Marvellous Mammals

Today’s cogitation came about after spending some time on Jon Hall’s fascinating  Mammal Watching blog.  It got me thinking, why does mammal watching not enjoy the same level of interest and profile that bird watching attracts?  As a mammal enthusiast, who’s interested in all forms of creature, I find this rather mystifying.  For me, the sheer morphological and behavioural variety of mammals is intrinsically interesting; so why is the spotting of them often in the shadow of the ornithological equivalent?

It could have something to do with the fact that birds are generally easier to spot, or at least, perceived to be less time-consuming to locate. But even if that is the case, for me, much of the mammalian allure comes from the time spent researching and tracking them.  When you do get a sighting, it makes it all the more special and memorable – not to mention satisfying and rewarding.  Many of our mammal species are rarely studied and therefore little is known about them.  Observing such a species in the wild could bring the possibility of documenting behaviour that is new to science.  So let’s allow mammal watching to come out of the shadows, and by doing so, the communal exchange of sightings alone  should increase our chances of spotting them in the wild.


3 thoughts on “Marvellous Mammals”

  1. This is a great question Gordy and one that the small – but growing – mammal watching community has discussed from time to time. That birdwatchers outnumber mammal watchers by a factor of 100 to 1 is a mystery to me. But I suppose it is partly an accident of history (bird watching became popular many years ago and that initial weight of numbers has propelled the growth). It is partly – as you say – that birds are much more visible, particularly in gardens, And it is partly based on the perception that mammals are hard to see. They can be, but I believe there are often much easier to see than many people realise. Finding them often requires a different strategy (often involving a spotlight and a late night).

    Fixing this perception is a big reason behind why I started (10 years old this month!). And I am happy to say that most weeks I get a message from a birder bravely coming out of the shadows with a message along the lines “I have always been attracted to mammals but didn’t realise there were others like me. So happy to have found this community”.


    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment Jon, and that’s good to hear. I didn’t realise we were so outnumbered! It is odd that it’s even an issue, given how much exposure mammals get through conservation media and documentaries. Definitely something I’ll be pondering for a while yet…cheers.

    2. Hi Jon, I hope you’re well. I’m planning a week-long trip to Croatia in September and I’m hoping to do as much mammal-spotting as possible. Shall be visiting the Plitvice and Risnjak national parks. Do you have any recommendations for maximising our chances of seeing something? Looked into staying at a Bear hide, but tours and hides for mammal watching are very scarce. Cheers, Gordon.

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