Apparently i look suspicios while making observation

As a guy with a telephoto camera, I’m very careful in places like public parks where children are present. I never point my camera in direction of kids even if a good bird is perched right near them. You have to be conscious of the fact that people are paranoid and often for good reason and don’t necessarily know what you’re up to.

Just yesterday I was chasing a rare bird in a cemetery— another place I try to respect the other people who might be around me. Four police cars drove through while I was there, most likely unrelated to my activity and that of another birder. But I waved at the cops and they didn’t stop.


I hike with a ‘deranged’ group of little old ladies.
Looking-at-flowers. WHAT? Here?!
Or bugs …
Or up at birds.


I’ve never had any actual issues with people, although I have had people look at me suspiciously. Generally I just make sure my camera has some past plant photos on it or carry a bird field guide or something just in case I get questioned, which has never happened yet.


This topic made me remember the time I found a ground beetle (Calosoma marginale) on the ground in a supermarket. I’d say that most of the time, going outside of your comfort zone is best in these scenarios. The worst that could happen is wired looks from other people.


I’ve been in similar situations back when I lived in a city. One time I was accused of planting poison baits for dogs while looking at insects in a scrubby area.
Now I live in the countryside where I can finally be alone with plants and wildlife.


I had something once (before iNat-times, but when I was actually heavily naturalizing) photographed a crow in a small town on the sidewalk when a guy stormed out of his store (some shitty small car parts stuff) and was convinced I was spying for competitors… to do what? Tell them tires are the hot shit? He was only to be convinced from the oppisite after I showed him the pictures of the crow.

That was so ridiculous, I told everybody I knew about this incident. Some years later the shop was gone…


Hahaha. I had a cop stop and walk over, “You okay sir?” Apparently it concerned him that a gray haired man was bent over kneeling in a vacant lot… only moderately satisfied by my explanation.


I’m young enough that I think any weird behavior comes across as silly and not creepy, but this idea definitely bugs me. I’d like to believe that explaining I’m a very dedicated birdwatcher should assuage fears… hopefully!


Yeah, I also always cover up my camera when walking past a school zone. Totally understand why it might put people on edge. Big no-no.


I’ve not had any bad experiences yet, plenty of people politely asking what I’m taking a picture of (some might find my particular subjects of interest odd though!). I’ve had it quite a few times where people have walked past with their kids and the kids have asked them what I’m doing, so they say ‘why don’t you ask him’? Then I get to spend some time showing them a millipede or more often explaining that I haven’t actually caught anything at the moment!

I’m most cautious around children’s parks etc, as others have said, but I think three things help: 1) I’m often accompanied by my own kids (ok to have a camera if you have your own kids to photograph) 2) I usually have a big white net with me (pretty obvious it’s not for catching kids…) 3) My old camera and lens are so unnecessarily large that no-one engaged in nefarious activity would be so conspicuous in the age of smartphones!. And of course I never take pictures in the direction of children.

I think nature hobbies are relatively popular in the UK too, which helps when explaining.


One good trick is to buy a butterfly net - very often you won’t need it to catch anything or observe, but people will instantly understand what’s up when seeing it. They might even ask interested questions rather than suspicious ones.


Can’t say for other places, but in Hong Kong, they seem to be a reliable place to get moth observations if far enough away from the urban areas if you dont have your own light trap. The ones I go to typically take 1 hr in public transport plus another 30 mins to hike up there.


You’re not a real creature peeper till you freak some form of law enforcement or security out by pawing around in leaf litter like a freak


I often wonder what my neighbors or people driving past my house think of me spending hours every summer taking close-up photographs of the vinyl siding of my house. :) My elderly next door neighbor was grateful that I explained to her what I was doing, she was concerned when she first saw me taking pictures of the house, being polite she would not have asked me directly, but became interested in my study of moths.


I would be like: “aRE yOu TAkiNg PiCtURES of BUGS!? cAN I tAKe PiCTuREs Of tHoSe BuGs toO pLeAsE???”


Ah, a kindred spirit!


The rest of the time people assume I’m some Official Government / Organizational person.

That’s my experience as well, to the point where I just might drop a cover letter to my local City Council or Regional Park saying “you know, people already assume, might as well make it official”.

Also if you do work for them, I’m only half joking, please do hit me up!


Because it’s typical of too many people in the US. I have met it occasionally in the UK but never once in 25 years living in Canada. Americans and latterly Brits are just too paranoid - they jump to conclusions far too easily.

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Hey folks, let’s please stay on-topic here, and avoid stereotyping nationalities or other groups of people.


It’s surreal. Reminiscences written by people just one generation before mine indicate that children pretty much went wherever. I just read one, in fact. In Reforesting Faith, Matthew Sleeth describes his childhood: “As a youth I walked for miles along the single-lane pathways made by Holstein cows and the twin paths made by the wheels of farm vehicles. I rambled through the woods along the upper branches of the Seneca River…” And so on. This wasn’t out west where there are expanses of “public” land; clearly he is describing an inhabited area, and probably traipsing across multiple properties.

When you do eventually get run over – with that vest on – the driver’s excuse will be, “I didn’t see it.”

I suppose the constant references to cameras are because this is an iNatter hangout. But you know, as I’m walking along with my notepad and pencil, I do wonder if people worry about what I might be noting down.