Thursday, April 19, 2012

WHY EBIRD?

I’ve long resisted entering my observations in eBird. Too much trouble, too restrictive a format, and I don’t need all those fields – I just want a record of what species I’ve seen. Only compulsive listers would keep records that intense.

What’s changed my mind? Partly practical considerations: Birdstack has closed, and I haven’t found listing software for the Mac that I like. Partly a belief that the world around us is changing as a result of human behavior, and that it’s important to address that change with a positive, effective response.

The article that inspired this post, Early Bloomers, was in today’s New York Times online. A thoughtful piece, referencing and comparing Thoreau’s observations in the 1850′s with current bloom times and local species to reflect on the changes that come with urbanization and climate change.

The authors of the Times article,RICHARD B. PRIMACK, ABRAHAM J. MILLER-RUSHING, and BECCA STADTLANDER, note “Despite their dramatic cumulative effects over the last 160 years, these changes would be largely imperceptible without the biological yardstick Thoreau’s records provide.”

While I might wish to write like Thoreau, a more achievable goal is to provide a record of what I observe in a less literary form. I’m honored that eBird wants my data. In addition to not being a poet or essayist, I’m neither scientist nor expert birder. The memory of what I’ve seen and loved in the natural world would vanish without a trace. However, even if I can’t preserve the poetry, I can do this small thing to preserve the world.