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Job Opening at the ABA

Hello, Birders!

This blog post consists of two parts. First is a position announcement; we need somebody to produce our “Sightings” column for Birding and Winging It. Second is some commentary from me about this column.

First things first. Interested in producing the “Sightings” column for Birding and Winging It? Then please carefully study this announcement:

ABA is looking to fill the position of “Sightings” Department Editor. This position is undeniably fun, but it is also a time-sensitive monthly commitment. The main duty is producing a high-quality monthly column about rare bird sightings across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. A successful applicant must have excellent writing skills, the ability to solicit information and photos from various sources, and unsurpassed punctuality. “Sightings” is a current events column, so timeliness cannot be stressed enough; copy is submitted, in alternating months, to Birding editor, Ted Floyd, and Winging It editor, Michael Retter, immediately before it goes to press, making it impossible to accommodate late submissions. Past editors have employed substitute compliers when they have upcoming vacations or other conflicts that would make submitting on time difficult. If finding a substitute is impossible, though, the editor is expected to submit regardless, which may involve long evenings. Information for the column is submitted by a growing network of regional informants (whose names and contact information will be provided), but the editor must continually work to keep informants current and must seek out information in uncovered areas. The position pays $150/submission.
    Please notify Ted Floyd by e-mail ([email protected]) if you are interested in this position. Please indicate SIGHTINGS DEPARTMENT EDITOR (yes, all caps) in the subject line of your e-mail inquiry. The ABA is enthusiastically and aggressively non-discriminatory. We welcome inquiries and/or statements of interest from all birders.

Second, some commentary from me:

In recent years, “Sightings” has emerged as one of the top-flight, must-read items in Birding and Winging It. In a nutshell, “Sightings” is the one and only place to get a succinct yet thorough overview of all notable rarities from the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, and Mexico. It’s a compendium of rarities, yes, but it’s also written as a fun, friendly narrative. A comment I hear a lot goes like this: “I always read it from start to finish, without stopping.” And I hear variants on this comment: “I just love the photos.”

There are various reasons for the recent good fortunes of “Sightings,” and one of them probably stands out above all the others: Michael Retter. I’ll be honest with you: If you’re the person who takes over the “Sightings” column, you’ll have a tough act to follow. Michael’s a fine writer; he’s reliable and responsible; he has solid knowledge of the status and distribution of the birds of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.; and he’s a great “people person.”

Don’t blow off the “people person” aspect of this job. Each and every month, Michael has had to correspond with dozens of “informants”—folks who supply photos, folks who check facts for him, and of course the folks who supply the sightings themselves.

Which brings me to a perhaps obvious question: Why the heck would anybody want to do this? I know that’s a risky question, as it implies that the job isn’t worth it. Well, if all you’re looking for is an easy $150 per month, the job isn’t worth it! Go donate plasma or be a lawyer or something. But if you really want to make a difference in the North American birding community, then being the “Sightings” Department Editor is a great way to do it. I honestly believe there are thousands of birders for whom Michael Retter is something of a hero. They may not know him personally (although being “Sightings” Department Editor does win you many personal friends!), but they are truly grateful for the resource he has provided, month after month after month.

There’s something else. I think you’ll have a great deal of fun doing this job. Oh, sure, there will be the tedious moments—as when you have to ask a contributor for the umpteenth time which county her Scott’s Oriole photo was from. But in your capacity as “Sightings” Department Editor, you’ll learn a great deal about North American rarities. You’ll learn from so many great birders all across the continent, and you’ll make many new friends in the process. If you love birding, and like (most) people, I can’t imagine a more satisfying job than being “Sightings” Department Editor.

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