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DVOC Main Page > Our Members > Anthony Croasdale
Tony Croasdale -
of the DVOC
Youth Birding Committee
Field Trip Committee - Chairperson
|I am a Philadelphia native and have been an avid birder for more than twenty years. I am team captain of Kowa Sporting Optic’s World Series of Birding team Bristlehead, we use bio-fuel and in 2007 used a vegetable oil-fueled Mercedes and raised funds for an environmental center in Indonesian Borneo. I have worked for a field season with the Hudson Bay project in Arctic Canada with geese, helped band songbirds and trap mosquitoes on a West Nile Virus study in New York City, and tried to figure out if any birds eat poison dart frogs in Peru. I was the lead singer for the underground punk rock band R.A.M.B.O., touring to thirty-eight countries. Between going on tour with the band and birding specific trips or both, I have birded in Asia, Europe, Australia, Peru, and all over North America. As of 2007 I am working with Americorps VISTA for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. I joined the DVOC in late 2004 and now serve as the voice of the DVOC’s RBA Hotline (although no one calls it). When I grow up (I’m currently 31), I hope to be a USFWS special agent, ranger or in general facilitate awesome birding and nature oriented events and conservation efforts. I adhere to a strict vegetarian diet with the exception of occasional game for environmental concerns and the belief that all animals (including people) are entitled to freedom. I wish more birders would make a larger commitment to environmental responsible lifestyle and start to use our numbers for political influence. I choose to lead by example rather than criticize, as anyone who loves birds is my friend.|
Summer Issue of Philadelphia Larus
TONY CROASDALE…THEN and NOW
With tattoos and dreadlocks, Tony joined the club in 2005 and instantly fit in. As part of a younger generation of birders, he has the energy, enthusiasm, and drive to spread the message of birding and habitat conservation to the next generation. If you have recently visited John Heinz NWR at Tinicum, you have probably encountered Tony and his infectious personality.
At what age did you first begin birding and what was the “spark” bird that tweaked your interest?
I started birding at nine or ten. Growing up I did a lot of hunting, fishing, and camping with my family. My father brought me to the Pennypack Environmental Center where Pete Kurtz told me about Belted Kingfishers and that they live in the park. I asked my father if we could go look for one and a few days later we went on our first mission to find a specific bird, and we succeeded. That was the first time I went birding.
You have had a somewhat unconventional appearance with dreadlocks and tattoos. Is there a statement behind the tattoos (many of which illustrate nature)?
That's a funny tie-in as my father and I are planning to get matching kingfisher tattoos soon. My father has tattoos and my uncle is extensively tattooed, so it was just something I grew up with and knew I would do when I was old enough as my two most important male role models had them. Most of my ink is dinosaurs (or dinosaur bones) or art from punk bands. I have a Swallow-tailed Kite that was taken from the Great Florida Birding Trail logo. I plan to get many bird tattoos on the open space I have left. These will be in color. As for a message, my punk-related tattoos include symbols of anarchism and representations of class struggle.
What type of band were you in? What was your role and what was the message?
I sang in a hardcore punk band called R.A.M.B.O. We were part of what is known as the D.I.Y. (do-it-yourself) anarcho-punk community. I never got into the nihilistic part of punk. The punk I was involved with was either openly political-anarchist and/ or intentional about no division between audience and performer and as much community participation as possible in the production of records, concerts, touring, media, etc. The music we played was very fast and angry sounding but with melody. We used satire, humor, and sarcasm as well as lots of stage theatrics. We were environmentally conscience, proponents of anarchism extolled the virtues of atheism. We liked to not be dogmatic and lead by example. We toured in a vegetable oil fueled van, sold non-sweatshop t-shirts, and always played all-ages shows in independent venues.
Birding does not seem to be the first thing that comes to mind when you mention a punk rocker. How did this come about?
For me, punk was an outgrowth of birding more or less. I grew up loving nature. When I got into birding and got to about twelve, I started to realize that the government and society were poor stewards of the environment, to say the least. Also, growing up in inner-city Philadelphia as a sensitive nature lover, I was a misfit. When I found out there was music, a political ideology, and counter culture that spoke to these issues, it provided me with likeminded peers. Not that I had other punk birders but they didn't ridicule me for it and were supportive when I got back into it later.
You travelled the world extensively with your band. What was your favorite country and why?
The band played in 38 or so countries. We toured Europe twice, Asia twice, Australia and U.S. / Canada three times. I have also been to Peru and Belize on my own. What country is my favorite is hard to say as I have had very different reasons to like a country. I love Thailand, the birding, food, and culture is fantastic; this is my first suggestion for someone wanting some place to travel to. I loved the birding in Sri Lanka and Belize. For playing live music, nothing beats Germany or Indonesia.
How did you juggle birding while touring with your band?
Since I booked our tours myself, or in the case of Asia worked out the logistics, I'd figure nature oriented activities into the schedule. All of my band mates were outdoorsy folks and were into the trips. We'd go camping at least once during U.S. tours. In Asia and Australia we usually only played on weekends. I arranged to fly into Japan a week early on our last Asia tour so I could bird Hokkaido to see the eagles and cranes. On that last tour, we hired a guide in Vietnam for two days and did a safari in Sri Lanka. Sometimes I'd play a show like in Singapore, crash out after the gig, sleep a few hours, and wake up at dawn to take a cab to the nearest nature reserve.
If there was one bird that you have seen that you could tell everyone about, what would it be?
Look more closely at Song Sparrows, they are gorgeous. It's hard to pick one bird so I'll give you two; Marvelous Spatuletail (N. Peru) and Steller's Sea Eagle (N. Japan) have been the two birds I really went out of the way to see and in my opinion are the most impressive of their respective families. I will say that hornbills are maybe my favorite group of birds. Parasitic Jaeger may be my favorite bird in action especially when it's attacking terns.
What made you decide to join the DVOC?
I had run into Denis Brennan at Tinicum and Palmyra Cove with a DVOC field trip in the fall of 2004 and liked his vibe. My good buddy Andy Bernick and I looked up the DVOC online and figured it was time to check it out. After going to a few meetings and enjoying the presentations and humor and seeing how friendly and unpretentious the folks were at Frank Windfelder's Tuckerton trip, we decided this club was for us.
Who were birding mentors?
I got into birding at the same time as my parents or as they say I got them into it, and I, even back then, got way more into it. More or less I was self-taught. It wasn't until I got back into birding hardcore in my mid-twenties and met Andy Bernick, Steve Kacir, and Rob Hynson, that my birding really started to go to that next level with their input. Spending a few days with Paul Guris in the Jersey Sky lands really helped my ear birding. Bert Filemyr helped me immensely with planning for the World Series of Birding.
What got you involved in the World Series of Birding?
I asked several teams if they wanted to use a vegetable oil powered vehicle (diesel Mercedes E300) in the WSB if I provided it. None of the teams I approached wanted to do it, so I figured I would start a team to do just that. I wanted to make a statement about birders’ use of fossil fuels and demonstrate a viable alternative. I asked my best birding buddies and they all said yes. I wanted to raise funds for the environmental center in Indonesian Borneo that I had visited while on tour there. I wrote a few letters trying to get a corporate sponsor and was surprised to get two responses. We agreed to work with Kowa and they have been great. In fact, this year Kowa's sales manager and renowned birder Jim Danzenbaker (and fellow DVOC member) joined our team – Team Bristlehead. The first year we got 179 species using the E300 but we found it to be too noisy for competitive birding by ear. This year we changed to a quieter Toyota Camry hybrid which we were not allowed to take off road, so for our time off road in the Great Swamp we utilized a vegetable powered mini school bus that was painted flat black with painted flames on the hood. We got 196 species which was good for 10th place!
How successful do you feel musicians such as Bono, Sting, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and Pearl Jam have been placing conservation issues in front of a large and generally younger audience? What more can influential celebrities do?
Have they? It's hard for me to say as I had been involved with such an insular counter culture for over a decade where politics are so radical and overt and little attention is paid to mainstream media. While I am a fan of music, I'm not a fan of pop culture and isolated myself in the punk world for so long that I'm out of touch. I was in a world where people I knew were tree sitting and people who I probably knew were burning dealership lots full of SUVs and new developments in critical habitat. I think there needs to be pop stars telling people to recycle and stop climate change as well as radical environmentalists destroying stuff. What celebrities need to do is donate the vast amount of their fortune to worthy causes. The disparity of wealth is this country is one of the biggest problems and celebrities should take the lead in giving back the money pilfered from the working class.
Serving as an intern at John Heinz NWR at Tinicum, can you describe your job description and what you like most about it?
It's strange because my appointment here is funded by Americorps VISTA, which is basically the stateside counterpart to the Peace Corps. VISTA's main mission is to fight poverty. It is sort of a strange match being I'm stationed at a wildlife refuge. What I try to do is public outreach and try to get inner-city schools out to the refuge and guide them when they do. I have also created and collaborated on several interpretive exhibits. I'm developing a John Heinz NWR poster that will feature an illustrated scene of the refuge chock full of organisms with a key for identification. This poster will be mass produced and given out free to area schools and be available for sale at the refuge gift shop. I have held several public events and walks and whenever I've done promotion outside the usual refuge channels I've gotten a tremendous response, sometimes more people than I can handle!
For someone who called themselves an anarchist to now work for the federal government, it seems a radical turn. Have your views changed as you get older?
I still consider myself to be an anarchist. Anarchism will probably never truly exist; it is something you strive for. I think of something Aldo Leopold said, "We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations, the important thing is not to achieve but to strive." I think if you truly believe the goodness of humanity that you can believe that someday people will be able to peacefully coexist with each other and nature because that is what everyone will want to do. Even if it's not realistic that's what I want. I don't think working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service as working for the man, it's working for the people, working for the wildlife. Life involves compromise and for me working for a public institution of what's supposed to be a democratic system is much more in line with my beliefs than a lot of other things I could be doing. The other thing to consider is that this is what I enjoy doing and an opportunity I didn't want to turn down.
What would you like to see the DVOC accomplish in the coming year?
I think the DVOC fulfills its mission perfectly. I would like to see birders more politically active but that is not DVOC's primary focus. The website is unbelievable, the fieldtrips fantastic, and the membership full of expertise, camaraderie, and openness to newcomers. I just hope the DVOC continues to maintain what it already is.
Once you get your driver’s license, which vehicle will we see you birding in?
Probably taking turns driving my girlfriend's Saturn or other friend's cars on road trips. I doubt I'll be in position to own my own vehicle for some time. When I do, I'll find the most fuel efficient used car available.