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September 2008: Retrospecticus

September 30, 2008

Fall migration is in full swing as we come to the end of another month here at The Drinking Bird. let’s step back and have a look at what happened.

We found out what happened to that golfer who killed a hawk.

I spent some time at the museum, showing the facility we use to prepare bird specimens, and then a two part series on how that actually happens.

Introduced you all to a Swainson’s Warbler project I’m working on.

I railed against drilling offshore in North Carolina, sadly only a week before the Democrats allowed that ban to expire.

Mentioned a couple interesting new resources for birders to use on the internet. I realize now perhaps I was a tad unfair towards Birdpost, if anyone has any positive experiences with the program feel free to leave a comment to that effect*.

As politics becomes the big story nationwide, I began a look at those who would fill the executive ticket, starting with the staggeringly disappointing Sarah Palin, and introduced a side of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that birders might find interesting.

And, as always, I did some birding. From cool shorebirds to Hurricane waifs to local bird counts and songbirds, it’s been a pretty productive month.

On an secondary Big Year note, I have recently become aware that I am not the only birder in North Carolina attempting the feat. Derb Carter, a Chapel Hill area lawyer and keen birder, is also putting together quite a list, and in a recent post to the state listserve he placed his total at a staggering 338, a full 60 birds ahead of me. Though perhaps I should have realized something, now that I think on it he was on both pelagics I took this year. So he’s on the way to breaking the record in a year that is noteworthy not only for relatively few vagrants but also astounding energy issues. I imagine being a lawyer who drives a Prius certainly helps, but I can’t help but feel a bit of schadenfreude in that I do have a couple birds he doesn’t.

Alas, it looks as though my record is only a personal one, a realization I had been coming to myself anyway. Best of luck to Derb as he shoots for the magical 349!

The highlight next month will undoubtedly be my second hosting of I and the Bird, so keep me in mind for that. Fall birds will be coming hot and heavy the first part of the month, at least I hope so, and we’ll finish up with looks at the rest of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Thanks for stopping by!

*Edit: I gave in and tried Birdpost. See comments for reactions.

  1. Anonymous permalink
    September 30, 2008 11:41 am

    Great blog! I have kicked Birdpost around and it is so far beyond eBird, and any other application, that I am shocked people aren’t dancing in the streets over it. Birdpost is the future of birding. Period.


  2. September 30, 2008 12:49 pm

    @anon –
    You convinced me to give it a try and I have to say I’m not a fan.

    I found clear misidentifications listed as legit sightings which could pose a problem with regard to credibility of rare bird sightings, a google maps interface that was not working properly, and that ease of use was no better than that of eBird or Birdstack.

    Entering my life list was too time consuming. I’ve already entered it in Birdstack, I don’t have any interest in doing exactly the same thing again. I certainly have no interest in potentially spending any money on the service when state listserves and eBird already fill that niche for free.

    Good luck and all, but you can count me largely unimpressed.

  3. birdpost jason permalink
    September 30, 2008 1:03 pm

    Nathan – thanks for you comment – we are working on making it easier to upload lists, tag sightings, etc. Also, per my message board post response to you on Birdpost, we have a different philosophy about identifications etc. in that ultimately, while there will be wrong identifications at times, we are trusting the birding community to get it right. This is a community effort, and rather than holding up an ivory tower authority to tell everyone what is right, we’re putting the power in the hands of birders to post and to police one another on sightings/identifications. Regarding picture misidentifications, there is a feature on the site to flag any picture as erroneous/misclassified. Thanks again for your feedback – Jason Peery, Birdpost co-founder

    P.S. Regarding the paid service, nothing is charged for yet and we don’t know if it will be, though we have always believed and said that part of the site will probalby be subscription-based at some point. We paid for this with our own money and the site requires monthly maintenance/work to iterate, improve features, etc. Ultimately, we want birding to thrive and are committed to that! We’re definitely open to ideas regarding the business model. Thanks…

  4. September 30, 2008 1:13 pm

    Hi Jason, thanks for taking the time to respond.

    I’ll be sure to check out your updates, perhaps I can think consider my complaints beta testing or something. ; ) I appreciate your willingness to address them.

    I do think relying on the birding community to correct misidentifications may be a bit risky, especially with regard to your plan to use those sightings to report rare birds to the birding community at large. A few incidences of birders wasting time searching for a common bird misidentified as a rare bird may be enough to turn people off of the system for good. If I were in that situation I know I would be frustrated.

    I understand the hesitancy to be perceived as an “ivory tower”, but good field skills are a result of hard work and experience, and shouldn’t be discounted in an effort to prevent hurting someone’s feelings. Especially when part of your business model depends on the credibility of rare bird reports.

    Good luck though. I do look forward to seeing where you go with it.

  5. birdpost jason permalink
    September 30, 2008 2:07 pm

    Nathan – great comments. We’re definitely in “Beta” mode and have a list of 60 (?) fixes, tweaks, new features, etc. This balance between the community vs. the ivory tower is one we discuss endlessly and I’m confident we’ll strike the right balance, and we’re open minded. Thanks again — JP

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