One of his quotes I found interesting was this:
"The speed with which birding knowledge is acquired and exchanged, along with the tremendous sophistication in the birding resources available to birders today, has helped level the playing field for birders--male and female, young and old."But then he goes on in the very next sentence to say:
"I have noticed a gradual languishing of bird clubs, a decline in participation in organized field trips, and a shrinkage in circulation of printed publications."In other words, while there is more information about birds available, it seems less people are taking advantage of the traditional means to learn. That begs the question, how, exactly, are birders learning to get better at their hobby?
Judging from the research I did in February ("Ten most misidentified birds in the Pacific Northwest") it seems that despite the widespread dissemination of identification material, the birds that were difficult to identify 40 years ago still give many birdwatchers trouble.
|Hammond's Flycatcher. 29 May 2010. Malheur NWR, Oregon. Photo by Greg Gillson.|
"If you take all the people who can identify a Hammond's Flycatcher on sight, you won't have enough votes to elect a mayor." -- Birdwatcher: the life of Roger Tory Peterson. 2008 by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal --Why do I find this disturbing? Because of the supposed tens of millions of "birdwatchers" in the United States. I'm not the only one who finds this number unbelievable. My contrary response is, birdwatchers are those who can identify a Hammond's Flycatcher on sight. Or, at least, they should be striving toward that goal.
Perhaps it is my perfectionism that drives me to be the best I can be at what interests me. Not everyone needs to pursue this goal of increasing birding skill, nor should they. But if there are, indeed, anywhere near the supposed 20 million birders, at least quite a few should desire to increase their skills so that they could, if they wanted, learn to identify Hammond's Flycatchers and other more difficult to identify birds.
Getting off my soap box and back to my point, how can birders who want to increase their skills do so? Where are the birding mentors? If field trip organization and attendance is down, how are the masses of birdwatchers learning? Or are we "leveling the playing field" by creating a nation of feeder watchers and bird festival attenders and not more expert birders?
Even the American Birding Association, which once was the go-to organization for advanced bird identification, has spread out its wings to be more open to beginning birders. I love the ABA and Birding magazine. I understand the business decision to welcome all levels of bird watching with open arms and wallets. But then do we need to create another organization to teach advanced birding?
Field craft skills, birding by ear, identifying birds in flight, status and distribution. Is there something out there already where birders can (and do) find answers to their questions? Who or what is your birding mentor? Tell me, where do you go to learn to identify Hammond's Flycatchers?