In 2009 I made a dedicated effort to participate actively in “the birding community.” This is something I had not done before. Though I am one of the most successful birders in Texas—by statistics alone, I saw and photographed more than 430 species in 2009, a number that easily ranks as the second-best birder in the state—I had never before opted to report my sightings, to send rare bird alerts to those who might be interested, or to seek out and participate in local, statewide, national and international forums and groups.
I am by no means a birder, at least by the definition most use; I am instead a naturalist who generally can find a great many gems in the wild that most others miss, hence it behooved me to try my hand at engagement with the birding community at large given my success in that area.
So throughout last year I dutifully submitted my sightings and records to Cornell’s eBird platform; I actively participated in conservation efforts; I answered questions, posted sightings and photos, and engaged in general conversations on various birding discussion forums; I monitored and posted to various birding mailing lists, sharing any noteworthy encounters I myself had that others might be interested in; I offered assistance with the local Christmas Bird Count given my knowledge of some exciting additions to the day’s list that others had not seen; and I did my fastidious best to offer insight, education, assistance, guidance and general camaraderie to birders of all levels in the DFW metroplex, in Texas, in North America, and throughout the world.
And what I found in my twelve-month experiment is this: when it comes to “the birding community” as a whole, I don’t like what they do.
Don’t get me wrong. Individuals and groups can be exceptional and different from the mass, yet in toto there exists an air of pomposity, of superiority, of hypocrisy, of selfishness, and of disdain for anyone outside the inner circle who challenges in any way the standing of the birding community’s upper echelon of self-proclaimed experts. Even more disturbing is that “the birding community” harms birds and disrupts the natural behavior of avifauna, and all the while they declare their sincere interest in protecting the very creatures they threaten.
Let me share my experiences and perhaps you’ll better understand why, in 2010, I am reversing this participatory trend and turning my back on “the birding community.” I love nature. I love birds. And I can prove with anecdotal and scientific evidence that “the birding community” does neither.
[to my friends, family and online contacts, I assure you that most or all of this will not apply to you; for the measure that does hit you at home, I ask only that you be objective and open about what I write; this series is more than twelve months in the making, imbued with science and research and personal experience that you should want to know about; if it offends you up front, my findings stand justified before they’re given]
[cross-posted to The Clade]