Date: 5/1/17 7:37 pm From: CK Franklin <meshoppen...> Subject: Re: Whooping Cranes
Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Barry.
Barry's analysis of the Arkansas birding community is spot on. I've had the privilege of birding in Arkansas for more than a few years and I have always found the birders in this state to be a most generous group in sharing sightings and helping less skilled birders learn how to sort out the birds being seen. Because of their combined efforts, I am a much better birder than I used to be although I still have spectacular failures from time to time. Strange as it may sound, I appreciate being tutored during those episodes. And I am always thankful when acknowledged experts like Kenny, Joe, Herschel, and many others take time to speak with me by phone or email.
Barry's observations about different birding styles & preferences are also true. Some people are dedicated chasers. I fall into the lackadaisical "depends" chaser category. Whether or not I am willing to drive to see a bird depends of how rare it is, where is it, have I seen it before, & what other irons I have in the fire at the time. You betcha I hustled on over to Joe Hogan Hatchery on a recuperating post op knee to see that once-in-a-lifetime Sharp-tailed Sandpiper last fall. There are many birds I've missed over the years because of work priorities, missed emails, or the quantum nemesis relationships we all have with certain birds.
I witnessed the circus the Brambling caused a couple of years ago. The host was willing although I don't think he understood beforehand what a commotion that sighting would ignite. I made a trip out to the house with Karen Holliday in our official Audubon capacities after the fact to thank him and his family for putting up with us.
Given the unique nature of this one occurrence, I, too, agree with Karen Rowe about keeping the exact location of these birds secret to protect them from harm. I knew the birds were over in eastern Arkansas. I assumed they were in Desha County. Word of these particular birds had spread as far south as Marianna. Bill B & I made several trips over to East Arkansas looking for Sandhill Cranes this winter & we asked every farmer or hunter who stopped to see what we were doing if they had seen any Sandhills. A group of hunters in Marianna had not seen Sandhills but specifically mentioned the cranes' presence. They did not offer a location & we did not ask.
Some of you are going to ask did I go see them. The opportunity arose & yes, I did. The field they frequented was along a very busy two lane road full of big trucks and speeding cars and not the best shoulders to pull off on. These birds had no fear of humans or cars and would walk right up to you if given the chance. This was not a tenable situation for the birds or us & it was not going to end well. Some time later one of the birds walked out in front of a big truck & was killed. It could just as easily have happened to one or more of us not paying attention to the dangerous high speed traffic whizzing by mere inches away. It could have happened to an AGFC or police officer hit by a distracted driver while doing their job.
In retrospect this was a very dangerous location for all concerned. The decision not to publicize the location was the correct one in this particular situation. Those people who went to see the birds were asked not to disclose the location for all the reasons that have been advanced. That the location was not publicly disclosed speaks well of the people who were there and who recognized how dangerous the situation was for them and how much more dangerous it could become if crowds of birders and photographers descended on the area.
I am sorry more people did not get to view these birds. I am not sorry that I kept the location secret, and by doing so, ensured that I was not the indirect cause of the death of a friend or birding acquaintance.
From: Barry Haas <bhaas...><mailto:<bhaas...>> Sent: Monday, May 1, 2017 7:36 PM
Subject: Whooping Cranes
Re the subject of an "elite" group of birders- it depends very much on how you define the word "elite". Each of us may have a different definition(s) for that word.
Do we mean by "elite" there are a group of birders with superior birding skills? Absolutely, and I'm glad that's true. They do a good job documenting rarities, etc., so the rest of us know what is going on regarding bird species and populations in the state.
If by "elite" we mean only members of a closed group are informed of rare sightings, based on my many years involved in the Arkansas birding community I would say that does not exist. There are a number of folks who have let it be known to other active chasers that they would like to be included by e-mail/text/twittertweets/whatever when rarities are reported. And while I've not made such a request myself, I've never heard of anyone being intentionally excluded. My own definition of "elite" doesn't include a group of folks who welcome others who have expressed an interest to receive such avian news flashes.
If "elite" means a group of folks who refuse to share rare sightings with others, I don't believe it. About 1985 I going on Audubon chapter field trips. What immediately drew me in was a willingness on the part of other birders to help beginners like myself improve my birding skills. These past 32 or so years I've never gotten a feeling I was being excluded from reports of rare birds I may not have seen. I say that as someone who has served almost 30 years, and still do, in a variety of volunteer positions in both an Audubon chapter and the state society.
There are example after example of rare birds reported during those years that folks who chase birds quickly learned about, and were able to go see. I say "those who chase birds" because I'm not a chaser or a serious lister. Others find joy in that, and good for them. I'm happy to spend all my birding time observing the same species out our back windows in our woods and around our small pond observing their behaviors. Sometimes I witness something new.
Example of a rare bird report- many years ago, early 1990's maybe, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher was spotted by a carload of birders on their way back to Little Rock from Holla Bend NWR. Now, this was long before the day of smart phones, texting, etc., but somehow through the Rare Bird Hotline funded by ASCA for many years and by other means many birders from around the state and even other states made pilgrimages to see the Fork-tailed Flycatcher. As I recall, it stayed and was documented along a state highway for close to a week- hardly a secret- until a bitter cold front came through. The bird was not seen afterwards.
Im my opinion Karen Rowe of AGFC has made a solid case for why the birding community was not made aware of the two Whooping Cranes. I would add that given the immense effort and cost on the part of federal, state, local and non-governmental organizations to bring this species back from the brink of extinction justifies taking special precautions. To me the fact that local folks traveled the nearby road, probably oblivious to the cranes for the most part, is irrelevant. Had vehicles filled with birders been pulled over by the side of the road with spotter scopes set up looking at the cranes, I have no doubt some yahoo with a gun would have thought it a great idea to shoot them. That view is based on reports of other crane shootings in Louisiana, etc. Even if I was a chaser who just had to add Whooping Crane to my state or life list, I would still be glad the state and federal agencies kept their presence under wraps. To me that was the right decision, and an easy one to make even knowing some birders might get their feathers ruffled by the news embargo.
From the deep woods just west of Little Rock,