Into the Lion’s Den

I have been carrying on a short conversation with Ted Floyd, the editor of American Birding Association’s (ABA) “Birding” Magazine. I’m going to reveal that conversation shortly but first let’s review this blog’s references to the ABA and Ted Floyd. Long time followers might remember that back in March, I wrote, “Is the ABA Schizophrenic?“. Check it out. There are lot’s of long sentences in it so read slowly. Not my best work. Back in June, I wrote, “Bare-Naked Big Walk and Men Are Assholes” about a couple of posts on the ABA’s Blog, one of which Ted Floyd wrote about his “big” day walk without binoculars. Ted Floyd is author of this book.

 Recently I was reading a Ted Floyd post on the ABA’s Blog titled, The Will to Conserve“. The post was about how to address, rhetorically, the issue of “conservation” with members of the ABA. Specifically he referenced an article called, “Most Birds, Least Harm: Ethical and Effective Birding in a Time of Peak Oil, Economic Collapse, and Mass Extinctions,” in the July/August 2013 Birding issue by John Rakestraw. I had the feeling that I would connect with this article but hadn’t received my copy yet. I didn’t know what the few people that commented on the post were talking about.

I emailed Ted Floyd about the problem of blogging about a subject before the magazine was in the hands of the members. This is what I emailed and Ted’s reply.


Ted–As someone who reads “Birding” and also takes a look at the ABA Blog, I’m sometimes perplexed by what I’m reading on the blog. I realize that the blog precedes the magazine. In a communication with Liz Gordon I learned that the July/August issue of “birding” was very late. I only received my issue last week. This is something you should consider when blogging and basing a blog on an article in the magazine.

Your blog, “The Will to Conserve” is an example of this. I was reading the blog and thinking what are these people talking about? The question you posed, “was John Rakestraw’s article effective? The comments by just 4 people, not including you, failed to answer the question. Although Frank seemed to say yes it was.

You referenced pages 2 and 4 in the latest “Birder’s Guide” and “Birding”. I had to get out my reading glasses to read the “small” print and sure enough found the words, “the will to conserve” in a section of the magazine that I’m sure no one reads. Thanks for pointing it out:-) I sure there a metaphor(if that’s the proper word) I could use here. THE WILL TO CONSERVE should be in bold letters on pages 2 and 4 and should be a main topic throughout the magazine.

My answer to the effectiveness of John Rakestraw’s article would be a simple, “yes”. But will anyone take it to heart. Will the “cannonballers”, twitchers, and the big year people even consider it. Changes in long held birding styles will be hard to break and I have seen this conflict at ABA and even here in Northern California where I bird. You asked about the July 2012, “The Green Big Day” article in your blog. I find that it brings up similar issues in a different way. I would ask you why it took a year to bring up these similar ideas. The “Green Big Day” article was the most thought provoking article I have ever read in “Birding”. It inspired me to look at how I bird. I decided I could cut my carbon output by using the local transportation system, using my bike, and using my feet to bird. I’m doing a “green year” using these methods. I have seen 233 species (no exotics), added 6 new county birds, two of which are lifers, and save over 2200 carbon producing vehicle miles so far.

While other birding organizations have their statements on conservation and climate change and their effects on bird populations, the ABA has their, “Code of Birding Ethics” that starts with, “Promote the welfare of birds and their environment”. You should ask your membership how they are living up to these standards in this era of higher temperatures, drought, flooding, and sea level rise.

Richard Hubacek
Little River, CA

 

Hey, Richard.
 
Two things.
 
1. Regarding the timeliness of ABA publications, you’ll be pleased to learn that the September/October 2013 issue has already been mailed, so you’ll be seeing that very soon.
 
 
2. Regarding the second half of your email, I do appreciate your remarks, and I wonder if you might want to adapt them as a letter to the editor. I would be pleased to run such a letter.
 
 
 
 All the best,

Ted


My response to Ted Floyd was:

Ted–based on #1 of your email I might have a few days to adapt my remarks as a letter to the editor. Will give it my best shot.

Richard

 

Thanks, Richard, for considering it. As I said, I’d be pleased to run a letter with such content. Best, –Ted


This is what I wrote:

Ted–Here’s what I’ve come up with as far as a letter to the editor.

Editor:

While waiting for my July/August 2013, issue of “Birding” I noted Ted Floyd’s post on the ABA Blog titled, “The Will to Conserve”. The main question after a lengthy dissertation on the writing styles of various nature writers was, “Was John Rakestraw’s article effective?”. The article in question: “Most Birds, Least Harm: Ethical and Effective Birding in a Time of Peak Oil, Economic Collapse, and Mass Extinctions,” in the July/August 2013 Birding, pp. 56–60. Like all “conservation” posts on the ABA Blog this post received little attention. At the most only four people (not including Ted) commented on it. Ted also referenced pages 2 and 4 in the latest “Birder’s Guide” and “Birding”. I had to get out my reading glasses to read the “small” print and sure enough found the words, “the will to conserve” as part of ABA’s mission statement in a section of the magazine that I’m sure no one reads. Isn’t it time to put “THE WILL TO CONSERVE” in bold letters?

My answer to the effectiveness of John Rakestraw’s bleak article would be a simple, “yes”. I share his concerns for our birds and the planet. John’s article was written before the release of the latest “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report” with it’s assertions that “yes” climate change is happening and “yes” humans are causing it. The IPCC’s report has been lost in the media’s reporting about our dysfunctional government. Throw in the alarming, “The State of the Ocean 2013” just released by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean and you get a picture of the planet we are creating.

My question is–will anyone take it to heart? Will the “cannonballers”, twitchers, and the big year people even consider it. Changes in long held birding practices will be hard to break and I have seen this conflict at ABA and even here in Northern California where I bird.

John’s article and Ted’s blog referenced the July 2012, “The Green Big Day” article in “Birding” by Scot Smithson. Strange that they are a year apart. I would have to say that The “Green Big Day” article was the most thought provoking article I have ever read in “Birding”. It inspired me to look at how I bird. I decided I could cut my carbon output by using the local transportation system, using my bike, and using my feet to bird. I’m doing a “green year” using these methods. So far I have seen 236 species (no exotics Ted), added 7 new county birds, two of which are lifers, and saved over 2330 carbon producing vehicle miles.

While other birding organizations have their statements on conservation and climate change and their effects on bird populations, the ABA has their, “Code of Birding Ethics” that starts with, “Promote the welfare of birds and their environment”. You should ask your membership how they are living up to these standards in this era of higher temperatures, drought, flooding, and sea level rise.

Richard Hubacek
Little River, California

 

Ted replied:

Thank you!


–Ted Floyd

So it appears that I just might get a “Letter to the Editor” published in the next issue of “Birding”. I will believe it when it happens but it’s looking good. A couple of days ago I noticed that Ted posted a comment on a very old blog that was almost 11 months old. Nobody does that, but his post was just below my comments for that post. Ted apparently remember my name. The post called, “Should We Change the ABA Code of Birding Ethics?” can be found here. You have to scroll down to the end of the comments to see mine. I wrote:

It was Ted’s fault.
Look how he drove the conversation to a possible “Code of Birding Ethics” change. He probably knows what gets ABA readers excited. So…63 comments later here I am in a very dusty blog to add the “only” comment on “Green Birding”.
 
For several years I have been surveying shorebirds in Mendocino, CA for a group called, “Save Our Shorebirds(SOS)”. They are attempting to document the shorebirds that migrate through and Winter in this little section of Northern California. They educate people on the impacts of human disturances on shorebirds in California State Parks.
I was excited to see the, “The Green Big Day: Less Driving, More Birding” article in the July, 2012 issue of “Birding”. It got me thinking how I bird. I’ve read many books on the science of climate change but the really scary ones are about the future of the planet. The trip to my survey point was 33 miles round trip. Was all that driving helping the shorebirds I was surveying? I looked for alternatives. A check of the local transit schedule showed that by using the bus and my bike, I could reduce that mileage by 23 miles. I used that option all last Summer. It worked so well that I bought my first ever bus pass. They claimed that I was a senior which means I get to ride for half price. I save 3 to 4 dollars each time I did a survey. It worked so well that I’ve decided to do an experimental year to see how many birds I can find in Mendocino County just using my feet, bike, and the MTA. So far its 136 species with 288 miles saved.
 

I propose a change to the ABA’s, “Code of Birding Ethics”. Section 1 states, Promote the welfare of birds and their environment”. I would argue that Big Years, Months, Days, and driving many miles to list that “rare” bird does not promote the welfare of birds or their environment. I would like to add a Section 1(e) which would state something like, “all birding should be done in the most ecological manner possible”. I know that’s vague but it might get people thinking about how they bird.

In an effort to promote this new section, I propose have your “listing” site have some method of showing this ecological factor for Big Years, Months, and Days. I would suggest “bird per buck” but others might have a better idea. My idea is taken from the appendix of Kenn Kaufman’s, “Kingbird Highway”. By adding an ecological factor we will have an opportunity to evaluate the “Big Year” for what it’s worth. Maybe “lesser” is better. Wouldn’t it be nice if the “obsessives” were chasing Kenn Kaufman’s record instead of Sandy Komito’s. Of course you would have to add a cost of living adjustment.


I believe that Ted Floyd is trying to get a conversation going about how we should be doing our birding. Sometimes these conversations can get hot and heavy. That’s the reason for the title of this post.



 


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6 thoughts on “Into the Lion’s Den

  1. Don’t Know How These Things Happen. – greenbirdingmendo

  2. Birds and Climate Change – greenbirdingmendo

  3. Good News (For Me) Updates – greenbirdingmendo

  4. I Got a Page and a Half!! – greenbirdingmendo

  5. It Was in the Mail Box Today – greenbirdingmendo

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