Date: 9/24/18 2:55 pm
From: Jay Withgott <withgott...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Not a birder anymore

Joel and all —

I’m unaware of what specifically may have precipitated your initial posting, Joel, but I, for one, have always valued your perspective and your contributions on OBOL, so I certainly hope you’ll remain in our online community! I also, like you, very much wish that more birders would devote greater time and effort to help conserve the birds we all enjoy — this is sorely needed. However, I think the wording of your message sets up a false dichotomy by equating the word “birder” — a broad term rich and deep with meaning(s) — with narrower conceptions like “lister” or “chaser”. Although many of us enjoy chasing rarities and/or building lists, this is hardly the only, or even primary, motivation for most birders I know. I think all of us — including the most hardcore chasers — are motivated by some or all of the following:

* getting outdoors to enjoy natural surroundings
* exploring new areas
* recreating with friends who enjoy the same pastime
* learning about bird behavior, distribution, and abundance
* building field skills and the ability to predict bird occurrence based on knowledge of habitat and seasonality
* leading field trips and teaching others about birds and nature
* writing, illustrating, speaking, or otherwise communicating the wonders of birds and nature to others
* researching and publishing on aspects of field ornithology that advance our scientific understanding of birds
* enjoying the simple (or not-so-simple) act of observing birds

Every individual has his or her own skills, interests, priorities, and constraints, so each of us will pursue different mixes of these approaches. There many ways to be a “birder," and I think we’re all best served if we retain a big-tent meaning for this term. There is nothing black-and-white about how one pursues interests in birds. One can be a lister AND a conservationist; a chaser AND a restorationist; a teacher AND a student; etc., etc. I predict that anyone attending the upcoming OBA meeting will witness a full and rich mix of diverse approaches to birding within and among the attendees.

Joel, I know you know all this already, but I feel it worthwhile to put in writing for the sake of the many people on this listserv who may be newer to the community. This is because I think it’s important to recognize that the nature of communication on listservs such as OBOL tends to heighten the perception of rarity-chasing as a component of birding. The rules, norms, and expectations for posting messages on a listserv like OBOL tend to constrict and weed out the majority of what each of us might think, feel, experience, and wish to discuss with others from a day out birding. Instead they urge us to be concise in our communication and to focus our reports on the surprising occurrences, which are going to include the rare species and out-of-place vagrants. This is necessary, or we would all be swimming in so much unsolicited information that no one would read any of it. But it does end up having the cumulative effect of portraying our collective birding efforts as being far more focused on rarity-chasing than they truly are.

For instance, this past week on a free day I could have driven to the coast to chase a Hudsonian Godwit that would have been bird #400 for my Oregon lifelist and would have required an OBOL posting had I found it. Instead I chose to stay closer to home and poke around the wilder stretches of Sauvie Island hoping to find some September shorebirds myself. It was a poor migration day and I found nothing notable — and so posted nothing on OBOL — yet I enjoyed plenty of natural wonders that day that broadened my appreciation of nature in our region just a bit more, and I also enjoyed running into a couple of birding friends in the field and catching up and learning from them.

As for doing more for conservation, I’m with you 100%. But those birders who choose to advance conservation efforts will naturally do so in different ways, according to their own strengths, interests, abilities, and opportunities. Engaging directly in habitat restoration is one excellent way, but there are many others, ranging from education and introducing others to the wonders of birds (see above) to lobbying and political advocacy to contributing money and/or volunteer time to well-established conservation organizations. For anyone wanting to know an easy way to help serve bird conservation efforts in our region, I can tell you as a 7-year board member of Portland Audubon that I continue to be impressed by this organization’s extraordinarily effective efforts and programs. I also contribute to international organizations such as the American Bird Conservancy and the Rainforest Trust.

OBOL was never intended to be an outlet for discussing bird conservation issues in Oregon. BOO is currently such an outlet. It might be worth discussing why BOO has not yet produced the traffic typical of OBOL. One possible reason — informed by my observations of our hard-working Portland Audubon staff — may be that many of the folks doing on-the-ground conservation work are simply too busy to spend time on listservs! At any rate, I’m happy to help brainstorm about better ways we can foster more communication regarding conservation issues with birds in Oregon.

Jay Withgott

Msg: #8 in digest
Subject: [obol] Re: Not a birder anymore
From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...> <mailto:<joel.geier...>>
Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2018 10:54:58 -0700

Thanks Mark but no, it's not even a hobby for me at this stage.
To me a hobby implies something that you're putting time into for its
own sake. "Avid" birders are hobbyists who happen to be highly focused
on their hobby.

To clarify, I still plan to volunteer on BBS routes as a long-term
project that seems worthwhile for monitoring birds and their
conservation status. I'll keep doing CBCs for the same reason, plus I
like visiting those places and seeing the people who show up as
volunteers, year after year.

But as the years go by, I've found it harder and harder to identify with
hobbyists who can always find time to dash out to the local sewage ponds
if someone sees a bird that they "need" for their county year list, but
never seem to have time to help on habitat restoration. Or folks who can
point their scopes at birds right outside a prison fence without doing
anything to help those inside.

People are of course entitled to pursue their favorite hobby, whether
it's collecting stamps, building model railroads in your basement, or
traveling hundreds of miles to add one more species to your life list.
To each their own. This is a birding list and obviously there are a lot
of people here who are avid about birding, in varying degrees. I just
wish there was something similar for people who are avid about bird

On Sun, 2018-09-23 at 06:06 -0700, Braz wrote:
> I would proffer that you are now a hobby birder, no longer an avid
> birder.
> But I've been wrong before.
> Mark Brazelton
> Hobby Birder
> Medford, Oregon
> On Sat, Sep 22, 2018 at 10:00 PM Joel Geier <joel.geier...> <mailto:<joel.geier...>>
> wrote:
> Friends,
> It's been a good ride for the past twenty years or so. I thank
> you for
> the many things that I've learned along the way.
> But I've reached the point where I no longer really care if
> someone
> finds a Louisiana Waterthrush or whatever in Benton County.
> It's not
> really meaningful even if it's real. It's just another stray
> bird that
> doesn't represent real conservation issues.
> So no, I'm not a birder anymore. Please forgive me for that.
> If you want to talk about bird conservation, I'm still here,
> and I'm
> listening.

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