Sunday, December 11, 2011

Is anybody out there?

Hello? Knock knock? Anybody there?

Over the last few years I’ve come to notice a rather disturbing trend among Audubon chapters and bird clubs, the sound of silence.

In different roles I’ve had many opportunities to contact Audubon chapters or bird clubs across the country seeking information. I usually use the email link on their website but have also made phone calls, posted comments on Facebook walls, and sent good old-fashioned snail mail. My personal experience is that the response rate to inquiries is about 1 in 3.

At one time I was a VP for my local Audubon chapter. We were aware of some programs other chapters were running that were interesting to us. I contacted 14 chapters across the country, from small local chapters to large chapters with huge memberships. I heard back from 5 chapters. Four were willing to share some information. One said they were too busy. And the rest? Nothing. No response of any kind, even when I sent a follow-up or tried a different medium to contact them.

I also travel quite a bit on business and if I’m spending a few nights somewhere, I will look up the local bird clubs for meetings I can attend. In some cases there is no information about the upcoming monthly meeting on the website and the newsletter that is posted is out of date. I’ll email or call the club using the contact information they provided. Once again, I seem to get some response about a third of the time. The rest of the time, nothing.

Some of the issues are perplexing. One chapter I tried to visit had a note on their website that said they met at the local public library in the community room the first Wednesday of each month, September through June. They even gave the street address of the library. I made my way to the library that evening to find out the chapter doesn’t meet there. They haven’t for years. Yet this information is clearly displayed on the home page. The library staff said they get one or two people each month who ask about the meetings.

How many potential members are these groups losing? If people are seeking you out, why are you not responding? A common complaint among Audubon chapters and bird clubs is that as their memberships get older, they are getting smaller as they fail to attract new and younger members. I have a solution that may partially solve their problem. Write back. Return a phone call. If people are taking the time to try to contact you, maybe you should have someone available to take the time to get back to them.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Real Men Love Chickadee's

If you ever find yourself birding at the Rocky River Nature Center in North Olmsted, OH, you can have a wonderful little experience. The staff at the nature center have been trying to get chickadee's to take seed from the hand. The have an Aldo Leopold scarecrow set up by the front door with an outstretched hand full of seed. The birds come to Aldo. They also have human volunteers trying the same thing with varying degrees of luck.

The real secret is to go back on the trails behind the nature center. For a couple of hundred yards there is a stretch where the chickadee's will come to the hand thanks to the efforts of the birders who visit the area. Just bring a handful of seed and you can have a neat experience.

These are all un-edited photos taken with my iPhone. Next time I'll take a better camera.

Happy Birding!!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Birding Pet Peeves - Number 2

Time for pet peeve number 2....

Birders who judge other birders based on the price of their gear.

This one always leaves me confused. On one hand, I can understand that the more experienced a birder gets, there is a tendency to buy better, pricier, equipment. On the other hand, I know many expert birders still using the same binoculars they purchased 35 years ago and are still toting around a Golden Guide or Peterson they purchased about the same time.

Many times in the field I have come across another birder who looked at my chest first. I guess I know how women feel. After they determined the type of binoculars I owned, they engaged me in conversation. As my own gear has gotten better, the nature of my conversations has changed. People seem to assume you know a lot more based on the amount of money you’ve spent. I’ve experienced the same thing with scopes and especially cameras.

Making assumptions based on the price of the gear is risky. I’ve seen old timers with taped together gear and high schoolers with hand me downs who can bird circles around people with better stuff. On the same trip you can run into rich newbies with the latest and most expensive who think sparrows are baby robins.

Take the time to ask a question or two and you’ll learn a lot more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birding Pet Peeves - Number 1

I started working on a post of various pet peeves and decided to post them individually over time. I'm sure I'll catch some heat for some of these but that's the chance I take.

So on to pet peeve #1.....

Birders who don't pay attention to their electronic devices.

I don't mean birders who ignore their devices like unwanted junk mail. I'm talking about the noises their various devices make. Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that we have smart phones with all sorts of cool apps and cameras that make it easy to get really good shots, but the noise some of these devices make is frustrating.

I hate it when I'm on a group walk and suddenly you hear Sir Mix-A-Lot's "I Like Big Butts" blasting from someones pocket at maximum volume. Is it that hard to turn off the ringer before you start the walk? It's worse when the trip leader reminds people to set their phones to vibrate at the start of the walk and you are still greeted by the "Old-timey Phone" ring 45 minutes later. To complicate matters, most of these people take the call and then have to tell the caller that they "WILL CALL THEM BACK BECAUSE THEY ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A BIRD WALK".

The other part of this that irritates me is the noise from some of the cameras on the market. When you are birding alone, it is OK to have the camera beep at maximum volume and to set the shutter sound effect to something about as loud as a 12-gauge shotgun slamming the next shell into the chamber. If you're on a group walk, turn it down. Or turn the sounds off.

OK, that sounds petty and whiney, but I feel better.