Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits

Official Avi
A bird-watching activity

Official Avi is the new for-profit sport of bird watching on private, franchised, bird-watching courses. It has strong parallels to conventional golf. First described by R.H. Giles in 1985, it has been studied and developed further and a description is available. It may be developed on an existing golf course or, better, an area already rich with bird species. Major construction is for the trail. An office for sales and computer operation is desirable.

6th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

The 6th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held on President's Weekend, February 14 - 17, 2003. Each year that this event takes a snapshot of North American bird populations, the data collected become more important. During our 5th annual Count in February 2002, we received more than 50,000 checklists from across the continent, reporting over 505 bird species and almost 5 million individual birds! The GBBC data complement those from the Christmas Bird Count. Take a look at the results from previous years through the interactive BirdSource website.

This week (November, 2002) a mailing has gone out to all Audubon chapters, centers, and state offices. The enclosed posters, brochures, press release, and article are all available in electronic form. For these electronic files and/or additional information, please contact Sally Conyne, Director of Citizen Science, Audubon Society (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.

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.)

From the 2001 survey of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in Virginia there was reporte 2,460,000 wildlife watchers who generated $788 million in revenue. Nationwide, birders grew from 21.2 million to 76 million from 1982 to 2001. In the South, birdwatching has grown by almost 4 times in that period. There is interest and part of it for some people may be concentrated.

The sport being described here, Official Avi is similar to golf. It may even be affiliated with the edge environments of existing golf courses. 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 sold. 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. An international membership is established with superior players announced. It works interactively with The Tours Group. 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. Night course work is available with night-viewing equipment rental. Groups may use the course but usually only small-groups or single observers are found along the trails in all seasons.

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. A computer 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 via the Internet, 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 110, it becomes harder to add a new species. Points are awarded for these next-level 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, Inc. land units in the region will 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 or advertising and cooperative tours and Dogwood Inn affiliations can likely be made with a variety of commercial interests and advertising.

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.

Grossly related 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:

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 experience, 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 universities. Would love to see a Texas 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 conservation group team.

Give it some thought. It's a fun time and the money raised benefits the birds. John Herron, Wildlife Diversity Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Matt Dozier, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Birding Classic Coordinator.

See also a North Carolina company

See also the New River Valley Bird Club for related activities and contacts.

Possible future contact: Information on the island and the Bald Head Island Conservancy can be found at, from Melissa Hedges Graduate Research Assistant, Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, 149 Cheatham Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Development costs, excluding land acquisition - $150,000. Profits are estimated in relation to 5,000 visits @ $20

Notes from Bhaskar Sen

The Idea of a group of elders and may be youths too, forming an E-network of Bird Watchers and other associate activities is interesting. For this we first have to design a Web-page or may be a few more pages. These pages should be designed in a way, so that any participant can quickly login and update their sighting reports as frequently as he/she wants.

For this, we need to do the following:

The Home page should introduce people to the details (objectives, rules/regulations, potential positives for better avifauna update/management and opportunities of making small profits/business for the Registered participants through the sale of Avi-products etc.) regarding our new E-Avi initiative.

Next, there should be a Registration Form, where those interested to participate can feel the details and Submit.

Next, the main Update page will be there. It will ask the potential user to give information on various kinds of questions.

We can design a specific questionnaire and a set of J-script programs, specifically for the E-Avi unit. The users will be encouraged to use those Calculations and the questionnaire to submit near-accurate reports of their weekly or fortnightly or monthly Avi-updates.

All these updates Submitted by the Registered Users through the Web will be sorted methodically at the RSís central unit (may be by using a specially designed Desktop Application/Software) and the updates from this backend calculations will be posted at regular intervals on the Website.

We can even design some interesting fool-proof competition on E-Avi and send small prizes to winners.

Registered users may be encouraged to rope-in more and more bird enthusiasts in this initiative. We may give those who succeed in selling our products and popularizing our E-initiative some commission or concession or any material/monitory reward.(purely a marketing policy)

You may ponder on how to design the website, what content it should have and which are the specific Programs-calculations we are going to offer to the users. Once the planning is complete, we can proceed to finish the pages fast and host them and invite people to join the E-Avi club..and see how they respond.

In your reply to the RIN CEO you may offer a small marketing initiative on RSís part. The handicrafts / woodcrafts/handloom products/ and many other such minor village products of exotic value may be sold in US market through RS. This will bring fund to the poor farmers. And part of the profit can be shared between RIN and RS (may be on a commission basis)
Perhaps you will share ideas with me
about some of the topic(s) above at

Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

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