Date: 6/5/19 8:48 am
From: Harry Armistead <harryarmistead...>
Subject: [MDBirding] regional (MD) editing thoughts.
REGIONAL EDITING THOUGHTS


For 14 years (1979-1993) I was the so-called Middle Atlantic Coast Regional Editor for what was then American Birds, the region including mostly coastal plain MD, VA and DC, with no co-editors. This was back before email, computers, LISTSERVs, most rarities committees, smart phones, manifold digital photography, and eBird.


I relied mostly on written reports plus notes from the Voice of the Naturalist as well as occasional phone calls and bumping into folks in the field. My first reports were written on an IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter. Each season I’d solicit reports by hand-stuffing and mailing out entreaties to c. 150 poor souls.


That was a good stretch, though demanding. Anyone who does this will learn a GREAT deal about local bird status and distribution and get to know, if only through correspondence, lots of birders she/he would never know otherwise. I recommend it heartily, but it does take up a lot of time and effort.


My reports totaled circa 245,000 words of dense “prose” as you can imagine: full of dates, abbreviations, numbers, and names. Each report took about 4 f.t.e. days. My reports mentioned more species than those of most other regional editors, but perhaps had less analysis and commentary.


Once in a long while I’d get an idiosyncratic gift from the editorial office. One time a check for something like the bizarre total of $73.46, in another instance a nice Louis Agassiz Fuertes Prairie Falcon print, now framed and in our dining room. No one does this to get rich. But it was a pleasure to work with Susan Roney Drennan.


But there are many rewards, some amusing. Once on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel I identified some bird and a woman questioned my ID. Her husband admonished her: “HE is the regional editor” as if she should genuflect instead of being critical. I still get a chuckle out of that.


On rare occasions I’d get a complaint that someone’s record was not mentioned, or for some other mistake. I am not a feather-by-feather ID freak (I’m much more of a spatiotemporal, phenological sort of guy) and would be somewhat out-of-place on a rarities committee as a result (and WAS out-of-place on the Maryland one for a year or so before I resigned). I also suffered, and still do, from an Eastern Shore bias.


Rick Blom once sent me a quite civil letter enhancing some of my less-than-stellar commentary, mostly involving identification challenges, plumages, and age/sex differentiations. Whoever takes up the torch to do regional editing should know their stuff pretty well.


It’s really important to have a generalized summary of seasonal bird happenings that goes out to the world beyond Swan Creek, Rock Creek Park, and Ocean City. I heartily encourage someone to take up thus gauntlet. - Harry Armistead.

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