Sunday, February 13, 2011
Should birder's wear camouflage?
Posted by Birding is Fun!
When I first got into birding with my father-in-law Lynn, we always wore camouflage articles of clothing while birding. He was a National Guard officer and a hunter, so maybe it was in his blood. I just thought it was part of getting closer to the birds without spooking them. Lynn joined me in southeastern Arizona in March of 2006 for a weekend birding trip. We wore our camos. I noticed that all the other birders were noticing us. They were all dressed like preppie weekend hikers with khaki shorts, fleece jackets, and expensive trail shoes, right out of the Eddie Bauer catalog. Not to mention, they were all skinny folks, and we...we'll we're both on the cuter side of of chubby. Ironically, in spite of wearing camos, we stood out like Willets among peeps.
With binoculars strapped to our chests and spotting scopes mounted on tripods with legs fully extended at-the-ready we appeared a force to be reckoned with. At the Ramsey Canyon visitors center, one birder commented to us, quite condescendingly through a snigger, "You must be serious birders!" I soon came to realize that the military or hunting association with camouflage clothing is looked down upon by a certain class of snooty judgmental birders. In order to blend in with the birders rather than nature I started wearing my everyday clothing when birding.
As my birding addiction waxed stronger and my birding experience broadened, I began to gather anecdotal evidence that I could get closer to birds when wearing navy blue and even royal blue. Am I insane? or can anyone else confirm my non-scientific evidence?
Now that I have added amateur photography to my birding, and currently limited to a 150mm lens, I am trying to be more stealthy in my approach to birds. I have gone back to occasionally wearing some articles of camouflage clothing, but never the full camo fatigues that I wore when I started birding. For Christmas, my wife got me a few yards of the new digital camouflage. I drape it over myself like a long flowing cloak and so far I feel like I've had pretty good results. I am my own blind. (see at the top of this post)
My recent family expedition to Farmington Bay in Utah revealed dozens of photographers in full camouflaged get-up, including camo lenses. They were fully exposed on the dike and the birds could probably see them just fine, so I'm not sure how much the camo helped in this particular situation. The birds seems oblivious to people dressed in everyday street cloths.
Maybe its emotionally safe to wear camo in places like Utah and Idaho, but not so much in other societies. So, what is your experience with birding and camouflage? Is there a negative stereotype associated with camouflage clothing that birders should be aware of? Does camo help you get closer to birds?