Sustained forests; sustained profits
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In 1999 it was found that 94.5% of people over 16 participate in some form of outdoor recreation. Birding was among the top five fastest growing activities among 25% of the population. The number is increasing faster than the population. (See Birding 31(2):168-176.)
The sport is similar to golf. A player pays a fee or gains a membership, uses a carefully designed 'course' with trails. A handicap is given each player; the day is given a weight or potential; a score card is obtained. A rulebook is available. Players observe birds at their pace trying to see all of the birds of a course, trying to best a previous score, trying to out-compete a friend. Franchise courses become available, some in other countries. A membership is established with superior players announced. People seek to obtain high scores, to "max out" a course, to get life-list additions from Avi courses. A course 'pro' may assist observers. Sales and rentals of equipment are available.
you leave your vehicle gingerly, without slaming the doors, then crunch your way across the frozen gravel to the front of the car. You stand perfectly still and pray that you are not the one to cough or sneeze. Bud vocalizes an owl and we wait...then the reward!...and we get back in the car, drive a mile and do it all over again. There is nothing like the silence, bubbling roadside streams, crankling ice, a rabbit moving, haunting breezes, and the half- moon behind the great-horned owl's call.
Situation and Scenario:
A bird watcher goes to the Avi course, pays a fee, has his or her membership (or new) number entered, gets a "handicap" based on the season and the weather, receives a recent list of birds likely on the area (a hand-held computer may be used to select birds seen), and is admitted to the course. An observer handicap may be requested based on auditory, visual ability, use of binoculars or scopes, color blindness, age, and experience in bird watching or length of the prior Avi life list).The observer participates as long as desired. (A serving-line model is used to prevent bunching-up or to minimize disturbance or maximize privacy along the course.) Observers walk a trail through well-managed habitats especially planned by wildlife managers to diversify the birds (maximize "richness"), make sightings likely and pleasant. Observers go through habitats, may use the blinds available, may take a boardwalk high into the trees to see warblers, may walk near a marsh or mud flat to get to other species.
Each bird has a conspicuousness index. Extra points are gotten for seeing inconspicuous birds. Extra birds are gotten for seeing rare birds. An honor system is at work. No one checks.
Each day (period) is rated for its quality as a bird-watching day.
Players can be rated (handicapped as in golf)based on visual acuity(Suellen Chart?) and auditory abilities. Par will differ for every area for every season.
A file is kept for each Avi player. They try to beat their prior score, or a score on the same chrono- and pheno-date last year. Private competition between and among players is common.
A report is produced, naming the top 10-20 Avi players of the week. A national list is kept of people who have seen the most birds at Avi courses (the Avi lifelist). A national list is given to subscribers of Avi News of the top 20 scores of players in the previous month. The best courses are listed, based on all of the scores of all of the players. All players have kept for them a cumulative list of all birds seen on courses. After a certain number, say 11o, it becomes harder to add a new species. Points are awarded for these next-lkevel advances.
A budget system provides automated address labels, mailing and publication announcements, and records of who spends what and when.
A gross simulator suggests the interaction of planned changes, people attending, operation costs, number of courses, etc.
Rural System may be the first place that this challenging new sport may become a reality. The potential players are numerous. Once created, other courses in the Eastern and Western U.S., Mexico, Belize, Senegal, India, and elsewhere may be created as franchises. Confident of the financial potential, the natural resource knowledge challenges are exciting for perceptive staff.
Relations can likely be made with a variety of commercial interests and advertising.
A series of such courses (a franchise) will be planned.
Thoughtful students have explored why Avi will not work.
The Avi courses may exist alone but the synergistic effects of many enterprises that are closely related can reduce the risks inherent in start-up operations, reduce costs and delays, and the courses themselves can increase the probability of a satisfactory, memorable experience of all visitors and guests of select sites within Rural System, Inc..
Annual Income 10,000 visitors @ $20...$200,000
Rural System's Avian System Alliance: The Context for Avi
Where should a serious graduate student go to become a world-class ornithologist? This question was posed in mid-October, 1992, to a group of Virginia Tech faculty. The answer was not apparent. There were experts here and there, and notable, single professors, projects, and departments (some with waning reputations). Perhaps there were places overlooked or rejected on the basis of inappropriate criteria, but the question suggested the possibility that such a place, several such places, might exist. The ensuing discussion led to the awareness that such a place could readily exist . . . at Virginia Tech. Later the concept was applied to the Rural System's RRR Program and its concept.
From one perspective the place exists; from another, place is not critical, only the concept, but it needs work and development. This brief paper suggests that second viewpoint and related ideas, and is intended to become a basis for discussion leading to forming an alliance.
My observations mixed with assumptions are listed. I suspect general agreement but they seem worthy of discussion for they are the basis for my concept of the Alliance and its life.
Observations and Assumptions
1. Students do seek to become ornithologists; some aspire to become superior.
2. Excellent students in a rich, diverse academic environment have a greater potential of becoming superior than those working within a single-professor environment.
3. Superior ornithologists are and will be needed.
4. There are many types of emphases taken by and specialties of ornithologists. Rural System might participate in the education of several types or, collectively, a new type.
5. A large number of faculty and graduate students on campus and on nearby campuses now participate in one or more aspects of ornithology (e.g., biology, wildlife, veterinary medicine, poultry science, psychology, ecology, etc.).
6. There are many, local, non-university related interests in birds.
7. Continuing some recent traditions, it seems likely that alternative funding of research in this area will be needed.
8. Some new funding initiatives may emerge (e.g., for work with neotropical migrants).
9. It appears to some faculty that the rate of advancing ornithological knowledge has slowed, at least as related to the rate of emerging problems.
10. Opportunities exist to harness the energies and resources of a growing number of people interested in birds and their ecology.
11. Interest in international bird work is great.
12. There is a tradition of single-faculty, highly independent research. This may continue and an alliance of such people, hopefully and by stated intent, may seek to encourage and in no way retard such efforts.
13. Potentials for "economies of scale" are apparent at some points.
14. An alliance may allow us to increase our conspicuousness index, a well known ornithological figure of speech.
15. Conspicuousness may increase the chance of us attracting superior students, research funds, new faculty, and collaborators.
16. Conspicuousness of effort is little more than display behavior, but it can have survival value and expand the influences of our ideas and findings.
17. The proposed alliance is seen as having many potential benefits, resources, or novelties. These include:
The Alliance might be a voluntary alliance of people and agencies interested in all aspects of the avian resources of the world. Cooperation and collaboration are encouraged but not required. Providing potential contacts is the major emphasis for those in the Alliance, anticipating that, once contacts made, positive relations, perhaps synergism, and at least coordination can occur. The Alliance seeks to announce the presence of a group of faculty who meet together and share a common interest in birds, all aspects. The Alliance is joined by those who have developed or are exploring ways of working together - businesses, agencies, departments, ornithological centers, students, and others - to develop capabilities not otherwise available. The Alliance is a complex "adhocracy" unified by little more than an idea, a willingness to work in the same area, a newsletter, and occasional, irregular meetings and seminars.
Secretarial support will provided by Rural System's System Central. Private contributions have provided for some initial documents.
In general, the Alliance is akin to the genetics program on some campuses. Not a new institution, a "center", or other administrative layer, it physically unites and works toward achieving an objective.
The Alliance may be developed to a functional state within two years, then run or being improved and expanded. Readers are invited to expand on one or more of these to share their insights, ideas, and fears. The components of the Alliance:
AVI - Plans are developing for an official, scored, for-profit game (somewhat like golf) of bird watching. Official "courses" will be developed. Employment and research opportunities; membership newsletter, data base, unlimited expansion. Major affiliation with Birders, Ecology Trust, and International Groups.
BIRDERS - Federation of existing clubs, new membership, newsletter, phenology interest, sales, seminars, expeditions and outing, contacts for grants and bequests, contacts for Bird, Inc., Land Use Planning Group, and Pet Bird Program. Potential work with "Outdoor Recreation" group.
THE OWLS GROUP - owlings and other activities.
BIRD, INC. - A company seeking to maximize profits from sales of books, art, software, bird food, bird houses, bird baths and heaters, bird feeders, related lawn services, etc. Specialized feeds - custom mixed to meet needs of and interests of customers. Tapes of bird calls are made or sold in conjunction with the group calledEar Shot. A proportion of profit goes to research, primarily on bird feeding preferences by season. Major contacts with Birders, Pet Bird Program, Ecology Thrust, and Game Bird System. In 1979 the wild bird product industry was valued at 60 to 65 million. There were 900 million pounds of bird feed purchased (another estimate was 730 million pounds. Increases have been reported since then.)(George et al. 1982) In 1985 62 million Americans fed wild birds and spent $517 million annually to feed the birds (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
LAND USE PLANNING SYSTEM GROUP - Consulting and service (The Trevey -Related) for land owners, gardeners, nursery groups, and landscape firms. Computer produced plans and implementation services. Major contacts with Integrated Pest Damage Management, Birders, Game Bird System, and a user of Ecology Thrust findings.
PET BIRD PROGRAM - Encouragement of a healthful profitable, humane pet bird trade development in Senegal and elsewhere as a viable practice for developing countries when well managed. Close work with CITES, customs, law enforcement, and with outlets for birds, cages, food, supplies, etc. for aviaries through Bird, Inc. Close work with International Groups, Pest Damage Management (importation of harmful exotics), and with Disease and Rehabilitation Group. Contacts with genetics, business, marketing, and other groups.
AVIAN DISEASE AND REHABILITATION GROUP - Primarily an action of or affiliation with one or more veterinarians, this group conducts studies of avian disease, presents messages to improve pet bird health, and conducts a progressive rehabilitation program with maximum relations to Ecology Thrust, Birders, and Bird, Inc.
|The Staff of
The Avian Alliance is pleased to send you the enclosed material.
We hope that you find it useful. Please stay in touch with us at www.Avi.com
INTEGRATED AVIAN PEST DAMAGE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM - Theoretical development, computer programs and techniques are being developed for cost effective reduction in real, significant monetary losses from birds, not necessarily birds themselves. Key areas include rice losses (Nigeria), blackbirds, and cormorants (aquaculture). Potential work with entomology (the Butterfly Band), on theory of integrated pest management and Vertebrate Damage Management Group. Bird protection strategies (from predators and food competitors) are developed.
INTERNATIONAL GROUPS - We already have studies on-going or past in India, China, Nigeria, Senegal, and Nepal with graduates, students, or people who have expressed a desire for some type of affiliation. Opportunities for graduate programs, data banks, pet programs, endangered species work, expeditions (Birders and Bird, Inc.), data sharing, seminars, publications, and international conferences.
THE GAME BIRD SYSTEM - Past success and abundant work with turkey, quail, grouse, pheasants, waterfowl, and wetland birds suggest continuation in this area with major contacts with Ecology Thrust, Bird Inc., Land Use Planning System Group, and Avian Resource Studies Group.
AVIAN ECOLOGY THRUST - Ecology means many things, not debated here. This is a research program, often directed to questions raised within the Alliance. Graduates are encouraged to employ their studies within the Alliance. Experience and post-grad work is virtually assured within the Alliance. Projects are planned and proposed by members of the Alliance. Cooperative proposals may be more successful than solitary ones. Alternative means of presenting research are explored. Graduate education is a major component of the Thrust.
AVIAN RESOURCE STUDIES GROUP - Studies and development of the concept and reality of birds as a national resource are explored. Human valuation of birds is central to broad range socioeconomic studies including impact analyses, value of the resource, user preference and use and their dynamics, economic issues of option demand and opportunity cost, and the consequences of foregone profits in other areas to affect the bird resource. The rates of resource evolution under the Alliance is of interest. Specific economics of the firm and of the Alliance as a not-for-profit group are also of interest. Demand, value, risks, variety, substitutability, and units of resource measure (sightings, hours, "new" birds recorded, etc.) and willingness to pay to achieve these things among groups and areas over time are of central interest. Web sites to be explored and integrated into membership and work include: http://www.birds.fws.gov/imbd.html, http://www.si.edu/smbc, and http://www.americanbirding.org
The Association of Field Ornithologists (AFO) sells mist nets and other supplies. Their e-mail is AFOBAND@manomet.org For mist nets for studies.
Everything for your Florida bird-watching trips:
Endangered species information is now available.
Return to the top.
See also BirdSource.
Potentials are suggested in the following late 1999 email note:
It's that time again! Time to start rounding up your teammates, field guides and birdsong tapes.
The Birding Classic 2000 kicks off on Friday April 7, 2000 in Brownsville Texas with the Opening Ceremonies, moves up the coast to Port Aransas for the central coast section on April 12 then wraps up in Texas City on Sunday April 16 with the Awards Brunch.
In our first three years we have awarded $150,000 to avian habitat conservation projects! We've proven the event can pay for itself and generate money for conservation. Any additional funds we can earn this year will be used to increase the size of our conservation grants. We'd love to give out $75,000 to $100,000 this year.
The Great Texas Birding Classic is open to competitors of all ages and levels of experience. You can compete among your peers in one, two or all three of the "big days" of birding. If competitive birding is not your style there are several ways that you or your organization can be involved in this fun filled annual event. Here are just a few:
These are just a few possibilities. For more information about Teams, Sponsorship, Conservation Cash Grand Prizes and more check out the TPW web site at
or contact the Classic Staff. Matt Dozier (512) 389-4427
firstname.lastname@example.org OR Shelly Scroggs (512) 389-4500
We'd love to have more teams this year. I've assisted with the Birding Classic for 3 years now and can tell you it is one heck of a birding experience - especially for folks from out-of-state. Texas in April in wonderful and the birding is beyond comprehension. I still remember a birder from Massachusetts telling me how he added 30 species to his life list in one day of scouting - he was almost beyond words. It was clear that the experience was more than a species count to him.
Those of you from the northern states will see warblers like you've never seen them before 10-20 feet away at eye level. I well remember suffering from days of 'warbler neck', trying to ID warblers in trees 30 feet overhead, only seeing belly feathers half the time.
I have friends who think the ultimate outdoor experience is a 5-day elk hunt in the Rockies - one form of total immersion in the outdoors. I think the Texas Birding Classic provides a similar exeperience, though the dining experiences are probably different (camp food vs. road food like Cheese-Wiz and Whataburgers - not sure who's the winner there). The Birding Classic is more harried, but that's part of the challenge. Some have called it the 'Ironman' of birding - a week of scouting and birding can be a challenge. But seeing 200-300 species of birds is unique also.
Those of you who know other birders - it only takes 3 of you to make a team. You can participate in 1 day of the competition, or all 3 days.
We'd love to have some more teams representing conservation organizations, and some teams representing univerisities. Would love to see a TX A and M vs. UT birding rivalry in birding (or UT vs. Cornell???). Maybe one Audubon chapter versus another, plus toss in some Sierra Club types for good measure. If we can get enough teams representing these types of groups, we'd like to offer prizes to the top university team, or the top conservatoin group team.
Give it some thought. It's a fun time and the money reaised benefits the birds.
John Herron, Wildlife Diversity Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Matt Dozier, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Birding Classic Coordinator, 512-389-4427, email@example.com
Also see the Lubbock Texas site.
See American Birding Association
Also see the Karnataka, India, bird site which might open tour possibilities for birders.
See Journeys International
See Wild Birds Unlimited
See Patuxent site.
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