1. Report the rare birds you see, including known “continuing” rarities. This is a no-brainer.
2. Sometimes, report the rare birds you DON’T see. This could be very helpful to those debating a chase trip.
3.Quit being so anal retentive. Birders have the capacity to be bafflingly anal (its all part of the nerd persona I guess), but this is evident online more than anyplace else. It is both funny, frustrating and sad. Stop it.
If 10 birders all tell you this is a Sora, and you think it’s a Virginia Rail, I suggest you take the possibility that this is a Sora into consideration.
4. Listen to the people. The interwebs, aside from being a haven for cat videos, is a great place to learn. For example, and I expect a few of you know what I am referring to….if you photograph a “goshawk” in the middle of Tucson, and the area’s leading birders and everyone else tells you it’s a Cooper’s Hawk…you should listen to them. No need to get defensive.
5. Don’t even bring up using tapes on endangered species. It’s illegal, it disturbs birds, and if you do admit to doing this, you are only going to encourage others to make the same mistake. The internet has the ability to spread bad ideas around just as effectively as good ones.
6. Make your photos available. How many rarities do we see on Ebird with notes like “photos obtained”, and nothing more? Well, where are they?
7. Don’t be an ubermoderator. If a couple off-topic posts happen on a listserv or in a facebook group, I can personally assure you, as the world’s leading birder, that this is not the end of the world. This is related to #3.
8. Don’t be a dick. Don’t instigate personal attacks on people; keep in mind this is about birdwatching, of all ridiculous things. No need to get the blood boiling. If you do embark on this dark and well-worn path, you deserve all the flack you can (and will) get.
“Hi. I was walking down the path of Park X this morning. It was beautiful. There were lots of Morning Duvs and Pilleated Woodpeckers out. Anyways I saw this bird. It looked like a Great Blue Herun. Except it was little. What bird is this?” – Jon and Jane Doe.
9. Maybe its just me, but I’m a bit weary of birdwatchers using a listserv, facebook, etc. as a tool to have birders identify birds for them. Back before so many birders walked around with digital cameras, this didn’t happen very often. I urge less experienced birders to use a bird book before taking their questions to the masses.
10. Have, and embrace, a sense of humor. This is the best way to navigate the internet, I assure you.
11. Remember that you don’t h a v e to be “an internet birder” if you don’t want to. You can also just enjoy being out and seeing stuff.
12. But if you are just out and enjoy seeing stuff, report it to others on the internet so they can join you and also enjoy stuff! 🙂
I was hoping “Don’t be a dick” would be in this list. I have seen so many listserv posts that serve no purpose other than to squash the spirit right out of a newbie birder. If a guy reports a yellow-headed blackbird that is actually a bobolink, it doesn’t take any more time to zip off a private email saying “Hey, that’s actually a bobolink. Great bird!” than it does to post a condescending correction to the whole listserv.
#9 is an interesting problem. The ID requests are similar to the people announcing on listservs that they had a “pretty Gold Finch” at their porch feeder. The latter should just be ignored, while the former are probably best addressed with an identification and a polite hint that in such-and-such field guide on page X and Y you can see some of the differences between herons that show primarily blue coloration.
We can all sigh and chuckle among ourselves about the errors of the unwashed masses, but we could all be a little more encouraging to them online, I believe.
“9. Maybe its just me, but I’m a bit weary of people using a listserv, facebook, etc. as a tool to have people identify birds for them. Back before so many birders walked around with digital cameras, this didn’t happen very often. I urge less experienced birders to use a bird book before taking their questions to the masses.”
Flogging has gone out of style with the Puritans… Oh oK so it was a little brutal… but please, gEt a life. Learn some of the major field marks and do some homework.
And I don’t have to tweet and post or even document, and you don’t either.. . I grew up before the computer was in your head, hand and we learned how to bird without the benefit of any of the amazing material which is now there. iPhones, iPads, Computers and all are such blessings, They do give an amazing advantage to birders growing up with them, but in NO Way should anyone young make an excuse for not learning “normal” ranges, field marks, jizz, songs, calls and even flight notes.
I taught beginning birding over a 20 year period and challenging has its place too. There are many many means and techniques to encourage and teach birding.
Be thankful for the great resources being provided for us all.
Does #4 violate #8? (smiling emoticon)
Nice shout out to the truly legendary caped goshawk crusader. : ) And generally a healthy dose of common sense all around.
But #9, really? Do I wish that everyone had encyclopedic knowledge of every bird in every plumage? Sure. Do I wish that, failing that, everyone at least owned and knew perfectly how to use an up-to-date field guide (in updated taxonomic order, of course)? Naturally. But that’s not how the world works. Most people who love birds don’t have a clue what most of them are called by scientists and “the 1%” of birders. Those people matter. We need them. We need their interest and their enthusiasm.
Let’s also not forget that we’re in the midst of the greatest communications revolution in centuries and that bird “books” in the traditional sense will likely continue to become less and less relevant to most people, much as that may pain those of us who love books (and I count myself firmly in that camp). Why shouldn’t the advent of email lists, forums, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (?) as crowd-sourced identification tools be viewed with as much awe as the revolutionary Peterson guide of old?
I’m afraid #9 may stand in opposition to #3 and #8. Even if that means I get called on to identify Northern Mockingbirds several times a week.
#10 folks, #10!! 🙂
I have a sense of humor in real life. I come to the internet to be right. 😉
I’m stealing that one, Kirby.
Ah yes, I knew Number 9 would get pulses racing. You all fell into my trap! It is all happening as I have foreseen it. Rules 3 and 10 are being violated left and right. Well, not everyone can share my powerful and grandiose position as the All-Seeing Birder, so let me elaborate on a point.
@David – Obviously the ability to easily use other people as a resource is a good thing. However, I think many less experienced birders (I’m not addressing nonbirders here in the slightest, just birdwatchers) RELY on other people to identify a lot of birds for them, and I fear that in these cases they learn a lot less than they would if they went through the mental exercise of process and elimination using a field guide. I never tire of my nonbirding friends sending me mediocre Instagram pictures of the birds they see, although they can be a bit hard to see at times…anyways, its great to see their enthusiasm.
It should be pointed out, in the interests of living by my code here, that I would NEVER hide behind a computer screen and directly tell someone I dont know to get off their ass and open a field guide, but I’m not going pretend that I don’t have this opinion either.
@Timothy – “And I don’t have to tweet and post or even document, and you don’t either”…of course, no birder is by any means obligated to do this, but if someone wanted to be part of the birding community at large (which most birders do), this is not the advice to follow. And who are you telling to “get a life”, exactly?
I agree emphatically with the point made above by David Ringer. The vast majority of humans don’t know that there is such a thing as a field guide, so it’s natural that people just getting into birding won’t know a better way to ID their photo than simply to put it online. And we need these people, we need anyone who might support bird conservation, so we should never discourage these newcomers. Sure, AFTER we give them a helpful and friendly answer to their question, we can gently suggest that it would be a good idea to get a field guide. But up front, we have to be welcoming and encouraging. I would rather answer the same question about House Finches ten thousand times than to discourage even ONE beginner. So I would suggest scratching #9 from your list.
WHHOOOAAAAA this is getting a bit out of hand…once again, I am not talking about nonbirders, people who do not own field guides or binoculars, people who just went on their first bird trip last week, etc. To clarify, I am going to edit two words of the original post. Everyone can relax now!
What I like to do for #9 is try to engage the poster in a dialog. Ask what they think it might be or what size it was compared to known things. Then ultimately tell them not only what it was, but also why. This kind of conversation use to be prevalent when we started birding by going out with mentors. Now that many more people are isolated birders, we need to adapt. By not only IDing the photo, but providing more information in a friendly, non-embarrassing manner we will hopefully create a new birder, and also improve data provided to eBird, listservs, future new birders.
Now, if Kenn posts a photo of a Cooper’s Goshawk I am going to make fun of him… but that’s just me…
@Ron, your efforts are commendable, you have more patience than many. Your position on the Global Birding Ranking Scale will surely benefit by your instructive actions.
Ah yes, Kenn is notorious for his frequent bird identification gaffes, hehe.
LOL… I’m just hoping the kharma gained will help me find those nemesis birds….
Jive, it’s funny you posted that reddish egret pic… It IS a hard one to identify. Or was that a little blue heron? oops! lol
12. Make your images available on a creative commons licence.
Myself, all things being equal, I’m in favor of longer lives. (And, The Nemesis, of trying not to make fun of people with problems.)
I think I’ve officially lost control of this thing.
@Duncan – That’s a good point…one that many people will disagree with, but a very good point.
Damn, I am not even sure what to say in the midst of all these awesome comments (including where you got served by Kenn Kaufman) so I will just say this: you are an enabler of #9!!! How many times have I thrown out a bad photo of a bird for ID help and you have come to the rescue? How many times??? Alright, I’m sorry, just being a dick.
Haha, I know. Ironic that as someone who has helped turned a number of people into birdwatchers and, more importantly, biologists (in real life, not Felonious Jive life), I have been branded as the ultimate hater. I hope my nonbirding girlfriend doesnt see this!
Addendum to Number 9: Blogs are neutral territory, since single-author blogs essentially exist, on some level, to stoke one’s ego anyways.
@Felonious Jive: what people in this comment section completely fail to realize is that you are by far and a wide margin the very best birder in the world. You dwell in different dimensions, far above the ordinary identification of birds to species or subspecies level, or to age and gender. Your extraordinary powers are our only hope of pushing the birding world well into the 22nd century long before the rest of the world even reaches the middle of the 21st.
You just cannot afford to spend your time identifying someone else’s “mystery birds”. It would be a complete waste of birding force. People just gotta realize that!
Rock on! 🙂
Oh, and I forgot…
13. Keep your taxonomy out of my online birding.
Jochen my friend, you are endowed with a sharp wit and a keen sense of reality, multidimensional and otherwise. Your ability to Keep It Real is unparalleled.
Number 13. That’s not one I had thought of. Some birders like to think themselves ahead of the scientific curve, and they enjoy applying their own (real or imagined) sense of taxonomy to things. This could be hugely confusing to other birders who are not completely immersed in the birding scene at all times. Good call.
Well, I was trying to push the number of comments to this post beyond 50 by mentioning #13. So far that hasn’t happened, but then the sea also retreats first before a tsunami strikes.