[Tweeters] The Future of Bird ID

Dennis Paulson dennispaulson at comcast.net
Mon Nov 6 12:58:49 PST 2017

Hello, tweeters.

As a person who has taught bird classes for decades, I agree so strongly with Chris Kessler. I shudder at the thought of birders just Merlining everything they see (and yes, of course it will become a verb). What’s the challenge in that? Bird ID is a challenge, but it is a much more fun and educational one than many of the other challenges in our lives for which we are grateful for technological help. Ever since the original (somewhat dubious) technological advance—the electric can opener—we have become more and more dependent on things that just may go wrong when we need them. Think of becoming dependent on Merlin and then losing your smartphone just as something weird turns up. OMG. I’m sure many people nowadays can’t imagine any other way of opening a can, and to extend the analogy, I would be very sad at people spending STILL more time on their smartphones when out in nature.

And as a person who has seen birding jargon transmogrify not only the language (twitching and dipping and gripping and crippling and other terms obscure to the poor beginner) but also even bird names over those many years, I agree wholeheartedly with Bud Anderson! Don’t birds deserve the respect of a full name, or at least part of their actual name (e.g., Bonaparte’s instead of Boney, yellow-rump instead of butterbutt)? Jargon can be inclusive if you are “in” but divisive if you’re not.

Dennis Paulson
not to be outdone in curmudgeonliness

On Nov 6, 2017, at 12:00 PM, tweeters-request at mailman1.u.washington.edu wrote:

> Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2017 22:05:58 -0800

> From: J Christian Kessler <1northraven at gmail.com>

> Subject: Re: [Tweeters] The Future of Bird ID

> To: Teri Martine <terimartine at me.com>

> Cc: "Tweeters \(E-mail\)" <tweeters at u.washington.edu>

> Message-ID:

> <CAMpfZ-pKFeBFmw_weVpA6QhuSQ0r0EVCSNDLLy26Qbgc=txecQ at mail.gmail.com>

> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"


> This sounds like very impressive, and very "cool," software, and software

> that would come in handy at times for all of us. But I wonder about the

> effect over time of such tools on our ability to make those ID decisions in

> the field ourselves -- to really "know" the birds. The more we rely on

> such tools, the less we use our own analytical capabilities, and the less

> we use them, the more they atrophy.


> I have experienced this myself with navigational skills -- at 14 years old

> (about 1962) I was expert with a compass & a topo map -- I could bushwhack

> across the mountains of western Virginia with confidence and accuracy.

> While I can still to some degree navigate (for example, in my car) by dead

> reckoning (paper maps are largely a thing of the past), frequent reliance

> on GPS & cellphone software has led me to become less capable (and less

> confident) in my navigational skills, even on roads.


> Technology may help us "master" nature, but it can also make us less "in"

> nature, which is a big part of why many of us bird in the first place. Not

> an objection to the software, just a thought about how to use it.


> Chris Kessler,

> Seattle

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