Who you are, or at least, who you say you are.

The Readers’ Poll was filled in by just over 400 of you – thank you.

You seem to be like me: 82% living in England, 75% male, middle-aged, Guardian reading, wildlife-magazine reading, potential Labour voting, RSPB members.  Well – there’s a surprise!

This blog now gets c8000 unique visitors each month.  I would guess, and it is a guess, that there are about 2000 ‘hard-core’ readers of my blog and that lots of other come and go, so 400 responses should give a good indication of what the readership is like.  And I think it probably does as the results weren’t very different after the first 10 responses let alone the first 100.












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36 Replies to “Who you are, or at least, who you say you are.”

  1. In recent days there has been anxt over the age of the bird-watching/naturalist/conservation community and what we should do to try and recruit more youngsters. Your survey also highlights a potential gender issue. Assuming your readership broadly reflects the conservation community as a whole it is worrying that there is a three to one bias towards men. There are of course many excellent female conservatonists working in all sectors of the field who make great role models but how do we encourage more young girls to follow in their footsteps?

    1. Jonathan - encouraging women has always been a hobby of mine. But seriously, I would be very surprised if the gender bias were accurate although the point you make still stands.

      I was struck at the BTO Conference on Saturday by the preponderance of old blokes, but at the RSPB AGM I would be struck by the number of mature ladies. I'd be more worried by 'old' than 'male' but it is still the case that the more we can do to encourage every type of person to be actively involved in nature conservation the better. And how many people of Asian, Afro-Caribbean or Oriental origins have you seen at your local bird club or nature reserve. There are lots of 'missing' people.

      There are a great many bright young women working in nature conservation and the environment (and some were evident at the BTO Conference). I hope that is a positive sign of the future.

      But this blog is written by a bloke and it wouldn't surprise me if it didn't 'work' for a variety of reasons for some women. For example, I am interested in raptors (and raptor persecution) and write about that quite often, and that seems to be a slightly bloke-ish subject (but works for many readers apparently). So I thought I would check that - and of the responders to the questionnaire actually a slightly higher proportion of women 'liked' the raptor persecution blogs than did the men. Well there you go - wrong again!

      And although my writing style is infinitely adaptable (!) it tends to the outspoken (and that won't change) and that may not work for all audiences.

  2. "And although my writing style is infinitely adaptable (!) it tends to the outspoken (and that won’t change) and that may not work for all audiences."

    The poor showing of The Field in the "what magazines do you read?" suggests it doesn't work too well for the twelve bore and tweeds set - you must try harder!

    Seriously though, you are probably right that the 3:1 ratio doesn't reflect the true gender ratio in the overall nature conservation community. I hope so. I would be interested to know the true ratio though, as you suggest, it clearly varies considerably depending on which sub-set of nature conservationists one looks at.

  3. Think your thoughts on less female readers of your blog is correct as you are perhaps your blog is more forthright than females would usually respond too also lots of females are not raptor lovers.
    What I found surprising was the bias towards Labour which I can only think is a condemnation of the present Government as my guess would have been more 50/50 the way I would have guessed your readers to have voted in the past.

    1. What a wonderfully dismissive and sweeping statement! Clearly in liking raptors and Mark's forthright style I am a strange female...

      1. Well my Mrs likes raptors anyway. In fact she was quite miffed at the RSPB when our new membership cards arrived the other week: "Huh, you've got a Sea Eagle and I've only got a bloody Meadow Pipit."

      2. I must be another strange "female" (I personally prefer to be called a woman) as I really enjoy this blog because of it's forthright style (no beating around the bush on issues that I am passionate about) and I certainly agree with Mark's focus on raptors.

        1. Kate W - welcome and thank you for your comment. I don't mind being followed by strange women - I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

  4. Most of you will know where I’m coming from and it’s easy for me to say – “the survey? - that’s exactly what I thought”

    I take The Field, Horse & Hound, Country Life, Shhhhhooooting Times, Farmers Guardian Farmers Weekly Countryside Weekly – Saturday’s Telegraph (for the TV – I used to take the Guardian – but it sometimes gets a bit ‘Guardianish’ – so to speak – But its probably the Best Paper – most readable – certainly its graphics – just a shade hypocritical – and Polly Toynbee lives on a different planet – doesn’t she?
    Somebody who should know suggests the Guardian’s circulation will plummet to 31,000 within two years – go bust and be reborn as the Auto Trader.

    And I read Guido Fawkes to get the Truth – and I dislike the BBC so very much because I don't!

    I didn’t respond to the Survey – the book list (zero read) suggested it was not for me!

    Of course Mark will be pleased because of the strong vote for ‘Naturalist’ underpins the Title – Fighting for Nature – his next publication.

    So there you are The Shhhhhooooting Times – the intelligent man’s Guardian.

    Sorted !

      1. And you Sir are very kind - I feel that this blog deserves visitors such as I so as to rattle the cages of those 'high and mighty' bloggers - "I worry about the gender difference - 3:1" What absolute tosh - Get on and worry about your Birds - DO SOMETHING - TAKE ACTION - HAVE A COLLECTION FOR SOMETHING

        You've all got FIVE days to think of something that will ACTUALLY help your birds (or the Environment generally) and that excludes a subscription for your children to the RSPB - that plainly ain't working - If it was - Mark would have stayed and continued doing good - he left to improve things - So here's the Grand Challenge Mark - go for it!

        Anf this is serious - it ain't funny at all!

        Boldly go! Right or Wrong!

  5. I didn't take part because I don't like these surveys too much but I have checked the results and they are probably about as I would expect (slightly surprised by the political split and thought it might be more even). My main worry, looking at the age profile, is that I seem to be slipping very fast down the slope at the end.

  6. Just a question Mark (which you may have answered at the time of the poll but I missed the whole thing)...why was there only a choice between two political parties?

    1. Chequertree - to keep it simple! And to include more across the UK means including an awful lot of them from the BNP to the greens and from the Scots Nats to the LibDems.

  7. So we are, indeed, all lefties ! perhaps no great surprise there, and looking at other answers we probably aren't that representative.

    Making a link to yesterday, one thing that really struck me was almost as many BC members as NT members ! Extraordinary - and despite the widly held concern about NT conservation expressed in this blog, still pretty surprising.

    And very topical. Because with their plans for the NT Peak District holding the NT could be taking a direction many of us can support - they do seem to have pointed up the question 'can grouse and raptors live together', concluded that they can't and come down firmly on the side that if one or the other has to go it has to be the grouse shooting. At this time this is hugely important and hugely to the crdit of the Trust: they are doing absolutely what they should be doing as a national conservation charity. But wherever this came from within the Trust it is hard to imagine there will not be voices of caution and, more significantly in this very opaque, establishment organisation, attempts to lean on what is a ground breaking position.

    One active thing we all can do to try and save the Hen harrier in England is to give every bit of support we can to the Trust's brave and honourable move - perhaps starting with a letter to the new DG and the Chairman !


      What makes you think the NT knows anything about anything?


      What we want to see

      We're calling on the Government to rapidly beef up its commitments before publication of the updated plan in March. We'd like to see stronger commitment to three critical actions:

      * Completing the task of tracing and destroying all infected ash trees planted across the country in the last five years
      * Leading a more intensive survey of the core infected area so we know more about the extent of these infections, and how it is spreading
      * Commissioning - and funding in full - a range of research into this disease, including into ways of reducing spore spread and increasing the resistance of existing trees.


      NT Rationale:

      Bovine TB is a serious problem that needs urgent attention.

      All the evidence points to the need for a multi-pronged approach, and that the top priority is to stop the spread of the disease between cattle. There is also a need to address the reservoir of bovine TB in badger populations, a cause of infections in some cattle herds.


      “Thus herd-to-herd transmission is not sufficient to sustain TB in the cattle population, in the absence of transmission from badgers”

      Who pays these guys – and for what? Surely some Lefties have good scientific brains?

      1. Re NT “Completing the task of tracing and destroying all infected ash trees planted across the country in the last five years” If that is really true ....oh dear. What a waste of money. I walked round the corner of a field that someone had left to naturally regenerate and it was crammed with ash saplings which were like a practical guide for the defa factsheet.
        Everyone has to jump up and down and shout the right words and demand someone “do something” these days. What they need to call for is proper quarantine.
        The rest of the action plan is a bit of a waste of time to, with some bits of nature man is inadequate when it comes to pitching himself against it.

    2. Excellent suggestion Roderick! I hope they get flooded with letters of support over their excellent vision for this special place.

  8. I'm thankful and a little surprised to see that (slightly) more responders read British Wildlife (and therefore must subscribe) than BBC Wildlife (no subscription necessary and available in most high streets each month).
    Other than that I am certainly in the tiniest minority with regards to another question (not at all surprising).

  9. My observations on the topic of women being interested in wildlife. I suspect the results are quite representative of the real world. Just look at the authors of the articles in British Wildlife magazine and books about wildlife (e.g. New Naturalist series) they are mostly men. I listen to Woman's Hour on Radio 4 - it includes very little mention of issues regarding women in nature conservation or mention of nature at all. And when it comes to women's magazines, from what I have seen of them (and I must admit I don't look very often) I don't think nature ever gets a mention, except perhaps if it is related to gardening. Yet, when I go out walking in the countryside - I would say there are just as many women as men - though it does tend to be the men with the binoculars and cameras! (it is the reverse with me and my bloke) I have just signed up to a little informal competition organised by the BTO. Its called Foot It and it is a competition to see who can see the most birds in their home patch by foot in January. So far, out of 39 entrants I seem to be the only woman - that is assuming that all the names that sound like men's names are men. From the names they all sound like white men too.

    Personally I don't think the reason that fewer women seem to be interested in wildlife is because we are excluded by men - though I have to say I have in the past suffered from sexism when working as a conservation volunteer (for example older blokes commandeering the hammer, and one man who pointedly counted out my shovel loads as I piled some soil into a wheelbarrow). It may just be due to peer pressure or paucity or visible role models in the popular media.

    Now, I've just checked this out. Barbie (the teenage doll) does go on an arctic rescue (on a pink ski bike) own a zoo, train dolphins and/or go camping in her toy sets. Can't see any pictures of her with binoculars, microscope or wearing green combat trousers and an outdoorsy cagoule.

  10. Well I'm one of those rare female readers and I do enjoy the tone of Mark's blogs - forthrightness is fine by me!

    I don't bother with newspapers much, although would take much more of an interest if the same amount of column space was put to science/conservation/natural history/birdwatching as to football and all those other equally pointless (in my opinion) sports which are talked about endlessly.

    I find many discussions interesting, and actually try to read the blog most days. I've learned a lot about farmland birds. I've also picked up all sorts of interesting information from the many regular commenters, although some I take less seriously than others.

    I happily read discussions on raptors, although the focus on the unfortunate hen harrier makes for depressing reading. Having said that, the loss of lowland biodiversity (birds and other taxa) is probably far greater, just less easy to point a finger at, but something I'm all to aware of living as I do in an arable desert.

    Over the years I have known a number of game keepers. Killing things seems to be somehow second nature (that isn't to imply breaking the law is also second nature). Personally I don't get it, killing things for fun I mean, and would happily see the whole lot banned (including sport fishing) and everyone's efforts diverted into keeping wildlife/ecosystems for their own sake and if we humans can enjoy them too then so much the better.

    I don't post comments often as don't feel I have too much to add of value. Doubt this one has added much either, but hey, some views from one of your female readers anyway!

  11. Sian,I thought your comment was very good and think you should give us the benefit of your views more often.

  12. Bit late but some thoughts
    Re age. In the comments on young Findlay’s blog at least two said that they were the only one in the school interested in birds/wildlife. So maybe it is always like that.
    Yes our local Wildlife Trust talks are all of the retired age group. I guess like your experience at the RSPB of a large proportion of older ladies. This may be an effect of people looking for something to do in retirement which may prove “sustainable” with continued recruitment.
    Your blog followers (who responded) are of working age. It made me wonder is there space for a lot of young workers or are all the posts filled. Our wildlife trust has a lot of younger employees as it is expanding. I once worked in a developing country and the first tranche from the university filled all the available agricultural posts and that was it.
    John Burton of the World Land Trust (who once recommended your blog, hence my arrival) asked a question on 19 July, 2012 “There are more and more universities advertising Masters’ degrees in Conservation. But how many jobs are there?” When he was blogging about “Carer advice for consevationists” something you might like to have a crack at.
    He thinks “The reality is that universities are churning out lots of graduates in conservation – it appears to be an attractive career – but there are relatively few opportunities for academic conservationists.”

    On the young enthusiast aspect. Young people love to know they are doing something useful and it would be great if they could link with enthusiastic farmers as I think they would enjoy making records of changes as a result of ag. practices.
    Back in the early 1960s our geography teacher had us go round farms in lower Teesdale and record their cropping. It was just as cereals were arriving to replace dairy and in the area, rotations shortening and drainage improving. The area was alive with lapwing and curlew, riding round now it is silent.

  13. Maybe some need to put down their binoculars and have a look around, I see plenty of women actively taking part in conservation, e.g. your last post about HH, I think, unless it's changed again but the Northants WT has quite a few women involved, one women who watches birds with her husband constantly cleans up after litte louts around Summer Leys, not as a volunteer but because she cares about the place, I also see many carrying cameras photographing birds and all of them seem to be 20 times better then me 🙁 So perhaps it's a case women unlike us men don't need scream/shout/opionate as loudly as us men....plus they have LOOSE WOMEN (just post that yellow card Mark 🙂 )

  14. I have already posted a couple of my first comments on this blog over the last few days and like Findlay who posted his guest blog two or more days ago I consider myself to be one of the elusive young naturalists. I am constantly reminded (despite my passion for conservation helped a lot by Mark Avery's work and this blog) that I am too young to help the environment even though I think I am more than capable of volunteering. I also believe that there is a lack of ecology/Conservation teaching at schools. This is an issue that needs to be sorted out.

    1. Jack - a belated welcome! Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that learning about the natural world, the real world, should be a bigger part of our education system.

  15. Female comment. Mark could not resist adding this. I had left a Birdguides page up to read later on “Patchwork Challenge” wondering what it was about. My wife read it and “anoraks” and “men” came into it. Jack Milton a young birder - wants to do something useful for conservation. Maybe some time could be spent turning the Patchwork Challenge into something more educational and useful as well as creating an esoteric scoring systems.
    Just remembered a local chap started a recording program of hedgerow composition for the Millennium anybody any creative ideas how that could be used/incorporated. (Our boundary has a long length of blackthorn which is popular with Bullfinches in the early spring as it is first to flower; before they move onto my apple trees.)

  16. Mark, I am interested in how your readers/respondents answered the question on flying. I assume you put this question in because of climate change impact and whether awareness of this changed behaviours. Did you get any responses that people weren't flying, or were flying less than average?

    This is the first of your blog posts that I have commented on, but I've been reading for 18 months or so, and always find the posts interesting and informative, and suitably angry. There are far too many mealy-mouthed environmental blogs, it's a relief to actually see someone reflecting how angry I feel about the state of the natural environment.

    1. KateW - there were lots of '0', 'none' and 'never' and some saying that they did fly but wished they didn't have to. Interesting to browse but quite difficult to summarise.

      1. I can see that would be difficult to graph! As someone that gave up flying a number of years ago for environmental reasons, it's heartening to see that other people who take environmental issues seriously have similar feelings. I can never quite square the green types that I know who fly off for holidays whilst eating their organic food and driving their Priuses!

  17. Of people that have posted comments to The Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project blog over the last five years (during which time we've received over two million hits from some 75 countries to our web cams and blog), at least 80% are women whereas, as everyone knows, with the bird watching fraternity it is the other way about.
    My hunch is that watching birds in close up laying eggs and rearing their young links strongly to what I hope I am still allowed to call 'the maternal instinct'.
    Encouragingly many of these women then come to watch the birds 'for real' through the telescopes we provide. Even more encouragingly, some have subsequently become involved and active in other aspects of nature conservation.
    (Maybe we should beam our peregrine web cam images into girls schools as a priority!)
    That aside, we do intend to engage with the dominant minority communities in Derby next year, beginning with those in which Polish, Urdu and Punjabi are spoken. Already we have some text in Polish available on the blog....
    Once we have got them hooked on watching the web cams, perhaps they'll come to the Cathedral to see the birds for themselves and then even venture out into the Derbyshire countryside beyond. Now that would be a minor triumph - especially if 80% of them were women!


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