[Tweeters] Picnic Table Effect

trose trose at pokeintheeye.biz
Thu Mar 5 06:22:45 PST 2020

On 3/4/20 5:40 PM, byers345 at comcast.net wrote:


> Hello Tweeters,


> A number of years ago a Rose-throated Becard was found

> at a road side picnic area near Patagonia in Arizona. People flocked

> to this spot to try to find the becard. Once people started looking

> for the becard, they found a number of other unusual birds. This

> became known as the picnic table effect (I think). <snip>


> Charlotte Byers, Edmonds


Since you were querying, the actual phrase is "roadside rest effect",
originally coined by one of the prominent birders in Arizona, who named
it after the location (Patagonia Roadside Rest), back when that original
event occurred. The phrase made its way into common birder vernacular,
and even into publication. This particular roadside rest area is
sometimes also locally called the Patagonia picnic table (since there is
only one roadside stop with a picnic table - anywhere - near Patagonia)
and hence the alternate name is sometimes heard.

That effect (although not really "named" before that) isn't something
new to birding, of course, but it sure has HUGELY increased with today's
information technology. Word of a rare or unusual bird gets out so FAST
these days (often instantaneously!) allowing more birders to "flock" to
a spot, putting more eyeballs and ears in one location at one time,
which results in finding MORE rare or unusual birds than would have been
located otherwise. It's kinda awesome.

But I do have to say that, in my opinion (being a birder from waaaay
back...), modern birding can sometimes feel like more of a "canned"
experience (especially in SE Arizona where the area is saturated with
birders), where someone else finds a bird and you rush to the exact spot
to see it yourself, with no real "work" required. But this "downside"
often turns into a great benefit to science. Because with more eyes and
ears on the ground, and more people looking in a spot that might not
have gotten coverage that complete, we birders as a whole sure have been
finding a LOT of great things that otherwise would have gone unnoticed,
and are expanding the general knowledge of bird range coverage, etc..

So, I guess I would have to say "Viva le Roadside Rest Effect!" LOL. :) :)
Long may it continue to ferret out the rare and wonderful!

Tonya Holland
Tucson AZ
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