Who’s watching who?

birdwatching on solar farm

I’m watching the birds but who’s watching me?

Another day, another bird survey but this morning it felt different. Yesterday, while undertaking a survey on a remote site with no public access, I had been watched through a telescope by a local birder. He took photos of me with a long lens and posted them on Twitter in the misguided belief I was doing my job incorrectly.

Of course I was upset by his attempt to discredit me but more than that I felt invaded. It made me feel vulnerable in a way that the isolation and the herds of cows and the occasional meeting with a shepherd or a gamekeeper never does.

People often ask me if I feel scared being in the countryside early in the morning on my own and I say truthfully that I never do. It is because to me the solitude is sanctuary and the occasional lone man I meet stops to have a friendly chat.

Now I feel watched, spied upon by a man with angry thoughts running through his head. I worry about the photos he took knowing that, a few minutes before he took the photo he had posted on twitter, I had pulled down my trousers and had a wee in the long grass. Did he take a photo of that too?

I sympathise with the desire to collect evidence to right some perceived wrong. I once took photos of an ecologist collecting dead lizards from a site after the bulldozers had been on but I took the photos openly and presented them to the local wildlife crime officer not posted them on social media for the person to be publicly tried without jury.

This morning out on another site at 6am I felt different. I wondered where he was, this man with his camera. Hiding behind a bush? Papping me from the windows of the Sheerness train? Watching me from a parked car? I crossed my legs when nature called and walked on, my solitude and privacy gone.

15 thoughts on “Who’s watching who?

  1. How sad it is that you have been made to feel this way. No doubt the man was thinking he was right but to publish pictures without you consent or to speak to you first is a bit naughty, especially as you were on your own. This could be seen as an invasion of privacy especially when you needed to answer a call of nature and i hope he had the decency not to post that picture as that is just wrong if he did.

    You had permission to be there, was he on public land or the same private land without permission.

    This is an example of social media being used wrongly. I dont use twitter or facebook as i feel they are intrusive into lives in a negative way a lot.

    Your work is vital to nature and you must put this to the back of your mind as best you can and do what you do best, looking after nature. Your friends and fans are with you.

    Take care.

    • Many thanks Richard. The man was on a public footpath overlooking where I was working. I sympathise with your feelings about facebook and twitter and have reservations about them as well but they can be good forums for promoting ideas and getting support for campaigns. I believe 100% in what I am trying to achieve for wildlife on the marshes and feel I am getting results so, no, this won’t put me off doing a job I love and try to do well.

  2. So sorry you had to go through this experience. It’s a shame we have to consider things like this still. I just hope that he has learnt a lesson and everyone who was part of that conversation learnt their lesson too.

  3. That’s horrible, I also have always felt safe as a solo walker in the countryside, not always the same in urban areas. If he thought you were doing something wrong why not come & talk to you.
    Taking long range pictures & then putting them online is wrong. I hope you reported him.

    • I agree I would never walk through an urban park after dark but have wandered around the reserve that I used to live on in the dead of night. I guess you do an internal risk assessment of such things. I am going to put this one incident down to stupidity but if he does it again then I will report him.

      • Hopefully he won’t repeat. We do do an internal assessment, without really thinking about it. I hate that it restrains me at times but at the end of the day safety & feeling safe are important. Take care & keep enjoying outdoors.

  4. I would be tempted to accidently damger his lens, but then your playing into their hands. Name and shame him so others know what sort of person he is. A few quiet words in the ear from others may prevent him doing it again,

    Some people just have to spoil your day .

    • Thanks Richard. I think I’ll steer clear of criminal damage, there are bigger fish to fry but the quiet words have been had.

  5. Thanks. I have been out every morning since then and feel quite defiant. Watch me or not, that’s his business. I intend to enjoy the spring and the wildlife.

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