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WorldTwitch FAQs

Q What is WorldTwitch?

A WorldTwitch, as the name implies, is a website aimed at bird "twitchers", or serious listers, whose patch is the world. It began as an occasional column in Winging It and Birding World, and moved to the web in 1998.

Q What motivates world bird twitchers?

A World twitchers are obsessed with learning all that they can about the 10,000 plus species of birds of the world, especially about how to find and identify them, and going on trips to watch birds and see the rarest birds before they go "tits up" during the ongoing mass extinction of life on earth.

Q What is a bird trip?

A A bird trip is a holiday dedicated entirely to watching birds. Unlike most people, who go on vacation to relax, twitchers often work much harder and sleep less while on bird trips than they do back home. They know the birds likely to be encountered in the places they will be visiting from studying specialized bird books, birding magazines, trip reports and websites such as WorldTwitch, and they are likely to have well-planned, pre-arranged itineraries. When not in transit, twitchers are out before first light and back at dusk, or later if they stay out for night birding. Every night they write detailed notes about the day's birds and events and study their field guides and trip reports. Eating, sleeping and touristy sightseeing usually are not priorities.

Q I like birds but I'm not a maniac. Is there anything for me on WorldTwitch?

A Absolutely. Simply because WorldTwitch is written for the twitching elite does not make it an inappropriate website for birders who lead more "normal" lifestyles. It certainly is not necessary to spend months studying for and planning a trip and learning to speak and write in a foreign language or to drive half the night between sites or go on 24-hour bus rides. You can cover less ground in more time, or you can go on a professionally-guided birding tour for which all that is required is to appear at the appointed date of departure. Indeed, WorldTwitch has the most comprehensive directories of companies offering birding tours to Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, and we encourage birders who are not prepared to set out on their own to support the firms that offer birding tours off the beaten path. There are birding tours for all varieties of birders, from easy-going trips with lots of rest and non-birding diversions to a tour some friends recently went on that included "killer" treks in the Peruvian Andes for very rare highland birds.

Q What is available on WorldTwitch?

A The material available on WorldTwitch reflects contributions by birders who dedicate considerable time and energy to helping other birders and helping to study and conserve rare birds. WorldTwitch covers some countries more intensively than others for two main reasons. First, because North America, Europe and Australia and New Zealand are well represented by a great many excellent bird websites, there is no need for WorldTwitch to give those areas as much attention as the "third world." Second, WorldTwitch puts up the information that readers submit, and much more material is submitted for some countries and regions than for others. Thus, for example, because Phil Round sends superb monthly Thailand Bird Reports, WorldTwitch provides the latest, detailed coverage of birding in Thailand.

Q Why aren't there more pictures on WorldTwitch?

A WorldTwitch emphasizes finding and identifying rare and little-known birds. Many of the birds featured in WorldTwitch have not been photographed, at least in natural conditions, or painted by bird artists. Nevertheless, there are quite a few illustrations on WorldTwitch, including numerous photos from Thailand and handheld photos of netted birds taken by Jon Hornbuckle in the course of his field studies. I don't believe there is a better illustration of Golden Parakeet, Guaruba guarouba, the Brazilian national bird (Ararajuba), than Peter Post's photo taken at Tapajós National Park in Amazonian Brazil, nor a better photo of a wild Jaguar than Peter's photo from the Rio Cristalino, Brazil. Of course, a reduced jpeg image can barely do justice to an original painting or photograph. If you would like to purchase a print or original painting, please contact the artist or photographer directly, all of whom should be named in Alt tags that you can view with a mouse-over the picture.

Q What is the most efficient way to use WorldTwitch?

A If you a regular reader, you should check the What's New page, which lists the most significant new additions. If you want to know about birding in a particular country, check the appropriate country or continent page for recent bird reports, the Links page for comprehensive links to websites pertaining to birding in each country of the world, and the appropriate bird tours and lodges page for links to the websites of birding tour companies offering trips to the country and accommodations. Then run a search from the WorldTwitch home page or Search page to find relevant material on WorldTwitch and on the websites of the African, Neotropical and Oriental Bird Clubs, the Ornithological Society of the Middle East, Don Roberson's incredibly impressive and ever-expanding Bird Families of the World, Bo Beolens' enormous Fat Birder, Rolf de By's Bird Bytes, Tommy Pedersen's Birding Congo, and the fine, personal trip report sites maintained by Susan Myers and Alan Wilkinson.

WorldTwitch provides more thorough coverage on birding in Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil and Belize than in other countries. As time permits, additional single country pages will be added.

To browse through long reports in IE6, click on the screen, then use the space bar to jump down one screen and shift-space bar to jump up one screen. (The Page Up and Page Down buttons can be used in any browser.)

Q I can't stand twitchers because they (a) knocked down my fence; (b) stepped on my cat; (c) never bathed during a 2-week Antarctic cruise; (d) blocked my view of the Siberian Rubythroat; (e) told me there was nothing about after just having a Blyth's Reed-Warbler; [insert your own twitcher horror story]

A The complaints one hears about twitchers (mainly UK listers) generally are inapplicable to WORLD twitchers. First, while there certainly is a competitive factor in world twitching, the birder is competing against a trip report and not against other people in the field at the same time in the same country who are ranked in the UK400. Furthermore, the large numbers of birders who congregate at vagrant twitches around Britain (or wherever Birdline tells them to go) create pockets of urban crowding comparable to Times Square on New Year's Eve. Such intense population pressure doesn't bring out the best in people. And conduct that would be considered unacceptable in a place with lots of birders may not be a problem where there aren't any. Thus, dragging a rope across a degraded marsh in China to flush rails (once) can't be compared with 20 birders trampling a grassy field in England to try to kick out a vagrant, followed later the same day by another party of twitchers, and so on.

Q Can I contribute to WorldTwitch?

A All contributions are greatly appreciated. If you have written a trip report, or if you have any birding or logistical information that you think might interest other people like yourself, please send it in.

I usually proofread trip reports before posting them, in the process correcting obvious errors and adding pertinent comments and hyperlinks. Because of the work involved in placing a report online, I will not post reports that are submitted to other websites.

Q What is "Gurney's Hawk"?

A It's the odd name used in the Raptors of the World book for Puna Hawk Buteo poecilochrous of the Andes.

Q How can I find another person to fill a bird trip, or hire a guide or arrange a private tour?

A Post a notice on the WorldTwitch World Birding Discussion Board. Solicitations to join commercial bird tours or to stay at lodges should be posted on the Worldtwitch Birding Tours & Lodges Discussion Board. Discussions about bird books should be posted on the Worldtwitch Bird Book Discussion Board.

Q What can I do to help conserve the vanishing birds of the world?

A In the long term, nothing. The human population explosion and mass immigration are rapidly overwhelming nearly all conservation schemes. Anything that appears secure probably isn't. However, WorldTwitch endorses and supports the conservation work undertaken by all competent bird conservation organizations. In particular, WorldTwitch works to further the programs of BirdLife International, and the African, Neotropical and Oriental Bird Clubs and the OSME. In addition, WorldTwitch from time to time posts information on important local conservation efforts, such as the Royal Cinclodes project at Abra Málaga, Peru, where a very small donation could make an enormous difference. In contrast, money sent to Big Green organizations pays for plush offices, bloated salaries, subsidized McMansions, five-star dinners with political hacks, travel to useless meetings around the world, and frivolous, glossy magazines.

Q I have an idea to improve WorldTwitch, or I have a Frequently Asked Question that you failed to answer.

A Please send it along!

Q WorldTwitch doesn't display properly on my computer.

A Upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer (free), then follow the advice in the Internet Explorer 6 Tweak Guide. Or download the latest version of Mozilla or Firefox, competent alternatives to IE.

Q After writing a website for more than three years, do you have any suggestions for webmasters?

A

  • Like the preponderance of websites, most birding websites suck. If you want to write a website that doesn't suck, follow the advice of web usability expert Jakob Nielsen, and keep your design simple with no frames, no Flash, no pdf, and minimal graphics and JavaScript. In particular, don't use JavaScript to pop open new windows, as it will be necessary to configure an AdSubtract filter to read your pages.
  • Use margins (padding) or Shared Borders so that text doesn't run all the way to the edge of the screen. It's much easier to read pages with "white space" on the sides than border-to-border text.
  • Don't force readers to endure a "splash screen" or an ad-infested home page, which only wastes their time. If you offer a choice of languages, direct your index page to the most popular language, not a splash screen with language choices.
  • I repeat, don't use Flash! More than 99% of the pages written in Flash or Shockwave would be better in simple, plain html.
  • Use large, easy to read fonts, and keep bolding and italics to a minimum.
  • Don't use light-colored text on a light background or dark-colored text on a dark background. Clever users will override goofy settings with their own style sheet or use Select All to display hidden text, but most people will give up in frustration.
  • Check your hyperlinks, particularly internal hyperlinks! Xenu Link Sleuth is a free stand-alone link checker that I find easier to use than the link checker built into FrontPage.
  • Put navigation bars on all of your pages.
  • Centered text should be used sparingly, if at all, and justification never should be used on websites.
  • External hyperlinks should all open in the same, named window (target frame), so that readers can keep your page open in one window while viewing your linked pages in another, single window that stays open. (The name of the window must start with a letter, ie, target="window".)
  • Sign up for free on-site search with Atomz and place a search form at the top of your index page or (preferably) in the top shared border. While it's possible to search any domain easily using the Google Toolbar, Google's database rarely is as current or complete as Atomz's, and Google often gives priority to spammy and fraudulent websites that use aggressive search engine optimization. The on-site search functions on many websites simply do not work.
  • Provide a Site Map or Table of Contents. Both are automatically generated by some web editing programs, such as MS FrontPage.
  • Use a Title tag to name each page and check the titles in your browser. Otherwise readers may wind up with undecipherable bookmarks. Do not begin your title tag with "Welcome to ...", as your website will be bookmarked under "Welcome".
  • Keep in mind that more and more users are watching large displays at 1280 x 1064 or 1600 x 1280 screen resolutions with custom font settings of 250% or greater. (I use 260% fonts at 1280 x 1064 on 19" monitors.) Some pages that may display competently at 800 x 640 have overlapping text at high resolutions with very large fonts.
  • Don't post files in pdf format! It's not suitable for on-screen reading. If misguided individuals send you material in pdf, make them convert it to html. WorldTwitch is pdf-free. See PDF: Unfit for Human Consumption by Jakob Nielsen.
  • Don't use frames! Other websites (such as WorldTwitch) will deep link to specific pages, bypassing any navigation structure restricted to a frame. You can put a common navigation structure on all pages using CSS or simplified embodiments such as MS Shared Borders. For JavaScript code to pop your pages out of someone else's frame, view the source code of any page in WorldTwitch. See "Why Frames Suck (Most of the Time)" by Jakob Nielsen.
  • Don't hesitate to deep link to any page or pages or bookmarks in WorldTwitch (including individual messages posted on the WorldTwitch Discussion Boards) or any other website. Deep linking is legal, so don't believe any threats to the contrary. If you can type code in a command line, you can put it in your webpage, so long as there is no misrepresentation. I will be happy to add bookmarks for the convenience of sites that wish to deep link to specific places in pages on WorldTwitch.
  • Don't expect to make any money on your birding or environmental website, unless you have a site claiming that logging or pollution is good for birds or that you have rediscovered the long-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Like birding, this is a hobby into which I sink a tremendous amount of time and effort for pleasure, not for financial reward.

Copyright © 2000 - 2007 John Wall


Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall