Birder Arrested

Many would tell me to stay out of this; for many reasons. But I cannot help but feel pity for this birder, a person like you and me. I have seen the news, the man’s email and I now want to form it into a post that can tell some of the story.

From Me:

At the moment I am staying at the hospital for a couple days, just a routine check and feeling good. Because I’m feeling good, I’m occupying myself by using the computer and walking around. When I’m on the computer I am quite often on a discussion list. I had heard about the arrest but somehow missed all the info about it. Last night and this morning I watched the news and read different opinions. Here is what I was able to read, watch and compile:

1. The channel 4 (wbz) news video on the arrest

2. The channel 4 (wbz) write-up that went along with the video

3. Paul Peterson (MASSBirder and man arrested) post about arrest

I will take these pieces of info and post links for you to see them yourself. After watching come back and read my review of all of them. Before I start, I will say I never met Paul Peterson. I do however, follow MASSBird very closely and knew the name immediately. If you don’t know him and can’t recognize the name, he’s the man who discovered the MacGillivray’s Warbler at the Fenway Victory Gardens.

1. WBZ News Video:

(Click here to watch the video. Then come back and we’ll review it together.)

2. WBZ Write-UP

(Click here to read. Then come back)

3. Paul Peterson post on MASSBird on arrest

Here it is:

Title: Arrest By Saugus Police 1/5

While I was birding on the Rumney Marsh west of Rte.107 Yesterday, someone in one of the houses that back up onto the marsh called the Saugus police because they thought I was looking at their house. The police arrived just after I had exited the marsh at Bristow and Beachview Streets. I was arrested on trumped up charges after being thrown to the ground with my brand new Bushnell Ex Explorer binoculars around my neck!
This after telling the officer what I had been doing, and listing for him the birds I saw. He kept insisting that birds aren’t seen in winter. My binoculars are being held as evidence, and this is after I had told the booking officer that they were brand new and disclosed the price. The charges are disorderly conduct, resisting arrest(even though I was never told that I was under arrest) and assaulting an officer.(my brother says I can kiss my binculars goodbye).
Paul Peterson


Review of Info:

After reading (and watching) all three sources, it seems #3 is different from the first two. In 3, Paul says he was at Rumney Marsh when the incident occurred, while the video and writeup say he’s at his home and that a neighbor called. Who is right? We may never know that for sure as the video and writeup could’ve been made to make the police seem right while Paul could’ve tried to make himself look more innocent. Next, 1 and 2 say he was charged with disorderly conduct and assaulting an officer, while in 3, Paul states that he is thrown to the ground with his binoculars around his neck. Disorderly conduct? All of you know that birding is not disorderly conduct and was never so. Also, while Paul says he was thrown to the ground the police say he assaulted an officer. Because the two opposing forces show opposite opinions, we may never know the answer. Perhaps the police tried to grab Paul and he brought an officer down with him. He was also said to have resisted arrest, though Paul says he was never put under arrest. His binoculars have been taken as evidence, and may never be returned. Paul denies spying and said he just wants to spy on the birds.

The police refuse to comment.


My opinion:

This is my honest opinion, it is your choice whether you want to read it or not.

This is another happening of police taking their job too seriously and being ignorant toward something they know nothing about and handing out charges. It seems they did not listen to anything Paul said, which, no matter how you want to put it is ignorant. Also there ARE DEFINITELY birds in winter! This is a bit of information I hear from some non-birders which is definitely untrue. Perhaps he should’ve let Paul point out a bird to him, but it seems he didn’t have the patience. I know a good police officer would’ve done that. I’ve heard of cases of people treating birders inferior because they don’t understand (and refuse to understand) the miracle that is birding. The news man was also went a bit too far, saying in a loud and seemingly surprised voice, ” He’s a BIRD WATCHER!” I did not like that.  Also, because the police refuse to comment, it may mean they now feel wrongly about what they did, though they’d never admit that. This story also makes me very sad. Because of this, Paul said he’s lost some of his enthusiasm, something that is difficult to replace. Maybe if he has the support of other birders like us, we can help him find the birder in himself again. I will help with getting new binocs if I can. Poor guy!


Check MASSBird for more info that comes up.


Alex Burdo

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4 Responses to Birder Arrested

  1. James says:

    Call me as soon as you can. I have a bucketful of opinions about this. As for your website comment, this is all I will say. That is the biggest load of BS I have ever seen. That poor guy was only doing his beloved hobby and the police made a bad choice. I can’t believe that this has happened. I feel like I could march up to that police station in Massachusetts and scream for that man’s $300 binoculars back.

  2. John Schwarz says:

    I have just sent the following to the Saugus Police Dept:

    I have just learned of the case of Paul Peterson, who is, like 60 million other Americans, a bird enthusiast. As someone who is often out in the field with my telescope and binoculars, I cringe realizing that this could just as easily happen to me if I should unluckily encounter a police officer who chooses to be closed-minded, over-zealous, and eager to overexert his authority. My telescope and binoculars are high end and each cost over $1300. Please return Mr. Peterson’s property to him and, with all due respect, at least consider that the police officer may have overreacted to someone who was intimidated and also startled at being accosted by the police when he knew he was doing absolutely nothing wrong. I know I would have felt the same way. Thank you.

  3. J says:

    Sounds like the Mass. Police didnt learn anything from the Henry Gates arrest this summer. Ordinary citizens are being harrassed and accused of wrongdoing with massive assumptions being made by police about the guilt of the individual they are going after. Far too much abuse of power – no wonder nobody trusts law enforcement anymore. This birder was obviously a threat otherwise why would they throw him to the ground. Ridiculous!

    I for one am always on the lookout for people staring at me suspiciously as I walk – most of the time through areas that are clearly naturezones – with my binoculars or scope. Its easy to get the wrong idea. I’ve also informed all my neighbors that Im a birder so they shouldn’t wonder why Im out on my deck with binoculars all year round.

  4. Pingback: Let’s Buy Paul Some New Binos! « Flight of the Scrub-Jay

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