Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another journalist miscreant -- Postscript to previous post

Shortly after I posted my rant about newspapers' coverage of the Christmas Bird Count, Website correspondent Margo Beller sent in another egregious example of journalistic tackiness. In the NY Post article below, we get birdwatchers flocking again, and the partridge in a pear tree joke again [Ugh!] The Bye Bye Birdie headline, however, is hideously their own this year. Still, the article must be commended for including some good reporting.



December 15, 2008

New Yorkers flocked to Central Park yesterday to bid bon voyage to thousands of their high-flying neighbors heading south for the winter.

Spotters, armed with binoculars and reference guides, counted more than 6,000 birds over a four-hour span - including 979 house sparrows, 448 common grackles, eight cedar waxwings and two red-headed woodpeckers.

It was the 109th Annual Christmas Bird Count - but not a single calling bird, French hen, turtledove or partridge turned up.

Nicole Belacretaz had been counting birds for hours and perked up when a tiny, ruby-crowned kinglet whizzed by.

"It's one of the smallest birds after the hummingbird, and it moves very fast," said Belacretaz, who studies birds for the New York City Audubon Society. "The surprise was that it was still here because it should have migrated south already."

Volunteers throughout New York and the rest of the US will document bird sightings between now and Jan. 5 for patterns that will help conservation efforts.

"This is my second year," said Alicia Svenson, 33, an architectural designer from the East Village. "It's fun to meet other birders. It's one of those hobbies that takes over your life. There is a thrill in seeing a bird you haven't seen before."

Organizers said the data help them assess the health of bird populations.

The count was begun Dec. 25, 1900, as a protest against the annual "side hunt," a competitive shooting of birds and small mammals.

More than 2,000 counts will be conducted involving more than 59,000 volunteers in all 50 states, every Canadian province, Central and South America, the Caribbean and several Pacific islands.

Similar counts will be held Dec. 20 in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Volunteers will conduct a count for The Bronx and Westchester on Dec. 28.

Andrew Baksh, 35, a computer consultant from Ozone Park, Queens, couldn't wait for the count in his borough, so he went to Central Park.

"I love birds," he said. "I built my own bird garden. I planted plants that attract birds and butterflies. I like to sit outside and watch them."

Christmas Count and Journalism

Cooper's Hawk -- December 14, 2009
Photo by Ardith Bondi

At the annual Christmas Count in Central Park last Sunday, I was on Ardith Bondi's team covering the northwest quadrant of the park. We didn't find any mind-boggling birds this year --a few years ago we had a good look at a Northern Shrike -- but it was a lovely day and we certainly saw a lot of titmice -- more than 20.

Our most dramatic bird was the unusually pale Cooper's Hawk shown above, gleaming in the sun on a completely exposed perch near the Blockhouse. From the bulge in her crop [by size I'd say it was a female] it looks like our raptor had recently dined, but not, I hope, on the mind-boggling bird that might have made us stars of the Christmas Count.

Below, two newspaper reports of Sunday's event, the first from Newsday, a respectable New York daily, the second from the often scorned Epoch Times, a cult-associated publication.

Fie on Newsday for using the same old tacky puns newspapers always drag out when writing about birdwatchers: "for the birds" and "bird enthusiasts flocked." and etc. Fie fie! And to conclude with the old "partridge in a pear tree" joke. Triple fie. Meanwhile, the less respected Epoch Times's article avoids these old saws and reports quite a few more facts. Bravo, though one demerit for misspelling the Pine Siskin.

From Newsday:

NEW YORK - Central Park is for the birds.

Bird enthusiasts flocked to the park on Sunday for the annual Christmas Bird Count organized by the New York chapter of the Audubon Society.

City Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benape said birdwatchers counted 55 species, for a total of just over 6,000 birds. Among the more frequently seen birds were sparrows and pigeons. Some of the more unusual sightings included a wild turkey and a peregrine falcon.

There was no sighting of a partridge in a pear tree.

The Epoch Times:

NEW YORK—The annual Central Park bird count was held on Sunday afternoon. The count is done each year to track the number and type of birds found in the park and has been done for 109 consecutive years.

Originally initiated by the Audubon Society, it is still organized by the bird watching society and is done in conjunction with the Parks Department, who assist the annual outing by organizing volunteers and sending them out on their task with a Park Ranger.

A small army of volunteers of about 75 people came out on Sunday and was divided into groups to count birds in seven different zones in the park, including the great lawn, the Ramble, the reservoir area and the four corners of the park.

Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson said the count this year was 6,041 birds from 55 different species. That’s down from last year’s count of 7,771 birds. Up this year were the number of rare bird called a Pine Sisken, about 50 were seen in the Ramble area of the park, a large increase over last year. Another special find this year was the sighting of a wild turkey in the park that managed to survive this year’s Thanksgiving.