Because of requests for further information, I present you with two
diverse opinions on the dumbing down of the ABA and ?Birding?. Some
Birdingaussers, who understand more than I, have weighed into the conflict
on other servers: hopefully they will also post some information on Birding-Aus.
?Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse taht progress
requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things?
Subject: [BIRDCHAT] Why change sucks(was: ABA stuff)
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 1997 13:09:26 -0700
From: Mike Patterson <>
Doesn't change just suck?
Doesn't having to listen to a fairly narrow segment of the birding (and
BIRDCHAT) population whine about how much change sucks suck?
I have been a birder since the age of 13. I turn 40 at the end
week. I have birded on 4 continents, I have a substantial (though
unpublished) life list and I've been a member of the ABA since the
I finally started getting a regular paycheck.
I get _Birding_ magazine because it comes with the membership, not because
I find it a magazine that I have to have. I like looking at the
I like guessing wrong at the photo quiz. I occasionally like
letters to the editor battles over how to pronounce Pileated or whether
species names should be capitalized. I rarely read any of the
rest of it.
I'm really not much interested in feather by feather ID articles, but
them just in case.
I'm willing to bet I'm representative of ABA members.
I would, however, be no more inclined to read _Birding_ if it
conservation stuff (I have _Nature Conservancy_ and _Conservation Science
Quarterly_ for that.) And I find nothing more tedious than monthly
on keeping squirrels out of my feeder and the merits of thistle seed
_Birder's World_ meets those needs, anyway.)
I canceled my membership to the National Audubon Society because it
too aloof (I belong to my local chapter as a "friend".) And I
subscription to _Audubon Field Notes_ when they stopped being _American
We have no real information here about the direction that _Birding_
going. We have panicky diatribes by conservatives and wishy-washy
by a very few people connected to the ABA hierarchy. I'm going
to guess that
the magazine will head toward the "conservation market" in the same
_Audubon_ did (the feeder watcher market is glutted.) But I'm
also going to
guess that their heart was pure (unlike _Audubon_ which just smelled
in that they are genuinely concerned with neotropical declines, habitat
etc.(the whole Partners in Flight thing.)
Why they feel this overwhelming urge to preach to the converted is beyond
I doubt it will increase their membership any and I doubt that they
able to provide information significantly different or better than
magazines that have been in the conservation news business for a longer
of time. The magazine content will probably reflect the archtype
membership demographics more exactly, but this is different than saying
it will meet their needs or provide significant enrichment of their
In the education business we call this aiming for the middle. Some
suggest that this is tantamount to "dumbing down." I prefer to think
of it as
I will probably not cancel my membership to ABA if the format of the
changes, but I will be less inclined to save the back issues.
There is no
birding magazine that meets my needs nor do I represent a demographic
enough to bother with. But the ABA as a corporate identity probably
that it has outgrown the small demographic of rabid birders upon which
organization was founded...
Like it or not (given the upsurge in birding as a pastime), they are
and that sucks, too.
Subject: BIRDCHAT] Fwd: Of Ted Eubanks statement
to Audubon on the ABA changes
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 1997 15:10:44 -0400
From: "John C. LeVine" <>
Today I received permission to cost post Ted Eubanks, a Board
of Director of
Audubon, remarks posted to Texbird on Saturday. I feel that it
information which is important to the discussion on Paul Lehman in
shows what we, the hardcore birders, are faced with as more people
to our sport as a diversion from the stresses of modern life.
There were two
posts and because of my effort to limit my use of band with I am combining
the forwarding into one post of mine so his second post will probably
first in the order as you read my post.
Again, thank you to those chatters who are tolerating the take over
Birdchat by ABA members and to Chuck who is tolerating my multiple
this subject. I am trying to make sure each of my posts bring
to the issue, so bare with me if I am not. I believe I have only
post in me on this subject, my response to Daniel Williams reply that
include some suggestion on what needs to be done for the hard core
Great birding and find that next lifer!
John (One of Birders2)
Los Angeles, CA
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * *
The second of Ted's posts.
June 23, 1997
At 01:00 PM 6/22/97 CDT, you wrote:
>Leaves me wondering however what Audubon would have left in the way
>real bird science publications. I have read in these posts that the
>to transfer is pretty much a done deal. One guy even suggested
transfer >of the Christmas counts as well.
What Audubon will have left, Brush, is Bird Source. I believe that Bird
Source will ultimately contribute more to our recreation and science
all of the previous printed publications combined. The CBCs will stay
Audubon. We will computerize all of the CBC data, as well as the Cornell
Project Feeder Watch data, as the first step in creating Bird Source.
Therefore the CBCs will continue as an Audubon activity, and the results
will be incorporated into Bird Source. Perhaps as more of the details
concerning Bird Source become public your disquiet will be resolved.
in my opinion, the cutting edge of birding will be defined by how well
exploit these new technologies. Bird Source presumes to do precisely
and I, for one, can't wait to get started.
In my opinion the debate over the ABA and Field Notes is just picking
old bones. We need a new innovative approach to stay ahead of the growth
curve in birding. Rather than retool the old machine, let's begin to
discuss another model.
Ted Lee Eubanks
Board of Directors, National Audubon Society>>>
From: (Ted Lee Eubanks)
Sender: (Audubon birding discussion list
Reply-to: (Ted Lee
Date: 97-06-22 13:59:23 EDT
At 09:15 AM 6/22/97 -0400, you wrote:
>And I am beginning to wonder about that direction. Has Audubon Field
>really been sold to ABA? If I am not mistaken the president of ABA
the >board of NAS. What does this mean?
We can always be assured that Winnie will provoke a lively discussion
am not certain that TEXBIRDS is the proper forum for this debate, and
willing to transfer the discussion to another site if our subscribers
choose to do so. However, I would first like to answer Winnie's questions,
and to philosophize a bit about this evolution of birding that we are
Let me attend to the details first. At the June 1997 NAS board meeting
Red Wing, MN, the Audubon board approved a proposal to transfer Audubon
Field Notes to the American Birding Association. A transition of two
will be allowed, and Audubon will assist ABA in funding this move.
reasons for this transfer are two-fold. First, NAS has struggled with
Notes for years, and the number of subscribers has now fallen to 3500.
Field Notes is to be resurrected (in other words, saved), the effort
Second, NAS, under the leadership of Frank Gill (as well as Susan Drennan),
is developing Bird Source. Funding has been received for the initiation
Bird Source, and therefore the organization's resources and efforts
being focused upon this project. Field Notes simply does not fit into
Audubon envisions for our post-Bird Source future. Bird Source will
complete range of on-line capabilities, and will enlist our citizen
scientists in a fashion that is impossible with a printed magazine.
is working with Cornell Labs (John Fitzpatrick is a member of the NAS
board) to implement Bird Source, and I expect to see the first results
year. Therefore we believed that the shift of Field Notes was best
the magazine as well as our organization.
Does this divestiture mean that Audubon is continuing its move away
birds? No. Audubon has been redirected to the conservation of birds,
wildlife, and their habitats, and Bird Source (as well as the transfer
Field Notes) is evidence that we are implementing the strategic plan.
would ask you to consider two other important developments that were
announced at the Red Wing meeting. First, Kenn Kaufmann has been hired
Field Editor for Audubon Magazine. Kenn will greatly influence the
direction and content of the magazine, and I look forward to seeing
touch in the near future.
Second, in Red Wing the board approved a strategic plan for Latin America
(the results of a task force that Hardy Eshbaugh and I chaired). We
funded the first year of implementation for Latin America, and we will
hiring someone to head this effort in the near future. As you may know,
Audubon has chapters in seven Latin American countries. Birding and
conservation bind these chapters together, and Audubon anticipates
expanding its role in the conservation of these critical tropical habitats.
Finally, the president of ABA (Dan Williams) is not a member of the
board. Perhaps you were thinking of the American Bird Conservancy.
president, Howard Brokaw, is a member of the NAS board, and several
board members were involved in the establishment of ABC.
>I wonder if maybe there shouldn't be a committee to figure out
>organization fits into which niche and have those organizations do
>job possible at there niches. If all "bird"organizations do all the
>things it totally dilutes the efforts and gets less done instead of
In a sense this discussion does take place, yet rarely in a formal setting.
I have personally discussed this matter with most of the leaders of
organizations, and these debates will continue. However, I believe
what we are experiencing is the natural evolution of an industry (or
recreation) in its early development or infancy.
I don't need to repeat the data that show the phenomenal growth in birding.
Yet we often fail to recognize that most of that expansion is taking
among the least avid group of birders. Most of us (through our bird
newsletters, magazines, organizations) are only in contact with the
avid members of our avocation. We see the birding world through our
experiences. However, most birders are not like us. Most are not like
Dunne, Paul Lehman, Greg Lasley, or Winnie Burkett. Most of the birders
that I have studied (most recently along the Platte River in Nebraska)
consider themselves to be less capable than other birders. They consider
birding to be only one of many outdoor activities that they are engaged
For them, the competitive aspect of birding is simply not appealing.
Of the 65 million Americans attracted to nature through birds, the vast
majority fits into this genre we call "casual." Of course, a percentage
these people will continue to develop and specialize, and I would imagine
that this advancing group has fueled much of ABA's growth in the past
decade. Yet we all admit that the mass of birders, those people who
moment are only casually invested in this activity, are (at best) poorly
serviced by our existing organizations. Audubon will continue its efforts
to bring our neighbors to birds, but who will bring them to birding?
Perhaps ABA has recognized the obvious. The future growth of birding
recreation will be concentrated at the lower end of the avidity spectrum.
agree that the membership of ABA has a right to question whether or
their organization should be restructured to cater to this burgeoning
group. I would imagine that ABA would continue to grow, albeit at a
rate, even if no changes were made. If birding continues to grow there
always be a limited number of people who will advance to increased
of specialization. Yet a more rapid rate of growth, I suspect, can
attained through a redirection (even if only a slight mid-course
correction) of ABA's efforts and out-reach.
Audubon has reformed itself within the past three years (a process,
Winnie notes, that is still in process). ABA is now struggling with
issues, and those of us who were around from the beginning (at least
ABA) are startled by the rapid rate of these changes. But why? Are
really bothered by the growth of birding? What could be better for
birds? I believe that people value what they use, and that they conserve
what they value. We should be ecstatic that more of our neighbors are
finding their way to birds.
Birding is offering an increased number of Americans an opportunity
interact with the natural (rather than the artificial) world. I really
don't care how people find their way to nature. Birding, butterfly
collecting, hiking, hunting, rafting, biking, fishing, and photography
fine by me. What we should be more concerned with is that growing sector
the populace that has no contact with nature at all. If birding has
unique appeal to many within our society who otherwise might be divorced
from nature, then let's explore ways to bring that activity (and nature)
closer to those around us.
Perhaps we should be considering a new organization to attend to these
demands and desires. If ABA chooses to reach down into the market,
support them. However, what about the most avid of birders? Perhaps
organization (or publication) should be developed to meet their more
specialized needs. On the other hand, perhaps ABA will choose to continue
to concentrate on serving its traditional core constituency (the group
has complained so vigorously the past few days). If so, then I will
that decision as well. However, I would next argue that the growing
population of casual birders will present a set of needs and desires
can only be met with a new approach. Either way, something new and
innovative is demanded.
Audubon will focus on birds, wildlife, and the conservation of their
habitats. Audubon will not (nor has it ever) reshape itself as a birding
club (our chapters do a much better job of this than our national
organization ever could). The ABA has played a critical role in developing
birding as an important recreation (a sport), and I do not see that
diminishing. The various magazines (Wild Bird, Birder's Digest) do
less avid or accomplished birders, but they will never be able to offer
social benefits of belonging to a membership organization. Therefore
believe that unless Audubon and/or ABA are willing to expand their
into this expanding world of beginning or casual birders, then that
challenge will only be met by a new approach.
I will end by stating that I consider both Paul and Shawneen to be friends,
and that I look forward to seeing them resurface in an important
Their voices have been critical to the development of birding, and
no doubt that they will continue to occupy an important position in
expanding world. Birding magazine has improved immeasurably since Paul
the reigns, and I am eager to see just what new venture Paul throws
into in the near future. Rather than continually retooling our existing
organizations and publications, we need to consider plowing new ground.
have no doubt that Paul and Shawneen will be critical to these new
Ted Lee Eubanks
Board of Directors, National Audubon Society
Austin, Texas 78703
Home: (512) 477-0017
Fax: (512) 477-8033