Birdwatchers, Photographers and Hides

Let me start by saying thanks to those of you who have posted comments on my piece regarding the hides at Coate.  I was hoping for some reaction but have been surprised by the amount of views this has generated on the site. It will certainly be interesting the next time I show my face in the Hides. As I expected the comments I have had, both on and off of the blog have been split between photographers disagreeing with me and birders coming down on my side. This follows the trend on all of the bird forums I have looked at. The bottom line for me is that when I arrived at the Hide on Sunday I was in a good mood and was looking forward to  some pleasant birdwatching. Half-an-hour later I was heading home feeling pretty annoyed. I guess that some of you are also annoyed at my blog. Obviously that isn’t right and it is down to all of us to make sure that anyone who goes to the Hides at Coate goes home happy. I now want to thank all of you (especially Graham and Tony) for your efforts in improving the Hides. The cushion, the feeders, the photographs etc are all fantastic. Graham mentioned in his comment that ninety or so permits have been issued this year, a massive increase on previous years. (Maybe SBC will invest a bit of that money back into the reserve) This is obviously a good thing but it has also caused problems. For those of us who have been regulars in the Hides for many years know, it was always a shock to find somebody else there when you arrived. Now it is hard to find a time that there is not someone in there. Even before six in the morning! Unfortunately, Hide 2 is not designed for a crowd and therefore we all need to be aware of the needs of others. On many occasions I have been set up for a long stay with all my bits and pieces spread around. Now it isn’t always possible to do that and it may be that you will need to move to give someone else a good view or a chance of that great Kingfisher photo. Of course a Hide shouldn’t silent but please keep the volume down and the conversation relevant. It  really isn’t the place to discuss DIY and Sport. As Helen said in her comment, new visitors are made welcome and are given help and advice. This is great and long may it continue.

So an apology to anyone that I have upset on this subject, my piece was intended to provoke discussion ( in which it has succeeded) and to make us all consider the way we use the hides and our effect on others. Hopefully we can all work together to make the Coate experience even better than it already is.

And just one final thing to keep it spiced up. Please Photographers ( and I am one of those to some degree). Please turn the sound off on your cameras. The beeping and shutter clicking is the most annoying noise of all.

19 responses to “Birdwatchers, Photographers and Hides

  1. I am very new to looking at birds and wildlife and thought that anyone that would go and sit in a hide for a few hours looking for different types of birds with or without a camera was the same. I can only thank the people that I have met for the help that they have given me. I can only apologise if any of my actions upset somebody but I am still learning so if I make a mistake in future please tell me then I know not to do it again. I love to go to the hides early in the morning and see the birds and different wild life, I have felt guilty that my actions on Sunday partially caused the upset which has gone on

    • Hi Steve,

      Please don’t feel guilty about it. When I arrived at hide one I was already in a bad mood so it was nothing to do with you. Filling the feeders was a logical thing for you to be doing. I hope that I haven’t put you off of visiting the hides and I hope to see you there again soon.

  2. Hi Malcolm
    I don’t think we have met as yet,firstly I do agree with you to an extent that sometimes the noise levels are very high in the hides at times,when I arrive I do respond to the situation if whoever is in there wants to talk then I will chat accordingly,as I said I am fairly new to the pleasure of being able to see and photograph wildlife at close quarters and am still learning what things are,and will ask if I’m not sure and think if someone spots something would be good to share this with others in the hide preferably not at high volume,also consideration is needed when space is limited with equipment ect and to allow all to see what maybe the only appearance of something all day. Also want to say the work and facilities that have been put in place at coate by other wildlife enthusiasts is great and is appreciated by all. Looks like venting your anger has worked it’s way through the community. And hopefully taken note of.

    Regards Helen.
    Ps I turned of my camera beep the moment I got it out of the box.

    • Hi Helen,

      It is great that so many more people are showing an interest in the wildlife at Coate. Overall it is beneficial as the more permits that are sold the more likely it is that SBC will put some effort into maintaining the area with the minimal resources they have available. I really didn’t intend coming over as angry, annoyed was more like it. Still it has opened up an interesting line of dialogue. Hopefully it will all settle down soon and we can all carry on enjoying the reserve.


  3. “It will certainly be interesting the next time I show my face in the Hides.” That it will!.

    It is always difficult and there is a difference between the type of hide needed for photography and general birdwatching. I have never yet found a hide that could easily accommodate both (unless you are on your own). It is the same when school parties use hides, in those circumstances I normally grab the noisiest (not literally) and say look through this scope at that Peregrine, Kingfisher or whatever and normally get one ‘Wow’ at least.

    • Maybe we need to have three days for birders and three days for photographers with a mixed day on the Sabbath.

  4. No I have not been put off going to the hides, I wish there where maps available to show where other hides are in other spots. The only trouble is that I have no transport only the bus and as of the 4th of next month will only have weekends to go spotting. any help with other web sites that will help would be greatly appreciated. And many thanks to all who have helped so far, I have learned more about wildlife and also about how to use my camera over the past few weeks so thanks to all. Steve

    • Hi Steve,
      Unfortunately there aren’t that many hides in this area anyway and relying on public transport makes it even more difficult.

  5. Marlene Finlayson


    I don”t wish to upset anyone but when I visit any hide and it is full I just go away and visit another time, I would not stand outside listening to the conversation inside and then complain about it. If I was inside a hide and had any issues with noise etc I would raise it there and then. The hide gets very busy at certain times of the year and everyone needs to get along. Most bird watchers have a spotting scope or camera and all the photographers that use the hides are interested in the wildlife so it is ridiculous to suggest separate days, if that was a serious comment. Also it would not be in our best interest to create so much noise and disturbance as to frighten the wildlife away. You have to judge whether the other people in the hide mind you talking or not.


    • Hi Marlene,

      Thank you for posting your thoughts.
      Here is my response;
      Many of us have a limited amount of time available for birdwatching and photography and some have to use public transport when they go out (see comment below from Steve Harper). Therefore we do not have the luxury of the time to “go away and visit another time”.
      As you say, the hide does get very busy on occasions. In my opinion, and I have done this myself. In this situation somebody who has been in the hide for a good amount of time should offer to move to allow others the opportunity to have a decent seat and view.
      I was not standing outside the hide listening. I was in the hide attempting to watch birds although I could hear the conversation as I approached along the boardwalk.
      I decided not to pass comment at the time as that would potentially caused a conflict which would have spoilt the afternoon for all in the hide.
      The comment about separate days was a light-hearted one, I would be amazed if anyone thought otherwise.
      Regarding your comment about frightening the wildlife away. In the few minutes that I spent in the hide that afternoon, unsurprisingly I did not see a single bird come anywhere near the hide which is one of the reasons that I left.
      Nobody seemed to be considering if I or one or two others minded the talking as it became louder and more persistent after I arrived. I do not have any objection to talking in a hide. However it should be relevant i.e. about the wildlife that is around (rather than about double glazing and sport on the television) and should be carried out at a suitable volume.

  6. Terry Winter.

    Hi Malcolm,
    I was in the hide that day and enjoyed seeing a fox, three deer, a Chinese soft shell turtle, several kingfisher landings and numerous other birds etc. The atmosphere within the hide was very friendly and unlike you i enjoyed my day spent with some very nice people.
    Regards Terry.

    • Hi Terry,
      I agree that most people in the hides are nice and friendly . Unfortunately I think that is part of the problem as naturally in that situation you do chat about all manner of subjects and that is when it can get a bit loud and thoughtless.

  7. Marlene Finlayson

    Hi Malcolm
    I could write a blog titled the curse of the dog walkers, cyclists, runners canoeists and any other person that crosses my path but I wouldn’t be so mean. I have been in the hide when it has been very noisy and just left and by the time I have reached home, forgotten about it. Also people don’t always make space for me in the hide and I have had some very strange/rude comments, like have I come to do the cleaning or have I got a bald head like the Mallard, but it is no big deal. People don’t always behave how you would like them to, thats life. At the end of the day people are more important than how many birds/wildlife I see and whether I get the shot of a lifetime. That day was the best I had ever seen for wildlife sightings and I am kind enough to send my pictures to Martin without charge. There were 4 people in the hide when I arrived and when another 2 people turned up the gentleman next to me gave up his set for the lady and I moved closer to Terry. The kingfisher turned up and we made sure she got pictures of it.
    So we were not all that thoughtless.
    Regards Marlene

    • Hi Marlene,
      The difference between the situation in a hide and that of the others that you mention is that a hide is there for a specific purpose, and those who go there have done so to watch and / or record wildlife, whereas the other annoyances are all people who are sharing public space. The bottom line is that we all have our own views on the subject and it has been interesting to see how they differ. It isn’t possible for everyone to agree, so hopefully we will all now think a little more regarding our impact on others.

  8. Marlene Finlayson


    It is ironic that the people that were most upset by your comments weren’t even there that day.


  9. Hi
    I have sat in the hide for hours with no signs of anything and on other days (with a full hide) have seen loads. My point is I don’t think the wildlife would be scared by human voices or there would never be any thing there.
    I have been in the hide with many people in it and pictured the kingfisher as it sat on the perch for 10-15 mins.
    There wil be conversation in the hides, I have learnt such a lot by talking to others about photography and I hope to learn more.It is also great to see all my new friends and converse with them.
    As with everything in this world it is hard to please everyone, but the people I’ve met enjoy coming to the hide and enjoy meeting their fellow photographers…

    • Hi Ray,

      Everyone who uses the hides will have their own way of passing the time. The important thing is to act in such a way that everyone can enjoy the time they spend there. Be it all day or just brief visit.


  10. Malcolm
    I own a Double Glazing company and if someone mentions that they need it I will respond, be it in a hide or at the pub. Just as you would talk about wildlife outside of the hide.
    In the hide on the day mentioned there was 8/9 people in there, its going to be louder than if you were on your own.
    If one hide is full I use the other, simple
    Thats to the guys for keeping the hides in such great condition


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