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Friday, January 01, 2010

NPR Interview

I was on NPR's Science Friday today during their section on the Christmas Bird Count. I chimed in about birding tech, particularly iPhone apps. Give it a listen- if you can't wait to hear what I had to say, fast-forward to about 13:00.


Birding AP said...

Thanks so much for this, I am doing my third count tomorrow on North Fork of Long Island, New York and hope to go more high tech next year.

brdpics said...

Good luck out there and enjoy yourself! I just spent several days in NY (Around Niagra Falls, Rochester, and Ithaca) and was blown away by the scenery and bird life. Oh, and early morning sun on the Statue of Liberty as seen out my plane window wasn't bad, either!!

Jason Kessler said...

Thanks for the link, and the interesting insights.

Regarding the use of the new technologies in the field, I must confess to some unease.

My first concern is the gratuitous and injudicious use of bird calls in the field. As we all know, this can stress birds greatly, especially during mating season, even to the point of affecting brood success. Bill rightly points out that care must be taken in using call playback, and I thank him for that. However, many of the people using these devices may be beginners who are unaware of the potential for misuse. For them, the temptation to call birds in for a better look may be too much to resist; indeed, they may be unaware of any reason to resist at all.

Secondly, I wonder whether having "conclusive identification" at one's fingertips might not be short-changing the learning process. Traditionally, European birders would not carry field guides with them and, instead, would rely upon the sketching or memorizing of identification details, to be confirmed later whilst hitting the books at home. Many have thought that this made their observational talents sharper.

Finally, my greatest discomfort with the use of SmartPhones in the field is probably a wholly emotional one. We're living in an age where we spend our days on computers, we "socialize" on MyFaceBook, and our every move is Twittered about. And everything needs batteries (do I really want a gadget and a brace of double-A batteries to read a book on a back-lit screen?). Birding has been, for me, an essential, and spiritual, time to commune with something greater than I can experience sitting at my desk. The thought of bringing a beeping TV screen into that otherwise rejuvenating moment seems almost oxymoronic.

That said, I should point out that I'm no Luddite; I'm a filmmaker who spends his days with computers, and loves it. Furthermore, I assume it's only a matter of time before I break down and get one of these applications; the concept of a field guide that's smaller than my wallet is too seductive to resist, and these newest programs offer far more up-to-the-moment information than any book ever will.

But I'd like to pause, at this transformational moment of our hobby/avocation/sport, to appreciate where we've been and what it's brought us, before going to the store for the 12-pack of Duracells.

Dawn Fine said...

Cool! thanks for the podcast.