Although I don't always agree with the Audubon Society, I'm a proud member of its New York Chapter. Once a year, I participate in Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count
. Interestingly, this tradition owes its origin to another tradition enjoyed by many Americans a hundred or so years ago: on Christmas Day, the fun thing to do after an early dinner was to go out and massacre birds. The following is reprinted from one of Audubon's sites:Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt": They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations.
Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a "Christmas Bird Census"-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. So began the Christmas Bird Count.
Which brings me to this whole Dick Cheney bird-shooting business
. As everybody knows, the VP went out last Saturday, and instead of killing some quails, nearly killed a man with an errant blast of birdshot from his 28-gauge shotgun.
Let's skip the political sniping about Cheney for a moment (political blogs
do it much better than I do) and talk seriously about bird-hunting. Frankly, I enjoy bird hunting, specifically wild parrot hunting because, I suppose, it harnasses my primeval instincts and puts me in the moment like no other sport can.
Each time I go out to shoot birds, alone or in a friendly group, the tactical terrain is different: sometimes the shooting conditions are perfect, but the birds aren't there. Sometimes the conditions are terrible, but the quarry is perfectly positioned. Sometimes everything is perfect, but my equipment malfunctions. Once in a while -- and it's truly an adrenaline-laced peak experience that's like no other -- everything comes together and Whammo: I get my perfect shot.
The only real difference between what I do and what people like Dick Cheney do for fun is my choice of weaponry: I use a camera, not a gun.
And I'd like to think that some of the Americans who hunt for fun, because it really is a great hobby, could learn from this incident, and the example of Frank Chapman, who taught America that counting can be as much fun as killing, that you can have just as much fun with a Nikon and a notepad as you can with a loaded shotgun.
Labels: Audubon Society, Carolina Parakeet, Hunting