & Water’s page here.
On a related note, and this is very much an “if the cap fits” comment, but when you’re a visiting birder somewhere and expecting advice and assistance from local birders – be nice. I’m sure these access issues are a common feature of an increasing number of similar facilities across the country.
Rarely, if ever I would wager, are they instigated by local birders trying to restrict access to “their” ponds. To state the obvious – these procedures are an onerous legal formality imposed by the operators of industrial facilities to cover their liability in the event of accidents. Local birders are bound by these conditions as much as any visitors. Don’t blame us, we’re just trying to help.
(Confession: I recently did something a bit naughty. A visiting birder was caught without a key and, as I wasn’t using mine on that day and very much against the rules, I loaned them mine. I had never met the person, but believe in helping out visiting birders. My assistance was repaid by the person losing my key – lesson learnt. So I have recently had to go through the whole application process and can vouch that it takes a bit of fiddling around online.)
Sternly worded letters to administrative staff of such corporations and combative encounters with shop-front staff, are only likely to have one outcome; the closure of such facilities to birders. Shop-front staff find dealing with insistent birders just as onerous and boring as birders find the process themselves.
With management fielding complaints from both sides, it is easy to see the most expedient course of action for them to end the problem altogether. As far as I am aware, these businesses are not obliged to permit access to these facilities, but there are still a few in the birding community who need to understand this and start seeing access as the privilege that it is, and behaving in such a way that will guard this privilege rather than jeopardise it.
My encounters with visiting birders in Alice Springs over the years have been overwhelmingly friendly, enjoyable, and rewarding. To anyone* not*overwhelmingly friendly, enjoyable or rewarding – cheer up.
Birding is much too important to be taken so seriously.