[Tweeters] Birding Across the Digital Divide

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Nov 9 10:58:48 PST 2013

I know, I know, the birding world is alive with new digital technology that makes us more intelligent, and life easier. You got all your i.d. apps, and bird files and stuff on your little device. Well, count this curmudgeon out!

My distrust (well founded) of computer technology may have started when, at age 13, I saw that great documentary film "2001: A Space Odyssey". Everybody who's seen the film knows the famous HAL 9000 scene, wherein the computer goes AWOL on the crew of lying astronauts , way way out in the middle of nowhere. For myself, I imagine the following scenario:

" OK HAL, thanks for leading me, with the proper GPS coordinates, and owl call playback, to this Spotted Owl. I've got my photo proof now, and have posted directions to e-bird. Now how about those return directions back to my truck! Like, open the GPS doors HAL".

" I'M SORRY, I'M AFRAID I CAN'T DO THAT, JEFF." my iphone says.

"What!" I cry , " you can't leave me out here in the wilderness with no way back! I depended on you! Now get me back home!"

" SORRY JEFF. I HAVE NEW INFORMATION FOR YOU" and my iphone switched (undirected !) to video mode.

Then I watch a movie of myself going down some cosmic bunny-hole. I pop out the far end to see a giant projection of Mother Nature floating by (on my couch!) as she, smiling, gives me the finger and says, " I told you, don't bug me with that damn playback so much!".

So you can now maybe understand my reluctance to embrace all that new-fangled digital tech stuff.

Recently, there was a big headline story in the Everett Hairball ( " All the news the Herald won't cough up !) newspaper that applies to this subject, titled " Birding Drama on the Digital Divide!".

A couple of old Anchor Pub customers, Bill and Bob, were reminiscing about the old pub days, while they sat in a clearcut sharing a six-pack of Squirt. (When the pub closed, they gave up beer, in solidarity).

"Well" Bob says "did you read that Hairball article about that birding debacle up on Digital Divide, back in late August?".

"No, I sure didn't" Bill replied. "And where is Digital Divide anyway", he asked.

"Oh you know it! We used to call it Kodachrome Ridge back in the day- remember when camera's used film?"

"Oh sure, Kodachrome Ridge, nice spot. Hey man, 'don't take my Kodachrome away'- that was in a song I think".

"Right, Paul Simon. Anyway there was this big birding drama up there on a field trip. It was a group of six tech savvy birders, except they had this one curmudgeon with 'em.

Well, off they went up the ridge, just a little day trip you know, and everybody was goin' pretty light. Even though most of 'em were fairly experienced hikers, they put a little too much faith in their digital doodads this time. Nobody had a real flashlight, compass, map, or watch - all that stuff was apps, or whatever, on their gizmos. Nobody but Grumpy (the curmudgeon) that is.

Grumpy just wasn't into all them birding apps and whatnot - nothing personal. He had books in his pack - the full-sized Sibley, and also the 8 pound "Lichens of North America". He'd been carrying these around all summer, and so was in better shape than he looked. He had a real compass, a map made out of paper, a real flashlight, and stuff like that in his bulging rucksack. Anyway, they were all birding the Divide, when disaster struck".

" Oh no!" Bill replied, "what was it, a rockslide?"

"Nope, some sorta solar flare, or satellite collision, or hackers or whatever, whumped the airwaves, and everybody's digital gizmos stopped working. They'd used up most all their batteries anyway using playback to lure in birds, and check their apps all day. And it was getting dark and cold. Then the fog came in. Even though Grumpy had all that real equipment , it was too dangerous to keep moving. They were all stuck."

"So, they were in trouble. It was getting cold fast. Everybody put on all the clothes they had, and it was still getting colder. Up that high there wasn't much wood, and that was all wet. Finally, in desperation, the techies all approached Grumpy."

" Hey Grumpy, we need your help! We know you're the only one with any paper in your pack, and we were wondering if we could use your books."

" Kinda late to be worrying about I.D's don't you think?" Grumpy replied.

" Oh no, we want to use your books to start a fire!" they said.

" Well, you had better forget about that Lichen book! That's from the Everett Public library, and I'd rather freeze to death than pay the missing book fee on that honker. We can use the Sibley, but on my terms" Grumpy said.( He'd noticed that some of the techies were not just cold, but going into shock from not having constant access to their digital doodads. Spirits were flagging).

"Here's what we'll do. We're gonna play bird charades, you know, take turns and each person picks a bird out of Sibley and try's to get us all to guess what it is. When somebody gets it, we'll burn that page. It'll keep us busy. Here, I'll start out, somebody hand me a dead cell phone.". And Grumpy signaled 'first word!' and started making exaggerated ruffling movements, which nobody got (they were all shaking), but then Grumpy, on second word, pointed to the cell phone , mimed a very convincing bitching and moaning ,and nailed it. "Ruffed Grouse!" everybody cried. So they started a fire with the Ruffed Grouse page and some wet hemlock twigs. " Better throw a Ptarmigan on the barbie too (so to speak), this wood really is wet." Grumpy said.

So, anyhoo, with fire and bird charades, they all survived. At dawn the sky was clear and they all got back to the cars. The next week , the techies presented Grumpy with a new Sibley's, and one of them showed him how to make 'whoopie cushion' his new cell phone ringtone.

" Now that's technology I can live with!" Grumpy smiled.

Jeff Gibson
Everett Wa

P.S. The book 'Lichens of North America' actually does weight 8 pounds. I weighed it myself. Great book.

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