"....The truth is out there."
-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
-- GISS Birding --
I've written previously here about the "GISS" or "jizz" of bird identification, also sometimes known as the gestalt or "Cape May" school of birding. The term was especially popularized by Pete Dunne, with his volume, "Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion," wherein he attempted through verbal description alone (no bird pictures of any sort), to convey a sense of the GISS of each North American bird (GISS really comes more from experience, than verbal description, but Dunne does a very admirable job). For experienced birders, the vast majority of bird identification has always been done by GISS, long before Dunne's emphasis on it (..."GISS" originally stood for "general impression of size and shape," but, in birding, actually includes many other factors).
I won't again go into its significance in the Ivory-bill situation, but a couple of further general Web references here:
The second article above quotes David Sibley thusly on the subject (from Malcolm Gladwell's book, "Blink"):
"Most of bird identification is based on a sort of subjective impression — the way a bird moves and little instantaneous appearances at different angles and sequences of different appearances, and as it turns its head and as it flies and as it turns around, you see sequences of different shapes and angles…-------------------------------------------------------------------------
"All that combines to create a unique impression of a bird that can’t really be taken apart and described in words. When it comes down to being in the field and looking at a bird, you don’t take the time to analyze it and say it shows this, this, and this; therefore it must be this species. It’s more natural and instinctive. After a lot of practice, you look at the bird, and it triggers little switches in your brain. It looks right. You know what it is at a glance."