I have every sympathy with you and I think I can answer that question.
Australian birders seem quite dependent on receiving information from the web.
It seems to be a general consensus that currently available systems for
alerting people about birds are fine as they are. If you go through the
archives of birding-aus, this sentiment comes up time and time again. The
problem is, all this is being provided for free, in people's spare time,
without any resourcing. We can only expect so much. The other big problem is
that it all critically DEPENDS ON OTHER BIRDERS REPORTING THINGS (as you
So the question is whether any birders knew about the penguins and didn't think
to tell anyone else who might be interested. I don't think there is any
deliberate attempt to cover up these sorts of situations, moreover we just
don't think to do it. In many cases, we're finding out about birds days after
they turn up.
So for reasons you have identified here, birders might find that things can be
I was asked this question about Bird-O FirstAlert the other day (which I might
add, we are struggling to get Australian birders to buy into - see below for
what we're about to do). I was asked, "why would people want to bother to sign
up to receiving information by SMS and potentially pay for this?" The answer is
In the last few months, I can cite several examples for myself, where I would
have saved money (and / or seen birds) had I known in time, that they were
1. I booked rapid return flights to Perth for work and only after that, found
out about the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The bird had been present for days but I
couldn't go to see it without changing my flights at great expense.
2. News of the White-browed Crake broke late in northern NSW and would have
prohibited most birders seeing it in time, before it disappeared.
3. Let's use your example - now you might have to spend lots more money
traveling further or trying to see Fjordland Penguin on a pelagic.
4. What about if you're out at the Western Treatment Plant and someone refinds
the Hudsonian Godwit and you haven't seen one. You have to return from
Melbourne a second time to see it. In petrol and vehicle wear and tear, the
cost would be over a hundred dollars.
...I could go on.
So here's an interesting question. How much money is it worth to birders, to
get bird news? I can certainly say that I would have saved hundreds of dollars
in the last twelve months if we had a better culture of reporting and a way of
getting quicker information out FAST.
Bird-O FirstAlert (http://www.bird-o.com)
In the next week, we are looking at reviewing the FirstAlert on Bird-O and
instead of having a complex regional-based system, just reporting (for the time
being), big rarities / difficult birds - with the purpose of getting things out
as quickly as possible. The price for this? Probably around $5 a month.
However, if this is going to work, we also need people reporting things. That
goes for Eremaea as well - all these sites serve a useful function and aim for
the same general results, though they serve different purposes.
So my take-home message is - IF WE WANT BETTER BIRD-ALERT SERVICES, AUSTRALIAN
BIRDERS NEED TO BECOME MORE PRO-ACTIVE IN REPORTING AND SHARING SIGHTINGS
QUICKLY. The tools are there but not being used widely enough to solve your
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