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    Birds Without Birding

    What could be more boring than watching bowling? Watching golf? Playing golf? Watching birding?

    I haven’t seen the movie, yet. I will tomorrow. My wife and a friend have coaxed me into the investment.

    Birders have debated the movie for months. A few birders went so far as predicting an epiphany for the American public. Here is an example from Texbirds a few weeks ago:

    Seriously, now, I am sure that this movie will…prompt thousands (millions?) of non-birding moviegoers to investigate birding via the internet…Every birding group on this continent will benefit if we have “bird stuff” ready for these potential new birders.

    The Big Year has grossed a wretched $6.5 million. The movie cost $57 million to make. March of the Penguins grossed $127 million worldwide, and $77 million in this country. Penguins cost $22 million to make. Avatar, a anemic movie about fake nature, has grossed almost $3 billion worldwide. Facebook and Twitter references to The Big Year are nonexistent. There are no millions rushing to the web to learn about birding. How could so many be so wrong?

    People are just not that into us. The tens of millions of bird people love birds without birding. The general public can be reached through birds. Birding is a different matter.

    Consider the skills needed to be a birder. Start with a grasp of science, geography, and the written word. Field guides and articles in Birding are written for the literate. Most Americans aren’t.

    •Only 15% of Americans are fully literate, functioning at a level equivalent to a university undergraduate degree. The “average” American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level.
    •Approximately 28% of American adults currently qualify as scientifically literate.
    •70% of Americans cannot read and understand the science section of the New York Times.
    •Nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 cannot find Iraq on a map.
    •Half or fewer of young men and women 18-24 can identify the states of New York or Ohio on a map [50 percent and 43 percent, respectively].
    •27% of American adults read no books last year.

    Birders use brains as well as eyes and ears. Birding is part sport and part mind twister. You become an accomplished birder through study, not training. Birding is learned and earned.

    Watching birds is free. Becoming a birder isn’t. Birding takes time, money, and commitment. Look at any of the demographic studies of birders. Birders are well educated (the average being over 16 years of formal education) and relatively affluent.

    Birding is also tied to the ability (or willingness) to think critically, to analyze the evidence and come to an independent conclusion. Birders gather evidence in the form of size, shape, color, pattern, sound, and action, and arrive at a conclusion about the identity of the birds. If the bird is rare, we offer our evidence to other birders who make their own independent conclusions. A measureable number of Americans believe that Neil Armstrong did not land on the moon.

    Birding also demands that you leave your cocoon and face the world outside. Between 20 and 30 million Americans (men, I am sure) play fantasy football, far more than are birders. There is no fantasy birding. There is no creature comfort that a birder will not forgo to see a target bird. How many recreations can you name where retching over the side of a boat is part of the rite of passage?

    Birding is not for the masses; birds are. I am not concerned about the degree to which they care about us. I do worry a great deal whether or not they care about birds and habitats. Birders should be advocates for birding. No one else is going to fight for someone else’s hobby. But birders also can introduce birds to the masses, to open that door slightly so that our neighbors can peek into nature and, perhaps, become bird people themselves. That, I suspect, is the best we can do.

    Are we doing our best to invite our neighbors into an appreciation of birds sans birding? I love Marda Kirn’s bus birding in Denver. Ted Floyd has expanded bare-naked birding to help people watch birds without the accouterments of birding. Organizations such as the Black Swamp Bird Observatory invite the public to events such as banding days. The World Birding Center conducts weekly bird walks at many of its locations. All of these efforts introduce people to birds.

    Perhaps I am off base, but I see value in shifting the focus from birding to birds. Let’s focus our outreach on connecting people to the resource, and let the recreation fight for itself. I am not worried about the future of birding; I suspect that it will continue to move forward, movie or not. But let’s not lose the public’s interest in birds, their emotional link to the outdoors.

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    Ted Lee Eubanks

    Ted Lee Eubanks

    Ted Lee Eubanks is president and CEO of Fermata Inc. an Austin-based global leader is sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation. Eubanks and Fermata were responsible for developing the first birding trails, in Texas, in the early 1990s. He has served on the national boards of Audubon and the CLO, and received the first ABA Chan Robbins Award in 2000. Eubanks writes extensively about birds, conservation, and sustainability, and has coauthored two books about birds (The Birdlife of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast, and Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail). To continue his work connecting people to places, birders to birds, Eubanks has formed a new company, Great American Trails, which is using new technologies to attract new constituents to the outdoors.
    Ted Lee Eubanks

    Latest posts by Ted Lee Eubanks (see all)

    • http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/northcoastdiaries/ Mike Patterson

      Amen!

      In a world where nature programming on TV consists of Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and Science Channel all running competing shows about hunting bigfoot, it seems pretty clear that the entertainment industry is not going to do the job for us.

      We need to take our message to the streets and the way to do that is through real reality programming. Volunteer to do nature walks with your parks and rec department. Join a “Friends of Group” for your local wildlife refuge (or start one if there is none). Do a power point for the Kiwanis Club. Mentor kids in local schools. Occupy the message.

      Enthusiasm and direct action are far more infectious than preaching to the choir and complaining because the straights don’t get it.

    • Katrina Knight

      I don’t think you’re off base.

      I don’t care much about whether most other people are birders. If everybody became a birder, the sheer number of people at many birding sites would become overwhelming and possibly detrimental to the birds. I do care a lot about whether they care about birds or not. Even more, I want them all to care about nature and the environment in general. Without places for birds, there will be few birds and the only way we’ll retain the places is if people care about them. People don’t need to want to go chasing after birds to think that they’re worth having in the world.

      This reminds me of a recent discussion on Birdchat about what equipment is needed to get beginners interested in birding. Unlike some of the people who contributed, I don’t think they need anything fancy or expensive. I think that what is needed is to get them interested in birds first. Binoculars help, and good binoculars make it easier, but the interest has to be there first. In addition to the field trips I lead for our bird club, I lead a bird walk for the local park system every year. If the weather is decent the turnout can be 30-odd people of all ages. Most of them are not what we’d call “birders” or if they are, they’re fairly new to it. Some of them bring binoculars, some don’t. The binoculars they bring range from tiny opera-glass style to big old clunky binoculars to modern high quality binoculars. I try to answer all their questions, no matter how basic, as well as show them a variety of birds. I try to make sure that the people without binoculars still get to see and learn about some of the birds. We almost always see something to interest almost everyone. Sometimes it is a hummingbird or an oriole building a nest, other times we find fox kits playing at the water’s edge or a snapping turtle laying eggs. Teaching people to appreciate nature is what I think is most important. Most of the participants will never be birders but some do get into it. I hope the rest go home with a little more appreciation of what’s out there.

    • Tim

      So most Americans are too dumb to handling birding? I think the smug attitude this post takes isn’t going to help attract new birders. Just because I have an interest in being able to tell the difference between a dozen different warblers that look 99% the same doesn’t somehow make me better or smarter than a fantasy football fan who knows how to pick a good tight-end from a bad one.

      The reality is that birding is a past-time; a hobby. It is in no way a more noble way to spend your free time than any other hobby. A movie about fantasy football would probably do just as terrible in the box office as The Big Year is doing. Just because the movie-going public didn’t come out in droves to see “our” movie, doesn’t make our past-time any less legitimate.

      Like Mike Patterson said, the best way to get more people into birding is to volunteer, or just simply be friendly. Next time you’re in a park and a raptor is flying overhead or a mockingbird is imitating a car alarm, look around and see who’s gazing up. Offer them your binoculars, explain to them what species it is, and how you know. If they seem interested, tell them to check out allaboutbirds.org. Just don’t tell them they need to read at a college level to get into birding.

    • Bonnie

      I share your reservations about the tone of this post. The important thing is that we encourage other folks to enjoy birds, and they can do that without a college degree or expensive optics.

      If/when people express an interest in learning more, then that’s time to encourage them to deepen their knowledge.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      Smug? Perhaps, but I am not sure that is the word I would use. Read my earlier articles Bird Brained and Bird People – A Typology. When I speak about birders, I am being very specific. Know the difference between birding and bird watching, between birders and bird people. Bonnie said that “the important thing is that we encourage people to enjoy birds.” I believe that is what I said in my post. As for the intellect of the average American, read the numbers.

    • Kirby Adams

      I think the statement that “[y]ou become an accomplished birder through study, not training” is way off base. No one becomes an accomplished birder by sitting around reading books or bird blogs. You go out and you find birds, preferably in the company more experienced birders.

      How is it that we have middle-schoolers with life-lists in the hundreds who can ID Empidonax species by song? How can there be preschoolers that can ID all their yard birds? How can a duck hunter with barely a high school education ID ducks by silhouette on the wing from 80 yards?

      Most accomplished birders do study, but I find it rather pretentious to insinuate someone born on the wrong slope of the intelligence bell curve can’t be a great birder and get a lifetime of enjoyment from the hobby. It’s really not rocket science, unless you decide to make it that.

      And yes, I do get your point that an effort to be ambassadors for the love of birds rather than birding is likely to reap more reward. I just don’t see why intelligence or education (at the outset) needs to be part of this argument.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      Kirby, I don’t disagree with “no one becomes an accomplished birder through study” but, as I said in my article, birding is learned and earned. How many middle-schoolers do you know that can ID empid by song? One? How many duck hunters can identify all of the other species around other than waterfowl? You can become remarkably skilled in field identification without study, but you will not know the names of that which you have identified. My point is simple. Birding, the extreme form of bird watching, takes skill and study. Most people are perfectly happy simply watching rather than identifying and scoring.

      Thanks for the great comments. This is a good discussion.

    • http://www.sharptern.com Kirby Adams

      Ted, very few of these rural duck hunters (an admitted stereotype that I’m only marginally comfortable using here) can identify more than one or two songbirds, but why is that? Are they only intelligent enough to assign names to the several dozen species of bird that float? Or does their zest to identify simply evaporate beyond the point that is necessary to not run afoul of bag limits? I’d wager that desire is the primary limiting factor to the growth of birding long before intelligence comes into play. (And isn’t it so with with any gaps of knowledge in American society?) So I agree fully that “most people are perfectly happy simply watching rather than identifying and scoring.” I bristle only at the presumption that these people are incapable rather then merely unmotivated.

      If, in addition to a tick on a list, a true birder needed to record an explanation for how said bird incorporated into the local ecosystem, using proper tenets of ecology, then I’m with you.

      Regardless, our visions transect at the point that we need to recruit others to the joy of birds first and let the joy of birding be born of that, if it will. That’s the path I took, and the map I strive to provide for others.

    • http://www.BirdingIsFun.com Robert Mortensen

      Ted, you may be wrong about fantasy birding. Have you seen Audubon’s “Birding The Net?” I like your point about changing our public dialogue to focus more on the birds and therefore their habitat, rather than focusing on recruiting more birders.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tfloyd Ted Floyd

      The interesting BirdChat discussion, mentioned by Katrina Knight, is archived here:

      http://tinyurl.com/3cjbj2t

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tfloyd Ted Floyd

      By the way, Laura Kammermeier touches on some of Ted Eubanks’ themes, in a recent post to her “Birds, Words, & Websites” blog, here:

      http://tinyurl.com/6c42k6d

      Laura’s perspective, as I read it, isn’t exactly the same as Ted’s. But there are some definite thematic convergences, it seems to me.

      And Laura proposes an interesting “action item,” if you will. Well, check out her blog post, and see for yourself!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      This article has veered off in a peculiar direction. Corey, in 10000 Birds, has referenced the article under the heading “Are Americans Too Dumb To Be Birders?”. I didn’t intentionally start in this direction, but I might as well enjoy the ride.

      Here is a question that I will ask you. Virtually every demographic profile of birding shows birders with an education level exceeding the general public. Between 1996 and 2001 we surveyed several populations of birders. The results were published in 2004 in a summary paper in the Journal of Ecotourism. Those surveys (over 2100 respondents) reported a mean of 16.7 years of education.

      According to the National Association For Education Statistics, the number of Americans completing college increased from only 26% to 30% between 2000 and 2010.

      People do not come to birding to be educated, I think we will all agree. People who are educated are attracted to birding.

      Why is that? Why does birding attract educated, prosperous, mature, white participants at a rate far exceeding the general population? These results never vary from survey to survey. I have my own thoughts, but I would like to hear yours first.

    • http://butlersbirdsandthings.blogspot.com/ Laurence B

      Your comment and question here reminded me of where we left off from our earlier discussion Mr. Eubanks. The description of a birder you just gave (which I agree with, for the most part) is also an apt description of the American Conservative (or Teaper, as you’ve called them).
      That seems like an odd connection, but I’ll submit that there is a correlation there. People who have the time and luxury to appreciate beauty and their heritage (and as I mentioned earlier, this heritage pertains both to our natural environment and our American traditions and culture) are attracted to birding. This is also the driving force behind conservatism, which is a cultural form of conservationism, which is why you and I, despite disagreeing on most things, visit the same websites and have the same interests.

      It is rare to find the master composer or artist who was not first educated in their art, and the development of the arts is a product of a society with the time and wealth (luxury) to appreciate it. Birding doesn’t appeal to everyone on a visceral level, although it does to some. For those people whose proclivities don’t immediately draw them towards birding, they must develop their eyes and their ears for it. Too often there are other, easier pursuits.

      I don’t think Americans are too dumb to bird. I think it’s at least as possible that I’m too dumb NOT to bird. I should point out though, that the demographic studies you used in your post probably lumped reading levels from all different races and demographics, but as you’ve pointed out, the birding community is composed mostly of financially secure white people. Financially secure white people, though declining in recent years, still compose the majority of America. Part of their tradition and culture includes golf and football, Budweiser and hotdogs.These banal attractions still have widespread, mass-media appeal and are constantly available. That is not the case with birding, nor is it the case for collectors of sea glass or people who make their own jam.

      I don’t begrudge America the unpopularity of my hobby. As I’ve said before, birding is not in danger of fading away, nor are the birds. We’ve got our birding communities and I would rather enjoy the birding itself than picket for more environmental regulation or lecture Americans on how they’re too dumb to see from my point of view.

    • Katrina Knight

      While I agree with the idea that it is important to promote an interest in birds, not just birding, I’m less supportive of your comments on education. I don’t like the implication that most Americans aren’t smart enough or educated enough to be birders.

      The fact that various profiles and surveys show birders as having a higher than average level of education is not necessarily an indication that there is a direct connection between the two. It may be that some other factor results in both more education and more interest in birding.

      One possible indirect connection I see is income levels. A hobby that is seen as needing expensive equipment and travel is likely to end up with its participants skewed toward higher incomes and people with higher incomes tend to have more education.

      Another possible indirect connection is that serious interest in birding requires both enough leisure time and enough energy to go out looking for birds. People without much education are often lacking on at least one of those too things.

      A more direct connection might be that more education influences some people to be more concerned about the environment and that in turn gets them interested in birds which leads to birding.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      Katrina, I don’t believe that the facts I presented about education are comments. They are simply the results of other’s research. Let’s reverse your objection, that I am implying that most Americans aren’t smart enough to bird. What I am actually saying is the birding, the formal recreation represented by groups such as Audubon and ABA, presents information and materials that are geared for a select audience and not the general public. I used the movie as an example. I can’t imagine this being difficult to grasp. In interpretation we design and write interpretive content that is in alignment with the expected audience (one of Tilden’s principles). Birding is missing the general public if you consider the demographics of self-identified birders. Look at the last ABA survey for a classic example. If this is the case, and it is, shouldn’t we ask why?

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      By the way, I see the recent Changing the Face of Birding conference as part of this same process. ABA is looking at why people of color are underrepresented in birding. I am looking at other limiting factors, such as income, age, and education.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/naswick Nate Swick

      This is an interesting discussion, and while I don’t see anything particularly troubling with Ted’s assertion that birding requires a certain intelligence (could be my bias talking), I think it has more to do with the fact that, typically, people with college degrees simply live lives that allow them leisure time to enjoy hobbies like birding. The same could probably be said for golf, water polo, cycling, quilting, book clubs, etc.

      “Intelligence” manifests in people in many different ways, but the fact of the matter is that, for most people, it needs time and space to develop. I don’t think for a moment that Americans are not capable of enjoying birds and nature and neither does Ted, but I know for a fact that too many of our fellow Americans simply don’t have the means or opportunities to make time for it because they have an illness in the family, or they have to work three jobs, or they’re struggling to keep their heads above water or any number of economic issues we deal with these days that are sad for a whole host of reasons not related to birding.

      I think that’s beside the point though. As Ted says, those people can still be allies for birds even if they aren’t, or never will be, birders. That’s a conversation worth having and a cause worth supporting.

    • http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/northcoastdiaries/ Mike Patterson

      I suspect that part of what’s happened here is that some have conflated education with intelligence. The birding demographic is more highly educated. That doesn’t mean we are smarter or that uneducated people are dumber. My brother barely graduated from High School, did not attend college. He owns his own business. I would argue that he’s just as smart as I am (though never to his face).

      On the other hand, my brother is more poorly informed about matters of the world, has a narrower information base on many topics, holds some opinions and beliefs that make Holiday gatherings a challenge and is prone to voting against his own interests (if you know what I mean).

      So, let’s re-redirect the conversation. Demographically, highly educated people ON AVERAGE tend to be more liberal in their world view. They read more, travel more, fall out in a different place on the environmental awareness scale. We’re not smarter, we just think we are.

      The first thing they teach you in teacher school is to not call your students dumb. Our mission should be to help broaden the information base of the less informed. And it ain’t easy.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      Interesting comments…

      Here is an example of what I am trying to address (originally, why more people didn’t attend a movie).

      The Smithsonian recently published the complete evolutionary tree for the Hawaiian honeycreepers I coped the text of the article into Word, and checked it for readability. According to Word, the text is written at a 13.9 grade level.

      I did the same for one of Paul Hess’s articles. He scored around 11.

      The average American reads between 7 and 8.

      This does not imply that the average American stopped school in 7th or 8th grade. This is simply an indication of a level of reading comprehension. If we write at a college level, if we publish field guides at a college level, if we give our members publications written at a college level, who do you think will read them? Who do you think will join?

      [Educators might be asked how it can be that over 85% of Americans graduate from high school (or have a GED) and still read at a middle-school level.]

      You are what you eat.

    • http://birdsandbloomsblog.com/category/southcentral/ SeEtta Moss

      Ted’s last paragraph is for me the crux of his blog:

      “Perhaps I am off base, but I see value in shifting the focus from birding to birds. Let’s focus our outreach on connecting people to the resource, and let the recreation fight for itself. I am not worried about the future of birding; I suspect that it will continue to move forward, movie or not. But let’s not lose the public’s interest in birds, their emotional link to the outdoors.”

      For those of us concerned with the future of birds, it is essential that we focus our attention on helping the ‘masses’ to connect with birds and nature and butterflies or whatever works to get them to see the value in the natural world. If they don’t value birds and nature they won’t support conservation efforts and legislation that is pro nature and politicians who will vote to protect the natural resources we value.

      There is already a population of birders out there who are not members of organizations focused on recreational birding like ABA (including myself–though not a member I read some of the ABA blogs because I find the content valuable) that they could draw from-the challenge is to figure out what they can do to attract them to their groups.

      Thank you Ted for bringing again (yes, he has written this before including on this blog) the real challenge for bird conservation–not making more birders but more bird/nature appreciators. That does mean rubbing shoulders with all those novices and putting up with questions about hummingbirds hitching rides on geese as they migrate south and blank stares when you talk about tertials. Frankly I find many to be refreshing in their ability to be delighted by the beauty of an American Goldfinch or the pugnacity of a Rufous Hummingbird as it takes on all comers.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      David Brooks (yes, I will read an intelligent conservative writer) noted the following in the NY Times yesterday:

      “In 1979, the average college graduate made 38 percent more than the average high school graduate, according to the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke. Now the average college graduate makes more than 75 percent more.”

    • http://10000birds.com Corey

      I’d agree with those above who have asserted that those who have leisure time to bird are more likely to become birders. In our society, as Ted pointed out, those folks are likely to be white, college-educated, and upper income. I’m amazed that more birders don’t just become golfers instead. But we all know that the best birders are the ones who started as kids and that makes me wonder what their average socioeconomic background was when they started and when they become adults.

      Also, yes, please focus on the birds. The birds are what matter and I think that one of the big mistakes of The Big Year was using CGI birds instead of focusing on actual birds. It is not as if there is a dearth of bird footage out there.

      I was amused by the fact that three of my recent blog posts that I cut-and-pasted to an analysis engine had grade levels of 15, 16, and 12. Maybe I need to dumb it down a bit?

      And, Ted, I must take issue with your saying that Bobo (as some, including me, refer to David Brooks) is an intelligent conservative. He regularly gets pretty much everything wrong and very rarely gets called on it by anyone but some pretty smart bloggers. Just google “David Brooks take down” to find over three million examples.

      Thought-provoking post no matter what you take from it.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tfloyd Ted Floyd

      Well, Ted, since you mention Marda Kirn and Ted Floyd in back-to-back sentences, I can’t resist noting that Marda and Ted are co-involved in two upcoming events that might be characterized as outreach to non-traditional birding audiences.

      First is a “Bus Birding” outing, this coming Saturday, Nov. 5th, to the largest natural wetland (an alkali marsh) in Boulder County, Colorado. Details here: http://tinyurl.com/3oun4pz

      Second is a panel discussion, to be held Tues., Nov. 15th, part of a broader “Bird Shift” program and exhibit, at the University of Colorado at Boulder, focusing on human/bird interactions. Details here: http://tinyurl.com/6255mda

      These events are free and open to the public. If you attend and if you are an ABA member, please identify yourself as such!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks

      Corey, I agree that America’s educational achievement (or lack thereof) is a topic for discussion. My interest, though, is how that impacts the interest in birds and birding.

      What I did not say, and could have added, is that educational achievement is historically low among African-Americans and Latinos, and they are underrepresented in birding as well. This has nothing to do with intelligence. This has far more to do with culture and opportunity.

      Writing succinct, simple content for a broad audience is not the same as “dumbing down,” no more so than writing for a young audience. Birding is esoteric enough on its own. I would hope that we can all accept the realities of the society we live, agree that none of this will change any time soon, and work to reach out to groups that otherwise are put off by what for many must seem like gibberish (try fuscous and kleptoparasitic for starters!).

      I confess that I am attracted to literate writers no matter their political persuasions. For example, I like to read P.J. O’Rourke even though I disagree with him on virtually every topic. David Brooks is literate, and therefore I read his column. I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but at least he can construct a simple sentence. Given the depauperate state of modern politics (I will use the recent Republican debates as an example), I admire anyone who can express his or her ideas in a decipherable fashion.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tfloyd Ted Floyd

      Re: “People do not come to birding to be educated, I think we will all agree. People who are educated are attracted to birding.”

      That reminds me of something. Twenty-two years ago, I heard Stephen Jay Gould give a lecture. He was supposed to talk about dinosaurs and evolution, but, instead, he wound up talking an awful lot about baseball.

      Gould’s broader point was about misperceptions of cause and effect, and I remember a particular example that he cited, that involving the well-known correlation between baseball and intellectuals.

      It’s not that baseball, in and of itself, is somehow “intellectual.” (Lord knows, there’s lots more strategy in a single drive in an NFL game than there is an entire, 7-game World Series.) Rather, it’s that people who are intellectuals are attracted to birding.

      Or so said Stephen Jay Gould. You can argue the merits of the case with Stephen Jay Gould (who’s dead), please, but not with me.

      I simply note that Gould’s observation is perfectly analogous to Eubanks’ point, above.

    • George P.

      Interesting figures on Americans’ education level. But what’s your source? I’d like to use them in a discussion elsewhere, but not unless I can cite an official source. THANKS

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tfloyd Ted Floyd

      Oops.

      A Freudian slip?

      Anyhow, above, it should say “attracted to *baseball*”–in case it wasn’t obvious.

      My bad,
      Sorry,
      Ted

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tedeubanks Ted Lee Eubanks
    • http://profile.typepad.com/doncrockett Don Crockett

      I have to agree with Mike Paterson’s sentiments “I suspect that part of what’s happened here is that some have conflated education with intelligence.” I don’t like the suggestion that birders are somehow superior to the general population. That superior attitude is not good for birding in my opinion.

      I do agree that it’s more important to focus on birds than birding with people, and I posted a comment to Laura Kammermeier’s “Birds, Words, & Websites” blog: http://tinyurl.com/6c42k6d to that effect .

      There I stated that my biggest disappointment with “The Big Year” was that there wasn’t more stunning footage of birds and their behavior. The Bald Eagle display was nice even though I’ve heard most of it was CGI, fooled me. I was dumbfounded after 10 years of trying to videotape raptors in flight that someone could hold that tight and smooth on the tumbling pair. They used 1080p camcorders for a lot of the bird footage, why didn’t they license footage shot on 35mm film by Michael Male that you see in Watching Warblers as part of the High Island sequence. Why didn’t they rent a Red One (don’t think the Epic was out when they were shooting the movie, visit red.com if you are interested in seeing the digital revolution in cinematography that is taking place) instead of the 1080p Sony? Adding footage shot at resolutions deserving of the big screen wouldn’t have required changing the storyline at all, just lengthened the movie a bit, and cost a bit more. I would have loved to see a head & shoulders shot of that Great Gray shot at a resolution meant for the big screen. In the end I don’t think these additions would have saved the movie at the box office, but at least people might have come away thinking that birding is about more than running around with nothing more than counters clicking. The emphasis on the meaningful relationships of people with shared passions was well represented.

      I agree sell birds not birding, the birds sell themselves.

      Don

      P.S. And now for a shameless plug, on topic, but shameless nonetheless :) : Although there isn’t fantasy birding, there is virtual birding, and shortly there will be virtual birding 2.0: http://www.virtualbirder.com I didn’t read the posting guidelines, hopefully shameless plugs are not verboten, if they are I apologize and will avoid them in the future :) .

    • http://brownstonebirder.blogspot.com/ Larry

      The part about the intelligence of birders is what kept me interested in the article. I would fall into the statistical group that could be offended by what you wrote but don’t take it that way. I appreciate the fact that you wrote this post without sugar coating it. Open and honest discussion is underrated. I believe that the amount of effort people put into learning about birds or birding is as much about their level of interest as it is about their level of intelligence.

      I also believe that some new birders may be uncomfortabe birding with birders who are more educated or succesful on a professional level than they are. It is human nature to prefer hanging out with people that have similar background. The common interest of birding sometimes breaks that class barrier but some people are turned away from birding groups because of it.

      Enjoyed the article-hope you explore issues like this further.

    • Jane

      The way to expand birding big-time is to GET INTO ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS NOW! Kids don’t care if the person that takes them birding reads at an 8, 7 or 27 level. They love birding when shown in a fun way and will pass on their excitement to their friends and family.There is way too little being done to encourage birding at this level on a national scale.

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
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