I won't be birding as much anymore.
I love birding, but I spend a lot of time alone down here while doing it. There was not really a community to welcome me with open arms. I had to create one. And still... even with those efforts, it's been a lot of drama and ridiculous crap.
One of the first things I was told when I got here was not "Welcome" or "We're glad to have you"... it was "You'll need to prove yourself". And you know what I say to that? What a crock of B.S!
I used to look forward to birding- the excitement of finding new birds, and meeting new birders. But now, I'm jaded. I don't really look forward to meeting anyone, because if I've learned anything here, they'll think I'm an idiot. And if they're fake enough to want to "get to know me first", they'll certainly be an ass once they do. I'll be told of all the things I'm doing wrong to hinder me from "fitting in". If I talk about an accomplishment, I'll be called a braggart. If I respond to the fact that none of my sightings are ever confirmed without a photo, no matter how well I describe behavior or field marks... well, then I'm just whining or too sensitive. I'm just "over-reacting". And if I talk about how I've been treated this way from day one, I'll be told "You just haven't proven yourself yet".
And you know what? Birding shouldn't be that way. Sure, not everyone can ID a bird all that well. But, that's why you teach. That's why you're kind. That's why saying things like, "You need to prove yourself" are not beneficial, but harmful. They drive people away from birding. If you treat someone like an idiot, especially without just cause, they'll give you the finger and walk away.
Every sighting unreasonably questioned, being told I am "too sensitive", being told that "I haven't proven myself".... to everyone who has ever had the nerve to insult me or question my integrity, all I can say is this: You've lost a better birder than you'll ever be.
I'll always love birds... but other birders... well, there are certainly great ones. I have met a couple here... but they aren't listers. And maybe that's the common thread. Maybe I should just get away from listing and chasing.... because I haven't met a single kind birder in the time I've wasted doing it.
I was told that I shouldn't write this... but, I've never been one to hold back. And, I've gotten feedback from newer birders who have experienced the same things here that I have. They confide in me privately about being shunned from group meetings, being treated like an idiot, talked down to, and sometimes even flat out ignored at outings. This sort of thing has to stop. Birding shouldn't be some hierarchy. We shouldn't have to "earn our keep" or "prove ourselves".
I don't really know what else to say on the subject. But, there it is.