I’ve seen it on occasion and never gave it much thought. Mostly it appears on a listserve I subscribe to: id frontiers (a service with numerous subscribers worldwide who weigh in on VERY technical details of bird identification). Someone sends a photo of a tricky identification and the thoughts pour in from all over the place as to what the bird is.
Recently there was a new twist on this familiar theme. Someone had been birding in the Nevada area and had taken a slew of good photographs. That person then sent the collection to the Nevada bird listserve (another one I subscribe to having lived there for a short while back in ’06) asking for identification of a large number of birds in his photos. Some were obvious, some took a little study. But the point of this discussion is this: Is this becoming the way new birders start the hobby?
It used to be a person borrowed a pair of binoculars, scrounged a field guide from somewhere, then headed out the door. Through the months and years of triumphs and gross mistakes that person would eventually become an accomplished birder. This was usually done with a mentor here or there who guided the greenhorn along the rocky path. It seems those days are gone.
Now all you need is two things–a point-and-shoot digital camera and access to the Internet. Take a few shots, send them out to the world and have them identified by others. Bingo–you have a respectable life list.
I’m hesitant to recommend this "new" approach to becoming a birder. Something is missing. Mistakes mainly. It’s only by making errors does a person redouble the learning, redouble the effort, and redouble the careful study. I’d be willing to bet the person who takes the new path will lack the great depth of understanding taught only in the school of hard knocks.
Only time will judge the accuracy of my opinion.