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

Mike Soukup mikayak3 at
Tue Apr 9 08:20:54 EDT 2002

You're my new hero! - oh, make that heroine.

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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