Thursday, October 19, 2006

How common are these opinions?

I recently read a blog post that made me wonder if this blogger's opinions are widespread.

Last week, someone reported what they thought was a ‘new’ sighting for the park, when they returned downstate from a camping trip to this area that we visit at least once a month (more during migration). I had to chuckle because I’ve known of them for sometime now.. but I’m not a lister and rarely report my sightings. Birdchasers and I don’t mix well, so I keep most of my bird sightings to myself, as I do not wish to hear of a vagrant or rarity chased just so someone can check it off their list and say ‘ok, that’s another bird I have for the state/county/etc. Some time ago, I unjoined a Michigan ‘birding’ website when I was admonished for speaking out against baiting irruptive owls for photos, which didn’t bother me in the least because the group as a whole is unethical. I birded with them one time too many in the past, their only goal was to check off as many birds as fast and furious as they could, racing in circles, not stopping to even enjoy the bird. The owner of the website sets up webcams each year, exposing newly hatched chicks to the elements and receives kudos for ‘all of your hard work’. To claim to love birds then engage in practices that are potentially harmful to them is wrong in my book. To claim to have this deep affinity for and with the wild, then visit a nestsite again and again during the peak of breeding season goes against everything I believe in as a watcher of birds.


My good friend called yesterday, and we discussed the fact that Golden Eagles are nesting near both of us.. neither of us have turned in reports of the nests because we know that will ultimately lead to harassment and possibly abandoned nests. Someone would decide they need leg bands and the nests would need monitoring. Sorry, no dice. They’re doing fine on their own, regardless of how much we think we need to count birds, document them, band and then do it all over again for the sake of ’science’.
How often do you encounter birdwatchers and birders who hold these or similar views?


Blogger Carolyn H said...

I'm one of those who doesn't post my birding finds to RBAs. Just this month a posted rarity here in PA resulted in trampled private property because birders were deterimined to find this bird so they could add it to whatever list they wanted to add it to. To these people, birding is apparently all about the list. I prefer to keep it all about the birds.

Carolyn H.

October 19, 2006 10:00 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for the comment, Carolyn. May I ask: Did a particular event trigger your decision about RBAs, or how did you come to that decision?

October 19, 2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger Carolyn H said...


It's just that RBA chasing is so antithetical to the kind of birding I enjoy. A rarity that's stressed, likely to die and never find a mate because it's someplace where it shouldn't be isn't something I should celebrate. To me, RBA chasing is more about the birder than the bird.

I'd much rather find the birds that *should* be in an area. Are their numbers increasing, decreasing? Did the summer/winter residents arrive on time? Is the habitat where I see these species changing to explain population shifts? That's what I enjoy.

Carolyn H.

October 20, 2006 5:48 AM  
Blogger Clare said...

Well said Carolyn.

October 20, 2006 11:04 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for the insights, Carolyn (c:

October 20, 2006 11:20 AM  
Blogger birdchick said...

These opinions are all too common.

I'm all over the board on this issue. On the one hand, I can understand not needing approval for some cool bird that you have seen. On the other hand, it's important to know where birds are showing up. Birds in new places aren't always a death sentence. Ten years ago there were no cardinals in nothern Minnesota and now they are getting more common--expanding their range.

When birds are out of the usual range, it's important to get that information to the right person/organization. It is possible to report rare/unusual birds without alerting everyone and their brother. I know it happens in Minnesota quite a bit, some chasers don't like it, but a majority of people understand that birds are sometimes on private property and the owner has every right to say no to hundreds of people showing up.

I do have a big problem with people who dictate that their way to birding is the "beter way" or the only real way to truly enjoy the birds. I don't like it when hardcore listers dis casual birders and I detest the attitude that some birders have towards listers--just because someone only wants to look at a bird for ten seconds doesn't make them a bad person or the way they enjoy birds wrong. Who is to say that person isn't purchasing a duck stamp and donating to conservation organizations? Not all listers trod all over property, stress birds out or break laws. Are there bad apples--yes in all bunches (birders, photographers, hunters) but that's not to say we need to label a whole group as bad apples.

We wouldn't know as much as we do about bird distribution if it weren't for listers. We wouldn't know as much as we do about bird behavior if it weren't for non listers.

That post reads more like a passive aggressive "shame on you" to the owner of a Michigan birding website than anything else.

October 23, 2006 7:33 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for the input, Sharon!

October 23, 2006 10:41 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

As someone who enjoys both the birds that are supposed to be in a place and the ones that aren't but show up anyway, I'm very appreciative of those individuals who share information about sightings. I don't have the time to comb every park and preserve in my area, nor do I possess the skill and experience (yet) of so many NY/NJ birders. I do check the NYC RBA regularly, which means that if a Black-bellied Whistling Duck drops in at Jamaica Bay this weekend, I have the option of twitching it or admiring my local yellow-rumps and kinglets.

There are many different ways to watch birds. Rather than succumbing to infighting and judgmental sniping, each faction would do well to turn its aggression outwards to those parties - developers, polluters, despoilers - determined to ruin it for us all.

October 23, 2006 11:52 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Agreed, Mike. The less judgmental sniping, the better.

October 23, 2006 1:09 PM  
Blogger Patrick Belardo said...

I can't say it much better than Mike and the Chick have. I enjoy both sides of the spectrum. I'll sit at a feeder and watch birds for hours, but I'm always up for a rarity chase. It's critical to respect the property and the people when you are birding, whether it's casual birding or chasing. As long as someone is enjoying the birds and sharing that joy with others, it doesn't matter to me whether they are hardcore listers or not.

October 24, 2006 6:06 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Si, Patrick. As long as birders respect private and public property, other individuals and the birds while enjoying them and sharing that joy, I don't care if they chase or list.

October 24, 2006 9:13 AM  

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