It Was in the Mail Box Today

I opened up the mail box today and there it was. The latest issue of “Birding”. 

I checked and there it was, my letter to the editor just as Ted Floyd (editor of Birding) said it would be. You can see the evolution of this letter in previous posts on my blog here and here. It was a long, “letter to the editor” in waiting. A four month wait. 

Reading American Birding Association’s President, Jeffrery Gordon’s, “Birding Together” column in the current issue it would appear that the ABA is starting to recognize that “green” birding is something they are now willing to talk about. He heavily promotes the efforts of Dorian Anderson biking across the United States in a Big Green “Biking for Birds” Year for 2014. You can read Dorian’s blog here. I am happy to have a small part in this conversation.

I’m currently waiting for my first look of the year at the ABA’s “Bird of the Year”, the Rufous Hummingbird. They should be passing through shortly.

 

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I Got a Page and a Half!!

I got an email from Ted Floyd this morning. Ted is the editor of “Birding” the American Birding Association’s (ABA) main publication. The email stated:

Hi, Richard.

Just FYI, here is your letter to the editor as it will appear in the imminent January/February 2014 Birding. Thanks for the fine contribution.

Sincerely yours,
Ted Floyd

 

As you can see from the pictures below, my “long” letter got almost a page and a half of the magazine. I know that’s an exaggeration because of the “Instructions for Contributors” box but give me some slack. The final version in “Birding” has been heavily edited. I guess you could say that it was a collaboration between Ted and I. I will discuss this a little more below.

 

 

I know that the pictures are a little fuzzy so here’s the complete text:

The Will to Conserve

In a post last year to The ABA Blog <blog.aba.org/2013/09/the-will-to-conserve.html>, Birding Editor Ted Floyd asked, “Was John Rakestraw’s article [“Most Birds, Least Harm: Ethical and Effective Birding in a Time of Peak Oil, Economic Collapse, and Mass Extinctions,” Birding, July/August 2013, pp. 56–60] effective?” My answer to the effectiveness of John Rakestraw’s bleak article would be a simple “Yes.” 

I share Rakestraw’s concerns for our birds and the planet. I note that Rakestraw’s commentary was penned prior to the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] “Assessment Report,” with its findings 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 the dysfunctional U.S. government. Throw in the distressing “State of the Ocean 2013,” just released by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean, and you get an alarming picture of the planetary havoc we are wreaking.

Now I have a question: Will anyone take it to heart? Will the “cannon-ballers,” twitchers, and Big Year people even consider it? Cherished birding traditions are entrenched; changing our birding conduct and practices will be resisted. I have seen this conflict within the ABA and as well as here in the northern California birding community. Rakestraw’s article and Floyd’s blog post referenced Scott Smithson’s article, “The Green Big Day: Less Driving, More Birding,” pp. 46–52 in the July 2012 Birding. I would have to say that Smithson’s “Green Big Day” was the most thought-provoking article I have ever read in Birding. His article 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 did a Green Big Year using these methods. I wound up with 250 species (no exotics, Ted), added eight new county birds, two of which were lifers, and saved 2,929 carbon-producing motor vehicle miles.

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

In Floyd’s blog post, he directs readers to the front matter (pp. 2 and 4, respectively) in recent issues of 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 the ABA’s mission statement— located in a section of the magazine that I’m sure no one reads. Isn’t it time to put THE WILL TO CONSERVE in boldface, capital letters?

RICHARD HUBACEK 

LITTLE RIVER, CALIFORNIA

 

Why do I call this a collaboration?

Here is the published version of a key sentence:

“Cherished birding traditions are entrenched; changing our birding conduct and practices will be resisted. I have seen this conflict within the ABA and as well as here in the northern California birding community.”

Here is what I wrote:

“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.”

Here is the published version:

“Now I have a question: Will anyone take it to heart?”

Here is what I wrote:

My question is–will anyone take it to heart?”

There are other examples like using the word “unique” in reference to the ABA’s ” Code of Birding Ethics”. Paragraphs are moved around. Other things are dropped entirely. 

You can read my original version in my post called “Into the Lion’s Den“.

DO I CARE? I find that I don’t. I have read my original version several times and came to the conclusion (along with several editors I’ve dealt with and maybe some of you readers) that I’m a little wordy when I write these kinds of things. Even the final version is somewhat wordy. I find that the soon to be published letter gets all the points I wanted to say—said. That’s all that matters to me. Let me know what you think.

This will be my second publication for the month. My article in our little Wood’s Newsletter went out on the first of this month.  

 

Good News (For Me) Updates

A couple of updates on past posts are in order today. Both are good news for me.

The first one is the Curlew Sandpiper I found on the 19th of September. You can read about it here and here. The California Bird Records Committee has acepted the record. It will be the first documented record for Mendocino County.

The second update is–You may recall that I had an email conversation with Ted Floyd, the editor of “Birding” Magazine. That was back in October. I wrote about it here. He encouraged me to submit a letter to the editor for his magazine. I actually expressed some doubts that it would get published and wasn’t totally surprised when it wasn’t in the last issue of “Birding”. So I was surprised when I got this email from Ted.

 

On Jan 9, 2014, at 7:59 AM, Ted Floyd <tfloyd@aba.org> wrote:

Hi, Richard.

We’ll be running your letter in the next issue of Birding.

But let’s update something first. You mention your Green Big Year, which was a work in progress when you submitted your letter. But now it’s complete. So could you please update the two yellow-highlighted stretches of text below? Thanks, –Ted Floyd

Rakestraw’s article and Floyd’s blog post referenced Scott Smithson’s article, “The Green Big Day: Less Driving, More Birding,” pp. 46–52 in the July 2012 Birding. I would have to say that Smithson’s “Green Big Day” was the most thought-provoking article I have ever read in Birding. His article 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 did a Green Big Year using these methods. I would up with ### species (no exotics, Ted), added seven new county birds, two of which are lifers, and saved ### carbon-producing automobile miles.

 

I emailed back:

On Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 10:58 AM, Richard Hubacek <rhubacek@comcast.net>wrote:

Ted–let’s change that sentence to–“I found 250 species (no exotics, Ted), added eight new county birds, two of which were lifers, and saved over 2929 carbon-producing vehicle miles.”

I like the word “vehicle” because I drive a small truck.

Richard
 
Ted acknowledged my email.
 
So once again I will wait for the next issue of “Birding”.

 

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.



 


Bare-Naked Big Day and Men Are Assholes

Recently the American Birding Association’s (ABA) Blog has had some interesting postings. The ABA is not noted for “green” birding but a recent post by Ted Floyd (editor of Birding) caught my attention. It’s titled, “Bare-Naked Big Walk”. Normally when the ABA’s Blog is about a “Big Day” it involves driving many miles (hundreds of miles) most likely in a low mileage van to find every bird they can. Ted Floyd’s “big day” is a big walk, 25 1/4 miles around Boulder, Colorado. The bare-naked part is that he did it without optics, no binoculars and no scope. He claims that his senses are heightened without them. He found 125 species. Now Ted doesn’t always play by the rules so he can count domestic fowl and Indian Peafowl but 125 species is a great total for a walk without optics. I wish I had his ear. I’ve been doing lot’s of walking but I don’t think I could do it bare-naked although maybe I should count how many times I use by binoculars when I’m out birding. The blog is here. The post was on 6/19/13 so you will have to scroll down or click on Ted Floyd’s name on the right to find it. Total comments for Ted’s post is 13. Green birding doesn’t get many comments. A post on using audio in the field will get you a long debate in it’s comments section.

Men are assholes is the topic of the other posting I want to mention. The title is, “Open Mic: The Field Glass Ceiling”. It’s by Brooke McDonald and I found it to be one of the most interesting posts I’ve read. Men are assholes is not really the subject of the post, I just like to write that in this blog. It might get me some blogging “street” cred. One of the women mentioned in the post actually used the phase and if you read some of the comments you might agree. The actual post is about not getting the credit they deserve in the birding world. I will quote some of the post.

Most birders are women. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2007 report, “Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis,” 54% of birders are women. At the Space Coast Birding Festival in 2011, 69% of attendees were women; at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in 2010, 60-65% of attendees were women; and at The Biggest Week in American Birding, around 60% of attendees have been women. Tropical Birding estimates that two-thirds of their American clients are women, VENT estimates that 60% of their clients are women, and another leading tour company said that 54.6% of their clients booked for upcoming trips are women.”

However, by any measure, women are poorly represented in the upper ranks of birding. 

  • Women have 11.2% of the top ten eBird state lists for each U.S. state.
  • Women are 9.3% of all state bird records committee members—a number that drops to 7.8% if the committee secretaries are excluded.
  • There are eight women out of the American Birding Association’s top 100 ABA-area listers.
  • Women are 3.6% of California county big day record holders.
  • Finally, there has been only one woman out of the 35 current and former members of the American Birding Association’s Checklist Committee.”
Actually I’m glad to see that most women don’t spend their time doing the listing thing. A list is all about ego and the competitive urge.
 
Most of the women I spoke with said that some male birders either ignore women entirely or are crushingly dismissive, patronizing, or condescending towards them.
    “A lot of men just won’t take a woman seriously,” said Susan Myers. “I get it all the time—people walk right past me. I’m the only one carrying a scope and I’m standing out front calling the birds and I’m magically invisible.”
 
 

   ” One woman who wished to remain anonymous told me about a female friend of hers who had rediscovered a bird that had been presumed extinct. A meeting was held to discuss the status and conservation of the bird, and during this meeting, the woman in question was totally ignored—until one of the men asked her to make coffee.

    Sheri Williamson said that some men have displayed outright incredulity at the fact that she wrote a field guide. She went on to say, “It’s hard to get into a position of influence if you’re not accorded the respect you deserve.”

Birding can be a fraternity in the best or the worst sense of the word. One woman I spoke with seemed to accept as the natural order of things that there’s a “pecking order” in birding that men suffer under too, but most of the women I talked to maintained that women birders get the worst of it. There is a lot of cliquishness in birding, and while men who get into birding are often quickly accepted into the group, many women are treated as outsiders even after years of birding.

    There may be excellent women birders out there who have become so frustrated with the hazing and casual sexism that they have rejected the birding community entirely, and there may be many women who are overlooked in a birding culture that considers the size of one’s list as an important measure of one’s worth.”

I actually agree that there’s a “pecking order” in the birding world. Coming to Mendocino as a new birder in the area I felted that there was a clique of top birders and you had to prove yourself to them (the reason I carry a camera). You called them about a good bird, they didn’t call you. 

When I started birding in Southern California all the leaders and the positions of authority were men. When I moved to Butte County, CA it was the same thing. Things changed when I moved to Mendocino. One of the premier birding leaders here is a woman. I often felt that she was taking me along with her to provide protection when birding in unsavory places but I did learn about birding Mendocino from her. In my other birding endeavors, Snowy Plover monitoring and SOS, it is women who have the authority (over me and you know who you are). It seems that it’s the women who have a greater concern about what we are doing to this planet. I hope you read the full posting and it’s comments. It get lively at certain points. You can read it here. There were 110 comments to this post. I think a nerve was hit.