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Nate Dias
Charleston, SC
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Perhaps y'all should have hit coastal South Carolina instead of Florida - I can reliably find 30+ shorebird species in a day here this time of year, during "shorebird big day" efforts. A couple of examples:
Toggle Commented Aug 6, 2013 on Open Mic: Wader Quest in the USA at ABA Blog
On a positive note: of all the egregious "stringers" I have encountered, only one is a woman - a very small percentage indeed.
Toggle Commented Jun 12, 2013 on Open Mic: The Field Glass Ceiling at ABA Blog
Actually, the previous week's SC GRAK was at the Tibwin Plantation unit of the Francis Marion National Forest - not at Edisto Beach. Apparently lightning struck two weeks in a row...
Toggle Commented May 26, 2013 on Rare Bird Alert: May 24, 2013 at ABA Blog
And South Carolina had a Gray Kingbird at Edisto Beach.
Toggle Commented May 24, 2013 on Rare Bird Alert: May 24, 2013 at ABA Blog
In my clarifying comments, I defined the bottom feeders I was criticizing as: "people who use technology to AVOID (the time-consuming task of) learning about birds, fieldcraft, ecology, etc. and to get their ticks as quickly and easily as possible. " I was NOT criticizing all new birders, or all birders who chase rarities. Nicholas asked for a citation; here it is. He said: "Who cares if they just want to build a lifelist as fast as possible without really learning about the birds themselves?" -- That scenario covers the subset of "a bunch of people who know/care nothing about birds, ecology, or conservation". So I did not put words in anyone's mouth - I just cited a scenario that fell under someone's "who cares" statement.
So apparently Nicholas Block is completely OK with "birding" turning into a bunch of people who know/care nothing about birds, ecology, or conservation - but rather follow their "smart" phone from twitch to twitch having only negative effects on the environment (instead of playing golf, drag racing, or whatever their previous main hobby was). I shudder to think of our pastime devolving so... If that comes off as "superior" - so be it. By the way - I see MUCH more slob birding / ABA code of ethics violations from the out-of-touch bottom feeders than from the rest of the birding community. Their "too busy to learn" attitude and the sense of entitlement that leads to ABA code of ethics violations are inextricably linked. Desperate-for-a-twitch bottom feeders have made a nuisance of themselves at my family's property recently, and as a result no more rarities will be mentioned publicly (including eBird) from there. This is a shame, because multiple 1st state records have come from there. Things like the higher rate of ethics violations are one facet of my outlook regarding the disconnected bottom feeders.
I think people are misconstruing what I said. I fully endorse people using technology to LEARN as much as they can about birds - particularly how to conserve them. But the key word is "learn". What I was criticizing in my post is people who use technology to AVOID (the time-consuming task of) learning about birds, fieldcraft, ecology, etc. and to get their ticks as quickly and easily as possible.
Great Post, Chris! I refer to this growing horde of "spoon-fed", Internet-dependent twitchers (who rarely, if ever discover their own rarities) as "bottom feeders". Perhaps "scavengers" would be more accurate. They do not need to learn and observe aspects of a bird's life history to find it - they just follow the directions and lift their optics at the appointed time and place. They have no need to bother with learning botany, entomology, ichthyology, geology, or other disciplines that help one understand bird species' life history (and how/where to find them). Those of us who built our state bird lists over decades of hard "analog" field work are clearly different from so many of today's birders with Smart Phones, Apps, digital playback, and little or no fieldcraft. They seem to reach certain listing thresholds in much less time than it used to take. But I have to wonder why they enjoy it - why not take up geocaching or scavenger hunts and use inanimate objects as the goal of their competition? Their idea of Fieldcraft is getting upwind of a hidden bird so it can hear the playback better, and be goaded into showing itself... -- One other point: Chris mentioned eBird's "top 100 feature" as a stroke of genius to generate more checklists. It is, but there is a flip side to that coin. I also view it as stoking a LOT of stringing. Which degrades the eBird data... Dias, Charleston (echoing the well-known tagline of "McCreedy, Tucson")
I am a South Carolina birder who remained the "whippersnapper" of our scene for a couple of decades. That kind of tells you how few young birders we have. Regarding the question: "How should adult birders transmit knowledge and wisdom about such matters as fieldcraft, bird conservation, and the birding culture? Or is that the wrong approach altogether? Should adult birders instead open themselves up to insights, and even paradigm shifts, from today’s young birders?" -- I do not think those two notions are mutually exclusive. Knowledge transfer should be a 2-way street. * However, regarding certain things like fieldcraft and birding ethics - I think older birders have more to teach youngsters simply because older ones have more experience. But this is not to say they should discount input and knowledge from young birders. They can surprise you with their insights and independent discoveries. Now if only some parents with pre-college birders would just move to South Carolina!
Toggle Commented Feb 15, 2013 on The Rise of Young Birder Clubs at ABA Blog
Ah, but Ted - but how do we know the 1878 Labrador Starling was not ship-assisted (and therefore not countable)?
Toggle Commented Feb 14, 2013 on #977, Purple Swamphen! at ABA Blog
Got this shot out a kitchen window the other day: I wish I had set a higher shutter speed - it was a perched bird and I had no idea what was coming!
Toggle Commented Feb 7, 2013 on Are your windows ready? at ABA Blog
Much of that functionality has been available (for free) for some time at: That is what a lot of CBC compilers I know have been using...
Toggle Commented Jan 24, 2013 on Count Circle at ABA Blog
Answer to question 1: more than the remaining population each year I would say! Answer to question 2: FAR more than the population each year. Not each and every individual bird, but some of the areas with the most competition by males in the spring are right by roads, trails, etc. and easily accessible + fairly well known. They like cane-heavy thickets around openings and edges in the canopy and roads keep such conditions going year after year. I have spent a lot of time over the decades slogging off-road in the FMNF. There, Swainson's are more present near roads, jeep trails, storm-damaged patches and so forth. Sadly, there is less of this cane-heavy habitat than in the 70s - due in no small part to drought plus too-frequent controlled burning cycles along swamps (for Deer and Turkey hunting). Will playback extirpate Swainson's Warblers in the FMNF? Not by itself. But we owe it to these species to eliminate as many cuts of the "death by a thousand cuts" as possible. Your argument sounds dangerously close to feral cat advocates saying window collisions and development are more detrimental than cats. The truth is, we need to eliminate as many unnatural detriments as possible - not rationalize away the smaller ones. My mention of SC Black Rails could also have included Georgia I think - or I could have said "between coastal North Carolina and Florida." Eastern Black Rails have a very thin band, with far more gaps than not, of remaining breeding areas along the east coast. They essentially breed in an extremely narrow strip of brackish marshes (and a few waterfowl impoundments). I would say each and every sub-population of Black Rails is very important to preserve, especially in light of events like Hurricane Sandy, sea level rise, Marsh die-off, etc. If it makes you feel better, rephrase as above and remove geopolitical boundaries.
Andy: it's not just about species - subspecies are a consideration as well. Ones like: California Clapper Rails, Wayne's Black-throated Green Warblers, Western Willow Flycatchers, etc. etc. Irresponsible, over-the-top playback can negatively affect these subspecies. For example, there is now only one site in South Carolina where one can reasonably hope to see Wayne's BTG Warblers. There are not a lot of birds there either. The area has dikes traversing it and none of the area is far removed from birder accessibility. Do you really contend that "wild west" playback rules are OK in that context? In terms of species: there is now only one place (Bear Island WMA) in South Carolina where one can reasonably hope to hear Black Rails. I contend that an "anything goes" policy is not OK in this context either. In this long-term drought / new reality, Swainson's Warblers are really getting hard to find in the Francis Marion National Forest. They may be in better shape in other areas of (temperate) North America, but letting the dwindling handful of Francis Marion NF birds be subjected to as much playback as any slob birder wants to create is unacceptable in my book. I could go on with more examples, but your position strikes me as one that would benefit from more careful consideration. Nathan Dias - Charleston, SC
All this recent wailing and gnashing of teeth about the "whiteness" of birding seems to blame birders for doing an insufficient job of "recruiting" minorities. But we face a daunting uphill climb in doing so - the deck is stacked against us. Much of the problem is cultural. There is a wide swath of European-Americans - both conservative and liberal - who believe in land and wildlife conservation and teach this to their children. Not so for Hispanics, Asians, and African-Americans - especially those under 40. Even those who finish college. Sure a few of them "see the light" in their college biology classes, but they are but a teeny tiny fraction. This is true of both "city slickers" and rural minorities. Young potential recruits seem infinitely more interested in sports (ugh) or video games than natural history (consumptive or not). Again and again, I have seen the ridicule that African-American biology teachers receive from their African-American high school students in trying to interest them in the natural world. Same derision is shown to African American biology club college students and their outreach efforts. Same goes for Hispanic teachers/professors trying to recruit / educate Latin-American students. This problem has its origins in young people's upbringing (or lack thereof), and it is reinforced by their peers, mass media, and other factors. To sum up: naturalists are not "cool" like sports stars, rap stars, or even criminals. I claim that there is a cultural "brick wall" in place between modern African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American culture and natural history. It is a shame, but it is the plain, simple truth. I have no idea how to fix it - humanity is in a downward spiral of ignorance and self-induldgence. It is true of everyone, but somewhat less true for European-Americans.
Toggle Commented Nov 21, 2012 on Inscrutable Whiteness at ABA Blog
Ned Brinkley asked: "How many state-level BRCs use equidistance (AKA NPOL) in the East and Gulf?" According to their bylaws, the following states definitely use NPOL: Louisiana, Alabama, Florida Possibly: - New Jersey. The NJBRC bylaws sate: "Boundaries. Reports from the state of New Jersey and adjacent ocean (as defined by US and State law and the Committee) will be reviewed." Mixed bag: - Rhode Island. See their bylaws for the complicated story. Unknown (unable to tell from web searches): Mississippi, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine. Perhaps someone from those BRCs could chime in and let us know. No formal position (yet) on at-sea state boundaries: (according to their bylaws): North Carolina and South Carolina. Up in the air: Georgia. BRC members have mentioned moving to a policy of using legal at-sea boundary definitions from Georgia's charter - but that boundary (and the Supreme Court decision regarding it in Georgia v. South Carolina 1990) only applies to state territorial waters. As I documented in detail, federally determined state resource boundaries from 3-200 miles offshore use NPOL. So if the GA BRC really intends to settle upon legal at-sea boundaries then NPOL would seem to be it. Stay tuned I guess.
Methinks Ned doth misunderstand me! It was probably a mistake to have used the word "list" in my post... I was referring to the official state ornithological record that each state BRC maintains (and votes whether to accept sight records into). Many BRCs refer to this as their "Official Bird List": I *never* meant to suggest that BRCs have authority over people's personal life lists. I am the last person on earth who would say that! People's own personal listing criteria are their own business (unless they are submitting material to the ABA Big Day and List Report, which has its own rules + playing field). What I am saying is that a STATE Bird Records Committee should only be reviewing records from within the legal boundaries of the STATE in question. Otherwise, it's not really a State Bird Records Committee. And having some state BRCs recognize legal state boundaries and other BRCs making up their own state boundaries opens the door to duplicate coverage and coverage gaps. Plus other problems like the eBird data falsification I mentioned in a previous comment... What I am "proposing" is not new - states like California have observed legal at-sea boundaries for some time. What would be new in some cases is for certain bird records committees to start observing their states' true + legal boundaries in terms of review areas. Since past sight records have been reviewed and voted on by competent BRCs, I do not see a burning need to hurry through reams of past material to "reassign" them. But if a state BRC knows of a historical record with accurate location info and wishes to add it to its state's official ornithological record based on the legal boundaries of their state - so be it.
Ned's post reminded me of a possible reason for BRC resistance towards recognizing at-sea legal boundaries: If BRCs would rather not have to revisit all past pelagic submissions, there are options available. One potential option: grandfather in all the old stuff and start using legal offshore boundaries from now forward...
Steve, Whether you see a bird at high altitude over land (Birmingham for example), or over the Gulf of Mexico - the record still falls within the LEGAL BORDERS of the state in question. Your rare scenario does not really change anything. Also: I have been avoiding bringing related issues to light, since some involve dirty laundry and I also don't want to give people bad ideas. But I feel I need to mention one example to help combat the notion that this is all simply quibbling over listing minutia. To whit: Sadly, certain people are forging eBird location info from pelagic trips, in order to game the system from a personal listing perspective (since eBird uses closest point of land). People are also entering duplicate lists (with falsified location info) into eBird for the same reason. I am not really letting the cat out of the bag by mentioning this, since Marshall Iliff mentioned it in a Seabird-News post: This has conservation implications (which is NOT a game). For example, falsified lists containing Black-capped Petrels, Fea's Petrels, etc. have been submitted to eBird and have made it into the database. So for example, going by such falsified lists, future researchers and conservationists might mistakenly believe those Pterodroma Petrels occur in very shallow water very close to shore. Plus other examples. * How about this simpler plan that does not tempt people into falsifying citizen-science data (and other bad outcomes): Bird records committees all recognize legal offshore boundaries like they have been recognizing legal onshore boundaries all along. Ned's post reminded me of a possible reason for BRC resistance towards recognizing at-sea legal boundaries: If BRCs would rather not have to revisit all past pelagic submissions, there are options available. Such as: grandfather in all the old stuff and start using legal offshore boundaries from now forward...
Greg, Please read my post and its references more closely. The State Submerged Lands act WAS passed by Congress and signed by the President. So was the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. And the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (giving equidistance the weight of law) was ratified by Congress. I am not saying anything about changing boundaries. I am saying the boundaries, based on the principle of equidistance, have been there (and settled) for a long time. It's just that most birders (including BRC members) were unaware of this... It boils down to this: 1. States' legal boundaries must be used for state bird lists and first state records, etc. 2. An inquiry into states' legal boundaries at sea will lead to the conclusion that the principle of equidistance (AKA closest point of land) is clearly the standard for setting at-sea state boundaries.
Greg - let's flip this around. If you are contending that the 'principle of equidistance' is *not* used to determine state boundaries (and all resource assignments) 3-200 miles from shore - can you cite anything to support that contention?
Greg, I was not able to get into an exhaustive legal review in this post. I doubt anyone would have read it to the end. Instead, I intended this as a primer, from which people could take terms and laws like the OCS Lands Act, State Submerged Lands Act, etc. and then do further research if they needed more proof/convincing. I urge anyone interested to use this post and its terminology as a starting point and to use Google,, and other resources for further investigation. US law says resources, any resources, from 3-200 miles offshore are assigned to states by the principle of equidistance. This is true of ALL resources from the wreck of the CSS Hunley, to oil and gas revenue, to documented bird records, etc. etc. It's true Federal Reserve notices do not have weight of law, but the one I mentioned has great background info and references UNCLOS, The US Baseline Committee and other important concepts. Also if you think the following, I suppose you also think Nevada should be able to annex part of the Pacific Ocean for their state listers?: "State bird committees should use whatever boundaries they want to make birding the most fun for their states."
I heard they had over 2,000 Mottled Petrels seen from shore in St. Paul yesterday!
Ted Floyd said: "First, Put it all online. I mean, All of it: the record (“accession”) number, the photos and audio, the written description and field sketches. Make it searchable. And create a “comments” field" -- Much easier said than done, particularly for BRCs with a lot of 'analog' material to work through, and without a lot of technical help / resources. And it's not just web development / Internet technical resources that would be required to implement Ted's "archive it all digitally" suggestion. Not every BRC has access to 8mm video tape conversion technology, VHS VCRs - heck even cassette tape players any more. Yet much of their archived material is in these obsolete technical formats. But making past material easily accessible is a worthy goal. Then people in the future can judge whether they think a bird's vocalization is sufficient for a firm ID, or if the BRC was really correct in saying it's inconclusive. That also allows for future BRC members to more easily revisit past decisions when future ID criteria are discovered. One point worth noting is that some of these media (like VHS cassettes) have a certain half-life and they do degrade over time. So if they are not copied/converted before long, corruption or loss would be a looming possibility.
Agreed - some BRC submissions should not be preserved for posterity. The name "David Abbott" leaps to mind...