Subject: RE: lepidopterists have anything to learn from ... birders ?

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Mon Apr 8 18:40:13 EDT 2002

What Barb says about birders is mostly true. They are tolerant of banders, but
less enthusiastic about collectors.
When Steve Russell (I think it was) collected the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher in
Arizona, it elicited abundant wrath from the birder community----not so much
because it wasn't necessary to document a bird that could be netted, handled,
measured, and photographed, but because it couldn't be listed any more.
Maybe that's too cynical.

But as a bander I've had birders (and lay-people too) voice objections to my
perceived "mistreatment" of cute little birds. And the birds themselves voice
displeasure as well and bite fiercely, to boot. You wouldn't believe how much
anti-scientific sentiment a chickadee in the hand can voice.

Mike Gochfeld

Barb Beck wrote:

> Well Mike I do not know about the lepidopterists but I am sure the butterfly
> watchers following Glassberg could learn a heqq of a lot from birders.  A
> large number of birdwatchers are not lapping up the anti-scientific,
> pseudoscientific statements expressed by the head of NABA.  Birders have
> several scientifically responsible organizations.
> There is a tiny radical wacko faction centered in the eastern US which cut
> mist nets but most bird watchers are not running around chanting "Nets are
> shotguns"  We use mist nets, other types of nets to trap birds as well as
> giant fish landing nets with padded rims to catch the Great Gray Owls (Strix
> nebulosa) and sometimes Northern Hawk Owls (Surninia ulula) that come to our
> feet after mice... just like we net butterflies.  In this case we are
> catching them not to id them but to band them, take measurements on them,
> age and sex them by size and feather characteristics so we can better
> understand these birds and their population dynamics.
> Most Birding databases and scientific butterfly databases keep the data to
> the precision in which it can be recorded - be it species or subspecies
> particularly where we have overlapping subspecies as with Myrtle and Audubon
> Warblers and several other east west pairs.  There is not a significant
> faction among birdwatchers who disapprove of this and certainly there is NO
> case where a species which the naming group admits is a good species is left
> as a subspecies AND data for it is not kept separate.  The leader of the
> antiscientific wing of the butterfly watchers even though he knows the
> overlapping ranges of several species which he has lumped still flatly
> declares that keeping the stuff by species will not hurt because it can
> always be separated later by range. (He is not easily confused by facts)
> Not only are some species entered in our birding databases by ssp some are
> also aged when they are entered...keeping the data at the precision at which
> it was recorded.  The common names we used are not set by one person or a
> couple people apparently willy nilly changing some Sulphurs to yellows and
> giving other species names which are not common or useful.  The AOU naming
> committee runs by far different rules.
> There is still some work that needs to be done on birds which require
> specimens.  We do not have a leader of a major birding group standing up and
> declaring that everything is known about birds and we need no more
> collecting.  Often, however, collecting is unnecessary because tiny blood or
> feather samples work.  There are also lots of birds which are turned in
> after being killed hitting windows, tall buildings or being electrocuted on
> our power lines.
> There are a lot of Glassberg's butterfly watchers that need to learn a few
> things from birders.  They blame collectors for the demise of their
> favourite bugs while completely ignoring the fact that to have the bugs you
> must have the proper habitat.  Their leader trashes habitat for two days to
> get his perfect trophy photo of a rare Satyr with about 9 other people when
> simply netting and cooling it, photographing it and releasing it unharmed
> would saved a lot of habitat and who knows how many immature and eggs which
> were trampled in the quest.  In the same issue he divulges the whereabouts
> of an other endangered species supposedly so his minions could rush to the
> site and get their trophy photos while trashing that habitat.
> Birders are encouraged by their peers and books to identify as precisely as
> possible and to only report to the precision of that identification.  They
> are not taught to identify every Epidnoax flycatcher as a Least Flycatcher
> much as the NABA minions identify any Azure sp as a Spring Azure. If they
> have a difficult group such as the Emidonox Flycatchers they are taught to
> merely put down Epidonax sp.
> Birders try to work with ornithologists.  Naba members tend to want to tie
> the hands of Lepidopterists... calling those who do scientific collecting
> "immoral collectors".  They are swallowing the rhetoric of their leader that
> "no more collection is necessary".  We have a whole NE corner of this
> province that has just gotten any access - a huge area larger than several
> of your NE states.  We have nothing from this and other areas here and the
> butterfly watchers here as well as the scientific collectors are not happy
> to just sit back and say "we already know everything so nothing new can be
> there"
> The butterfly watchers we have here in Alberta are not afraid to carefully
> use nets to identify and release - They can differentiate a net from a
> shotgun. They realize that the wild stories about butterflies having their
> legs ripped off by netting in nonsense and wacko rhetoric spread on the
> internet by the anti science wackos in some areas of the eastern US.  Our
> counts are all run with nets even though they were airbrushed out of the
> photo of our students on the Cardinal River Divide count last year in the
> NABA mag.  Contrary to what Glassberg says we obviously are not discouraging
> people by having them use nets because with a population less that 1 percent
> of the US we hold almost 10 percent of the NABA counts.  We use binoculars
> where we can and nets where necessary to take a closer look. If a group
> finds a butterfly of which it is not certain about the id the butterfly is
> cooled in a vial and taken to the expert who can ascertain its proper id
> before letting it loose in the same place where it was caught. Some but not
> all of us also collect specimens for scientist who have requested them
> because most importantly we realize that there is a lot still to learn about
> our butterflies. Those who do not collect specimens respect the decision of
> those who do. I really hate to kill a butterfly but do it so send things in
> to be studied  There are people willing to do the studies if we get the
> samples to them. The notion spread by the leader of the NABA that every
> butterfly netted on counts that use nets is killed is absolute nonsense.
> Alberta butterfly watchers realize that if we do not know what we have and
> what habitat they use they cannot get protected.  They have not had their
> attention diverted away from the need to protect habitat by the
> pseudoscientific rantings of some that it is collectors who are driving
> butterflies to extinction.  The cars driven by your nice little NABA members
> as they go to their beautiful non violent butterfly watching sessions
> probably killed more butterflies than if they had nuked every butterfly they
> saw through their glasses. An if they ventured off the path to get a closer
> look more killed there as well as trampled habitat.  We are very very
> fortunate here because Glassberg does not understand how to identify our
> butterflies (his book is essentially worthless for the colias and speyeria)
> and we have good books written by people who do.  His wacko antiscientific
> philosophy has not taken hold here.
> As I have said often ornithology has a lot of support and funding because
> there are a lot of birders out there concerned about birds AND THE SCIENCE.
> A group of people who want to see butterflies and think they are only
> endangerd by collectors and are not worried enough about whether they are
> looking at a Spring Azure or some other Azure not are NOT going to support
> research to find out what we have and how to protect it.  They are already
> being told by a pseudoscientist that we know everything there is about
> butterflies and no more should be collected. They need to learn that that is
> untrue to encourage scientific collection by those willing to do it.
> I fully agree with the need to discourage trophy and unnecessary collection.
> In the past there has been some terrible cases of trophy collection by
> museums.  BUT there is a big difference between trophy collection and
> scientific collection.  They must realize the validity of the latter.
> If a good portion of the butterfly watchers are going to be lead by
> antiscientific radical philosophy they are going to do more to help
> butterflies than they will to help mussels.  Pseudo scientific naming scheme
> and pseudo scientific data storing scheme which does not record the species
> which are present is not going to help matters.
> The butterfly watchers need to take a look at the birders and adopt a more
> scientific view or at least appreciate the work that the scientists working
> with butterflies are doing.  They need to appreciate the fact that
> butterflies must at times still be netted to be accurately identified on
> some counts. They need to appreciate that in some parts of the continent the
> mix of butterflies is much more complicated and less known that what they
> have in the eastern US They need to appreciate that everything that we need
> to know about butterflies to protect them is not known and that hindering
> those who are trying to learn what we have and what habitat they use is only
> going to doom species and ssp.
> Finally note Glassbergs antiscientific approach to the Miami Blue.  He is
> clued out that others have formed a group to attempt to learn to raise them,
> what their food plant is, planting the things which they think is the food
> plant, in general doing something to restore the butterfly.  Glassberg is
> announcing the location to his minions in his magazine so they can all go
> trample habitat like he illustrates in the same issue if the magazine to get
> their perfect trophy photo.  It never occurs to the guy to try to find out
> what is going on.
> 100,000 NABA butterfly watchers who do not see any need for science are not
> going to support butterfly research at all - they are only going to suppress
> it.
> Barb Beck
> Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
> Subject: RE: lepidopterists have anything to learn from ... birders ?
> From: "Mike Quinn" <ento at>
> Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2002 17:21:19 -0500
> There is one tidbit of knowledge to be gleaned from 100 years of birding,
> and that is without the 100,000+ birders there would only be a few 100
> ornithologists.
> Take away the birders and there would be very little public support or
> funding for ornithological research and conservation.
> If funds were commiserate with need (instead of with popular appeal) then
> North American freshwater mussels would get the lions share of research
> funding, not birds.
> -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> Mike Quinn
> New Braunfels, TX
> ento at
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
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