They're a touchy lot, birders. Look at Aaron here, frothing at the mouth, randomly capitalising, spraying quote-marks, and delivering a classic telling-off, the like of which I haven't been on the receiving end of since I was in the fourth form and involved in a bit of lunch-time out-of-bounds mischief. He's upset because of an - admittedly - inaccurate introduction written by the editor to my story about Stewart Island, which describes the island as "predator-free". It's not, of course, as I make quite clear in a paragraph halfway through: "... cats, rats and possums require constant vigilance".
But let's give Aaron a bit of leeway here - he's a biology teacher, after all, not English (like me) and reading comprehension skills are clearly not his forte. (In a follow-up email, he misses the point again.) He's anxious about the birds and, even if he's somewhat irrational in his belief that the erroneous use of the phrase in question "will mean more birds die", I can sympathise with that. I'm quite fond of birds myself, as regular readers (!) well know, and am happy to have spotted plenty of them in my travels.
I have, though, been effectively black-listed by the NZ Parks and Conservation Foundation, thanks to a frivolous column I wrote long ago for the Herald during the summer silly season:
There is a standard joke in the UK that when you visit New Zealand you have to set your watch back 30 years. That would still put you 100 years ahead of Pamela Wade though, judging from the views expressed in her article in Wednesday's Herald. Ms Wade bemoans the poor quality of the native songbirds, which she compares unfavourably to the "heart-lifting glory" of the exotic species introduced by the "pioneers in the 19th century - people who have since been vilified for their insensitivity to biological purity". When gardeners can augment their beds with the best that other countries have to offer, why, she asks, should we not be able similarly to enhance our parks and gardens with pretty and tuneful birds from around the world?
What does all this prove? That apparently people who officially care about birds have no sense of humour or irony, and are so hot-headed about their beliefs that they can't actually read properly. It's a bit sad, really. So here's one of my (many, many) nice pictures of birds to make us all feel better: