Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Sin To Birders Everywhere

Recently, a birder found a Le Conte's Sparrow in San Diego County on private property, a county first. He reported the bird to the birding public after it had disappeared, but for inexplicable reasons made it very clear that many people had successfully chased the bird and that many had dipped...and that many of these people were trespassing at a place known for kicking out birders.

While all of that was said outright and is confusing/frustrating enough, what wasn't blatantly stated is that this is a classic case of rarity hoarding...a number of people got calls to see the bird, but of course most did not. Often this is done for good reason (legitimate private property concerns), and sometimes not. Some SoCal birders have built up quite the reputation for doing this over the years, and apparently it was just too much for one man to stand. What follows is a long-winded response to the local covers secret enshrinements, bold lies, puppet masters and absolute hypocrisy. It is one of the best things I have read all also is a huge reminder of how petty and annoying birders can be (and I'm not talking about The Godfather, Paul, etc.). It's worth mentioning that some of the nerds discussing this post on Facebook are truly butthurt about not being included in the "elite inner circle" of their region...this bizarre rant is really bringing out everyone's true colors.

Lastly, no one seems to have ever heard of the birder who posted this. Is he even real? Or a disgruntled birder in disguise? What does it all mean?

Ok, enough from me. Read on.
Subject: [SDBIRDS] Le Conte's Sparrow Follow Up
For years I have been reading the reports on San Diego Birds and thought that there was much ado about nothing in so many cases. Doug Aguillard has repeatedly ranted about the existence of an elite inner circle and their comrades and I figured that he was just crazy and stirring the pot for the sake of stirring the pot. But this latest news about the Le Conte's Sparrow has me wondering if Doug wasn’t right and has secretly been enshrined into his formerly hated inner circle since he has remained silent since the news came out. This can only lead me to believe he saw the bird.  From what I can tell from what was posted on the group and from email responses of those people who replied to my emails I find many things amiss in the local birding people.  The same people that have so many others looking up to them just flipped each and every one of you off.

First off, the Le Conte’s Sparrow could not be seen from any public thoroughfare so Terry must have been trespassing when he found it. Fair enough, most of us have been guilty of such a minor crime from time to time. Terry Hunefeld, Paul Lehman, Guy McCaskie, Peter Ginsburg, Sue Smith, Gary Nunn, Matt Sadowski, Doug Aguillard and even Tom Benson - from another county - all got a call about the bird on Friday and were able to see it.  It is obvious that they all agreed to keep the matter secret as none of them called anyone outside of this secret society to share this news.  Puppet Master McCaskie must have been expertly manipulating the strings once again and threatening loss of the secret handshake known only to the group for anyone who spread the word.

As Paul Lehman shared in a post about his beloved girlfriend Barbara Carlson, there are people doing a big year that would have liked to see this bird.  I can't find anyone who will say that either was there on Friday so I must assume that they didn't know about the bird.  Paul couldn't even tell his girlfriend because it was such an important secret?

In trying to cover their tracks they decided to allow some people to enter the golf course under the ruse that there was permission for one group of a limited number of people to have legal access.  This was a bold lie as the group found out that there was no permission upon arriving on the scene.  Any number of other people who routinely post to the list about what they find, people like Jay Keller, Mark Straton, Dave Povey, Chris Smith, BJ Stacey, Eric Kallen and Stan Walens all come to mind.  Come on, Stan even has a worldwide known bench for birding named after him and no one thought about asking if he might want to see a county first bird.  If they find a rare bird I bet all hell erupts if they decide not to share that information immediately. I don’t know of everyone who was there on Saturday but I have learned of some but it isn’t worth mentioning them since they should only be blamed for unassumingly trespassing after being lied to.

Didn’t this same thing happen earlier in the year with the Mongolian Plover and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper? Didn’t these same people try to keep that hidden until word – as it always does – leaked out?  And how many other times has it happened?  How can it be that Guy McCaskie and Paul Lehman always seem to get access to places that the general public is denied?  It is amazing what one can find when the government is open.  Searching a federal grant database I do not see either of them listed upon a grant but they are given access to Salt Works whenever they request it.   How did they gain the special government powers that
permit them to do so or are the local researchers complicit in the trespassing meaning they should lose their grants?  Perhaps one of them will publicly profess how this can be legal.  Silence should only be interpreted to mean they are guilty.

The absolute hypocrisy of Guy McCaskie and his acolytes is a sin to birders everywhere.  They share amongst themselves and demand all be given by others.  Sound like our current Congress perhaps?  These same people have been doing this same thing for as long as they have been birding.  San Diego birding is known across the country as being home to some of the best birders in the country but also as home to some of the most backstabbing birders at the same time.  The only way to perhaps get them to change is to find your own birds and not tell any of them about it until it is gone.  Give a dose of their own medicine to these
self-appointed doctors in this drama.  To those of you who do go birding I plead with you to ask people across the nation – not just San Diego and California – about these people.  You will be amazed at how horrible they are thought of as people and how far the tales have traveled.  So go find your birds and don’t share that information with any of these self centered egotistic snobs.  If I had the power I would kick them off all the lists and phone trees that they belong to.  I had birded for over 30 years all across the country until a car accident in 2001 left me unable to continue.  I now find my birds by reading San Diego Birds and clicking on links to photos from the locals who share their photos.  And, all the while, I only hope that one of those special birds will fly up to my window and bless me with just a few moments of its life.  Perhaps being bedridden and looking out a window is better than having to look any of you in the eye.

Blessed Birding to ALL that share


  1. wow what a rant. once i was lectured by one of the angels above that i wasn't hiding in the bushes at a site like he does. i of course didn't know i was supposed to 'hide in the bushes' since i was also standing behind a something like 7-foot tall fence. what a painfully gloriously stupid paradox, to trespass like an idiot to see a bird that you cant tell anyone about.

  2. When I was working on an air force base in FL, doing bird surveys, several people got upset when I would post about birds in off limit areas of the base, despite being very clear that they were indeed off limits. Share the bird, people get upset. Hide the bird, people get upset...

  3. Rhode Island has a semi-secret (since everyone sort-of knows it exists), invitation-only birding list, where for a long time the vast majority of sightings ended up. The lady running it runs it on a fear basis (like the republican party!) - e.g. "if you report Canvasbacks publicly, hunters will shoot them" (even out of hunting season, this was said) and has her inner circle. She even kicked someone (a better birder in RI and a really nice person) off the list, and made this person apologize, when they reported birds exclusively to the public list for awhile.

    But this response to an unfortunate situation is a new sort of crazy.

  4. What is needed is for a mole to work their way into this inner circles and blow it wide open. It can't be that hard to set up an alternate email address and pseudonym...

  5. This is amazing. It's a relief to see that Texas isn't the only state with wacko listserv drama. We just had a dude here post about an Elegant Tern; he refused to give the location and wouldn't give a reason as to why. The nerder hordes revolted. Fuck that dude.

  6. I find it interesting that so many people take this at face value...maybe because yall don't know the people being named and what they have done for the birding community, at least a couple of them anyway. I personally think whoever wrote this has some significant hangups that have not been dealt with, and that the vast majority of the "facts" in this post are made up...I'm not too worried about "inner circles", although I know they exist.

  7. This makes me feel much less bad about suppressing the Le Conte's in Queens.

    And, wow, the San Diego birding scene sounds tough - but, then again, that Rhode Island stuff Eric is talking about sounds really horrible.

  8. i wonder why i could care less about inner circles and suppressing, but trespassing makes my skin crawl. what does it mean? i have to shake this preoccupation with an irrational dream that birders will not be craven. some sort of bourgeois liberalism wallpapering my brain.

  9. I can vouch the Rhode Island is not horrible; I have seen some very generous acts by said individual. I've seen the same behavior go on in every list serve I've been involved with - CT, CA, NY... People text each other quietly offline. Birds are seen on private property. Some birders trespass. Moderators become a little too concerned with controlling information. Birders get mad at being excluded, or mad at lengthy irrelevant feeder bird reports, or gossip about how xxx is stringy or an outright liar. Occasionally someone completely loses their **** like this guy. I've seen worse - at least he didn't publicly threaten to go over and punch the offenders in the face. :)

    1. That is a story I would love to hear.

    2. The quote goes something like: "I am going to come over to your house and punch you in the face." Bring it on!

  10. Wow, that certainly has gotten a bit crazy. Is it just me or is this list a bit "off" in the first place? They won't let it be syndicated on the ABA site, and they have some rule that states if you report a bird on ebird but not the list you're getting kicked off? I can't see where people would get the idea that the SD community might have some issues..

    I guess I'll be thankful that the worst I have to deal with is a few misreported Goshawks, and even that guy has given up on our listserv and moved on to an "anonymous" ebird account.

  11. Some birders need to relax and get some perspective. I can understand that folks might feel disappointed about missing a rare bird, but this is all supposed to be fun, right? Go out and try to find your own rare bird, and stay off private property while you're at it...

  12. I want to know if being mentioned on your blog, even if indirectly, merits any points for my Global Birder Ranking Standing.

  13. Why yes Tom, I would say so...despite the growing demand for it I am not yet in the business of publicly naming sketchy birders, so most of the people named on BB&B usually have a solid GBRS rank. And if you are such a good birder that someone resents you and invents a crazy conspiracy that you are a part of, that's even more points.

  14. I think I'm with mccreedy on this one, it's more the trespassing that bothers me. I suppose I could be off base, as it's never really clear if they were indeed trespassing, or if they had some arrangement for them to be their, but not birders in general Hoarding a rarity usually doesn't bother me, if it's somewhere that hoards of people really can't access, but it does bother me when someone essentially post: I was trespassing and found a great bird, and led some other people there, but don't try to go see it, because that would be bad. I agree with you though, the emailer seems to be a little bit off their rocker.