GULLSHITTING – THE RISE OF EGO IN BIRDING.
There have always been those in birding who command the respect of their peers by means of knowledge; erudition; skills and general gravitas. People the like of the extremely knowledgeable, but self–effacing P. J. Grant and Peter Hayman; men who’s articles on identification and distribution made a massive and meaningful contribution to the library of ornithological data. To read a publication like British Birds was to feel enlightened and that a key piece of identification had been unearthed; these people knew what they were talking about. A whole generation looked up to these writers and birders.
Then came the boom in the popularity of birding. Suddenly, Experts abounding, filling all available space. People with very little experience could be heard fulminating on subjects like the primary pattern of Oriental Plover or some other esoteric and almost mythical species, even though most of them had never heard of them three weeks earlier, never mind seen them in the field. These included The Gullshitter. A generic term; not confined to gull identification – they could just as well be Warblershitters or Wadershitters. Any small fact (or fantasy) they could propound upon to raise their profile. They have a Blog and a Vlog. They give talks on their local patch to people who have difficulty with Dunnock and want that definitive shot of Kingfisher. They lead tours around small nature reserves and tell all that will listen on social media how brilliantly it went. They always describe themselves on the social media as ‘ornithologist’; 'writer'; 'birding expert' or ‘tour leader, The Gullshitter… pronouncing at length on the identification of subspecies of gulls/warblers etc; using splitting techniques that would cast several races of humans into different species.
You can hear them at a rarity; loudly exhorting the surrounding throngs where it is; what it is doing; the fact that it is calling; what the field marks are, sometimes unfortunately on the wrong bird. Their Facebook account is full of constant self-aggrandisement. You long for the days before the internet, when an ‘experts’ reputation was built on respect; fieldcraft and production, rather than ego and who can shout the loudest.
Thank fuck I am not an "expert".