Sunday, February 24, 2008

Birder Admits to Using HGH and Steroids To Improve His Performance on the Trail

(HUMOR with birding/wood-warbler punchlines)

by Daniel Edelstein

In a statement released through his birdwatching agent today, Daniel Edelstein apologized for using human growth hormone (HGH) and steroids to become a better birder.

Here is the text of his statement as it appears on his Web site and from the AP newswire:
First, it’s important to know that contrary to media reports, I have never used steroids. I have no idea why the media would say that I have used steroids. But they forever stained my name (and binocular lens). And they persist in doing so repeatedly. This stain is hurtful to me and my family. We are running out of patience -- and money to buy Shout Away.

Let’s look at the facts. The facts are all that I want -- to borrow a phrase from Joe Friday on the old TV show called Dragnet. In 2005, I injured my arm. So what was I supposed to do? Bird only on the Internet and not hit the trail?

I think not. So, given I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my binocular panning skills, it seemed like an easy decision. Besides, I felt an obligation to fellow birders everywhere, especially my chums on our World Series of Birding team.

That’s exactly why people say there’s no “I” in the word “team.” I think they’re referring to my dutiful loyalty when they use that phrase.

Anyway, for this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Hey, it wasn’t against the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics.

The good news is that I felt guilty, despite the fact I was NOT breaking the rules. So I stopped. That was it. Two days out of my birding life. That’s far less time than the amount you’ve endured standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Did my actions help me get off the birding Disabled List and back on the trail faster than normal? Perhaps. But note that I also concurrently began a vigorous exercise and rehab program. Every night after birding with one hand only, I persevered. I bought a treadmill. I bought an elliptical trainer. I used them. Now they’re in the closet again gathering dust in the same way millions of my fans also avoid exercise at all costs.

But I digress. The important fact is my dedication to rehabbing myself was the true reason I again became a Hall of Fame Birder. It proves Woody Allen is correct in saying: “Ninety percent of success is showing up.” The other 10 percent is hard work -- and having a trainer who doesn’t ask questions when you tell him to inject your wife with the same elixir to make her a better birder.

In closing, if what I did was an error in judgment on my part, then I apologize. I accept responsibility for those two days. Everything else you’ve read about me using illegal drugs is hogwash. I have the utmost respect for the birding world.
I have always tried to live my life as an example for youngsters who have looked up to me as an honorable hero. I have even signed their pleas for autographs.

Well, most of the time. Except for when I have had a bad day on the trail and missed seeing the Swainson’s Warbler while visiting the southeastern USA during breeding season.

So if I have let down my birding fans that care about me, then I’m sorry. I hope you will not let two days of bad judgment ruin my lifetime of hard work. Incurring multiple injuries over the years of my birding career, including chronic Warbler Neck ache each spring season, should not alter my public image.

Again, I beg you to put those two days of impropriety into proper context. People that know me will agree that what I say here is true.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have my family to see and hug. They ask me to autograph their binoculars every day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How many different kinds of wood-warblers can I see?

- Annette Bell, Milwaukee, WI

The answer is approximately 52, if you’re talking about regularly-nesting wood-warblers in North America north of Mexico. Another eight non-nesting species often drift into this region, so it’s possible to see approximately 60 wood-warbler species above Mexico.

(Add Central and South America to the USA and Canada to complete the list of all 116 described wood-warbler species that breed in the New World.)

Note that seeing 52 wood-warblers (during one breeding season) would be the Super Bowl of victories for any birder. More realistic is seeing 30 or more wood-warbler species, a total that is not uncommon for the best birders when they’re afield during Prime Time migration in the spring.

I’m no ticker, but I make an exception for the gorgeous wood-warblers. With a tearful apology, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m on my hands and knees with an abacus, declaring the wood-warbler family is the only one for which I’ve ever counted a personal high for species seen in a breeding season: 40 – and, yes, that season’s total included a sighting of the rare Kirtland’s Warbler (often nesting only in Michigan, though some individuals nested in Wisconsin in 2007).

From above, note that the New World is defined as an area encompassing the western hemisphere (including North America). The Old World is the eastern hemisphere, including Europe and Asia. Here, as many as 280 Old World warblers belong in a different family (Sylviidae) than the wood-warblers in the United States and Canada where 51 of the 52 USA/Canadian species are grouped into the Parulidae family. {(The Olive Warbler, a member of the Peucedramidae family, is the only non-Parulidae family member that breeds in the USA (Arizona and New Mexico)}.

Where can you see the greatest number of wood-warblers? In the spring, your best bet is to book a trip to parts of the Appalachian region, New England, Maritime provinces, and several states within the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region. Local Audubon chapters are often the best source for free maps, directions, and expert-led field trips focused on finding wood-warblers.

{(Go online and see www., then click on chapters button at the home page to access a state where its chapters are listed with contact information and upcoming field trips. In choosing your birding locale while traveling in North America, keep in mind the ongoing, rising popularity of wood-warbler chasing in spring. If you choose to visit a public natural area that is highly acclaimed and with which you are unfamiliar, it’s often best to visit on a weekday when the crush of binocular toting enthusiasts is likely to be more sane. Otherwise, you’re risking an encounter of overflowing parking lots and creaking boardwalks where the biomass of intrepid birders may provide a more lasting impression than the birds you see.)

Another hidden travel tip for wood-warbler fans is to go online and navigate a Web site where excellent volunteer birding guides are listed worldwide ( By initiating an email correspondence, you’re likely to have more than a guide by your side helping you find wood-warblers. You might also meet a new birding friend. More than a few ongoing friendships for me have begun while meeting birders from afar as we shared the joy of birds on the trail. Local birders are also often aware of the best local checklist to tick off your new bird sightings.

A compendium of checklists for locations throughout the USA and Canada is titled Distribution Checklist of North American Birds (David DeSante and Peter Pyle, Artemesia Press, 1986). Maps that show the density of wood-warbler abundance and their corresponding locations in the USA appear in The Summer Atlas of North American Birds by Sam Droege and Jeff and Amy Price).}


{(You can ask your wood-warbler question by clicking on the "comments" text, then writing your query. To do so, you must either first register for free, (if you don't yet have a Hotmail email account) or post a comment by clicking on the "anonymous" button whereby you can type your name to reveal your identity, if you wish.)}

{(Comment #6 below is a good question and I've answered it in Comment #7 based on my experience watching wood-warblers in WI (my home state) where I began birding in 1976.)}