New York State
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Need more?  See The Kingbird online Index, 2001-2004Authors    Photographers    Artists    Subjects


The Kingbird
Decennial Index
1991-2000 Volumes 41-50

© 2003 Federation of New York State Bird Clubs, Inc.

Donald A. Windsor

 

CONTENTS

Introduction

Titles

Author Index

Subject Index


INTRODUCTION

The purpose of an index is to help its users find information. This index has three parts, each a different way to find answers to queries.

  •   TITLES of ARTICLES, listed chronologically.
  •   AUTHOR Index
  •   SUBJECT Index

Indexing is essentially answering questions before they are asked. The indexer anticipates what the users will be trying to find, not only now, but way into the future. The decennial indexes from our first four decades are still being used – long after almost everyone connected with them has since departed. This current index will be used decades from now, so I have designed it with the future in mind.

TITLES. The easiest way to find an article that you clearly remember is by scanning the titles in the appropriate time frame. Bird names are in bold. Another use for the titles is to get a rapid briefing on what has been published during the decade. This can be very helpful when thinking about writing an article.

AUTHORS. The Author Index lists all authors of every item in The Kingbird communicating information. The authors' names appear here exactly as they appear on the articles, so that there is a one to one correspondence.

SUBJECTS. Author and subject indexes are kept separate because this dichotomy is a basic paradigm of information gathering. A book by Charles Darwin is different from a book about Charles Darwin.

 

EXPLANATIONS

Architecture. Listed alphabetically are the index terms. Following the terms are their locations in The Kingbird, presented as volume and page numbers separated by a colon. For example, "Finch, House 46:4" means that an article about the House Finch is located at volume 46 beginning on page 4. A string of locations for a term is called a vector.

The Kingbird publishes two types of documents: articles and Regional Reports. They are indexed in that order, separated by " + ". To further assist local birders, the locations for Regional Reports are suffixed with a designation identifying the exact Region. New York State is divided into ten Kingbird Regions. The suffix is in parens with an "R" for Region followed by the number of the Region. For example, "Finch, House 44:33(R1)" means that information on House Finches is in the Region 1 report. An "H" in parens designates the Seasonal Highlights introduction to each set of Regional Reports in each issue of The Kingbird.

Page numbers are the first page of the Regional Report. In previous indexes an attempt was made to direct the user to the exact page. This practice was misguided, because the end of one Region and the beginning of another Region can appear on the same page. Also, important information about a species can be located in two or more pages of a report. Moreover, standard practice for indexing journals is to cite the first pages.

Coordinates. Index terms can be coordinated, like points on a graph. By crossing two or more vectors, the number of look-ups can be drastically reduced. For example, consider this query: Are there any articles about the feeding behavior of Hairy Woodpeckers? Compare the location vectors of both terms.

Behavior, feeding 46:200 47:9 48:26 50:7
Woodpecker, Hairy 42:224 46:4 46:200 50:384

Location 46:200 appears in both vectors. Therefore, it is not necessary to look up all four woodpecker articles, just the one common to both terms. The more locations for the query terms, the more valuable coordination becomes.

" Not" operations can also be performed. That is, queries may not want to see certain types of articles. If you were looking for articles on Canada Geese, but did not want articles on the waterfowl counts, just cross the locations of "Goose, Canada" with those of "Waterfowl Counts NYS". There are 15 locations for the goose and 10 for the counts, so only 5 locations have to be looked up, or crossed with other terms.

Counties. Local birding is often county oriented. All articles that mention the location of their observations have been indexed for their counties. Of the 62 counties in New York State, 56 appear here as terms. Cross your particular county with any other term and you get site specific articles. For example, if you wanted an article on Cooper's Hawks in Westchester County, cross these two terms and get location 43:278, only one look-up.

Another feature of the indexing for counties is a quick glance to see where the action is. Note how Suffolk County dominates. Where does your county fit in? Regional Reports were not indexed for counties because they are built into the Region definitions.

NYSARC. The yearly reports of the New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC) are loaded with index terms, especially bird species and counties. However, users of The Kingbird indexes may either want NYSARC reports or they may not. Hardly ever, would they want both. To avoid having to cross "NYSARC reports" with other terms, locations for NYSARC reports are identified with a suffix "n". For example, "45:71n" is the location of the 1993 NYSARC report. For another example, of the 2 articles on Palm Warblers, 1 is a NYSARC report.

Articles. Articles were indexed in depth. That is, they were read and concepts, not mere words, were indexed. For example, the article located at 43:197 is titled, " Northern Rough-winged Swallow nests in unused Purple Martin house". The article was indexed for the swallow, not the martin, because the word "martin" was just the style of bird house, not the bird. A researcher wanting articles on the Purple Martin would not want this article.

Not every species of bird mentioned in an article is indexed. For if it were, the index would be too unwieldy and users would reject many of the articles they had to look up.

This concept can be illustrated using movie advertising. Movies have stars, supporting actors, and bit players. The marquee in front of a theater proclaims the stars. The posters list the stars and the supporting actors, the stars in much bigger type. To get the bit players, you have to watch the credits on the movie itself. When indexers confront an article, they always index for the stars, often for some of the supporting cast, and usually not for the bit players, unless there is a compelling reason.

An article on birds is like a movie. It has species which play starring roles. In a well crafted article, these star species appear in the title. Species in supporting cast roles may appear in the abstract, or in photos, or in tables, or be mentioned in a way that conveys information about them.

Surveys, NYSARC reports, and the annual Waterfowl Counts are peculiar in that each species mentioned is a star and is indexed.

Regional Reports. Each issue of The Kingbird carries 10 Regional Reports. In one year there are 4 issues carrying 40 reports. The decade presents us with 400 reports. Each report carries at least 100 species, some over 200. If every species in every Regional Report were indexed, at least 40,000 locations would appear in this index, making it look like a big city phone book. Nice to have, perhaps, but costing a fortune to publish. And, making it a nuisance to use.

Consequently, the Regional Reports were indexed using an algorithm based on two principles: news and progression. News is a departure from ordinary routine. If every Regional Report cites a Bald Eagle, that is indeed wonderful, but not news. There is no reason to index Bald Eagle, because it can be found by simply turning to any report. When indexing, I have tried to develop a sense of what was routine and what was a departure from the routine. The first time a species was reported from a Region is news. Further sightings may not be. The Regional editors have a much better sense of news, so I relied on what they wrote. New records, changes in trends, long durations since previous reports are all news.

The other principle is the progression from data to information to knowledge. Information is data with meaning. Knowledge is information that tells a story. Data are just facts, or measurements, or observations.

Birders tend to generate huge amounts ("tons") of data. Most of it just remains at that level. A small portion is moved on to become information. Relatively little ever gets to become knowledge. The Kingbird publishes all three levels. The Regional Reports are full of data. The introductory summaries written by the Regional editors try to convert some of this data to information. Small portions of some of these summaries actually become knowledge. The articles in The Kingbird are where most of the knowledge is published.

I have tried to index for all the knowledge in the Regional Reports and some of the information. The data were passed over, unless I saw something that the Regional editor did not.

Exotics. Introduced or escaped birds are too important to ignore. They could become established someday and researchers would want to know when they were first noticed. A recent example is the House Finch, a migratory southwestern species illegally being sold by the pet trade, and released on Long Island in 1940 by the dealer to avoid prosecution. The rest is history! However, its early sightings were not well recorded.

Introduced species can bring more than themselves into the ecosystem. They can bring or facilitate diseases.

Consequently, I have tried to index for all exotics. Whether exotic birds appear on some official list is irrelevant. As long as Regional editors had the good sense to report them, an index has to carry them. An index is a tool for finding information; it is not a device for promoting some narrowly prescribed agenda.

 

DISCUSSION

My perspective of The Kingbird is unique. I have read everything in it from Volume 1 Number 1, 1950, to the present. This is my second decennial index. And, I was the editor for three years.

Birding is very different from information about birding — just as playing baseball is very different from information about baseball. Proficiency in or on the field does not automatically carry over into the library. As both a birder and an information scientist, I not only recognize the differences, but actually understand them. The quality of birding information would greatly improve if birding authors were to adopt a few simple bibliographic practices.

Authorship

Authorship itself is a very misunderstood concept. I am amazed at how frequently authors want to hide their names. They shrink them by using initials, or nicknames. They bury them at the tail end of their articles. Perhaps this shyness stems from modesty. If so, then let me clarify.

Authorship has absolutely nothing to do with modesty. It does have everything to do with responsibility. Readers have a right to know exactly who wrote what they are about to read. Readers should not have to pedal down to the end of an article to find out. Authors' names should be emblazoned right under the title. The title-author duo forms a bibliographic unit and there is never any justification for disassembling it. Authorship is a certification that everything in the article is honest, accurate, and correct.

Some authors evade responsibility by using different names. Authors should pick one name for publication and then stick with it. Readers do not know if John Doe is the same person as Jack Doe or J. Doe. It is even worse when nicknames start with different letters. Is William Doe the same person as Bill Doe? How about W. Doe and B. Doe? Perhaps they are Wanda Doe and Brenda Doe. Personal familiarity with the authors is not a prerequisite for reading. Some authors respond that everyone knows their nickname. Oh yeah? Publication is for the future. Readers three decades hence will not know most of the authors. Everybody that knows you will probably disappear when you do.

My recommendation is that authors use their legal signatures, usually the names that appear on their birth certificates. Today's standard is first name, middle initial, and last name. Because we are in a population explosion, I urge younger authors to use their full middle names, not the initials. Sometimes editors change the names of authors, so authors should insist on full disclosure. Married women should use the names they started publishing with. Many marriages wind up in divorce, so beware. If I were a woman, I would publish with my maiden name.

Am I belaboring this point? No! I am a bibliographer and have to face the consequences of all these aliases almost on a daily basis. Those who insist on a cavalier attitude toward names are the ones belaboring the point. Literally, with emphasis on labor. Inaccurate author names make more unnecessary work for readers.

Anonymous articles are my pet peeve. Anonymity is the camouflage of cowards. We are all confronted with more to read than we have time or energy to. Therefore, we select what we read. Savvy readers skip right over anonymous articles. Any article without an author is not worth reading because there is no assurance of correct information. Placing authors' names at the end of articles makes them look like anonymous articles — a disservice to both the readers and the authors!

Levels of Information

The job of editors is to assist authors in moving data to information to knowledge. Some authors stubbornly resist. When I was editor, I never rejected a manuscript. However, in my attempts to push an author's data up to information or knowledge, some authors withdrew, quite disgruntled. As data progresses to knowledge, the mental effort increases, as does the need for more research. Some, perhaps most, authors are more comfortable at the data level, which is why so many articles are boring or difficult to read.

In order to assist this progression, here is an explanation. Because information is data with meaning, a good way to move data along is by asking "So what?" For example, 63 Evening Grosbeaks were seen in a tree on 15 February 2002 in Norwich by yours truly. These facts are data. Asking "So what?" elicits a response that we have not had that many here since 1994. The data now have meaning and we have information. The observation now has a significance.

Again asking "So what?" generates a reply that may bring in other winter finches and arrival/departure dates and irruption cycles and so on. A story begins developing and, under a repetitive barrage of so whats, soon results in a hefty gain of knowledge.

Rare and Common

Another difference between birding and birding information that most birders probably do not realize is that the rarity of a bird is inversely proportional to the number of reports about it. The rarer the bird, the more it will be reported. Likewise, common birds hardly ever appear in the Regional Reports and when they do, they just appear as mere data. Greater White-fronted Geese, eagles, Worm-eating Warblers, etc. seem to appear in virtually every issue of The Kingbird. House Sparrows, European Starlings, House Finches, American Robins, etc. are hardly ever mentioned. Yet, it is the common species that are the best monitors of the environment. In the future, when someone realizes that a common species is no longer common, a search through The Kingbird will be made to find out if this population reduction was precipitous or gradual. What will they find? Whatever we are reporting. Many Regional Reports never mention the House Sparrow or the Rock Dove or the European Starling. This situation needs some serious rethinking.

Citations

The rules of scholarship demand that every claim not made by the author be attributed to its proper author. This attribution is made by citing the exact reference so that readers can examine it. In everyday parlance this is called an "audit trail". The purpose of citations is to enable readers to find the information the author is drawing upon.

Many authors of Kingbird articles ignore these rules. In order to know what to cite, good scholarship requires that authors do adequate literature searches. The decennial indexes enable them to do just that. Citations in articles provide another very effective way to search. Thus, when an article provides no citations, it is useless for searching.

Articles with no citations are disingenuous because they pretend that no prior publication existed until they came along. Perhaps it is not modesty that motivates some authors to hide their names. Perhaps it is poor scholarship.

The Kingbird is now in its 53rd year. A lot of effort and expense has gone into producing and distributing it. Yet, it hardly ever gets cited by authors publishing in it. It seems as if new authors never read previous authors.

The worst blemish on Kingbird articles is their bibliographic deficiencies. Citations to previous literature are frequently inadequate or improper or both. To cite a book without giving the exact page numbers being referred to is outright sadistic. Why make the poor reader thumb through hundreds of pages just to find the few the author has in mind? Especially when the author already knows the exact pages. Readers should not have to be mind-readers.

When citing books compiled by editors, the authors of the intended chapter should be cited, not the editors, and certainly not the entire book. In the case of the Atlas, Andrle and Carroll did NOT write all those species accounts. (Andrle wrote one; Carroll wrote 11.) Cite the authors who did - and give the exact pages. When citing any document, both the first and last pages should be given. Readers should know how many pages a cited work is, in case they have to request it on interlibrary loan.

The purpose of publishing articles is for authors to communicate with readers. Anything that impedes this communication is counter-productive. The simple adherence to the reasonable principles detailed above will facilitate clear communication and both authors and readers will benefit.

On a more positive note, several articles in The Kingbird illustrate how literature should be woven into an article. These appear in the subject index under the term, "Review of prior sightings". Use them as role models.

Titles  Author Index  Subject Index


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