You all know of the famous (or infamous, if Mike and Corey are to be believed) Charlie Moores: birder, photographer, and blogger extraordinaire. Charlie lives in the UK, and has been birding for a very long time. He is one of the three bloggers behind 10,000 Birds, and also blogs for the Great Bustard Group.
Charlie’s disclaimer, “this interview represents my personal opinions and not Mike’s or Corey’s both of whom are far more balanced than I am…” is typically self-effacing. However, if you read his posts and view his photos, you’ll notice that he is a very knowledgeable birder and outstanding photographer. Despite a busy schedule, Charlie is extremely generous in sharing what he knows and in connecting individuals with common interests or refering you to someone who can answer a question. Charlie has a passion for conservation and both lives and blogs his passion, as will be clear from the interview below.
Charlie, why do you blog?
My reasons for blogging have changed significantly over the years. I started blogging as a way for friends to see photos I’d taken overseas without them having to come to my house. I’m notoriously anti-social when I’m jet-lagged, which is most of the time!
Blogging became a means of self-expression and of venting my anger. I’m quite opinionated as anyone who knows anything about me will testify). I used to be fairly unsubtle in my attacks, but hopefully though my anger is undimmed my way of expressing it has become more acceptable.
More and more, I’ve wanted to achieve something through blogging: conservation. I’m not convinced that I will achieve anything – I’m not a scientist or a trained researcher so why would anyone listen to me? – but I feel driven to try. After traveling so much and seeing so many changes to sites, habitats, and even entire landscapes, as well as witnessing declines in bird populations, I’m almost at the stage where I could give up birding and blog 24 hours a day – almost, but not quite completely – and would, if I thought I could make a difference. I now feel that what blogging I do should be conservation-orientated. That’s why I committed to running a blog for the Great Bustard Group in the UK. Have I the time to write another blog? Not really, no, but I like the people in the GBG and I like what they’re trying to do so I wanted to help out.
Having said that, I do think that bloggers have to be realistic about what writing a blog will achieve. It will take months for the GBG blog to get any regular visitors (except for Jochen, who seems to be able to visit everyone regularly and always leave something intelligent behind). Even though 10,000 Birds ranks highly on the NBN and on lists like FatBirder we’re still only reaching a tiny, tiny percentage of the world’s birders.
We’re doing some fairly radical things on 10,000 Birds (supporting conservation in Kenya by giving a voice to the Friends of Kinangop Plateau springs to mind) with plenty more to come. Nonetheless, we are by no means talking to a global audience – more accurately, we’re talking but they’re not listening – nor are we anywhere near being the site that birders turn to when they want to find information on conservation or promote their own conservation projects. It’s a challenge to convince those who don’t read blogs but who use conventional websites that we’re worthy of their time.
I’ve gone through many phases of “Why bother?” Not with regard to the writing itself, as I’ve always wanted to write, but questioning “Just who do I think I am?” I hang on to the thought that through blogging I might persuade someone that I’m right, could give a platform to someone who might not otherwise get heard, or even have one of my peers say that they like what I’m trying to do. I am too easily distracted and riddled with self-doubt to sit down a write a whole book. Putting out shorter, sharper posts at regular-ish intervals makes far more sense for someone with my brain chemistry.
What’s the best thing about blogging?
I thought that this would be an easy question to answer, but right now there is no single “best thing.” I find blogging very hard work, always think I fall short of what I’m aiming at, am rarely satisfied with what I write, and fret continuously about the amount of time I spend at a laptop. Despite all that, I am driven to blog at every opportunity, perhaps on the off chance I may stumble on a formula that makes me happy (it all sounds very like a dependency, but I could give up anytime I wanted, honestly…). I have a love/hate relationship with blogging at the moment, as Mike and Corey would no doubt confirm if you were to ask them.
I’m always hopeful this will change and I’ll transcend to a state of blogging Nirvana. I’ll sit on a white cloud pouring enlightenment across a world where everything I focus on is magically transformed just because I’ve written about it or photographed it. So far I have to say that’s not happened.
I’m not trying to put anyone off blogging. I would never claim to be a ‘blogging spokesperson’ (which given what I’ve just said is definitely a good thing) but some days blogging seems utterly pointless. Other times it’s the only thing I ever want to do. I wish I could decide which it is and either give up and do something else or I be deliriously happy as ‘a blogger.’ I have a feeling, not confirmed by any sort of data whatsoever, that there are more than few bloggers who feel the same way.
Has blogging changed how you think about nature? Or how you write?
It’s not changed how I think about nature in any way. Physically seeing the changes we’ve made to the planet over just my lifetime has done that. Blogging has changed how I present what I think. Underneath this mild exterior (*cough*) is quite an angry person who would love to give a good verbal kicking to deserving individuals and groups. However, I have learned that people being kicked are rarely prepared to listen to what’s being said to them while a boot is metaphorically landing in their metaphoric ‘soft parts’ so I do attempt to be less of a hooligan these days. Mind you, I do occasionally let off steam in Notepad which I have to delete before I’m tempted to hit publish.
I suppose also that being part of a team has made me more circumspect too. Mike, Corey, and I don’t censor each other in any way, but I think a casual visitor to 10,000 Birds would probably think we speak with a single voice and have ‘policies’ that mean we’re all seen as spokespeople for the blog. We believe in many of the same of things, but we are different writers and have different interests and concerns. If I do ‘go off on one’ (as we say here in the UK), I make it very clear that it’s my post and that I’m not speaking for either Mike and Corey. I would point out that out of respect for them I haven’t sworn online once in the two years we’ve worked together.
How do you promote your blog and attract readers?
Of course I’m lucky enough to have a colleague who is probably one of the best nature blog networkers out there, so I don’t really have to do too much promotion myself. He’s always doing it for me. If I didn’t blog with Mike? No idea – perhaps I should ask him what he actually does in case I need to know one day.
Is there a story behind the name of your blog?
I didn’t pick the names for either 10,000 Birds or the Great Bustard Group blog. Mike started 10,000 Birds two years before I joined and that was the name he went for – though I think it’s the perfect name, of course. (‘There are about 10,000 birds on the planet and we’re going to see all of them’ etc), and the GBG just wanted something very simple (which was a wise decision – if they’d left it entirely up to me who knows what they’d have ended up with).
If I ever start a new blog I’d call it Long Distance Migrant. Then I could tell you an interesting story or two about flying all around the world looking for birds, but as I’m not starting a new blog that’s a story that may never be told. Unless I write a book using that title…hmm, now that’s an idea…
Do you feel you’re part of a community with other nature bloggers?
I would really like to say ‘yes’ but I’m genuinely not sure. There are many different bloggers with such diverse opinions that I’m never sure if there is a community to belong to or not. Do we all pull together to sort out common problems, do we support each other, do we organize ourselves in any way that means we speak as one? I don’t think we do.
That’s not a complaint. Most of us are working very hard to be heard as individuals and individual efforts are where our focus lies. Perhaps if I met other bloggers more often I’d get a better feel for the idea of a community. Unfortunately, living in the UK means that I’ve met very few bloggers in person. That makes it difficult to know how much I have in common with them. The notable exceptions are the wonderful Carrie Laden and equally wonderful David Ringer, both of whom I went birding with when they were in England and really liked.
I honestly don’t know whether I even fit into a ‘community’ or not. That may be something bloggers who feel a sense of community would be best able to answer. I can be a bit feisty for some people’s tastes. I’d quite like to fit in, but I don’t know whether I do. I need to make more of an effort to find out. Or create my own community of course, which may be easier.
Have you made new friends through blogging?
Definitely. Mike and Corey, obviously. They are genuinely excellent human beings (and I mean that or I wouldn’t blog with them, and – more to the point – they wouldn’t put up with me blogging with them).
There are a few bloggers I’ve never met in person (and a few I have) who I’d hope would think of me as a friend and who’d be welcome round my house anytime. You know who you are.
Outside of other bloggers, I’m lucky to have met some incredible people through blogging, mostly ones I’ve emailed and said something like, ‘I write for 10,000 Birds, I’m coming to [fill in city or country] next week, would you like to meet up for a chat about conservation and stuff’. I’m always amazed and grateful when they say yes, but you only have to go back through some of the posts I’ve written to know how fortunate I am in that respect.
Any words of wisdom for new nature bloggers?
Wisdom? You know, I really don’t feel qualified. Sorry if that sounds disingenuous. I’ve been blogging for quite a while (in relative terms anyway) but there are so many reasons someone might blog and there are so many different personalities who either blog or who are thinking of blogging that trying to give advice or words of wisdom means wrapping things into generalities that don’t mean very much.
There are some facts that are worth bearing in mind. For example, you’ll never have enough readers. Also, nature blogging will never make you financially rich, but there are other rewards if you’re prepared to settle for less than changing the world with a couple of posts. You will charge into your new blog full of eagerness and optimism but that feeling won’t last. If you’re very lucky when the ‘romance’ of your new relationship starts to fade, you’ll find you have a partner for life that’s not always exciting but that understands you and gives you a reason to write.
I don’t know if any of that’s ‘wise’ or just reflects my own rather bipolar take on blogging though.
What are your favorite posts from 10,000 Birds??
Anything else you’d like me to ask you, or that you’d like to volunteer without being asked?
I love my partner, Jo, and I love my two girls, Emily and Evie.
You can contact Charlie through the 10,000 Birds blog (http://10000birds.com) or by email to charlie10000birds AT gmail DOT com.
Next Monday is Labor Day, and in honor of the occasion as well as my return from Australia that same day, we’re saving our featured interview for the following week. Join us again on September 14 for the next NBN featured blogger.