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If you do not wish to wallow through this whole message, delete or skip 
to the concluding paragraph for the punch line.

"Oh, to see ourselves as others see us."  [Robert Burns]

Eleven years ago, when I began to become an active birder [this is 
polite language for 'compulsive-obsessive'], I took an adult education 
course on birding and joined the local Audubon Society.  My first group 
excursions into the field were in that course and soon, as a participant 
on CAS field trips.  The people I associated most closely with were 
other members of that adult ed class.  We were of relatively the same 
age, all rank beginners and had joined CAS at about the same time.

I was dismayed at CAS meetings.  There seemed to be a lot of 
"short-hand" jargon-type communication.  Many of the members had 
belonged for more than twenty years.  They knew one another well and 
they were familiar with all things "bird-wise" from bird parts to 
birding locations to organizations (it took me a year to figure out what 
ASM was and why I didn't receive "The Bluebird" they often spoke of).

Others in my cohort expressed similar feelings of being excluded.  We 
tended to stick together for mutual support in the learning/exploring 
process with our new-found fascination.  But we also kept going to those 
meetings and rarely missed a field trip.

We watched the "old timers" in the field.  We listened.  We learned.  In 
the process of learning bird lore we also came to respect the old 
timers.  They were, to a person, incredibly patient at our 
ignorance-driven questions.  They were generous with their time and 
their knowledge.  We slowly came to understand that what we had 
originally perceived as cliquishness/insensitivity of the old timers was 
in large part due more to our own ignorance of the world of birding than 
to any intent on their part to be exclusive.

The irony is that in our own process of learning and sharing our joys of 
exploration and discovery, our support network had become perceived by 
those who came later as a clique--an inner circle!

Birders are people; really special people, but people, nonetheless.  We 
are subject to patterns and pitfalls of social behavior typical of our 
species.  Efforts to extend the comradship of birding have met with 
varied success, but it is always worth the effort to encourage others to 
join the fun.  And it is always appropriate to give others the benefit 
of the doubt on motivation AND on intent.

That is a segue into Mobirds.  This listserve is a vital component of 
what makes the Missouri birding community a community.  It is a network 
of a farflung, heterogeneous  bunch of people who share bird-related 
interests (and often, passions).  It is our statewide interactive 
newsletter, a vehicle for sharing our joys and concerns, and for 
providing time-sensitive information.

Mobirds, even as an electronic milieu, exposes its participants to 
social judgments.  We build relationships in many ways.  Time spent in 
personal contact with other individuals is a primary way we learn to 
care for and to respect one another.  Some of the interaction cues and 
shared experiences are missing in the electronic setting.  Without the 
visual clues or the tone of the speaker's voice, it is more difficult to 
offset the negative reactions to a turn of phrase; a comment is more 
likely to be seen as a rebuff than as a caution; and, because we read 
the posts alone, perhaps we are more likely to take things said in 
general as personal affronts.

It may be difficult for birders who are isolated by geography, or 
birders new to the state, or birders new to birding to believe this, 
but:  THERE IS NO INNER CIRCLE.  (Yes, I am aware of "netiquette" even 
though I often do not choose to practice it, choosing to write in 
English, instead.  In this case I intend to shout--it comes naturally to 
me--to emphasize my point.)

Here is what we do have:
1.  A listserve hosted by the University of Missouri who, reasonably, 
has set some basic rules for use, and (as in the case of the trip to see 
the Barn Owls) the participants agree to abide by the rules set forth.)

2.  A listowner, Susan Hazelwood, who, by the rules of the University, 
is an employee, thereof.  Susan monitors the content with the purpose 
of: a) adhering to the rules of the host (this includes topicality--an 
area in which she is far more tolerant than many, many listserve owners, 
much to our benefit); b) maintaining civility among a sometimes volatile 
group; and c) promoting the knowledge of birds and birding.  This 
ordering is my interpretation, not Susan's.

3.  A significant number of subscribers who, for a variety of personal 
reasons, are what is often known as "lurkers."  That is, they read 
messages but rarely, if ever, post them.

4.  A fairly large number of people who post fairly regularly regarding 
bird finds and birding conditions in their part of the state or in 
places they frequent.  I'm going to name some of these, because they are 
the yeomen of the listserve.  They are the people to whom we all owe a 
great debt for their efforts to keep us informed.  And anyone who 
ascribes the motive of bragging to their service is maligning them 
without cause.
This honor roll includes, but is not limited to:
Leslie Kohler, southeast Missouri
Bob Lewis, southeast Missouri
Judy Bergmann, southeast Missouri
Mike Doyen, southcentral Missouri
Ann Wethering, Southcentral Missouri
Anne Downing, northeast Missouri
Kim March, northcentral Missouri
Patrick Harrison, northeast Missouri
Tommie Rogers, northwest Missouri
Larry Lade, northwest Missouri
Craig Hensley, K.C. area
Jim & Ellen Zellmer, K.C. area
Steve Kinder, northcentral Missouri
Kristi Mayo, northwest Missouri (and Bird Alert compiler)
Peter Kondrashov, northwest Missouri
Larry Herbert, southwest Missouri
Kathleen Anderson, central Missouri
Jean Leonatti, central Missouri
Mike Brady, St. Louis area
Mike Grant, St. Louis area
Margie Terpstra, St. Louis area
Sherry McGowan, St. Louis area
Dave Rogles, St. Louis area
Charley Burwick, southwest Missouri

This is certainly a not an all-inclusive list.  Please do not think that 
I undervalue your contribution if you are not listed here.

The point of this list is to show that many, many people contribute 
routinely to our knowledge of the presence of birds in Missouri.  Some 
of them even begin their posts with apologies for posting lists of 
birds.  Shame on all of us for giving any impression that an apology is 
called for!

The people on that list would laugh all the way to the next birding stop 
to hear that some people thought they were part of an inner circle.  
Many of them have not met most of the other people on the list.  Some 
have met others only on birding outings.  I seriously doubt that any of 
them believes there is an inner circle.  Although they reside in 
disparate parts of the state, they have been around long enough to know 
that they are members of a very large circle-- respected Missouri 
birders.


Now for that relatively small bunch of very vocal listserve users.  I am 
one.  Charlene Malone is another.  There are others.  We are passionate 
about birding.  Some of us tend to be more emotional than many people 
are comfortable with.  (I am bellicose by nature and pacifistic by 
persuasion--a difficult mix doomed to occasional disasters in human 
relations.)

We work at keeping the Missouri birding community informed because we 
firmly believe that the community is a worthwhile entity.  We know that 
shared information and mutual respect are the glue that keep this 
community vibrant.

We share news of birding related issues and events; we share our own 
bird sightings and relay those of others (without Charlene's input much 
of the St. Louis area birdfinding news would never reach beyond the 
County); and we often opine on issues, knowing there will be those who 
disagree or don't understand, but we do it because the outcome is worth 
the heat--even though we sometimes are at odds with one another or risk 
being misunderstood.

There is no inner circle.  I see Charlene Malone and/or Dave Rogles and 
others occasionally when I make it down to Riverlands.  I run into Bob 
Lewis and others from his neck of the woods when I head toward the 
bootheel or they chase after something like a Rock Wren over on the west 
side.  Steve Kinder and Larry Lade often generously offer to serve as 
hosts to birders heading their way.  Charley Burwick, Lisa Berger and 
others in the Springfield area welcome visiting birders, etc., etc.

Some of us post frequently to Mobirds.  Sometimes we use jargon.  
Sometimes we refer to events/knowledge in our past that isn't shared by 
all.  Sometimes we limit location information on species because we do 
not wish to be the source of stress to a bird or to the demise of one 
because of collecting zeal.  And, probably more often, we say something 
that gives the impression that we are among a small group of folks who 
are privy to special information.

There is no inner circle.  There is a large group of sincere, passionate 
Missouri birders.  Come join us on birding excursions.  Join us at local 
birding group meetings.  Join us in the Audubon Society of Missouri (see 
the web page) and share a weekend in spring and fall birding with us.  
If those options are not viable for you, then at least read Mobirds 
posts with the assumption of the good will of the sender.  Lets's spend 
the doldrum days of winter reading up on birds and birding, not berating 
one another.  Let's share the joys of birding every chance we get.

Edge Wade
Columbia, MO
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