I think this new type of gear may prove to provide a greater improvement in the process of capturing images, rather than the results. Especially with birds, there is often not much one can do to take control of the situation, perspective or composition when the action is happening. Ofcourse experience, preparation, technique and not least of all luck play a part. Those are the skills one can hone. The actual proces of taking the picture though is something that I can see being greatly improved with the AF and other advancements the latest generation of cameras provide. I can imagine not just getting more keepers from a purely technical aspect (blurry du to slow AF, bad wing position due to too few FPS) but also getting less frustrating moments were the intent was not properly carried out by the camera, be it due to user error or an actual limitation of the equipment.
As a tech enthusiast, I am just saying that I absolutely agree that you do not need the latest and greatest and should not expect it to improve your results if there are other aspects about your shooting you can work on. But it also is not like there aren't things one can appreciate about new tech even if they often don't directly contribute to the end results in a significant way.
Nothing I can fault in your comments. It's personal, and for me coming from no formal training in photography it's been easy as an engineer and very handy person for me to master my gear in theory (I still get excited and forget basic things in the moment) but it wasn't until PBD (Scott) suggested a book, The Photographer's Eye, that my eyes really were opened up and I came to realize I was pretty pathetic in spite of the odd lucky photo. The reasons I have any photos I can be proud of are: good equipment, reasonable technical understanding of my equipment, patience/perseverance, preparedness and LUCK. Mostly the latter, but I'll take it and pretend I'm good!