Join for FREE
It only takes a minute!
Magnifying the passion for nature. Zeiss Victory Harpia 95. New!

Welcome to BirdForum.
BirdForum is the net's largest birding community, dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE! You are most welcome to register for an account, which allows you to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools Rating: Thread Rating: 1 votes, 5.00 average.
Old Tuesday 15th February 2005, 17:52   #1
Katy Penland
Registered User
 
Katy Penland's Avatar

 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Pine Mountain Club, California, USA
Posts: 10,754
Open Letter to Sandia Crest House, NM, USA

An Open Letter
to the owner and management of Sandia Crest House
Albuquerque, New Mexico

February 11, 2005



"Refrigerator Birding"

Good name for a mid-winter birding adventure to the summit of Sandia Peak in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque, New Mexico. At elevation 10,678 feet, this is where three species of Rosy-Finches over-winter (Black Rosy-Finch [Leucosticte atrata], Brown-capped Rosy-Finch [Leucosticte australis] and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch [Leucosticte tephrocotis]). Although the birds have been recorded regularly since the 1950s, it wasn't until 1999 when Ken and Mary Lou Schneider spearheaded a cooperative effort to make the birds more accessible to the public by placing feeders on and around the Crest House, which contains a gift shop and a small café. Three hundred feet lower and a few miles down the road from the Crest House is a popular local ski area.

Because I live in northeast Arizona, I hooked up with a birding group from Tucson, AZ, on the second day of their trip when they got to Albuquerque, and together we were going to see first the Rosy-Finches in the Sandias, and the next day head south to Socorro and the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. After that, the Tucson group and I would part company to head to our respective home cities. One of the couples with the Tucson folks was from Maryland, so they were really excited about this trip.

On January 30, we awoke to snow on the ground in Albuquerque and still lightly snowing as we headed up the Sandia Crest Highway. While the snow plow was already at work on the road to the ski area, it wasn't plowing the rest of the road to the summit. I have a 4WD Chevy Tahoe S-10 and had no problem at all on the unplowed road, and by the tracks in the snow, there had been several vehicles up before we were. The two 2WD Tucson vans, however, started to lose traction. A friendly sheriff's deputy in a 4WD rig directed the van drivers to go back and park in the ski area lot while he and I each took a carload up to the Crest House. We were there before the Crest House opened at 9:30, so 9 of our group of 12 waited outside and I returned to the ski area to get the two van drivers and bring them to the top.

Probably close to 10" of snow had fallen, but the upper parking lot at the Crest House was already cleared by its snow plow, and another guy was running a snow blower to clear the walkways. It was now around 10:30 a.m., and I was surprised to see people still standing outside in the snow and wind when I pulled up with the last of our group.

And there we would stand for the next three hours, waiting to get a definitive answer from the manager whether he would open that day.

It was to be one of the most bizarre experiences of my life, for in over 30 years of traveling the world, I have never seen such inhospitality as I witnessed that day. During the hour it took for me to go back down to the ski area and get the last of our group, our trip leader had been trying to get someone to come to the door to no avail (he could see people inside; the bird banders, the manager, and another person whose position I didn't hear, if it was known), and another in our group with a cel phone had been calling the Crest House's number, which no one was answering.

Long story short, after an hour and forty minutes, the manager finally deigned to come to the door. He "couldn't open up yet" because his staff hadn't made it up the unplowed road, which was certainly reasonable. But when asked if it would be all right if we could just stand inside the door to get warmed up, he refused saying he had no one to run the café. We promised we wouldn't buy anything or even come all the way into the café or gift shop, but he still said no. One of the Tucson group went so far as to offer him $10 each (for a total of $120) just to come inside, and he declined that as well. The reason we hung around, sitting in my car in shifts with the engine running so people could get warmed up again, is because he couldn't decide whether he was going to open. If he'd definitively said "no" (even if later he changed his mind), we would have started shuttling people back down the mountain immediately. But he "wasn't sure" and then he refused to talk any further to our group leader.

We were not the only ones up there that morning. At least three other carloads of people, two with scopes and binoculars (obviously birders), came and then went when they discovered the Crest House wasn't yet open.

Over the next hour and a half, we alternately stood on one of the walks to an upper observation deck to see what birds we could (Mountain Chickadee, Western Scrub and Steller's jay, White- and Red-breasted Nuthatch, Dark-eyed Junco -- but no Rosy-Finches), stood under the canopy leading to another entrance to the building, or sitting in my car. Finally, around 1 p.m., we decided to start shuttling people back down to the vans and leave. I was disappointed for two reasons: Not only would seeing the Rosy-Finches have been "lifers" for me, but I was keenly interested in seeing the banding process, something I've never watched. As most banders use nets to capture birds, I was especially interested in the "trap" that this research group uses, which I understood is a type of maze.

Of course our group as a whole was disappointed and frustrated. But I was very embarrassed for the Maryland couple who were very nice people and who had traveled a very, very long way to see these special birds. I was relieved we had no international visitors who would no doubt have been dumbfounded by the manager's attitude and his utter lack of compassion for a group of fellow humans who wanted nothing more than to get out of the weather while he made up his mind whether to open.

Fast-forward to two days later, Tuesday, February 1, when I was headed back home from Socorro via Albuquerque and decided to take another chance on the Crest House being open. As I drove up I-25 that morning, the sun on the Sandia Mountains was breathtaking, even though the very top of Sandia Peak was obscured by what few clouds there were huddled around the summit. This time, the road was almost completely clear all the way to the top with just a few patches of snow left in the more shaded areas. And Crest House was open!

When I first walked into the House, the cook was the only one there, and as I bought a cup of coffee and some snacks, he said the birds had been in once already that morning. (I didn't get there 'til just after 10 a.m. and had already eaten a great breakfast at El Camino Family Restaurant in Socorro.) He said that there'd been a group there on Sunday who got really mad because he wouldn't let them in, but he tried to tell them they weren't open. He also said that the road got plowed at 2:00 and that's when they finally opened.

I.e., about 45 minutes after I shuttled the last of our group to the vans on Sunday.

I was so amazed that he said anything at all about "the Sunday group," I honestly didn't know how to respond, so I didn't. I was the only customer there at the moment, so I sat down at one of the tables nearest the door to the observation deck, outside of which hangs the one feeder where it's easiest to view the finches. The deck obviously hadn't been shoveled since Sunday's storm and there was a sign taped to the door: "Deck closed due to ice and snow. Sorry."

Eventually, I was joined by two other birding couples, one from California and another from the midwest. Suddenly, the first of three visitations by the finches occurred, and everything came to a halt for the few minutes these frenetic, beautiful little birds came swooping in on the feeder. Then, nearly as quickly, they disappeared again in a swirling flurry of wings. As the first couple who had ordered food went to the counter to pay, they were talking excitedly about the birds when the cook said to them almost verbatim what he'd said to me: How a group of birders up on Sunday "got really mad because they couldn't come in because we were closed."

A short while later when the second couple went up to pay for their food, the manager appeared carrying a bank bag, and he started chatting with them, and he, too, said that there'd been a group of birders up on Sunday who got "really mad" at him when he wouldn't open the place up. And then "they got ticked off because the bird banders were inside" but they weren't allowed to come in, too. "Usually birders are really nice, friendly people, but this group sure wasn't. What could I do? I didn't have any staff here. Nobody could get up the mountain."

I am by now intrigued by the compulsion of these Crest House personnel to tell what was clearly "their side" of a story which, as far as I knew, only involved those of us there on Sunday. It soon became apparent why they felt the need to justify their behavior.

Posted on the official www.rosyfinch.com website is an "Important Note (January 31, 2005)" written apparently by one of the bird banders who was at Crest House on Sunday, January 30. Without benefit of contacting our group leader to get "our side" of the story, this person instead took it upon him- or herself to publicly pass judgement, make condescending remarks, and even accuse our group of cutting short "their operations" by causing a "disburbance" and of attempting "to enter the building without authorization."

A "disturbance"? Talking -- no shouting, no ranting, no jumping up and down -- to the manager through the door? And who is it who allegedly attempted to break into the place? If I thought I was dumbfounded at what I heard from Crest House personnel, I was absolutely shocked by what was and still is posted on the rosyfinch.com website. This "Important Note" is even more disturbing as the banders did not participate in the conversation between our group leader and the manager and have no first-hand knowledge of what was actually said. The writer clearly states that our group's "actions were described as being discourteous." Described by whom? The management?

It now seems crystal clear from what I observed that the manager and one employee felt guilty, or at least defensive, over their treatment of our group and that the bird banders, who have a vested interest in not criticizing the actions of the Crest House management, chose to bolster their position with the Crest House management by publishing this unprofessional, inappropriate and untruthful statement. The Crest House manager's refusal to answer the phone long after the posted opening time and his further refusal to even make an appearance to speak to our group leader for an hour and forty minutes are indefensible actions and a sign of extremely poor management and public relations skills. While he was perfectly within his right to refuse us entry to get out of the weather, sheer human kindness should have dictated otherwise.

What is more disheartening than the treatment we received is the stain on the legacy that Ken and Mary Lou Schneider worked so hard to create and so graciously made available to the birding world. I hope that other birders will learn from our unfortunate experience and think twice before making Sandia Crest a birding destination -- until some sorely needed management changes are made.

Sincerely,

Katy Penland
Overgaard, AZ
USA

cc: Ernest Montoya, owner, Sandia Crest House
Gene Romero, manager, Sandia Crest House
US Forest Service, Cibola National Forest, Sandia Ranger District
Ken and Mary Lou Schneider
Rick Wright, Aimophila Adventures
BirdForum.net
Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Tribune
Katy Penland is offline  

BF Supporter 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2014 Support BirdForum With A Donation

Old Tuesday 15th February 2005, 18:13   #2
pduxon
Quacked up Member
 
pduxon's Avatar

 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 5,949
wow the bloke was obviously trained in customer relations by a British guest house owner from the late 1950's-70's.

Very well written and restrained response Katy
__________________
Pete

Dethhhpicable
ithhn't it


http://thequacksoflife.blogspot.com/

Last edited by pduxon : Wednesday 16th February 2005 at 06:25.
pduxon is offline  
Old Tuesday 15th February 2005, 18:18   #3
Darren Oakley-Martin
________________

 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Bedfordshire
Posts: 1,652
Thanks Katy. The manager should find it easy get work in a UK call centre, (if we have any left).

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face- what a t*****!

ATB
__________________
Darren
Darren Oakley-Martin is offline  

BF Supporter 2004 2005 Support BirdForum With A Donation

Old Tuesday 15th February 2005, 20:47   #4
Ken Schneider
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Florida
Posts: 5
"Refrigerator Birding"

Katy,

We are sorry about your experience. We have always found the Crest House Resident Manager, Gene Romero to be very welcoming and accommodating to birders. We are pleased that you at least got back and saw the Rosies. Having heard your side of the story, we have removed any reference to the incident from our Web page.

Ken and Mary Lou

--
Kenneth C. and Mary Lou Schneider
Miramar, Florida 33029

rosyfinch@rosyfinch.com
KEN: Ken@rosyfinch.com
MARY LOU: MaryLou@rosyfinch.com
Visit our Web site at http://www.rosyfinch.com
Ken Schneider is offline  
Old Wednesday 16th February 2005, 08:20   #5
Blackstart
Saxophonus pinus
 
Blackstart's Avatar

 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Bohemian Wastes
Posts: 790
Kudos to you, Katy.

Given the response from the Schneiders, it seems that (despite cliches to the contrary) there really is such a thing as bad publicity.

-Adam
Blackstart is offline  
Old Wednesday 16th February 2005, 09:23   #6
Ronald Zee
Registered User
 
Ronald Zee's Avatar

 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Rotterdam
Posts: 586
I wonder what would have happened if suddenly some of his family members or people the manger knew would have turned up.

What I find strange is that the cook told you you couldn't get in because HE didn't let you. I thought the manager told you there was no one to serve you in the cafe.
Ronald Zee is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 03:19   #7
Patricia Snider
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 4
As the person who does the N.M. RBA, most birders who come to the Crest House are happy and thrilled with the response from the employees there. The food is good, the view is magnificent, and there are the swirling finch flocks and other highland species. One must remember N.M. is not a desert, we do have winter conditions. When I lived in Los Alamos we had five feet of snow (or more) in one nite, and have gone to 55 below. This is not Tucson where I also have lived. One must come prepared for winter weather, and maybe places will not open till they have enuf workers. This is the first bad incident, but incidents like this have lost birding entry into Guadalupe Canyon and the Gray Ranch. After all they don't have to have those feeders there.

Pat Snider
NM RBA manager
pinyonjay@aol.com
Patricia Snider is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 05:36   #8
Tannin
Common; sedentary.
 
Tannin's Avatar

 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Ballarat, Australia
Posts: 1,559
Basil!
Tannin is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 06:08   #9
Katy Penland
Registered User
 
Katy Penland's Avatar

 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Pine Mountain Club, California, USA
Posts: 10,754
First of all, I'd like to thank Ken Schneider for his response. His removal of the "incident" from the Rosy-Finch website was done in the interests of fair play, and it is most appreciated.

A couple things I do not understand from Patricia's post, however.

One is the assumption that somehow our group was unprepared for winter conditions. Why? Simply because most -- but not all -- of the group originated in Tucson? We were all experienced birders, and all were, to a person, properly dressed for outdoor winter birding. But no, we were not in Himalayan expedition gear and were not prepared to have to stand outside in blowing snow and wind for three solid hours while the manager vacillated about whether to open for the day.

She's right, Crest House doesn't have to have those feeders there, but they do have them and they promote the birds' presence in order to attract birders which augments their customer base in the winter. Since the Crest House is open year-round except for Thanksgiving (according to what the manager said to one of the couples buying lunch on February 1), do not customers -- birders and non-birders alike -- have the right to expect it to be open at other times? At the very least, can they not expect the management or employees to answer the phone after the posted opening time so they can find out if the place is open? And if customers do make it up the road (remember, more than just our group were able to get up there that same morning even if other Crest House staff were not), can they not expect that the manager at least come to the door after the posted opening time and not keep people standing outside in such weather? As a former business manager myself, I find his actions inexcusable.

I also take exception to the implied accusation that our group's experience might lead to the Crest House banning birders or even possibly dispensing with the bird-banding project. Why? Because I wrote an Open Letter? Please note that I did not make my letter public until after www.rosyfinch.com chose to make our experience a public issue. Please also note that our group was the victim here, not Crest House. This isn't some small, local, virtually unknown birding hotspot -- it's now an international destination that organized birding tours, such as the one we were on, will continue to choose to visit.

If Crest House decides to ban birders by banning the bird feeders, that'll just be one more poor management decision on their part. It will have nothing to do with how our group was treated by that same management.
Katy Penland is offline  

BF Supporter 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2014 Support BirdForum With A Donation

Old Friday 18th February 2005, 06:39   #10
pduxon
Quacked up Member
 
pduxon's Avatar

 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 5,949
May ask what an RBA Manager is? Just curious

What I find odd about this whole incident from the management of the hotel is the poor communication. If you tell people WHY something is happening they tend to be understanding its the not knowing. As it is people are left with a bad feeling and the hotel gets bad publicity.

Ignoring people who are obviously there as customers doesn't make sound commercial sense.

I'd be interested to know why the manager couldn't just say "sorry the weather is so bad the staff aren't here so I can't open but you welcome to come in out of the cold". I'd be interested to know why he felt he couldn't do this. I'd assume it would be public safety but if the banders were already in....

Of course he may have been concerned that he'd didn't have the staff to monitor a large group. If he'd just come over and said "sorry guys I'm not opening until I get some staff and given the weather that maybe a while" then Katy and her group would at least known where they stood.
__________________
Pete

Dethhhpicable
ithhn't it


http://thequacksoflife.blogspot.com/
pduxon is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 07:15   #11
Patricia Snider
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 4
[Of course they call it something else in England, but a Rare Bird Alert is what is used to let people know when we have a good one in the state of N.M, USA. And many have sent me reports when they go to add the rosy finches to their list, including some from your country. This gal may sound as if she knows what was happening, but they were not all dressed for cold, we used to go up there when there were no feeders in the Crest House and we saw the finches. (by the way you have similar species in Europe). Why is every comment, except Ken's who used to live here, and is the one who made deals with the Crest House to make it easier on all of us. Ms. Penland was not present the whole time, the tour group was rude, and the banders (ringers to You) could not band. They were inside because they made a deal with the owner to clean up inside to be allowed to band (ring). There were teen-age boys helping the banders who were acting more mature than the tour group. And that is strange behavior for one to use when a business person can decide to open or close as he chose. Why is everyone who is complaining not from our state? Most even from foreign countries?
Patricia Snider is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 07:32   #12
Blackstart
Saxophonus pinus
 
Blackstart's Avatar

 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Bohemian Wastes
Posts: 790
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patricia Snider
Why is everyone who is complaining not from our state? Most even from foreign countries?
Ms. Snider-

The short answer to your question would be that we are dealing with a universal situation here: When you see people suffering in inclement weather and have the means to provide them a little comfort, you give them shelter.

-Adam
Blackstart is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 07:39   #13
pduxon
Quacked up Member
 
pduxon's Avatar

 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 5,949
Hi Patricia,

ah Rare Bird Alert. Thanks for that, should have guessed.

As to complaints - well it does strike as strange behaviour from an owner. Some years ago I was waiting for a building to open and then the heavens opened. I was early but when the owner came to open up she invited me inside out of the weather and was apologetic that she wasn't ready even though she was doing me the favour!! That made me feel good about the place!!

Gosh must remember that if I ever visit New Mexico that as a "foreigner" I'm not allowed to complain. Curious since your fellow countryman can be heard to whine a lot over here but hey......
__________________
Pete

Dethhhpicable
ithhn't it


http://thequacksoflife.blogspot.com/
pduxon is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 07:50   #14
pduxon
Quacked up Member
 
pduxon's Avatar

 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 5,949
meant to say Patricia, welcome to BF!
__________________
Pete

Dethhhpicable
ithhn't it


http://thequacksoflife.blogspot.com/
pduxon is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 09:30   #15
Patricia Snider
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 4
One does wonder why the tour leader led his flock up the mt. when it was clearly snowing. (After all Mt. Lemmon is a place that has snow). It was raining in Albuquerque, but one could tell by looking that it was snowing up there. He could have asked in Cedar Crest on his way up what the road conditions were. He could have phoned the Crest House to see if it was open from there instead of after they got to the top. Albq. is at 5000 feet, the top is at over 10,000 feet. The Crest House might have been totally closed with no one there when they arrived. He could have waited till the road was plowed, as it usually is because of the ski area and for the cross country skiers. What if they had slid off the road and been stranded? After all it is a twisty road of over ten miles up.
Patricia Snider is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 09:55   #16
Ronald Zee
Registered User
 
Ronald Zee's Avatar

 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Rotterdam
Posts: 586
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackstart
Ms. Snider-

The short answer to your question would be that we are dealing with a universal situation here: When you see people suffering in inclement weather and have the means to provide them a little comfort, you give them shelter.

-Adam
Apparently Ms Snider thinks not.
Ronald Zee is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 12:35   #17
digi-birder
 
digi-birder's Avatar

 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: South Yorkshire, UK
Posts: 3,288
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patricia Snider
One does wonder why the tour leader led his flock up the mt. when it was clearly snowing. (After all Mt. Lemmon is a place that has snow).
One reason I can think of: some people had come a long way and he didn't want to let them down. It's obvious also that the snow appeared overnight and took everyone by surprise. If this is a place that gets snow regularly, then it shouldn't cause problems of this nature. If someone has a vehicle that can reach the top, then they have every right to do that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patricia Snider
It was raining in Albuquerque, but one could tell by looking that it was snowing up there. He could have asked in Cedar Crest on his way up what the road conditions were. He could have phoned the Crest House to see if it was open from there instead of after they got to the top. Albq. is at 5000 feet, the top is at over 10,000 feet. The Crest House might have been totally closed with no one there when they arrived.
He could have done a lot of things, but that still does not excuse the attitude of the manager.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patricia Snider
He could have waited till the road was plowed, as it usually is because of the ski area and for the cross country skiers. What if they had slid off the road and been stranded? After all it is a twisty road of over ten miles up.
Again, we're in the realms of 'what if' and it still gives no excuse for the manager to treat the group as he did. If it's a ski area, then surely the place should be prepared for this type of weather. What if some cross country skiers went missing? Do you think they should be discouraged from visiting because of the dangers of the snow?
__________________
Diane.

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being, hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. Erma Bombeck
digi-birder is offline  
Old Friday 18th February 2005, 22:58   #18
davefran
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: New Mexico
Posts: 1
Sense of proportion

We have been volunteering for the Forest Service at the Crest House for over a year. We are also ensuring that the feeders stay stocked now that Ken and Mary Lou have moved to Florida. It is unfortunate that the large group that appeared at the Crest were not able to get into the PRIVATE concession (the Crest House) due to weather-related staffing issues. We have talked to the Crest House staff who have a very different perspective on the situation and their problem was with the male group leader. Every disagreement has two sides...usually neither is exactly what happened. This forum has heard only one side.

We have seen many, many birders enjoy the access to the rosy finches and the hospitality of the Crest House Staff. The staff have even kept the feeders stocked when we were not able to get up there to do it ourselves. They have made special arrangements to provide for the banding operations. They have offered to help setting up and breaking down the feeders. Yes, the manager COULD have let them in, but was under no obligation to do so and may have had good reasons for not doing so. The group COULD have gone back down the mountain, just as the other visitors who saw the Closed sign did. Sometimes there are disappointments in life, we each choose how we deal with them.

Of note, the Crest House is not the Ski Area...it is 7 miles further up the mountain road and is typically not safely accessible in snow until well after the road to the Ski Area has been thoroughly cleared...sometimes that's the next day.

It would truly be a shame if the ruffled feathers from this one incident get blown out of proportion and cause the Crest House management to remove the feeders. The small note on the rosyfinch website, which did not name names, does not equate with sending irate letters to the editors of the local papers and international forums attacking the Crest House management. A sense of proportion would have been valuable here.

Let's hope that this one disagreement does not lead to the loss of this valuable resource for the birding community.
davefran is offline  
Old Saturday 19th February 2005, 03:50   #19
RosyFinchSM
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Posts: 2
RE: “Refrigerator Birding”

This response is from the two teenage banders that were present on January 30 at the Crest House that is discussed by Ms. Katy Penland. Based on her email(s) we feel that she has disseminated mis-information.

We arrived at the Crest House before the posted opening time (9:30 am) and were let in by one of the cooks present that day. We know that he had already informed the birding group that they may not open on this day because of the weather. We know this because one of the birders standing at the door told us they had already asked about when they could enter.

We were let in early, not because the staff wanted to let us in and leave the birding group outside in the cold. But, because we have previous permission from the Manager and owner of the Crest House, and a special use permit from the Cibola National Forest to conduct our research on the Rosy-Finches at the Crest

The Manager had only a skeleton crew available to work at the Crest House on this morning. They could not run the gift shop and the restaurant and keep track of all the customers that would had shown up this day.

Even before the posted opening time, the birding group began to bang on the doors. We know this because we could hear them. Ms. Katy Penland was, by her own admission, not present to witness this intermittent banging. She was busy shuttling the rest of the group up to the top.

At approximately 10:00 am the cook told the group again that they weren’t sure whether or not they would open. The group leader then demanded to speak to the manager who was downstairs on the phone with his boss and his other employees discussing whether or not to open. The birding group continued to bang on the door. The manager then came up to tell them they would not be opening. When he opened the door, he began to explain to the leader that if he let them in, he would have to let others (non-birders as well) in. He told them that the Crest House was closed until the road conditions improved and he could get more hands to work. The leader then began to threaten the Manager by stating he would make sure that the Manager got in trouble and that he would not get any more business.

They asked why we were inside and others were outside. The leader and another birder asked if they could talk with us. The Manager let them in and they asked us if they could be part of our project for the day since the Manager would not let them in otherwise. We felt that would be inappropriate as we were there only because of our previous agreement with the Crest House. While they were down stairs the whole conversation began again (with ourselves present) about letting the birding group in. Ms. Katy Penland said we did not participate in the conversation. Unless she was the woman with the group leader, she is the one that does not have first hand knowledge of what actually transpired.

They offered money to the Manager, which he did not take because it wasn’t a matter of money, it was a matter of being closed. He said that if he let them in and then locked the doors again, it would have been the same deal with the birders inside and others outside.

As the leader began to understand and was about to leave, the woman present with him continued to argue with the Manager and threatened to make sure that he got in trouble and would make sure the birding community heard of it. Ms. Katy Penland was right about the discussion, there was no shouting, no ranting, no jumping up and down, just threats being made on the part of some of the birders.
At this time we told the Manager that we would go as well, so no other problems with us being there would occur with this group, or any other people present on the crest that day. The Manager told the leader that he would definitely not open. The time now was approximately 10:45 – 11:00 am.

The birding group did not need to wait around for him to decide. He made the decision at that time.

We were taken aback at how the group leader acted, considering that a leader should be setting an example and not arguing and complaining when things happen that aren’t in their favor. Ken Schneider tells people on his web site that they should plan on 2 days to see the Rosy-Finches since the Crest House could be closed due to unforeseen conditions. In fact last Saturday, February 12, the road was closed to all traffic. This can happen when there is a lot of snow.

We believe that the group leader realized he was causing a disturbance. He even apologized to our research group for interrupting our project. It is not appropriate to expect the Crest House to be open at all times. Ken reinforces this.

Not only is this a site known around the world for having a good chance of seeing Rosy-finches, in part due to the feeders, but it is also a private business that was built there to make money and let anyone enjoy the crest, not just birders. They did not originally have feeders there until Ken and his wife started the feeding program. He knew that the Crest House has the right to take down the feeders and close when they need to.

There is now discussion between the Manager and his boss to take down the feeders permanently, due to the actions of one group of birders. The Crest House doesn’t necessarily think that birders contribute that much to their bottom line. This would certainly make it a lot more difficult for people to see the Rosy-Finches at this site. It would be a shame to see all the work Ken and his wife did, and the cooperation with the Manager to make this site easy for birders to view these finches come to an abrupt end. We are sure that people generally find this spot much more amenable than hiking up a mountain in Colorado, Wyoming, Alaska, or any other remote spot to look for the finches.

Sometimes you see a bird you go looking for and sometimes you don’t. There are always other trips. We can see why the group would have been disappointed, and cold, and not in the greatest mood. It doesn’t excuse the fact that they treated the manager and the cook the way they did, after all they have done to help in making the Sandia Crest a world-wide known birding destination. Ken Schneider has received lots of complimentary comments about the Crest House.

Sure we have a vested interest in the Crest House. The Forest Service has given us permission to conduct a 5-year research project with the Rosy-Finches. We have already been observing them for 3 years. Using the Crest House has made it relatively easy. However, we will continue our work regardless if we have access to the Crest House. We have very exciting data and plan to continue this project. The group leader was apologetic once he realized that we had to discontinue our project for the day. This is not a funded project; it is run by volunteers. We had to schedule a “make up day” to take advantage of the good snow conditions. We never know what the weather will be like and how long the Rosy-Finches will be in the area.

Prior to the establishment of the feeders, birders could go to the crest for a dozen years without seeing them. The feeders have really made a difference. We are glad that Katy Penland got to see the finches when she went back to the Crest.

She believes that the Crest House employees were embarrassed; actually they were amazed that anybody could have been so rude. He has seen many groups from all over and they have all been very friendly. The people from Maryland were very understanding when we told them that we also go in early to help clean tables and floors for the Crest House.

We avoided mentioning the group leader’s name and where the group was from in our e-mail to Ken Schneider. No one that had not been present knew who this group was until your “open letter”. We hope that we can convince every one that this was an unfortunate incident but that the Crest House should not be blamed for not being able to open without their full staff.


Sincerely,




Raymond VanBuskirk and Ryan Beaulieu

Last edited by RosyFinchSM : Saturday 19th February 2005 at 15:49.
RosyFinchSM is offline  
Old Saturday 19th February 2005, 15:52   #20
Ken Schneider
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Florida
Posts: 5
"Refrigerator Birding"

“REFRIGERATOR BIRDING”

At the risk of adding fuel to the fire, we can see that there are two sides to the story. On a global scale, discontinuance of the rosy-finch feeding project may look pale in comparison to the "Pale Male" eviction, but for many bird listers and tickers from the US as well as the rest of the world, Sandia Crest has been a wonderfully convenient way to observe all three North American species at once. We are a bit surprised that so few birders who visit BirdForum.net have actually been there, or, if they have, they are not responding to the threat that feeding may be discontinued because of this unfortunate incident. As docents and interpreters, our greatest pleasure derived from the project has been the thrill of helping and seeing others get their "lifers." From the tone of their letter, Fran and Dave feel the same way.

Visitors should know that there are three feeders. Two may be viewed rather conveniently from the lower parking area. While it is much more comfortable to view the birds from inside the Crest House, it is not entirely necessary. All three feeders are on Crest House leased property, so they would likely be affected by any adverse decision by the managers.

The negotiations that led to the establishment of the rosy-finch project were very delicate. Nothing would have been accomplished without the support of the Resident Manager (Gene Romero and his predecessor, Tom Duncan). Crest House serves as their home-- they never made us feel that we were invading their personal space when we and other birders sometimes showed up before opening time, inviting us in for coffee, etc. Gene and Crest House Management were honored by the Central New Mexico Audubon Society just last winter (see a link to the event on the Rosyfinch.com Web site <http://www.rosyfinch.com/Events.html>). We know that the banders have tried to repay the courtesy by cleaning up and arranging the tables before the start of the business day.

We never really got the project cleared formally by the Forest Service attorneys. Crest House management did have some initial liability concerns. They even had their lawyers come out and look at the feeder setup. Everything was accomplished on good faith and without any written agreement.

The lure of rosy-finches has had some positive economic effects on the entire East Mountain community. Bed and Breakfasts and restaurants have noticed the influx of visiting birders. In less than 24 months, Crest House customers have purchased a large share of the 950 rosyfinch articles (T-shirts, patches and lapel pins or “badges” as European birders call them) that we have provided for resale at near the cost of production. Surely, they bought many other items from the attractive and well-stocked Gift Shop as well as the Restaurant. We believe there are good economic reasons for the Crest House to support the project. Top management and owners at Sunwest Silver may not see that the benefits outweigh the risks of the bad publicity engendered by the “Open Letter” and general liability. After all, they are allowing essentially non-paying visitors to enter their for-profit establishment and take up valuable space in the dining area.

There is a sampling of informative and often very supportive correspondence on the ROSYFINCH.COM Web site at <http://www.rosyfinch.com/correspondence.html>

Katy Penland returned to see the birds despite her sad experience. Hers was the only complaint we have ever heard about since we started the feeding in 1999-- that is a five year period during which thousands of birders have visited. It would be very sad if everyone's efforts were wasted on account of her Open Letter. While some birders may not look back after checking off a new species, we think there are many who cherish the memory of such a special place and tell others or even think about returning themselves. We invite them to write a letter in support of the project to us or to Nancy Cox. We will see that it gets into the proper hands.

Ken and Mary Lou Schneider
rosyfinch@rosyfinch.com
Ken Schneider is offline  
Old Saturday 19th February 2005, 16:47   #21
Andrew Rowlands
Registered User
 
Andrew Rowlands's Avatar

 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Wales.
Posts: 5,962
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Schneider
We are a bit surprised that so few birders who visit BirdForum.net have actually been there, or, if they have, they are not responding to the threat that feeding may be discontinued because of this unfortunate incident.
Hi there Ken and Mary,

Sounds to me that this isolated incident is getting blown up out of all proportion.

Ok, there seems to have been a misunderstanding. which Katy (Penland) may or may not have been a party to (there has been a suggestion that she may not have been aware of the initial 'discussion' because she was shuttling more visitors to the site).

Are you seriously suggesting that this lucrative sideline will be shutdown because of one complaint on top of so many praises? It doesn't sound like the best business decision.

I'm not sure that Birdforum Members (or visitors) have much bearing on this threat to close down this feeding station.

How many birding visitors there have been asked if they use BF? How far do you expect BF users to travel to visit the Sandia Crest house? Do you expect BF users to start a petition to "Keep the feeding station at Sandia Crest"?

This is a one-off; why don't you just shake hands and let it pass under the bridge?

Regards,

Andy.
Andrew Rowlands is offline  

BF Supporter 2004 2005 2006 Support BirdForum With A Donation

Old Saturday 19th February 2005, 17:08   #22
level seven
Registered user

 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Newcastle
Posts: 810
Presumably the feeders are there for the benefit of the birds as well as birders, so whatever the rights and wrongs of this incident, surely it would be a shame to discontinue them when the finches have got used to them as a source of food in the harsh winters.
__________________
Graham
level seven is offline  
Old Saturday 19th February 2005, 17:37   #23
Ken Schneider
Registered User

 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Florida
Posts: 5
Good news

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Rowlands
I
This is a one-off; why don't you just shake hands and let it pass under the bridge?
Right on, Andy!

Good news! Thanks to the concern of so many birders and the good will and support on the part of Gene Romero, the decision seems to have been made to continue the Sandia Crest Rosy-finch feeding project into the future. FYI, most of the birds usually depart around the middle of March, but some straggle into early April. The feeders are taken down by the end of March in order to avoid bear depredation

Ken and Mary Lou
Ken Schneider is offline  
Old Saturday 19th February 2005, 17:48   #24
Andrew Rowlands
Registered User
 
Andrew Rowlands's Avatar

 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Wales.
Posts: 5,962
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Schneider
Right on, Andy!

Good news! Thanks to the concern of so many birders and the good will and support on the part of Gene Romero, the decision seems to have been made to continue the Sandia Crest Rosy-finch feeding project into the future. FYI, most of the birds usually depart around the middle of March, but some straggle into early April. The feeders are taken down by the end of March in order to avoid bear depredation

Ken and Mary Lou
Good news, indeed!

Keep up the good work, guys ...

Cheers,

Andy.
Andrew Rowlands is offline  

BF Supporter 2004 2005 2006 Support BirdForum With A Donation

Old Saturday 19th February 2005, 18:39   #25
Katy Penland
Registered User
 
Katy Penland's Avatar

 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Pine Mountain Club, California, USA
Posts: 10,754
Good news! I'll spare everyone the long response I was writing while the latest messages posted, since it seems there is now no need to continue this thread as Andy has decided that my group's experience was a "one-off" and Ken has intimated that the only cause for concern was whether the feeders and the banding project continue. For me to continue insisting that the manager be accountable for his actions seems churlish.

So I will simply close by saying it is my sincere hope that our group's was and ever will be the only negative experience in the history of Crest House.
Katy Penland is offline  

BF Supporter 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2014 Support BirdForum With A Donation

Advertisement
Closed Thread


Thread Tools
Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Birding in Brazil tomjenner Brasil 4 Thursday 2nd September 2004 19:53

{googleads}
£100 Cashback on Opticron DBA VHD Binoculars. Click to find out more.

Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites

Help support BirdForum

Page generated in 0.24616909 seconds with 35 queries
All times are GMT. The time now is 07:49.