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. It may be come the center for avi-tourism. 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.
From the 2001 survey of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in Virginia there was reported 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, bird watching has grown by almost 4 times in that period. There is interest and part of it for some people may be concentrated.
Cordell and Herbert (2002) reported that birding popularity is still growing and suggested interventions for participants and birds. They said birding may be a catalyst for ecotourism.
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 land units or those under contract 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.
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 The Trevey unit on songbird management.
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 : www.baldheadisland.com www.bhic.org, from Melissa Hedges Graduate Research Assistant, Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, 149 Cheatham Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061 (2004)
Potential resource (2006): Dr. Aimee Weldon. Aimee's interests are avian ecology and conservation, and her specific research area is effects of landscape structure on demography and community ecology. Aimee is the new Virginia Important Bird Areas Program Coordinator for Audubon, and as such is broadly interested in conservation of and promoting research on Virginia’s bird species. She is an excellent source of information about research needs, and potential study areas and funding, for avian conservation in Virginia. See her publications:
Weldon, A. J. and N. M. Haddad. 2005. The effects of patch shape on indigo buntings: evidence for an ecological trap. Ecology 86: 1422-1431.
Tewksbury, J.J., D.J. Levey, N.M. Haddad, S. Sargent, J.L. Orrock, A. Weldon, B.J. Danielson, J. Brinkerhoff, E.I. Damschen, and P. Townsend. 2002. Corridors affect plants, animals, and their interactions in fragmented landscapes. PNAS 99: 12923-12926.
See E-birding notes
See Birding in Mexico
See Birds of North America on line: The Birds of North America species accounts are now online. The cost is $40 for a one-year subscription. It appears that is the only option for now. In addition to simply having the 18,000 pages from all 18 volumes covering 716 species in an online, searchable format, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has added video and sound recordings for each species. Additional photos are available in some cases. Cornell states that the accounts will be updated regularly, too. It appears that changes in scientific names since publication of an account are incorporated online (e.g., the printed account for Tufted Titmouse has Parus bicolor, but the online version has Baeolophus bicolor), but splits may not be (i.e., Black-crested Titmouse). There are several species accounts available for trial viewing. Check it out!
See the South Atlantic Migratory Bird Initiative (SAMBI) in the Southeastern Coastal Plain – Bird Conservation Region 27
Cordell, H.K. and N.G. Herbert. 2002. The popularity of birding is still growing. Birding 34(1): 54-61
See World Wildlife Fund.1982. North American birds which migrate to the tropics. World Wildlife Fund - U. S., Washington, DC. 4pp.
See Virginia web site http://www.vabci.org/about.asp
Perhaps you will share ideas with me about some of the topic(s) above .
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
July 2, 2005