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Monday, November 11, 2013

Birds for birding but how so?

“Dogs for dogging, Hands for clapping, Birds for birding, Fish for fishing”

~ The Beatles - Revolution 9

It would be a waste of time to discuss each of these lines “Dogs for dogging” etc. Instead I shall focus on the one which would concern the members of this fine organization, obviously “Birds for birding”.

For many years a dispute has raged freely through the feather seeking ranks. That being the question of the function of the bird in our hobby. Most (lets call them Team #1) will passionately argue for the virtue of the view, seeing these beautiful beasts in their natural environments. What could be more pleasant then with a teasing sea-wind frolicking over your broad-rimmed hat, peering over a chaotic landscape of wave-washed rocks to the pale form of a Glaucous Gull. Chancing upon a singing Cerulean Warbler in a dancing beam of oak-tinted sunlight high on tree, high on hillside, leaves one high on life.
Not to say this is not what Team #2 seeks just as eagerly, but for them the wind, the trees, the glaring sunlight; all
these are distractions and disadvantages. They seek the bird for the immaterial collection (the check-list). They strive only for a bigger list. To them more birds means more skill and in general that is the case.
These are birders with a goal and this in reality is not necessarily a bad thing.
I am not a lister but that is not to say that I don’t enjoy another name on my catalog. I find the process of keeping a list up to date tedious and boring. I have many incomplete lists!
I have no argument with a bicker in fact I find few things more pleasing then a good quarrel. But from my perspective this altercation seems lame and often even stupid. I don’t wish to take sides but I think I must. The ideas coming from Team #1 are in eliminating listers damaging the only thing they stand for more. This is, as may have been surmised, the recruiting the of the next generation of pale-necks. It seems to me ridiculous to expect a kid would ever appreciate the observation of even the most colorful birds enough to see the cheapest of field guides a worthy buy without already being deeply involved with the hobby. Team #1 seems to have unwittingly stumbled into a catch-22 of their very own; for they hate listers birding and love kids birding but to be a birder a kid must almost certainly be a lister.
Children should see birding as a game and nothing more; later they can be easily encouraged to enjoy the birds.
I recall when I was small, about 8 years-old, and I had just begun birding that to me the list was at the heart of the hobby, the joy of birds only later grew on me. “Gently rising, rising, rising, as a stiff bloated corpse gently rises above an oily river that flows under endless onyx bridges to a black, putrid sea”.
Team #1 should learn to except these rats in the walls (ie. Team #2) as Team #2 seemingly has excepted them in turn. Have you ever heard the argument from a point of a lister?

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." ~ Grouch Marx 

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