The Bane of Birding List-Servs

Its been awhile since I’ve done a good rant, but honestly I’m concerned about the state of birding list-servs and their future.  With e-bird becoming more and more prominent, more and more birders are chosing not to report on list-servs anymore, but I think there are more reasons than just the ease of E-bird.

Every birding list-serv has one or maybe even a couple of people if the list is big enough.  These one or two people who seem to post a lot, with good, but not exceptional birds that no one else, even visiting the same location can duplicate even if they were there at the same time on the same day.

Birding is a fickle sport and birds can be spotted, ID and disappear in a matter of seconds.  But these people always seem to be the only people to find these birds and it tends to raise doubts in the minds of other birders.  I have also found that these people tend to get defensive if you so much as question one of their sightings and if pressed for details tend to omit key field marks for the sightings or quote field guides as absolute truth.

The question is, should list owners step in?  If it gets ignored, it will eventually get under someones skin (*whistles innocently*) and you run the risk of a nasty flame war erupting.  You also run the risk of devaluing the list-serv as people posting junk sightings (if that is what they are), will cause other people to stop posting documented or legitimate sightings or post elsewhere.  Should the list owner question the person, to me the worst thing that happens is that person leaves in a huff, and in my opinion their bluff was called.

Birding list-servs are wonderful tools, sightings are transmitted in real-time in many cases, allowing even “one-day-wonders” to often be seen by many people, they are also great tools for more experienced birders to share their wisdom and knowledge with those who are more casual or just starting, but I think more effort needs to be made by list owners to keep the environment a learning one and to reduce the amount of garbage posts (* I include pure photographic links as well in that group.  Unless its something unusual or rare, I’ve seen 1000’s of photos of Cardinals in Snow, chickadees up close and Bald Eagles and Song Sparrows.  The photos are good and you should enjoy them, just don’t flood my inbox every time you put a new Song Sparrow picture up).  Who knows maybe I’m getting cranky in my old age.

My point is, list-servs are a tool for communicating sightings and legitimate discussion about birding and conservation.  Deviation from this idea, in my opinion lessens the importance of the list-serv and will drive off serious birders and the interesting finds they want to share with everyone else.

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