Is the ABA Schizophrenic?

Looking at the picture in the last blog (No Impact Man) you might have notice the latest issue of Birding. Birding is a publication of the American Birding Association (ABA). I’ve been a member since 2007. I like the publication. The magazine has a good deal of information that a birder needs and would find useful like the science behind lumps and splits, bird identification tips, book reviews, equipment reviews, the latest technology, where to find the latest rare bird sightings, etc. The science of birds is a major part of the ABA. Sentences that include terms like, “DNA sequences in the cytochrome-b gene show…” or “A species is an actual or potentially interbreeding clade that is essentially reproductively isolated from all other clades” are common on the pages of Birding. I’ve always wondered why the science of climate change and it’s effects on birds are rarely mentioned.

ABA has also published the Code of Birding Ethics which can be found here. Their website is here. It is a fine code that should be practiced by every birder. The preamble states In any conflict of interest between birds and birders, the welfare of the birds and their environment comes first. The very first statement is Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

In the title of this post I use the term schizophrenic. By that I mean Merriam Webster’s second definition of the word which states, “contradictory or antagonistic qualities or attitudes”.

For some time I have been reading the ABA’s Blog. While many postings have been of interest and supplement the magazine, there is, in others, a prevailing interest in and the glorification of the Big Year (or Big Day). Big Years are where the birder is traveling across the country, state or county in search of every bird species they can find in hopes (for most of them) of being the number one birder in the country, that state, or that county. For many years the ABA published the ABA Big Day Report & ABA List Report. This report documented the years activities of it’s members and also their life lists. I received one copy of the report (2006). It has been discontinued in paper form, ironically, to save trees and costs. It is now a new part of their website in digital form just starting back up this year. In fact ABA is slowly trying to put more and more of their material on the internet which I feel is a good thing but I do know of at least one of their members that doesn’t use a computer. A review of that 2006 issue shows 3 Big Days for Colorado. One of them used 400 car miles, one used 525 car miles and one used 727 car miles. That’s 1652 car miles for Colorado for Big Days and that’s just the people that reported them. Big Years use even more. I googled the ABA and climate change and found very little. I did find an article that explains my thinking exactly. That article can be found here. The article is about a Big Year in the State of Washington during 2012. The car miles used were 31,531. The author of the article was trying to get across the point that this might not be a good thing for the birds or the environment. The article is titled Birding in the time of climate change. You can imagine a Big Year across the ABA Area. One such person blogged that when he told people what it costs, “people gasp”. The amount of carbon put into the air by people doing Big Years is huge, probably in the millions of miles by car, boat, and plane. So you have an organization that is promoting these Big Days and Big Years on one hand and has a Code of Ethics that states Promote the welfare of birds and their environment. I think that that is schizophrenic.

How did it come to this? It’s all in their history. Thanks to Ted Floyd, the current editor of Birding, the history of the ABA has been posted on their website. You can find it here. You can see that statements like this in 1970 explains why the ABA is the way it is today.

The tone of vol. 2 (1970) was sometimes cantankerous.
(Do periodical publications, like toddlers, go through the
Terrible Twos?) The January/February issue opened with a
“Forum” (p. 2) that included such verbiage as ‘shudder’,
‘troubled’, ‘factions’, ‘polemics’, and ‘dissatisfied’. The editorial that followed (p. 3) advised against conservation coverage on the pages of
Birding which would be “subverting our
reason for exist[e]nce”. Next came
a plea from Dean Fisher (p. 5),
with capital letters and an exclamation point, to L
EAVE SCIENCE
OUT!

But wait. There has been a whole new change in leadership since then.

The topics covered in that 2001 volume were diverse and stimulating, among them the
North American Bird Conservation Initiative (February, pp. 30–33), shade-grown coffee (February,
pp. 38–40), pesticides (April, pp. 160–161), invasive plants (June, pp. 240–248), extinction and
ecosystem function (August, pp. 302–305), integrated bird management (August, pp. 356–360),
ecotourism and conservation (October, pp.
416–427), and the Shortgrass Prairie Bird Conservation Region (December, pp. 546–551). The agenda was clear: Birders, acting individually and corporately, can make a difference.

Ted Floyd ended that history with this statement, “I noted that the next few issues would not differ greatly from what ABA members had grown accustomed to. But I also concluded with an assurance that longer-term changes lay ahead.”

But what about climate change? Birding ran an article in their July 2012 issue about Green Birding, an article that got me thinking about the way I bird. Their interviews with top people in birding have been asking the questions about climate change. Recently Jeff Gordon, President of ABA, had a blog about New Mexico’s Rosy-finches. He mentions climate change forcing the finches out of their high altitude locations. Colorado, the location of the ABA’s Headquarters, is burning. Last year a record number of fires burned there. Their blog told the story of the fires near them. This year there are already fires reported and it’s only March. Only time will tell if progress can be made. Only when climate change generates more discussion then playing recorded bird songs will I be convinced that change has come. Remember– Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

 

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4 thoughts on “Is the ABA Schizophrenic?

  1. Into the Lion’s Den – greenbirdingmendo

  2. Birds and Climate Change – greenbirdingmendo

  3. Dorian Anderson Does It! – greenbirdingmendo

  4. What’s it all About Jonathan Franzen? – greenbirdingmendo

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