Friday, March 30, 2007

"Toads on Roads"

This advice sheet (.pdf) offers “guidelines to reduce injury and death of amphibians on roads,” and is provided courtesy of FROGlife, a U.K. organization. Is anyone doing anything similar in the U.S.?

"EVERYTHING old is new again"(and again and again and again)

The title of this entry has quotes around it because it's an old, old aphorism.
[aph·o·rism [af-uh-riz-uhm]: a terse saying embodying a general truth, or astute observation, as “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”]

A cursory scan of a few reviews of a certain just-released animated film forced me to the laptop for this brief post. One of the more positive ones is sub-headlined, "Though impressive, the 3-D retro-futurist look and time-travel plot feel almost old-fashioned."

The first thing I think--instantly--is, "what exactly is "wrong" with "old-fashioned"? The reviewer is apparently implying that certain large elements are tired, been-there, seen-that--but when those elements are a lonely boy, or a beautifully-moderne design of the future...what the heck? I'm sincerely baffled with the problem.

See, as far as I can tell, every element of storytelling was "done" by the time those cave paintings were drying in France.
My previous post was a nod to a film from 1959, an "old" movie--a black and white movie, for heaven's sake--and moreover a film that was set in the jazz age of gangsters and flappers...old-fashioned stuff even then, 50 years ago. Describe any of the plot contrivances and see if someone doesn't say "but they did that in The Untouchables/Road To Perdition/Gloria/The Professional!" It neither takes away from or diminshes any of the subsequent movies that they share situations and themes. And I'm not even adressing the drag aspect.

Anyway, I haven't yet seen the film in question. In a few hours I will have. I'm looking forward to it.

But not having seen it, I can't defend anyone's take one way or the other. What I can do is protest the lazy fallback of too many film writers vis a vis animation these day--these reviews where the reviewer is bored to tears not because the movie is slow, or lousy, or stupid, or poorly-done(in fact, I've noticed that increasingly animation's artistry is virtually--gah! no pun intended --ignored as almost irrelevant...and when it is criticized, it's done from what often seems a very uninformed observer).

No, the reviewer is bored, or jaded, and why? A sighing plaint of "but...this is all so old fashioned. We've seen orphans before(really? Where lately?), singing frogs before (as if the existence of the short "One Froggy Evening" meant that 60 years later a filmmaker is risking ridicule if he uses a frog in an animated film, no matter the context? You've got to be kidding--yet a writer made just that beef in his review)".

And to them I say, well, [see post below]: did any of the characters come alive for you? Did you settle down and believe in any of it for any amount of time? Were you entertained, or is this all an intellectual reporter's excercise in animation overload?

There's no percentage in arguing reviews, none. But I do mind, and am bothered, when the reviews seem so disconnected from the actual film itself, and more a general indictment of my profession.
It's unfair and anti-film to look at ANY film and review it as if it owes its impact to any other film. This is where I guess a writer has to pretend as hard as he or she can that they haven't seen every. single. film. released in the last 10 years, and compare them to one another. Because each is made to be seen for the first time, and especially in the case of family audiences, many of the viewers will have seen none of the preceding movies that a new one is "too much like". When they do each and every individual film will stand--or fall--on its own merits.

And personally I suspect good movies are good not because everything in them is new! but because the things in them are old: warmth, humor, wit, friendship, awe, drama.

I hope this little screed makes some sense.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #13

Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

Random Blog of the Day:
Home Bird Days – “A blog for my day lists,” by Home Bird in South Jersey (online since March 2006) [this blog is inactive, the last entry having been posted on May 7, 2006]
Random Entry of the Day (excerpt):
About this Blog

I’ve set up this new blog as a place to keep my day lists. My posts here won’t have any stories, pictures, links, etc., just lists. I already have a regular blog for all those other things at Home Bird Notes.
[Click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Home Bird on April 19, 2006]

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Some Like It Hot -Running Wild



I apologize for posting such a lengthy clip-the scene I had on my mind is a couple of minutes in, and until someone gives me a tutorial in excerpting my own DVDs to youtube this'll have to do.

What hasn't already been said of "Some Like It Hot"? Brilliant film; great director, great script, great cast. Take the little musical interlude of Sweet Sue's blondes rehearsing "Running Wild": what particularly strikes me is how such a simple scene manages to be so infectious and feel so totally uncontrived--even though Jack Lemmon is playing a dead ringer for Daffy Duck and Tony Curtis is in the most grotesque drag since...well, perhaps ever.

Even with all the broad, Wilderian goofiness they seem real. They genuinely enjoy their jazz playing, "Sugar"(Marilyn)has a ball shaking the lead vocal and strumming her ukelele, and it all results in making you feel like you're not only sharing the ride on a Florida-bound train in the 1920s, you are a part of the relationship between the characters, however improbable they are.

If there's one thing that doesn't get enough attention in many animated films it's the character relationships. It doesn't matter how they're related--whether on the surface the relationship is what we'd call conventional--what matters is that we really buy that these characters believe in each other. I don't mean "believe in" in a sentimental "I have faith in you" way (not that there's anything wrong with that-that certainly has its place in the right narrative), but rather that one character clearly knows and has real feelings towards another.

This sounds pretty elementary--a no-brainer--but oftimes in the midst of getting the plot moving along, throwing in a gag here or there(or taking one out), and making the nominal plot exciting or whatever the characters can lose their realness. I'm sure everyone has expereinced the sinking feeling in a theater when you disconnect from the characters...and then the action on the screen; the next step is checking your watch and after that--planning where you're going for dinner. Uh-oh.

"Some Like it Hot" has some ludicrous characters in silly, totally implausible situations--but we're with Joe and Jerry all the way. They argue, laugh, get furious and concerned with each other as believably as if they were in an Elia Kazan film, not a farce by Wilder and Diamond....but then, all of Wilder's best films manage to sell some pretty messed-up plots and seriously compromised characters by making the audience empathise with them, like them ,and just plain buy them.

it's been argued that animation filmmakers have their work cut out for them in the casting department: we can't rely on the human face to carry a scene, or the comes-equipped charm of an actress or actor to fill in the subtext; we have to build a real person(or animal)from scratch. But surely Wilder and Diamond had the same problem here: two goofball, skirt-chasing jazz age musician losers, dressed as women for the majority of the film, affecting silly voices and enduring ridiculous circumstances. I think the glue that holds their characters together--including Monroe's--are very clever and suprisingly subtle touches that add up to people we can relate to and believe in. The St. Valentine's Day massacre scene isn't played for laughs in this oh-so-broad comedy, and Lemmon's delivery of the line "I think I'm gonna be sick" after witnessing murder is as straight as if it were part of a hard core film noir. Monroe's Sugar has real poignancy along with her burlesque-style blonde goofiness...again, very careful nurturing of characters.

The film has so much bizarre action, broad characters and great lines that the characters might be presented a fraction as well and everyone would still laugh...but the way it turned out results in a flm that can be watched over and over again without too much fatigue. There's no reason the same can't be true of animated actors.

Woodpecker Jam

For those of you who have grown weary of me ranting and raving about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in recent weeks, here’s something a little more light-hearted:
Susan Krebs and the Soaring Sextet perform an excerpt from the theatrical jazz production “The Aviary – a Celebration of Birds through Music, Poetry, and Birdsong,” courtesy of YouTube.
If only the real Ivory-bills were still making such resonant tattoos.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #12

Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

Random Blog of the Day:
Kyle’s Blog – “This is my belated account of a recent trip to the Panhandle of Florida in search of the thought to be extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker,” by Kyle Gerstner in Kansas (online since February 2007)
Random Entry of the Day (excerpt):
In Search of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker Day One

Sunday, December 17th 7:57 am

There was a light fog as I drove down the winding red sandy soil of Coon’s Bottom Road toward the public boat ramp on Old Creek. My online search into the possible whereabouts of Ivory-billed woodpeckers had led me to this area on the west side of the Choctawhatchee River, roughly 5 miles as the woodpecker flies from Ponce de Leon in the Florida panhandle.
[click here to read more of this entry, as originally posted by Kyle Gerstner on February 2, 2007]

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Birding is in the Air

And all it requires is “a willingness to get up early in the morning.” A nice complement of birding articles here:

Robin Hoecker writes about fledgling birders at the University of Missouri (includes slideshow),

Virginia Jealous writes about "twitchers’ hearts in a flutter,"

Keith Corliss discusses the "many approaches to birding,"

Nancy Lofholm writes about Baby, a crane who thinks she’s a dying man’s best friend, and

Mary Jimenez writes that “migration is on” in Louisiana.

"The Birdmen of Big Dog Island"

A story of mutton-bird oil, gunny, and “squabs-in-aspic:”
Each year millions of short-tailed shearwaters, also known as mutton-birds nest on islands around Australia’s south-eastern coastline. Since the early years of European settlement, the chicks have been hunted from their nesting burrows. Trish Ainslie and Roger Garwood visited the few remaining birders on Great Dog Island in Bass Straight to record their rare lifestyle.
Click here to read this interesting account of a dying cultural tradition, courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Notable Achievement

Birds Etcetera has just edged (barely) into Technorati’s top-100,000 rankings for the first time. With Technorati now tracking somewhere between 55 million and 67 million blogs, I believe that’s an accomplishment to be savored, even if it does prove fleeting. This should also place me among the top 10 percent of North American bird bloggers (see here). But the fact that I remain a mere Crunchy Crustracean in The Truth Laid Bear’s blogosphere ecosystem will serve to keep me humble, and hungry, and wary of other critters that might want to eat me (like birds).

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #11

Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

Random Blog of the Day:
Birds and Climate Change – which consists of brief quotes from, and links to, news articles about birds and climate change in the popular press, with little or no commentary from the author, by Frigatebird (online since September 2006)
Random Entry of the Day (excerpt):
Ducks on the Chesapeake

[Bruce] Batt said climate change is throwing the bird world out of whack. Like the canvasbacks, which are wintering farther north, mallards that once spent the cold months in Mississippi and Arkansas are instead spending the season in Missouri and Kansas. The blue-winged teal, which typically rides out the winter in Cuba and South America, has switched locales to Louisiana and Texas.

[To read more of this article, as originally published in the Baltimore Sun on March 19, 2007, and linked to on March 21, 2007, by Frigatebird, click here]
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Monday, March 26, 2007

Birds on Postcards: Hummingbird


I found this modern chrome postcard in a used book store, of all places. It was one of several hundred postcards stuffed in a circular display rack. It features a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird, photographed by Ted and Lois Matthews, sipping from a nectar feeder. It was published by Mike Roberts of Oakland, California, and distributed by Mountain States Specialities, Inc., 7161 Valtec Ct., Boulder, CO 80301. The number B14757 (a unique identifier supplied by the publisher) appears at the top of the spine on the back of the card, and the number 13865 (I have no clue as to what this represents) appears at the top of the stamp block.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #10

Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

Random Blog of the Day:
BirdBreath Blog – “Life from a bird’s point of view,” by Robert (online since August 2006)
Random Entry of the Day:
Happy V-Day!!!

[There’s just no way to replicate Robert’s unique sense of humor. To see the BirdBreath Blogs’s Valentine’s Day cartoon, click here, as originally posted on February 14, 2007, by Robert]
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Online Ornithological Newsletters: Issue #11 (District of Columbia)

The purpose of this weekly series is to provide links to the online newsletters of local, State, Provincial, and national Audubon societies, bird clubs, bird conservation organizations, bird observatories, and ornithological societies of the United States and Canada. Unless otherwise indicated, individual newsletters are in .pdf format. All of the links listed below are in .html format.

District of Columbia (1 newsletter listed below):

Newsletter (newsletter of the Audubon Society of the District of Columbia, Washington) - 19 selected articles are currently available online, as follows: 2002 (12), 2003 (3), 2004 (2), and 2006 (2).

Links to Previous Issues (with number of issues listed):

Alabama (4), Alaska (4), Alberta (6), Arizona (7), Arkansas (2), British Columbia (9), California (33), Colorado (10), Connecticut (17), and Delaware (2).

More than Just Ivory-bills in the Choctawhatchee

Like Tom Nelson, I’ve been reading through Geoffrey E. Hill’s Ivorybill Hunters, an account of his search for, and self-proclaimed discovery of, Ivory-billed Woodpeckers along the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida Panhandle. Hill led a team of students and research scientists from Auburn University and the University of Windsor that scoured the bottomland hardwood forests along the Choctawhatchee in the winter of 2005-2006 for evidence of Ivory-bills. About half-way through the book (p. 113), I happened upon this incredible passage, which relates discussions of team members assembled around the campfire at their main camp (“Beavertown”) on the evening of January 4, 2006:
Brian [Rolek] and Tyler [Hicks] also told us that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers weren’t the only supposedly extinct animal they had seen. A few days before, when they were exploring the small island at the mouth of Bruce Creek, they had seen a cougar, also called a mountain lion, jump a water channel and disappear into the forest. A small population of cougars [known to science as the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi] hangs on by a thread in the Everglades area, but that’s 600 miles away. Cougars wee supposed to have been extirpated from the entire eastern United States except extreme southern Florida. I was amazed that Brian and Tyler had seen a cougar just a few hundred yards from camp.

‘Until we get definitive evidence of ivorybills, let’s just keep that cougar sighting to ourselves,’ I suggested. ‘If we start finding too many extinct animals, we might have trouble getting people to believe us.’
For a perspective on just how unusual a confirmed sighting of a free-ranging wild cougar in the Choctawhatchee would be, refer to the Cougar Network’s map of “confirmed” cougar sightings in the southeastern U.S. Also note that the Cougar Network, unlike the Choctawhatchee team, has established rigorous criteria for gauging the credibility of reported sightings of their subject.

I’m surprised that Hill simply expressed amazement at Rolek and Hicks’s reported sighting of cougar rather than downright incredulity or skepticism. Which seems more plausible, that Roleck and Hicks spotted a cougar/panther, or a bobcat, the latter being a common denizen of swamps along Florida's Gulf Coast. A more objective or introspective supervisor might have had cause to suspect the credibility of his two field assistants at that point. This is simply the most glaring of several examples of apparent naiveness on the part of Hill.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #9

Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

Featured Blog of the Day:
Bur Oak – “A biologist living on the edge of the Canadian Shield, in the shade of a Bur Oak, at the side of a lake, on the cusp of graduating . . .,” by Michael on the edge of the Canadian Shield (online since October 2005)
Featured Entry of the Day (excerpt):
More Urban Waterfowl, Barrow’s Goldeneye

We made a little visit to northern California over the holidays. This pair [Note: original photograph accompanies the article] of Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) was one of the many unanticipated species we stumbled across on an afternoon when Christmas shopping was on the agenda. This attractive pair was in the company of many Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata), all swimming in the man-made Shoreline Lake at Shoreline Park in Mountain View. [click here to read more, as originally posted by Michael on January 17, 2007]
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Climate and Conservation—1st Contribution

I recently submitted my first contribution to the wiki-style Climate and Conservation website, which I wrote about in this post.

Tree Tubes Present Hazard to Birds

The following was originally posted to the MDOsprey listserv by Paul Kilduff:
It’s a good time to warn all bird lovers about tree tubes. These are used to protect saplings from deer. Usually consisting of a plastic tube about 4’ high held up by plastic ties and wooden states, these tubes are attractive nuisances for bluebirds: the male bluebird wants to explore all possible nesting cavities, so he will go into the tube and fall to the bottom and not be able to get out (this kind of thing doesn’t exist in the wild). I have freed quite a few trapped bluebirds from these infernal devices, and have removed even more dead ones.

The tree tube manufacturers sell (or include) woven plastic tops, or “socks,” to go over the tops of the tubes. These will effectively prevent male bluebirds from going into the tubes.

If not, you can use some means to create a small exit slot or hole at the bottom of the tube, such as pulling the stake out of the ground 1.5 inches. I don’t want deer to eat saplings, but even more than that I don’t want any birds, much less native birds already suffering from competition from invasives, to die of starvation or dehydration due to thoughtless human activity.
The good news is that this source of mortality is easily preventable by taken taking the simple precautions mentioned by Paul. Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis had the same thought I did when I first read about this problem: that wrens—which seem to have a proclivity for exploring every little nook and cranny—might also be susceptible to becoming trapped in tree tubes. And what about Tree Swallows?

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #8

Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

Featured Blog of the Day:
Susan Gets Native – “Try sneaking up on a bird while marching through cornflakes and blowing a horn. That’s birding with kids,” by Susan K. Williams in southwest Ohio (online since October 2005).
Featured Entry of the Day (excerpt):

Plans

Our yearly bird trip to Magee Marsh in northern Ohio is something I look forward to all year. As soon as we leave to come home, I am ready to plan for the next time. It’s probably the biggest birding event in Ohio, International Migratory Bird Day, held on the second Saturday of May every year. These are pictures from 2005. [click here to read more, as originally posted on March 13, 2007, by Susan K. Williams]
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Characteristics of North American Bird Blogs: Image Frequency and Types

In a snap-shot examination of the prevalence and of images in North American bird blogs, I examined the contents of the most recent published post in each of 195 North American bird blogs (both active and inactive) for the presence of images. Images were classified as bird or non-bird and as photographs or other scanned images (i.e., paintings, drawings, graphs). All blogs were examined on the evening of March 21, 2007.

Just over one-half (98) of the posts examined from the 195 blogs were illustrated with images of some type. Of the 98 blog-posts with images, 88 were illustrated with photographs (73 with bird photos, 27 with non-bird photos, and 12 with a combination of bird and non-bird photos), 9 with other types of scanned images (6 bird and 3 non-bird), 1 with a bird slideshow, and 1 with a non-bird video. The 98 illustrated blog-posts contained a total of more than 250 images (mean of 2.6/post; median and mode of 1, and range of 1-20).

Other posts in this series:
  • Authorship Type
  • Gender of Authors
  • Geographic Distribution
  • Month and Year Initiated
  • Technorati Ranks
  • In a story, it's the little things that count-a sort of manifesto

    If anything from my experience of the last 15 years or so has made itself clear to me as a story truism, it's that the importance of the smallest details matter.

    It's that the difference between a dull scene or a stock character and one that breathes, that thinks, is in the details. Details spring out and suggest themselves when the story artist believes in a character's reality no matter how superficially unlikely the scenario they're placed in might be.

    There are times when a story artist is given a sequence that's already laid out pretty extensively: the characters must say this or that, do this, that and the other thing, get from here to there. Now, you might think that that would be a boring sort of sequence to work on--not necessarily.

    Of course one wants to be as creative as one can, but in putting a feature film together there's not always an opportunity to start from scratch(and if there always is, the film's probably in trouble). Does that mean there's no room for the story guy to have fun, to make an impression, to enhance or "create" the scene? Far from it. But you'd better believe in the characters you're working with.

    If you do, wonderful things can happen. Some of it might wander off in a direction that will result in the kibosh being put on the sequence in whole or in part--a great big old redo. But sometimes (often enough of you're both lucky and inspired)a sudden, truthful idea will pop up seemingly out of nowhere and work so well it's just got to go in. No one planned for it until it struck--you didn't see it until you were least expecting it, surrounded at your desk by crumpled paper and worn down stubs. Suddenly it's there, and it seems exactly the thing the character should say or do at that moment. If it really is as right as it feels, it'll make it into the film. You'd be surprised how often that happens, in spite of any and all obstacles.

    This to me is the most exciting, rewarding part of my job, but it's not a daily occurance--it couldn't be. Films just don't play with too much going on at every second, all the time. They flow in a narrative dance in any of a million permutations, all with one commonly understood goal: to tell you a story.

    And I should mention that the function of your storyboards is twofold: not only are you designing the action withon the frame, but most importantly you're responsible for setting the mood and emotion of the scene--that's how it's supposed to be, anyway. This really can't be stressed too strongly. The times that a completely flat, emotionless story sequence didn't work in boards but came to life in animation, out of nowhere is exactly zero. Can sequences be plussed by animation? You bet, and they almost always are--hugely. The medium is about moving drawings/characters, after all. But plussing has to start from something. The drawings needn't necessarily be fancy, but they must certainly read, and communicate. The more direct and meaningful the better. Otherwise the animator really is left with nothing to work with.

    We in animation have a big hurdle, a doozy: we have to take a two-dimensional, stylized design of a character and entice the audience into caring about it. I believe the key to doing that is to lend the characters your faith while you board them--to invest them with little parts of your life in the form of those little details.

    All of this comes from you, from your own real personal experience and your unique observation. To have to squeeze the wonky story-peg into a predetermined hole doesn't always work--often these characters take over, just a bit. Or a bit more than a bit. To know when and how to apply your observation and build each character a soul--that's where your day to day story experience hopefully takes you.

    It's why I do this job, why I love it; it's like climbing a mountain that grows as I grow. The mountain is impossibly huge but it can be conquered at the most unpredictable times, if you keep your imagination open and remember to find truth and realness in the little details of life.

    Spring Shock

    As a native Michigander transplanted to West Virginia (where now a 20-year resident) by way of Scotland and Alaska, I’ve just never quite gotten used to the shock of spring migration in the Mid-Atlantic region. I’m not talking about the unexpected joy of seeing old, familiar birds newly arrived from their winter quarters, but the shock of suddenly going from winter weather to summer weather seemingly overnight. Spring, and the cool, damp weather that I came to associate with it from years spent living in more northern latitudes, can be amazingly abrupt here. I’ve just never gotten used to chasing spring migrants in 70 and 80 degree temperatures and equally high humidity. It just doesn't feel right.

    Blogroll Analysis

    Sarah at Validation has been comparing and contrasting the blogrolls of 60 American (I’m one of her “respondents”) and 60 British bloggers and has posting posted some interesting preliminary data here.

    Among her early findings:
  • U.S. females are more likely than men to have 10 or fewer blogs in their blogrolls
  • females are more likely to link to female bloggers and males to male bloggers
  • longer blogrolls are often associated with a particular interest or hobby (such as birding)
  • U.S. bloggers seem less willing than U.K. bloggers to link to foreign blogs
  • I wonder how closely bird bloggers track these early trends?

    Random Gleanings from the Birdsphere #7

    Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

    Featured Blog of the Day:
    Carolina IvoryBills – “One girl’s attempt to do the impossible: Document the existence of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker in the Carolinas,” by Christen in North Carolina (online since March 2006) [this blog is inactive—the last entry having been posted on September 21, 2006—and shows no signs of being revived any time soon]
    Featured Entry of the Day (excerpt):
    Double knock

    Wed the 5th I was back on Cypress Creek. I’m slowly making my way down the creek toward the NE Cape Fear. No one has been on this creek since the last hurricane at least. Treefalls are every 100 yards or so. Some are quick and easy, some not so much. [click here to read more, as originally posted on April 6, 2006, by Christen]
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    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Tips on Animation, part 2








    Courtesy of Dan Jenkins genrosity, here's the rest of the booklet "Tips on Animation". It's actually a very sober, accurate, solidly composed basic animation guide--again, I wish it had been available when I was growing up. There's no "talking down" here, even though the target audience is one of kids. And who can't love the offer to (for an unspecified fee) actually shoot the juior animators' tests, and return them?

    Eagles of West Virginia

    The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources recently published a brochure on the Eagles of West Virginia (.pdf) that highlights differences between Bald and Golden eagles.

    Bald Eagles:

    On what may be the only excursion train in the country named for an eagle, the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad offers tourists a 3-hour narrated excursion through the tranquil and picturesque South Branch Valley of the Potomac River. Bald Eagles are sighted on more than 90 percent of the excursions. The train runs on weekends from May through erly November, departing from Romney, West Virginia.

    Golden Eagles:

    Researchers at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh have announced a project in which are tracking the movements of two Golden Eagles trapped and tagged near Central City in south-central Pennsylvania. It’s fascinating to view the different migration routes and wintering movements of the two eagles as they moved through and about West Virginia this winter (see birds #39 and #40).

    Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #6

    Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

    Featured Blog of the Day:
    Urban Hawks – “and other wildlife in Central Park and NYC,” by D. Bruce Yolton in New York City, New York (online since January 2006) [A photoblog]
    Featured Entry of the Day (excerpt):
    Sunday on Fifth Avenue

    When I arrived on Sunday, Lola [mate of Palemale] was settled down on the nest. Three Turkey Vultures went by flying down 5th avenue. [click here to read more, as originally posted on March 18, 2007 by D. Bruce Yolton]
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    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Disney's Tips on Animation, part 1



    the Disney Animation Kit--an Ebay item I unfortunately didn't win about a month ago: this example shows what a swell item it really was for kids wanting to try their hand at the art of animation. The question is--why didn't Disney keep this sort of thing available for the next 30 years? I would have killed for one myself, but by the time I was old enough to read they were long gone.

    Dan Jenkins, a reader of the Diaries and a serious collector of cool Disney items, has offered to share scans of the rest of the series of booklets that were sold both in the Disneyland's Art Corner in the early 1960s and as part of an incredibly cool "animation kit" that from the looks of this wasn't half bad. Herewith is the first of a series of posts of these fun "How to" books, "Tips On Animation"--and thanks, Dan!











    Remember to click the images to open them in a larger window. More to follow.

    Criticism and Skepticism in Science

    In a brief note on Collinson’s analysis of the blurry Luneau video, which is the primary evidence supporting “rediscovery” of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis notes that “criticism of published papers . . . and skepticism is an accepted and necessary part of the scientific process.”

    She further states:
    In general, I think it is a sign of integrity and upstanding character for a person to admit they are wrong about something. Nobody at Cornell even seems willing to admit they might be wrong. I'm saddened that I've lost some respect for them in that regard.
    Bootstrap Analysis was named last year as one of the journal Nature's 50 Popular Science Blogs, so I take her opinions seriously.

    Ecological Speciation in Crossbills

    This paper, published in The American Naturalist by Julie Smith and Craig Benkman, is most intriguing. Unfortunately, it has a somewhat misleading title that has led others to trumpet it as discovery of a “new bird species in Idaho” (see here, here, and here).

    The authors emphasize ecological speciation in a population of Red Crossbills in the South Hills of Idaho based on coevolution with lodgepine pine and reproductive isolation from two other crossbill populations that frequent the region. While this population may indeed be evolving away from parental-type Red Crossbills, but the authors fall short of formally describing it as a new species taxonomically distinct from the Red Crossbill; neither do they designate it as a new subspecies.

    Random Gleanings from the Birdosphere #5

    Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

    Today’s Featured Blog:
    BRDPICS – “Bill Schmoker’s birding blog,” by Bill Schmoker in Longmont, Colorado (online since November 2006)
    Today’s Featured Entry (Excerpt):
    Birds in the Funnies – Eye Yi Yiiiii!
    Funniest Pearls in a while – and bird-themed, to boot! [click here to read more, as originally posted on March 11, 2007]
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    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Living on the Edge

    Yesterday, I stumbled upon a feeding flock of upwards of 50 Tree Swallows swirling and darting, wheeling and dipping above the swift-flowing waters of the Potomac River at the boat ramp in Williamsport, Maryland. I had to wonder what kinds of flying insects these birds were able to find. At the time these birds were sighted, the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees and a stiff breeze was blowing. But that morning, and the two previous mornings, temperatures dropped to well below freezing, and five inches of snow had been dropped on the area on Friday. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of flying insects these birds were able to find. I find it amazing that these insectivorous aerial gleaners are always among the earliest of spring arrivals, showing up in parts of southern West Virginia as early as late February.

    Also, in a gravelly area adjacent to the boat ramp that had been cleared of snow, I noted at least 20 American Pipits searching the bare ground for food.

    Random Gleanings from the Birdosphere #4

    Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

    Today’s Featured Blog:
    Falconstars – a photoblog “for fans of the Kodak falcons,” by Barbara in Rochester, New York (since July 2006) [The last post to the main blog was in October 2006, but activity may resume as the new nesting season approaches.]
    Today's Featured Entry:
    Juvies 2006
    Click here for a photo of three fledgling Peregrine Falcons: Aura, Sabrina, and Rhea Mae. [as originally posted on August 8, 2006]
    Addendum: Barbara notes that this blog was resurrected on 3/22/07 in preparation for the upcoming nesting season and encourages curious readers to stop by for a visit.

    << Previous . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Next >>

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Online Ornithological Newsletters: Issue #10 (Delaware)

    The purpose of this weekly series is to provide links to the online newsletters of local, State, Provincial, and national Audubon societies, bird clubs, bird conservation organizations, bird observatories, and ornithological societies of the United States and Canada. Unless otherwise indicated, individual newsletters are in .pdf format. All of the links listed below are in .html format.

    Delaware (2 newsletters listed below):

    Delaware Audubon Journal (newsletter of the Delaware Audubon Society, Wilmington) - Issued 6 times/year. 25 issues currently available online; earliest: January-February 2002 (Volume 24, Number 3).

    The Flyer (newsletter of the Delmarva Ornithological Society, Greenville) - Issued 10 times/year (September-June). 30 issues currently available online: earliest: September 2005 (Volume 37, Number 1). The mast-head features a black-and-white drawing of a Black-necked Stilt in profile.

    Links to Previous Issues (with number of issues listed):

    Alabama (4), Alaska (4), Alberta (6), Arizona (7), Arkansas (2), British Columbia (9), California (33), Colorado (10), and Connecticut (17).

    I Just Saw the Lord God Bird!

    Relax, don't get excited, and catch your breath. No, I’m not claiming to have seen a real-live Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but I did see one in a movie!

    To assuage my strange obsession with this bird, I made the 167-mile round trip from the hills and hollers of Appalachia to the affluence of down-town Silver Spring, Maryland, last evening to see George Butler’s documentary film, The Lord God Bird (A Film in Progress), which was shown as part of the 15th annual DC Environmental Film Fest (EFF).

    In stressing that this is “a film in progress” I think Butler is holding out hope that he will soon be able to end the documentary on a positive note (i.e., with a definitive photograph or video clip of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker from this century). He remarked that another 50 minutes will be added to film before it is released in the fall.

    In its current rendition, the film ends with two text slides (and I paraphrase here):
    Skepticism about the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker still persists

    But so does faith . . .
    First Impressions: I was very impressed with the quality of the film, but won’t go into detail so as to not spoil it for those who have not yet seen it. I thought John Dennis Jr. did an admirable job of defending his oft-maligned father; Gene Sparling comes across as honest, sincere, and very likeable; and Nancy Tanner is utterly charming, entertaining, and knowledgeable.

    Characters Who Appear in the Film: Arkansas duck-hunting guide (whose name I forget), Lucas Behnke, Russell Chariff, John Dennis Jr., John Fitzpatrick, Tim Gallagher, Bobby Harrison, Jamie Hill, Martjan Lammertink, Gale Norton, Richard Prum, Scott Simon, Gene Sparling, Nancy Tanner, Dennis Widner. My apologies to anyone I might have forgotten (and I’m quite sure there are a few).

    Characters Absent From the Film: Jon Andrew, Geoff Hill, Jerry Jackson, David Luneau, David Mennill, Tom Nelson, Van Remsen, Ron Rohrbaugh, Ken Rosenberg, Mary Scott, David Sibley.

    Poignant Moment of the Film: Bobby Harrison becoming very emotional and almost crying in the middle of describing his first encounter with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (in the company of Tim Gallagher).

    Light-Hearted Moment of the Film: In describing her courtship with husband-to-be James Tanner, Nancy Tanner says, “I just chased Jim until he finally caught me.”

    Skeptical Moment of the Film: In expressing her personal skepticism about John Dennis’s sighting in the Big Thicket of Texas in the 1960s (which James Tanner investigated without being able to obtain confirmatory evidence) Nancy Tanner remarks, “You can see what you want to see, you know what I mean?”

    Crass Political Moment of the Film (and one I could have done without): A brief clip of Gale Norton, former Secretary of the Interior, making her remarks at the April 2005 “rediscovery” announcement.

    Gratuitous Vulgar Moment of the Film: At one point, Fitzpatrick is show talking to team members who are off camera. He relates listening to tapes of putative double-knock calls from the White River in which an on-site investigator can be heard whispering in the background, “Where the f..k is that bird?” I don’t know if that scene was staged or real, but it was apparently inserted to illustrated the frustration experienced by the Cornell team. I viewed it as gratuitous and inappropriate vulgarity, considering that this film will be viewed by young children all across the country (in fact, there were a few in the audience last night), but it did draw a chuckle from the crowd.

    Oops! Moment of the Evening: In introducing director George Butler, John Fitzpatrick remarked about how grateful he was that a filmmaker of his caliber had approached Cornell about making a movie on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. In his introductory remarks, Butler pointedly contradicted Fitzpatrick. Saying that Fitzpatrick’s story “wasn’t quite the way it happened,” he countered that it was, in fact, Fitzpatrick and Cornell (and probably The Nature Conservancy) who had approached him about doing the documentary.

    Jaw-Dropping Remark of the Evening #1: In a question-and-answer session after the movie, James Tate Jr., currently former (now retired) the Science Advisor to the Secretary of the Inerior and a former Assistant Director at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, pointed out that the archival film footage of Cornell’s 1935 expedition to the Singer Tract that makes up a central part of the Lord God Bird documentary exists today only because it had, at one point in time, been rescued from the trash bin into which it had once been thrown at Cornell.

    Jaw-Dropping Remark of the Evening #2: Responding to a question from the audience, George Butler hinted that there might be 25 nesting pairs of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers along the Choctawhatchee River in Florida.

    Clueless Remark of the Evening: While standing in a crowd of peopled that gathered in the lobby of the theater waiting for an earlier movie to let out, I overheard a woman remark to her husband as the couple thumbed through a program for the EFF, “Oh, it IS a woodpecker.”

    Wayne Bailey—Turkey Biologist

    Anyone who has hunted turkeys in West Virginia (plus many who have not), probably know Wayne Bailey, if only by reputation. Bailey, who began a long career as a turkey biologist with the West Virginia Conservation Commission (now Department of Natural Resources) in the 1950’s, died last week at age 88.

    In his tribute to Bailey, staff writer John McCoy of the Charleston Sunday-Gazette Mail, tells this story:
    Bailey, always an animated speaker and storyteller, stole the show [at a gathering of retired turkey biologists] when he told a former Virginia biologist his secret for trapping turkeys on Middle Mountain, which straddles the Virginia-West Virginia border in Pocahontas County.

    “I’d set the traps on top of the mountain in West Virginia, but I’d run the bait lines down the hollows on the Virginia side,” he said with a chuckle. “So a lot of the turkeys transplanted into West Virginia were actually Virginia’s birds.”
    Bailey’s legacy is a bountiful population of Wild Turkeys in West Virginia and a lengthy list of management and research publications authored during a lifetime of devotion to the bird.

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Vorkapich-pure genius, never dated



    Slavko Vorkapich was a genius of film, little known today although he personally contributed to incredible sequences in many Hollywood films of the 1930s. The first I ever saw was a hallucinogenic dream sequence he designed for the Claude Rains film "Crime Without Passion" which has to be seen to be believed; if my memory's correct, it probably helped inspire some of the more bizarre imagery in Fantasia's Bald Mountain sequence. Vorkapich was practically unique in his freelancing just montages for so many large scale films for different studios-which gives an indication that the studio bosses knew greatness when they saw it.

    The clip here is of course of Vorkapich's visualization of the Great 1906 earthquake in MGM's "San Francisco", directed in all but this montage by W.S, Van Dyke("The Thin Man", among many others). The rest of the film is fairly straightforward romantic drama with Clark Gable at his staccato angriest, tempted as he is to decency by lovely Jeanette MacDonald. Spencer Tracy plays his usual tough Irish priest, friend to both the leads. But all the melodramatic twists of the plot pale next to this incredible, impressionistic, utterly jaw-dropping piece of cinema that represents a staggering disaster--made in 1936.

    See how the tension in the conventional plot builds with Gable's public embarrassment of Jeanette, and how a few disturbing quick cuts to the audience members create a sense of unease and disturbance(probably Van Dyke's)...then as Jeanette walks through the crowd the familiar rumble of the earthquake starts, resulting in the actress stopping abruptly and turning back with a muffled, panicked "What's that?"--so clipped it almost sounds like an ad lib(it surely wasn't). Then here we go...

    There's no music. The shots are seemingly erratic: the ceiling, the slivers of plaster, the glasses, the roar of the earthquake, the screaming starting...the sound building to the wheel falling--and then a second or two of pure silence.

    It's still got every bit of its impact today. The only pity is that this is humble YouTube quality, and doesn't do it full justice. But what a lesson in editing for impact. I think we have a lot to learn from this.

    There's one little historic inaccuracy: the actual earthquake struck at 5:15 am, not many hour earlier as the film's plot indicates, but that's a small caveat. Everything else shown is based on a reality that was--hard to imagine--only thirty years in the past at the time this was made.

    Stealth Bird Watching


    Finally, a PC simulation game for birders! I’m assuming there must have been a market for this sort of thing. Sounds like just the ticket for those occasions when (a) you are bedridden, (b) the weather is just too fowl to go out and watch real birds, or (c) you want to trick your non-birding children, family members, friends, or neighbors into getting hooked on the sport.

    Birds of North America—the PC simulation game—comes to you from Indigo Games, a developer of computer games and game technologies. As you master the game, you progress through six skill levels, from Weekend Birder to Master Birder, with badges awarded for each species that you correctly identify.

    The Hook: the ultimate goal of this game is to Re-discover the Ivory-billed Woodpecker:
    Will you be the one to re-discover the elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and be the first person to post conclusive virtual photographic evidence of your find?

    Much excitement surrounds the controversial re-discovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Whether you believe that it is no longer extinct, or not, go Birding to re-discover this most elusive of species in the game.

    If you've spotted enough birds you will unlock the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and have the chance to track it down in it's native habitat, and capture it on camera.
    A full list of the games features can be found here.

    Credit: I first learned of this game at Game Set Watch, who provides additional interesting commentary here. The image is taken from the same source.

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Random Gleanings from the Birdosphere #3

    Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

    Today’s Featured Blog:
    Ravens in Hollywood – the title says it all (since August 2005)
    Today’s Featured Entry (entire):

    Ravens Working Trees

    Nesting season is officially underway, and I had the good luck to catch not one but two pair of ravens hard at work over the last weekend - in two different cities, too. The first pair are evidently undaunted by the heavy traffic of motor coaches driving to and from the newly re-opened Griffith Park Observatory, and have chosen to take up residence (or to return to) one of the park’s busiest intersections, no more than a half mile from the observatory. The other pair live in Redlands, California and have also chosen a tall deodar pine near a busy intersection in a very upscale residential district. [as originally posted here on March 1, 2007]
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    Spring Blizzard

    Two days ago the temperature in the Eastern Panhandle was in the mid-70s and people were walking down the street in t-shirts, shorts, and thongs (the kind you wear on your feet). Today, I woke to temperatures hovering near freezing and a pouring rain which soon turned to sleet, then heavy, wet, snow, and blizzard conditions prevailed for the remainder of the day, leaving the ground blanketed in about 5 inches of the white stuff. As I left my place of work this afternoon, I spotted a newly-arrived American Robin as it flitted away from me through large snowflakes and across snow-covered ground. Winter has returned to the area, however briefly!

    How Birding is Like Quantum Physics

    This gem was posted here by Jerry Blin:
    The act of identifying a bird often changes its identify.

    The act of locating a bird changes its position – in fact, maybe it was never there after all.

    It may no longer be a bird – it may now be something else. Then, again, maybe it never was a bird.

    The Red-footed Falcon of yesterday can be something entirely different today – in fact, it can become something entirely different yesterday, too.
    And some people think birding is easy!

    Laura Erickson Tells All

    Laura Erickson, long the sole voice of BirderBlog.com (one of the highest-ranked blogs at FatBirder’s Top 500 Birding Websites) explains in great detail the sordid events that led her to resign [the stricken link was removed from her blog by Larua Erickson] resigned from her job as the “Staff Ornithologist” at Binoculars.com. Laura is definitely a woman of integrity and strong principles. I urge everyone to follow her continuing birding adventures at Laura’s Birding Blog.

    Climate and Conservation

    Climate and Conservation.org is a new (still-in-development), wiki-style website that has been set up “as a portal, a point of entry, to organize, summarize, and distribute the existing information on Global Climate Change [GCC] and Global Warming, for use by biodiversity conservationists” and others.

    As a wiki document,
    [registered] users may contribute and edit the articles on the website. This is a way in which in which the knowledge base about Global Warming and Global Climate Change and their effects on avian conservation can be expanded and increased, rapidly and comprehensively.

    Please feel free (and encouraged) to contribute articles and information to enrich the website. I’m especially hoping to get articles about birds and how they have been and will be affected by GCC. If you know of an article or report (it doesn’t have to be published), please add it to website. It can be an article you wrote yourself as well—you can blow your own horn.
    Climate and Conservation.org is the brainchild of David A. Wiedenfeld, an American ornithologist with considerable field experience in the neotropics.

    Random Gleanings from the Birdosphere #2

    Introduction: A daily (or as often as I can find time to compile it) feature that highlights recent entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll; also see here.

    Today’s Featured Blog:
    Field Notes – the author “is an avid birder and the owner of the Wild Bird Center in Yarmouth. Check in frequently for information about birding in Maine and more,” by Derek Lovitch (since August 2005)
    Today's Featured Entry (excerpt):
    Portland Birding and Business

    My first stop this morning was Winslow Park. Low tide concentrates waterfowl near the tip of the park, and this is usually when I tally my highest counts of Barrow’s Goldeneyes for any particular week. Since I last visited the park at high tide on Tuesday, and only saw 5 individuals, I hoped to “up” my week’s high count today. (click here to read more, as originally published on February 27, 2007)
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    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Backyard Vagrant

    As I walked to the car this morning in the damp, cloud-draped pre-dawn at about 6:40 AM, I was surprised to hear the plaintive call of the Eastern Phoebe coming from our neighbor’s yard across the street. In 20 years at this address, this is my first encounter with a phoebe in our urban backyard. The cold front that passed through last evening, bringing a thunderstorm and steady rain starting at about 11:00 PM, apparently caused a small fallout of early spring migrants.

    Random Gleanings from the Birdosphere #1

    Introduction: If blogs inhabit the blogosphere, then it can be said that bird blogs inhabit the birdosphere. This daily (or as often as can find time to compile it) feature will highlight entries from North American bird blogs listed in my blogroll. To ensure that each blog has an equal opportunity to be featured, the blog of the day is chosen by randomly selecting a number (using an online random number generator) 1 to 200, each blog having been pre-assigned a unique number within that range. Once the featured blog of the day is selected, the featured entry is chosen by randomly selecting a number from 1 to 10 (corresponding to the 1st through 10th most-recent blog entry).

    Today’s Featured Blog:
    Birding Watching in South Florida – “I moved to South Florida in 2001 from Ithaca, NY, and found that I had to adjust my bird watching habits a bit down here. Live and learn. Enjoy my stories,” by Vonnie in South Florida (since February 2005)
    Today’s Featured Entry:
    The Eagles have landed!

    "This morning I decided to surf the Audubon website and I came across this cool webcam monitoring an Eagle’s nest in Port St. Lucie. Click here and check out our state’s Eagles at close range. Enjoy!" (as originally posted here on January 27, 2007)

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Still More North American Bird Blogs—An Update

    In May 2006, I was aware of 90 known North American bird blogs. The number of such blogs had increased to 122 by November 2006, and to 138 by December 2006.

    Since my last update, I have added 63 blogs (including the 42 listed below that have been added since the first of the year) and deleted 6 blogs that are no longer available. As a result, my blogroll currently lists 179 known North American bird blogs; including 30 that, while still available, are considered "inactive" (i.e., no entries posted in the last 90 days).

    To be included on this list, sites must meet the following criteria: (1) the subject matter is primarily or consistently about birds, birding, or birders; (2) the authors are physically located in North America, or write about birds, birding, or birders on that continent; (3) it was active in the past year (i.e., at least one entry); and (4) it is structured in the format of a blog (i.e., dated entries in reverse chronological order).

    There are many wonderful bird blogs out there, folks. As great as they are, you are definitely doing yourself a disservice if you limit yourself to reading the the "13 best" North American blogs mentioned here. I urge you to go out and explore some of the new (and not so new) blogs that I have listed below; they offer a great variety of incredible photographs, wonderful writing, and as many points of view about birds, birders, and birding as there are blogs on those topics.

    NEW BLOGS (42):
    2 Birders to Go – “This is a journal of our birding/photography trips,” by Bob and Cynthia Kaufman in South Pasadena, California (August 2006)

    Antshrike’s Birding Page – “Bird diary of South Texas and beyond” (November 2004)

    Audubon’s Daughter – A collection of stories previously published elsewhere by the author, Jonathan Perez (February 2007)

    Avian Tendencies – Adventures of Michigan birder Caleb Putnam (January 2007)

    Beginning to bird - “For people who are new to bird-watching, and those who want to learn about people who are new to bird-watching,” by dguzman in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania (June 2006)

    Bell Tower Birding – “Birding adventures in the heart of Ann Arbor,” by Jochen in Ann Arbor, Michigan (November 2006)

    Betsy’s Bird Journal – “Just a beginning birder’s journal,” by Betsy True in Alexandria, Virginia (February 2005)

    Bird Advocates – “We are advocates for the preservation and enjoyment of our native wildlife. It has been proven our wildlife is especially vulnerable to the millions of feral and roaming cats because they evolved separately. A reality based forum.” (December 2006)

    Bird Couple – Love … birds – by Warren & Lisa Strobel, the BirdingCouple, on the Chesapeake Bay (November 2006)

    bird QUIZ – “Take the challenge," by mon@rch (January 2007)

    Birdfreak Birding Blog – “Building a conservation community, one birder at a time,” by Birdfreak.com (December 2006)

    Birding on Broadmeade – “Supplementing my neighborhood birding column,” by Mikael Behrens in Austin, Texas (February 2007)

    Birding Sonoma County – “Identifying and studying birds in Sonoma County, CA, and neighboring regions,” by 2 Bright Birders (December 2006)

    Birdspotting – “Birding around southern Vancouver Island for the most part, but really I’ll write about wherever the wind takes me . . . I’m skinny, but I don’t literally mean the wind takes me places!” by Jeremy Gatten in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia (December 2006)

    Born Again Bird Watcher – “Sharing the joys, discoveries, quandaries, and other psychological phenomena arising from encountering anew as an amateur something I have done professionally for years,” by John Riutta in Scappoose, Oregon (February 2007)

    Bur Oak – “A biologist living on the edge of the Canadian Shield, in the shade of a Bur Oak, at the side of a lake, on the cusp of graduating…,” by Michael (October 2005)

    Chickadees, Juncos, and Jays Oh My! – “Backyard bird watching in northern California” (February 2007)

    Citizen Science Projects—Ornithology – “In this weblog, I’ll try to point to interesting projects and bits of news related to the work being done by citizen scientists—and the organizations that support them,” by Terrie (September 2004)

    Duncraft’s Wild Bird Blog – “for nature enthusiasts,” from Duncraft.com. (November 2006)

    East Bay Birders – *Photos and observations of the birds and other animals that frequent Olympia, WA’s East Bay, by Rupert Grove in Olympia, Washington (August 2006)

    Feathered Ghosts – “Notes from the swamp (ramblings about my participation in the search for Ivory-billed Woodpecker),” by Mark VanderVen in Bellingham, Washington, and De Funiak Springs, Florida (January 2007)

    Florida Big Year – A journal of one man’s big year quest, by Andy Bankert in Brevard County, Florida (January 2007)

    Geobirding – “The infusion of birding & geography,” from the Birdfreak Team (January 2007)

    It’s a bird thing – Musings by “a passionate birder from Albuquerque,” New Mexico (January 2007)

    Ivar’s Birds – “This blog describes the portion of my life devoted to birds and photography,” by Ivar Krafts in Circle Pines, Minnesota (March 2007)

    Ivory-billed Septic – Humor and sarcasm, by an acrid birder (February 2007)

    Midwest Birder - "This blog will periodically chronicle the findings and travels of this birder who spends the majority of his hear in Michigan now, but who grew up in SE Wisconsin and still spends at least a month of the year there," by Sean Fitzgerald in Grand Rapids, Michigan (November 2005)

    Mobile Search Team Travel Log—IBWO – Periodic updates on activities and findings of the Cornell Lab or Ornithology’s mobile Ivory-billed Woodpecker search team, winter 2006-2007 (December 2006)

    Natural History Artworks – “A blog on natural history art—especially birds,” by Benjamin M. Clock (November 2006)

    News from the 2007 Search—IBWO – Periodic updates on activities and findings of David Mennill’s Ivory-billed Woodpecker search team from the University of Windsor (January 2007)

    Recent Bird Reports from Quebec – “Rare and interesting bird sightings from Quebec made available to birders by Bird Protection Quebec” (January 2006)

    Remembering New Jersey – “A doctor-birder remembers New Jersey and other scenic landfills,” by Ken Schneider (September 2006)

    Search and Serendipity – “A birder’s blog,” by David J. Ringer in Dallas, Texas (December 2004)

    The bird nerd’s avian adventures – “In the Napa Valley,” by Lisa Kohler (September 2006)

    The Brownstone Birding Blog – “Bits and pieces of information from a novice birder living in Portland, Connecticut, ‘home of the brownstone quarries,’” by Larry in Portland, Connecticut(December 2006)

    The Egret’s Nest – “My thoughts about my life, my family, my world from my own nest in the redwoods,” by Liza Lee Miller in Boulder Creek, California (July 2006)

    The Leica Birding Blog – “sponsored by Leica Sport Optics, USA, and hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest,” by Jeff Bouton in Florida (January 2007)

    The Nemesis Bird – by Drew Weber in Pennsylvania (December 2006)

    The QUBS Review – “Scientific findings based on flora and fauna at the Queen’s University Biological Station,” by Katie Langin in Kingston, Ontario (September 2006)

    Updates from Florida—IBWO – Periodic updates on Auburn University’s Ivory-billed Woodpecker search team, by Geoff Hill in Auburn, Alabama (November 2006)

    Vagrant – “Ruminations on birding,” by Tom Auer (January 2007)

    Whooper Happenings – “What’s happening in the world of the endangered Whooping Crane” (January 2006)

    INACTIVE (30):
    A View from the north
    Bird Notes from West Houston
    Bird Traveling
    Bird Watching for Birders
    Bird Watching: How to Study Birds
    Birders on the Border
    Birds of Plymouth gardens
    Birdtography
    BirdWatching
    Brinkley Birding
    Carolina Ivorybills
    Chicago Bird Watching
    East Bay Birders
    Falconstars
    Fluidfive Birding
    For Elect Eyes Only
    Hamilton Birding
    Home Bird Days
    Home Bird Notes
    Home Conservation
    Migrateblog
    Ornitholature
    Ornithology
    Stercus
    The Chronicles
    The Incorrible Birder
    The Blover Warden Diaries
    The Rookie Birder
    Veracruz Hawkwatch
    Windy City Birder
    DELETED/No Longer Available (6):
    Birding Mania News
    Daniell’s Den – Birding & Nature
    Nick K’s Weblog
    RaddBlog
    Vermont Bird Tours
    WPBO

    Working on it


    from my sketchblog. I've got to put something visual up, for pete's sake.

    Simply because I myself get antsy when a blog doesn't update I thought I'd enter a little placeholder of a post to say that I'm currently in the process of writing a couple of things. There's a lot going on at work--even more than usual-- and a full plate outside of work, precluding much writing time. In the meanwhile I'm really enjoying zipping around having a good look at what everyone else is updating. There's an unbelievable amount of great stuff going up lately--especially personal artwork. If you haven't clicked through the links here lately, I urge you to do so--it's a long list but every one is a treat.

    I did recently pull out my old facsimile copy of "The Mousetrap", a privately published...well, it's a kind of zine of the 1940s(very early 40s, I think--I believe the date is in the book). Contributors to this onetime magazine/book included Ward Kimball and Fred Moore--Moore's drawings from this publication(there are several pages of them) have been reproduced many places at various times, but as these copies are so good-looking I thought I'd scan them for inclusion here.
    So that's one thing.

    I've also been promised scans of the other "How To Draw" books that Disneyland sold in the 1950s: Chip and Dale, Mickey, and Donald among them. I'll be sure to put those up as soon as I received them--it's a lot of work for the owner to do, and he's been very generous to offer to share them here.

    More soon, then. Happy midweek, everyone.

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Low-Tech Birding in High-Tech Times

    A recent intriguing article on high-tech birding that was originally published in the Wall Street Journal (of all places) has peaked my interest.

    With 45 million Americans willing to shell out $6 billion annually (according to figures from 2001) on bird-related items, it’s not too surprising that the financial wizards on Wall Street would be trying to convince middle- and upper-class Americans that they need the latest technological gadgets to optimize their birding experiences.

    At the risk of exposing myself as a total Luddite, this is my public confession that I am a very, very low-tech birder. When I go in search of birds, I like to travel light. I take with me a pair of binoculars, a field guide or two, pen or pencil, and a notebook (the paper kind). I’ve also been known to use printed checklists occasionally, and printed maps if I’m in unfamiliar territory.

    I do not use any of the following technologies for birding, nor do I have an interest in running out and buying any of these electronic marvels anytime soon:
  • birdjam
  • Blackberry devices
  • CD players
  • cell phones
  • digiscoping gear
  • digital audio players
  • digital cameras
  • electronic bird finders
  • GPS units
  • Handheld Birds
  • iPods
  • laptop or notebook computers
  • laser pointers
  • listing software
  • MP3 players (.pdf)
  • Palm devices
  • parabolic microphones
  • PDAs
  • phonescoping gear
  • recreational vechicles
  • tape recorders
  • video cameras
  • This topic has also been discussed at 10,000 birds, Birdchick Blog, CrunchGear, Eureka Nature, and Sportsmans Blog, among others.

    More Ivorybill Memorabilia

    If you are a collector of Ivory-billed Woodpecker memorabilia, here's another one to add to your collection: The Ivorybill Hotel, a novel by Anne Butler. I don't know how prominent a role Ivorybills actually play in the novel, but the cover photo can't be beat.


    This blurb is from the author's home page:
    Like life seen through the romantic distortions of wavy handblown glass windowpanes, this story is a blurring of fact and fiction. But then so is all of life in the South, where the only thing certain is that real fact is a lot stranger and more interesting than fiction. The late Dr. Carmichael's friends really did forget exactly where they buried him after celebrating his life drinking all the fine wine in his underground cellar, which led to all sorts of complications. As for the rest of the characters, they're as unreal as the last Ivorybill Woodpecker. Which may not be all that unreal at all. This little book has no delusions of grandeur, no intellectual pretensions, but it sure does have a good sense of timing, coming out the very day announcements proclaimed the first verified sighting of a real live Ivorybill in more than half a century.

    Thursday, March 8, 2007

    Calarts au courant: Lorelay Bove and Leo Matsuda

    My friend Dave was waxing proudly on his class at Calarts.
    He teaches story to second years, frequently asking friends and colleagues to come to Valencia to speak and offer the students some feedback.

    Last night the guests were Shannon Tindle and Shane Prigmore, two artists Dreamworks is fortunate to have. Definitely visit their respective blogs.

    And speaking of blogs, Dave introduced me to two current Calarts students you should know:


    Spain's Lorelay Bove


    And from Brazil, Leo Matsuda.

    Both of these young artists have blogs filled with juicy eye candy. It's wonderful to think that they're at the very start of their careers. Heaven only knows who else is out there that we generally don't know about or stumble across in the blogosphere--that's what makes it especially fun to see the work of brand new talent. Great stuff, guys.