GORHAM — When out-of-town bird-watching enthusiasts dressed in camouflage and carrying long-lens cameras drove into town on Sunday to see flocks of Bohemian waxwings eating crab apples, at least one local resident suspected them of being domestic terrorists.
The New Hampshire Audubon's Rare Bird Alert for Jan. 4, which was reposted by a member of the NHBirds Google Groups page (not Govatski), mentioned a sighting of Bohemian waxwings in Gorham.
The birders were seen on Main and Mechanic Streets.
“A Mechanic Street resident saw some folks in camo with long-lens cameras walking down the street,” said David Govatski of Jefferson, a retired WMNF forester and avid birder who posts sightings online on NHBirds and eBird Hotspot Explorer.
“She’d seen some trucks with political flags racing up and down Main Street last Wednesday, Jan. 6 (when mobs of domestic terrorists assaulted the U.S. Capitol), and put two and two together. So, she called the police, who came and chatted with the birders," he said.
Concerned, however, that this misperception had raised fears in one or more residents, Govatski requested that online sites ask birders not to wear camouflage in towns or suburbs.
“Given current tensions, I would strongly suggest that birders NOT wear camouflage clothing when birding in developed areas,” he advised.
“My impression is that local residents don’t know how these waxwings and other birds, such as red-bellied woodpeckers, are of interest to birders,” Govatski said.
He suggested to birders that they take the time to explain to any residents they see that they’re just looking to see rare birds.
“Birders are good for local business; they buy food and gas and other necessities, which is particularly important now when with so little snow on the ground our snowmobile trails aren’t open,” Govatski pointed out.
“The arrival of the waxwings feeding on crab apples in Gorham is a big thing for birders from all over New England. Some drove 300 miles round-trip just for the experience," he said.