[Tweeters] Serious Birders

Guy Monty glmonty at poecile.com
Sat Dec 25 13:35:16 PST 2004

Hi Tweeters,

I think the problem here is that everyone is missing the entire point of the survey. Rather than splitting hairs about what a "birder" is, try looking at this from a different angle. Sometimes, the whole problem IS comparing apples and apples. If we are trying to determine whether or not there is a monetary value to non-consumptive "use" of wildlife, why would "serious birders" be the endpoint of consideration? As so many of you have pointed out, "serious birders" are about as rare as Redwings. They are also notoriously tight with their pocketbooks. But, there are LOTS of people out there spending a heap of money on cheap Walmart binoculars, moderately priced spotting scopes, sunflower seed, field guides, and gas to go down to the local estuary to look at Trumpeter Swans. Some of them are also buying airline tickets to go to Costa Rica to see hummingbirds that they will never remember the names of. But a lack of "seriousness" doesn't disqualify someone from being a birder, even if they wouldn't consider themself one. All of these people VALUE wildlife beyond how fun they are to mutilate with a shotgun. They spend money on consumer items relating to valuing wildlife, and they might even vote with those values, and perhaps volunteer on conservation related initiatives. That, at least where wildlife management is concerned, is why this survey does make sense, and is probably not exagerated.
"Serious birders" may indeed be analogous to hardcore hunters. Both groups seems to be overly possesive of wildlife habitat. Both can be somewhat pedantic about what constitutes a member of their fraternity. And both groups seem at times to be a bit out of touch with what the rest of the world is up to.
As a card carrying (?) "serious birder", I have lately found myself questioning whether the "non-serious" birders aren't having a lot more fun, and doing a hell of a lot more to conserve these creatures we supposedly care so much about?

Sort of serious,

Guy L. Monty
Parksville, BC
----- Original Message -----
From: SGMlod at aol.com
To: Tweeters at u.washington.edu
Sent: Friday, December 24, 2004 9:22 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] Serious Birders


Sorry for the attempt at humor, for this is a serious topic. Yes, Hal, one doesn't have to be a lister to be a knowledgeable birder.

But I doubt there are 1.8 million people in the state who'd identify themselves as birders. I bet every angler (aka, fisherman) in the survey would call themselves a fisherman/angler. I've spent day after day in the field, at good spots in the Puget Trough, without seeing a single another person with binoculars. I see far more people with fishing rods, and during hunting season, with guns. Where are these 1.8 million birders, Garfield County?

The question that led to folks being identified as birdwatchers by the survey (and again, I question how "serious" was determined) was something to the effect of, "Have you ever stopped to look at a bird?"

And again, I just appeal to one's common sense. If there are 1.8 million of us, where are we all? Especially if we apply the adjective "serious." The 1.8 million are not on Tweeters. Not part of WOS. Not part of the ABA. Invisible in practical terms. I guess you could label everyone with a bird feeder or who has looked at an eagle out there window "a birder," but that would not be comparable to those who identify themselves as hunters or fisherman. We need to compare apples to apples.

If we want to throw our weight around, which I believe in, we need to start with realistic numbers.

By the way, about 6 months or so ago, Dennis Paulson wrote a superb letter to the editor in Birding on just this topic.

Realistically Yours
Steven Mlodinow


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