The news buzzing around on the interwebs is that a birder in Massachusetts has been arrested while he was birding. The email recounting the birder's plight can be found on the New Jersey birding listserv.
The birder claims he was birding in Rumney Marsh and someone from one of the houses next to the marsh called police because they thought the guy with binoculars was looking at their house. The birder then claims that after he left the marsh, police arrested him despite his claims of birding because the police said that there are no birds around in winter. The birder's binoculars were confiscated as evidence and the birder also has charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
I wasn't there, I have no idea if this is an example or police brutality or a lippy birder but it does make me think of all the times birders risk being mistaken for some sort of peeping tom or potential thief. Non Birding Bill and I have had an interesting week of tv watching the old Adam-12 series (pictured above) followed by a few episodes of The Wire. Two radically different police shows. Are the police all Reed and Malloys or are they all Bunk and McNultys? Somewhere in the middle would guess.
I think this story is a good reminder that as a birder, we can't just bound onto property or aim our scopes and binoculars in someone's yard and hope that when you reveal yourself as a bird watcher everyone will roll their eyes, call out, "Nerd Alert," and let you be.
I think this story is a good reminder that if we want to keep enjoying our hobby and passion--especially in any area where there is a house, we have to be diplomats whether we like it or not. We have to understand that there are going to be police who have no clue about Christmas Bird Counts, robins who spend the winter with us, Project Feeder Watch, airport snowy owls and all the other activities that we love.