Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jeff Gordon: New ABA President

Jeff Gordon (NOT the NASCAR guy), on the left, with your blogger on right. The guy who looks like the cowboy from the Village People is Bill Thompson, editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. This photo dates from 2003, and we were a short distance north of the Mexican border, doing a 24-hour Big Sit in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Interestingly, it was within the confines of our 15-foot diameter Big Sit circle on this remote Texas Road where Jeff met his wife Liz. Bill had set up the gig - we were part of a valley-wide Great Texas Birding Classic event - and somehow a lovely young lady named Elizabeth DeLuna became part of our team (I think she had a thing for Jeff). Anyway, they hit off instantly, and she is now Liz Gordon.

This was the first occasion that I had met Jeff, but I've crossed paths with him many times since. And gotten to know him fairly well; well enough that I was delighted to hear the news that he had been picked to lead the American Birding Association as their new president.

The American Birding Association, which founded in 1969 through the efforts and vision of Jim Tucker, is the only nationwide organization that represents birders specifically. Through the years, nearly all of North America's uber-birders have been active in the ABA in some way, as well as scores of other birders of every stripe.

That's Jeff, on the far right, leading a group at the New River Birding Festival in West Virginia. Gordon is , by any reckoning, one of the top field birders in the Americas. His skills are phenomenal; the sort of talent that one is essentially born with, and is probably impossible to attain without the luck of good birthright. Fortunately for the rest of us, Jeff is exceedingly gracious about sharing his knowledge and helping others - that's what he's doing in this photo.

In recent years, the ABA has been sliding downward, in spite of some truly outstanding staff, and committed board members. The last president really whalloped the organization hard, and had to be removed. The upshot is that the ABA finds itself in a hole, but with a lot of birders wanting to help resuscitate the group. Many eyes were watching to see who would be selected as its next leader.

Jeff and your blogger pose - briefly! - in front of an army ant column crossing a road in Guatemala a few years back. Jeff's tropical birding skills blew me away. The man has major, unassailable street cred as a field birder and ornithologist. To me, that's important. I've watched too many conservation and environmental organizations drift down a path of politicism - selecting leaders with no real background or roots in the community that they are supposed to be serving. It then becomes hard to for the leader to cast good visions for the group, and make smart decisions.

That won't be a problem for Jeff and the ABA. In addition to being an A-list birder, Gordon has an extensive background in ecotourism, technology, speaking, writing, publishing and more. Not ony that, but he knows - and is known - by scads of birders around the country. Jeff also brings another important asset to a leadership role: he is a people-person. Many people in our field - especially those who have his level of expertise - are not.

American birders represent an enormous potential constituency for the environment, and it seems to me that the ABA is well-suited to capitalize on this. With the right leader. I think that Jeff, who by all accounts has a creative and fertile mind, will guide the organization to new heights and help it begin to reach its potential. I think that the ABA board and everyone involved with selecting the new president made the right choice.

If you like birds, whether it be peregrinating to Hawk Mountain to bask on windswept rocks to watch raptors pass by, or you just enjoy feeding songbirds in the backyard, please consider becoming an ABA member. It's high time that those of us who are birders join together and present a unified front. And the American Birding Association is the logical place to meet.

Other than being part of a growing constituency of people united on behalf of the feathered crowd, there are other perks to ABA membership. Their publications, Birding, North American Birds, and Winging It, are stellar, and the conferences are great. The Birder's Exchange program has become perhaps the most successful outreach effort to support researchers working in the Neotropics - where many of "our" birds winter.

Anyway, you get my drift. I think Jeff Gordon is the man for this job, and I look forward to seeing him officially take the ABA reins in hand on November 1st. I hope that you'll support him as well, and also beome an ABA member. And spread the word. JOIN HERE.



Wil said...

WOW, yeah Jeff! He is certainly the person for this role. What great news.

Randy Kreager said...

Jim, You & Kenn Kaufmann have strongly endorse Jeff Gordon. That's good enough for me! I look forward to meeting Jeff some day.
Randy Kreager

rebecca said...

"Jeff also brings another important asset to a leadership role: he is a people-person. Many people in our field - especially those who have his level of expertise - are not."

This line jumped out at me because it's so true - I was just having a conversation with someone about this the other day. One of the guys I went birding with in college always said the only thing he didn't like about birding was other birders! Anyway, I wish Mr. Gordon the best of luck.

elizabird said...

Teehee...Jim. I agree with you whole-heartedly, Jeff has amazing people and birding skills. But my history with Jeff goes back farther than that wonderful 24 hours on the dike at Bentsen. I met Jeff in 1989, 14 years before the Big Sit.

And believe it or not, I was the one who put Bill and Jeff in the same room together for the first time.

When the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival was just a thought in our minds I called Jeff to ask what he thought of starting a birding festival! He was super supportive and encouraged me to do it. Because I trusted his judgement so much I put the next ten years of my life into making that festival the best it could be.

I was in charge of finding artists to do the t-shirts. I was very impressed with Julie Zickefoose's work and commissioned her to do the art. It is one of the best t-shirt compositions ever. The green kingfisher...I scanned flowers and leaves and sent them to Jules for her to use as background. I loved that.

I remember that year someone had a little Italian greyhound and Jeff was on the ground on his hands and knees, showing off his dog communication skills when I was introducing him to Bill and Julie. This was way before Chet B!

Yes...bringing people together is one of the finest things birding trips and big sits and festivals do. Birding is a great way of life and I am happy to have such a great partner to do it with.

We are all very lucky to have such a solid leader and fine human at the helm of the ABA. I plan to be by his side helping him all the way

I believe in the ABA and I believe in Jeff and all my fellow birders. We are gonna have some fun now!

Jim you are equally as cool and way better at plants! I look forward to every time we get to be in the field together

Thanks for such a fine post.