Wednesday, November 15, 2006

RGV: Saturday keynote speech

Jeff Gordon presented "The 10 Greatest Birds of the Last 30 Years" with good visuals and some humor. I definitely appreciated the humor and found Jeff's talk educational, too.

I'd like to hear what you think of Jeff's list. If you disagree with a choice, then offer an alternative and provide the reason why it should be one of the 10 greatest birds.

1. March 1975: Ross's Gull in Newburyport, Mass. The bird's presence garnered national media attention, such as Time(!).

2. December 1975: Crane Hawk at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Jeff claimed that the influx of visitors who wanted to see the hawk proved that it's easy to visit south Texas and led to more birders visiting the valley more often.

3. July 1978: Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Jeff cited this species as the impetus for the purchase of many plane tickets to China.

4. November 1991: Red-tailed Hawk in New York City. Pale Male's life in and around Central Park sparked a lot of interest that continues this decade.

5. November 1997: Brown-chested Martin in Cape May, N.J. The bird's arrival created new appreciation for weather patterns during fall migration, Jeff said.

6. December 1978: Smith's Longspur in Pt. Reyes, Calif. The bird actually was a Sky Lark, but some of the state's best birders initially identified it as a Smith's Longspur. Jeff said the episode underlined the important difference between what you expect to see and what you don't expect to observe.

7. June 1985: Swallow-tailed Gull in Monterey, Calif. This bird prompted discussions about introduced species and whether vagrant species arrive on their power or with human assistance, Jeff said.

8. October 1996: Pygmy Nuthatch in Moorhead, Minn. A birder used a tape to lure the nuthatch across the Red River, the boundary between Minnesota and North Dakota, and to create the first PYNU record in Minn-neh-SO-tah. The incident inspired hearty disagreement within the state records committee (see pages 29 and 30) and among birders about ethics.

9. December 1995: Gray-crowned Yellowthroat in San Ygnacio, Texas. Efforts to positively identify the bird involved the possible first use of DNA testing and revealed some GCYE genes as well as others, making the bird a likely hybird. Jeff said the I.D. exercise, in which he participated, proved to be educational for all.

10. February 2004: Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Brinkley, Ark. Jeff said the contested sightings lead to the question "Do we have the redemption of American wilderness or another Bigfoot?" He said the continuing debate could be viewed as "the ornithological OJ trial."

So, what do you think?


Blogger Jeff Gyr said...

Hey Amy--

Nice recap, and thanks for posting about the talk. Two quick points:

The DNA testing of the "San Ygnacio Yellowthroat," showed only Gray-crowned Yellowthroat genes, but mitochondrial DNA can only tell us about maternity, not paternity. So Momma was a Gray-crowned. That leaves me thinking that Pappa was a Common (as well as a Rolling Stone, no doubt). But I freely admit that I don't know that for certain.

Your comment about the pygmy nuthatch, "The incident inspired hearty disagreement within the state records committee and among birders about ethics," is quite accurate. I fear, though, that I may have left some viewers with the impression that the controversy was mostly within the records committee (MORC), when in truth, it was everywhere, especially on state and national LISTSERVs.

During Saturday's presentation, I said that the battle montage was footage from the MORC meeting in large part to needle my friends Kim Eckert & Parker Backstrom, current & former MORC members, respectively, who were in the audience.

I'm not at all saying there weren't fireworks within MORC--even a casual reading of the report you linked to will show there were--but there were explosions going off everywhere.



November 16, 2006 4:29 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for the clarifications, Jeff!

November 16, 2006 9:49 AM  
Blogger Patrick Belardo said...

That's a great list. I wish I saw the presentation.

November 20, 2006 10:52 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

There was a first state record Ross's Gull this weekend at the Salton Sea, wonder if that bird will make the list for the next thirty years. If nothing else, I learned that when a mega bird shows up, its the informal who's who of birding. I had the priviledge of birding next to some very well known people in the CA birding community =)

November 21, 2006 7:55 AM  

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