Date: 9/24/18 6:22 pm
From: Joel Geier <joel.geier...>
Subject: [obol] Re: [boo] Re: Not a birder anymore
Jay and all,

I don't really have time to respond in full because I have other
involvements at the moment. I'm getting a lot of e-mails and even one
phone call today, most of them supportive but some who want to argue
with me, on grounds similar to what you've laid out below.

The big-tent idea is great but I think all of us who've been in birding
circles know what it means when a birder says, "So-and-so isn't really a
birder." We know which kind of accomplishments get celebrated and held
up as examples that others should aspire to.

There are other words for all of these other activities that you see as
part of birding. Naturalist. Hiker. Explorer. Amateur ornithologist.
Mentor. Teacher. Student. Conservationist.

I always thought "birdwatcher" was a pretty good word for what I like to
do, in relation to birds. It's a good word that's been around for a long

But a few decades ago some people coined (or adapted) the word "birder"
for what they saw as a more active and, dare I say, more macho pursuit.
Birdwatchers were eccentric, usually older people with funny hats who
belonged to "societies." Birders were (usually) guys willing to jog up
trails before dawn with headlamps and drive fast all day so they could
set a "Big Day" record. That's all fine, it's just not something that I
identify with or even want to be identified with.

The word "conservationist" is a much bigger tent and it would be great
if more "real birders" want to be under that tent. We could be
celebrating people like Dennis Vroman who has banded more birds or Dave
Lauten and Kathy Castelein who have found and helped to protect more
Snowy Plover nests than anyone else in Oregon. We could be celebrating
the folks who show up at legislative hearings in Salem, trying to get
stable funding for non-game habitat work by ODFW. We could maybe even
consider not bitching or telling people to "take it to BOO" at the
slightest whiff of a call for political involvement.

About BOO, I think a lot of birders don't even know it exists, or else
they think it's just for comments related to the Malheur NWR occupation
by the Bundy Boyz. There are only a few "elite" Oregon birders who ever
contribute or comment. Several have admitted to me that they're not even
signed up and they never look at it.

Finally, my apologies to the many people who've written to me and I
haven't responded to yet. I'm really busy right now with some other
involvements, alongside of my regular work. Some of you know what I'm
talking about but even if OBOL rules permitted it, I wouldn't want to
talk about it in such a wide-open forum. I do intend to get back to
everyone with a personal response and my e-mail inbox is full of red
dots. But it might take a while.

Happy birdwatching,

On Mon, 2018-09-24 at 14:55 -0700, Jay Withgott wrote:
> 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
> Portland
> Msg: #8 in digest
> Subject: [obol] Re: Not a birder anymore
> From: Joel Geier <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
> conservation.
> 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...>
> > 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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