Dorian Anderson Does It!

If this post looks familiar to you it's because I wrote it just seven days ago. Why would I repost this article? It's because I want to show you the different reactions to Dorian Anderson's tremendous achievement and Neil Heyward's conventional if record breaking Big Year in 2013. There has been NO reaction at the American Birding Association(ABA) to Dorian's efforts nine days after his year ended. Bear in mind that he was out there raising money for them. I am going to re-tag this post to include the ABA. In 2013 I was able to connect my blog to their's using this method. Don't know if it still works but I will find out. More on this below my post congratulating Dorian Anderson.

Congratulations go out to Dorian Anderson for successfully and safely completing his Biking for Birds Big Year. This was Dorian's pledge when he started his birding adventure.

I, Dorian Anderson, will travel only by bike, foot, and kayak as I move about the continent in search of birds. My movements will be unaided by petroleum, natural gas, and electricity. I will not have a support vehicle; everything I need will be carried on my person and my bicycle. This Big Year permutation will certainly add an unprecedented level of adventure to the endeavor, and it should set a new standard for environmentally sustainable travel.

His early estimate of bird species he expected to find was between 550 and 600. His final total is 617 with the possibility of an additional Red-legged Honeycreeper if the Texas Rare Bird Committee approves it.

He visited 28 states, biked 17,830 miles, walked 493 miles and kayaked 8 miles. He had 34 flat tires, 1 broken spoke, and 1 broken dérailleur cable. He raised over $45,000 for bird conservation and birding programs.

He has set a record for the most birds seen without using a carbon producing vehicle. We will see if anyone in the birding community will attempt to break it. Most birders like to bird using the comforts of their cars. Maybe the next attempt at a birding big year should be using public transportation.

You can see Dorian's final 2014 post at his Biking For Birds Blog. You can still hit the donation button.

 

Here is an email that I sent to Nate Swick, ABA's blog manager on January 3rd.

Nate–Dorian Anderson has completed his Biking for Birds big year. In fact it's been 3 days now going on 4. He was actually out there raising money for the ABA. Why the silence on his efforts? You should be featuring him prominently on your blog just because of his efforts. I would bet that by this time last year Neil Hayward received more blog time and as far as I know he wasn't raising any money for ABA. Maybe Neil can get on a bike and challenge Dorian's record.

Richard Hubacek

Little River, CA

OK it was a little snarky! Here is Nate's reply on the fourth.

I haven't silenced his efforts. I just have a ton of other stuff backed up that I need to get published. We'll have something on Dorian very soon.

NS

Of course I hadn't claimed that he had “intentionally” silenced Dorian's efforts, it's just that no one at the ABA seems to be excited about them. Nate was excited with Neil Heyward's efforts. He was on the boat when Neil Heyward's broke Sandy Komito's record on December 28, 2013. You can read about Nate's excitement on the ABA's blog. Note the title, Neil Hayward Does It! Sort of like my title for this post. Other members of the ABA staff were out with Neil during his year especially in Alaska. To be fair I read where some members of ABA's staff met up with Dorian early in his year and one, Diana Doyle, a green birder and writer for Birding, actually rode with him. There may have been others. Nate also wrote a blog titled, Gunning For ABA Big Year on the 6th of December, 2013. There was the Hayward vs Komito: A Look at the Playing Field by Greg Neise on December 27th. There was the Congratulations Neil! by Lynn Barber on December 31st. The ABA let Neil Hayward announce the ABA's Bird of the Year during an interview. I think I'm safe when I say that there was lot's of excitement at the end of 2013 because of Neil Hayward. None so far for Dorian Anderson. Maybe it's because Dorian was setting a record and not breaking one (although I think he broke a few) but I'm afraid that it's the culture of birding in general and at the ABA specifically. I hope they make a big deal when he hands them a big fat check.

Update: Before someone makes a big deal out of it, there was one “biking” Big Year featured on January 2, 2014. It was titled, An Interview with Ron Beck: Big Green Year Record-breaker.

As for the culture of birding and the ABA mentioned above, I wrote in 2013, a post called, Is the ABA Schizophrenic? It wasn't one of my best written posts but I sure liked the title.


 

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CONGRATULATIONS To Dorian Anderson.

Just a short post to congratulate Dorian Anderson for reaching and smashing through his goal of finding 600 species of birds during his BIKING FOR BIRDS YEAR. All this happened yesterday, Thanksgiving Day.

His current stats are 604 species with several that will have to be approved by birding committees.

States visited is 28. Miles biked is currently at 16,277. Miles walked is currently 448. Money raised for bird conservation and birding programs is currently at $29,064.25 and flat tires is at 34.

If you hurry you can read about his goal reaching day here. If you wait you will have to scroll down.

A Red-legged Honeycreeper!!! You've got to be kidding?

 

Care to Join the Debate–Carbon Offsets

I had planned to write about this subject last year but it just kept being put on the back burner. As a birder I became aware of the carbon I was releasing into the air every time I got into my truck to go birding or to chase some rarity that showed up. That was what my “green” year was all about. To lower my carbon footprint. But birding isn’t my only carbon releasing activity. How you heat or cool your home, what you eat, how you get to work, how you vacation, etc. are carbon related activities. There are many more and you can’t avoid them. You can reduce them but in the end we are all carbon polluters. Even Dorian Anderson who’s currently biking across the U.S. in search of birds has a carbon footprint. It’s just so much less then all of us.

So what are carbon offsets. The following quote is from grist.org’s, Ask Umbra“.

The basic idea behind carbon offsets, for those unfamiliar with the term, is that you spend money to make up for putting carbon into the atmosphere. Perhaps you have put this carbon into the atmosphere by flying to Ontario to see your great aunt, or perhaps you are a business that cranks out a lot of pollution. You have your reasons. Anyhow, the money you spend “offsets” your carbon belching by supporting projects that produce clean energy or reduce carbon in other ways.”

The first article I came upon last year that concerned carbon offsets was actually about birders. It was titled, “How Birders Can Conserve Habitat with Carbon Offset Donations for Birding Travel“. You can find the article here.

“It’s a good thing when birding festivals and events find ways to give back to the community. This year, the Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS, headquartered in Lakeside, Ohio) will again raise funds through a voluntary Carbon Offset Birding Project (COBP) where travelers donate money in proportion to the carbon emissions they use from birding and birding travel.”

This experimental COBP project was launched a few year ago by motivated birders who wanted to do something to offset the environmental impact of their birding travel. A number of these folks were involved with the Midwest Birding Symposium,  thus MBS became the first carbon-offset program specifically tailored to birders for the benefit of birds at a bird-watching event.”

The link in the paragraph above will take you to a PDF describing COBP. A quote from that PDF states:

“Some folks have actually suggested that birding is bad for the birds! Here’s the reasoning: as we pursue our interest, enjoying birds, and even racing around Ohio (or the region or the country) building our bird lists, we are also burning fossil fuels—lots of them—that add to greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists believe that these greenhouse gasses are long-lasting, global, and have already affected bird habitats and migratory patterns negatively.”

Average per-person gas emissions in the United States are 27 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. (World per-person averages are closer to 5.5 tons.) To understand the magnitude of that number, one ton of CO2 may be emitted when an American:

_ Travels 2,000 miles in an airplane
_ Drives 1,350 miles in an SUV
_ Drives 1,900 miles in a mid-sized car
_ Runs an average household for two months
_ Has a computer on for 10,600 hours (442 days).”

 
 
 The Union of Concerned Scientists website states that:
 
 “1 gallon of gas = 24 pounds of global warming emissions.
Every gallon of gas burned emits 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases into the atmosphere. About 5 pounds of that come from the extraction of petroleum and the production and delivery of the fuel. But the great bulk of heat-trapping emissions—more than 19 pounds per gallon—comes right out of a car’s tailpipe.
Pollution adds up fast. Each year, the average car sends 6 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—about three times the vehicle’s weight.”
 
 

Many birders don’t feel that they are part of the problem. Obviously they are wrong. But the subject of carbon offsets could apply to anyone or anything. A business traveler, a popular rock band, a world event like the Olypics, or just those concerned about climate change and might feel a little guilty about their carbon emissions.

One of the best websites that I’ve found to explain the ins and outs of carbon offsets is “HowStuffWorks“. It might be a little old and some of their links don’t work but it’s good with the basics. Even at their site there is a sign of some misgivings about carbon offsets.

“Some environmentalists doubt the validity and effectiveness of carbon offsets. Because the commercial carbon trade is an emerging market, it’s difficult to judge the quality of offset providers and projects. Trees don’t always live a full life, sequestration projects (for the long-term containment of emissions) sometimes fail and offset companies occasionally deceive their customers. And voluntary offsets can easily become an excuse to overindulge and not feel guilty about it.”

I have found several companies that offer carbon offsets. I don’t endorse any of them but it’s interesting to see what they are offering. One of these companies is Pacific Carbon Trust. Another is Terrapass. And another is Carbonfund.org. Most of these companies offer a carbon footprint calculator which you might want to use just to see yours. This carbon footprint on The Nature Conservancy’s website is real simple and you don’t need to know much about yourself. I scored a 22 for a two person household. Average in the U.S. is 53 and the rest of the world is 11. It’s a fundraiser for The Nature Conservancy but that bring up a good point.

ASK UMBRA (see above) has this to say, “First, the best thing we can do when it comes to emissions is reduce our impact as much as possible… Second, if you have money to donate, consider investing directly in renewable energy projects or environmental groups near you that are doing great things. A carbon offset is, at its core, a donation to a good cause. Why not eliminate the middle-person and support projects you feel confident about?”  More on this idea in my next post.

Finally this article on the Christian Science Monitor’s website is a very good in-depth article about the mostly bad pitfalls of carbon offsets. It ends with these statements:

“David Hales, who has represented the US in international environmental negotiations and now is president of College of the Atlantic in Bar HarborMaine, headed a 2008 effort of college presidents to draw up guidelines for offset purchases by colleges and universities. None of the certifications met the standards of his group.

“The market is dominated by junk,” Mr. Hales says. At his own college, he set students to the project of picking offsets to counteract emissions, and they found the effort a quagmire.

“It almost takes a full-time staff to determine exactly what you are getting. Even then, there is a range of uncertainties,” Hales says. “It’s truly a ‘buyer beware’ situation.”