Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #42

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 Bird Blog:
John C. Robinson’s Birding Blog – by John C. Robinson (online since February 2005) [Note: This blog has been inactive since December 19, 2006]
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Preparing for the Fall Warbler Migration

One of the many things I enjoyed about working in northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin during the summer time was getting to see all the pretty warblers in bright plumage on the breeding grounds. The birds arrived in May, bred throughout June, and began to disperse in July to prepare for the migration southward. One could hear birds singing throughout May and June, but singing became less pronounced in July and by August, immature birds could be found moving about the breeding grounds.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by John C. Robinson on August 19, 2006]
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What’s a Beccafico?

Ever heard of a beccafico? No? And you have the audacity to call yourself a birder? Well, I hadn’t either, but according to the judges of the National Spelling Bee it’s a kind of bird.

I found this definition at Tiscali’s Dictionary of Difficult Words:
n. European songbird, considered a table delicacy, especially in Italy.
The result from Answers.com was more specific:
A small songbird or warbler of various genera, especially the European garden warbler (Sylvia hortensis), that is eaten as a delicacy in Italy and France.
And now you know.

Extinction Versus Extirpation

Extinction is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the English language. In the context of conservation biology and ecology, extinction literally means the death of a species throughout its range (and I supposed that it could also be correctly used to describe the loss of a subspecies). Extirpation is properly the loss of a local or regional population, with the species continuing to survive elsewhere. I continually see the words extinct or extinction used when what the writer really meant was extirpated or extirpation.

An easy way to remember the distinction between extinction and extirpation:
Extinction is forever.

Extirpation can be reversed.
An example of the misuse of extinct is found in this article about the successful reintroduction of the Golden Eagle to Donegal, Ireland, where it is said to have been “extinct” since 1922. In actuality, the Irish population was extirpated. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagle remained extant and healthy in most of the remainder of its natural range.

Wikipedia does nothing to ameliorate this confusion by referring to extirpation as “local extinction.” It just makes me want to scream!!

My "Power Bird"

I don't usually get lured into taking those silly online quizzes, but this one caught my attention, so I filled it out. And the result is appropriate for someone living in one of the seven States for which the Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) has been designated the State Bird. I wonder what other species are possible?

Your Power Bird is a Cardinal

You believe that each day is precious, and you spend your times as best as you can.
You see the wonder in small things, and you are often content with what you have.
You life an interesting, colorful life - and you bring color to those around you.
Confident and expressive, you believe you know how to live a good life. You're living it!

I And The Bird: Fiftieth Anniversay Issue

The I And The Bird blog carnival celebrates a milestone with publication of the 50th edition here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lord God Birds in the Scientific Literature

In recent years, Lord God Bird (and, alternatively, Good God Bird) has come to be recognized in popular culture as an accepted colloquial name for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis). Curious as to whether there is a historical basis for this close association, I queried SORA (the Searchable Ornithological Research Archive) for “Good God” and “Lord God.” The search yielded eight references that contained one or both of these search terms. These references span the period from 1895 to 1922, and include six papers published in the Auk and two in the Wilson Bulletin.

All eight of the papers note that Lord God or Good God were names applied to the Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is mentioned in two three papers, with Corrington (1922) stating that Lord God (being a corruption of “log-cock“) is “a local vernacular name applied indiscriminately” to both Pileated and Ivory-billed in coastal Mississippi. Corrington’s statement was obviously overlooked by Tanner and Terres, neither of whom list Lord God or Good God as alternative names for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (see here).

Corrington thus appears to offer the only scientific support for the notion that Lord God was an alternative name for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in some portions of its range, but note his admonition (see below) that Lord God, and Good God as well, “is a corruption of ‘Log-cock,’ a designation met with in many portions of the south.” This finding sheds no light on how widespread the application of Lord God or Good God for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker might have been by people throughout the historic range of the woodpecker.

Relevant text from each of the eight papers is provided below in chronological order:
(1) At one point during his traverse of a swamp in southeastern Missouri, Widman (1895) related: “over the slough a large bird darted, apparently a Pileated Woodpecker or Good God, as the people call it there [in Indian Slough]; but did it not show an extraordinary amount of white, almost as much as a Redhead[ed Woodpecker]? Could it be the long sought for Ivorybill? I concluded not to go on, as intended, but to stay in the vicinity and to keep a sharp look-out; possibly I might get another and better chance for identification. I waited [in vain].”

(2) Of the Pileated Woodpecker in Alachua County, Florida, it is said: “The ‘Lord God,’ as he is known in this section, is one of the commonest woodpeckers in the county nesting in the hammocks and cypress swamps in early April.” Of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, it is said: “Very rare. Found one nest in the County that contained young. Fresh eggs about February 15.“ The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is not mentioned (Baynard 1913).

(3) Alternative common names for the Pileated Woodpecker in the “Okefinokee” Swamp are given as ‘Kate,’ ‘Wood Kate,’ ‘Woodcock,’ ‘Good-God Woodpecker,’ and ‘Lord-God Woodpecker.’ No mention is made of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Wright and Harper 1913).

(4) Alternative common names for the Pileated Woodpecker in Autauga and Montgomery counties, Alabama, are given as “Lord-god,” “Woodcock,” and “Indian Hen.” The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is not mentioned (Golsan and Holt 1914).

(5) Local names for the Pileated Woodpecker in Wakulla County, Florida, are given as “Good God and “Wood Cady.” The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is mentioned, but no alternative names are provided for it (Williams 1920).

(6) Of the Pileated Woodpecker in southeastern Arkansas, it is said: “Known locally as ‘Lord God’ and ‘Wood God.’ Said to be common in the cypress swamps.” No mention is made of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Hunt 1921).

(7) “The local vernacular names applied indiscriminately to this species [Pileated Woodpecker] and the Ivory-bill are interesting. The commonest term is “Lord God,” said by some to be in fancied imitation of one of the call notes, but I agree with the explanation of Miss [Josie] Pope [of Biloxi, Mississippi] that it is a corruption of “Log Cock,” a designation met with in many parts of the south. The “Lord God” has in turn suffered corruptions, among them being “Good God” and “Oh My God” (Corrington 1922)

(8) “This bird [the Pileated Woodpecker], often designated by the natives as the ‘Indian Hen,’ is now seldom shot for its plumage, and it has learned to be wary of the man with a gun. We have heard the name ‘Wood-chuck’ applied to it, and even more frequent, both in Alabama and Arkansas, the title, ‘Lord God.’ It is a mighty ‘excavator,’ the entrance to most nests is not only large, but the cavity beneath is deep and very ample.” No mention is made of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Wheeler 1922).
Sources:

Baynard, Oscar E. 1913. Breeding birds of Alachua County, Florida. Auk 30: 240-247.

Corrington, Julian D. 1922. The winter birds of the Biloxi, Mississippi, region. Auk 39: 530-556.

Golsan, Lewis S., and Ernest G. Holt. 1914. Birds of Autauga and Montgomery counties, Alabama. Auk 31: 212-235.

Hunt, Chreswell J. 1921. Notes on the winter and early spring birds of southeastern Arkansas. Auk 38: 370-381.

Widman, O. 1895. Swainson’s Warbler an inhabitant of the swampy woods of southeastern Missouri. Auk 12: 113-117.

Wheeler, H. E. 1922. Random notes from Arkansas. Wilson Bulletin 34: 221-224.

Williams, John. 1920. Notes on birds of Wakulla County, Florida. Wilson Bulletin 32: 5-12.

Wright, Albert M., and Francis Harper. 1913. A biological reconnaissance of Okefinokee Swamp: the birds. Auk 30: 477-505.

Addendum: Tom Nelson linked to this post at the Ivory-billed Skeptic blog. As a result of that link, the following comments were posted here.

New River Birding & Nature Festival

Bill Hilton’s “This Week at Hilton Pond” for the week of May 1-7, 2007, features highlights of the 5th Annual New River Birding & Nature Festival, which was held in and around the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia. Bill’s summary is illustrated with many colorful photographs. Thanks, Bill!

The Trouble With Ecotourism

A tourist posing for a photograph with a Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus wollebaeki) pup, as illustrated in this article from CruiseGourmet Magazine extolling a “luxury adventure cruise” of the Galapagos Islands. I wonder if this is what Abercrombie & Kent (the cruise company) considers “immersion into the outstanding natural environment” of the islands?

Addendum: Richard Hammond of The Guardian takes a critical look at ecotourism here.

Southern Boreal Birding Festival

The Canaan Valley Resort State Park is hosting the Southern Boreal Birding Festival in the beautiful Canaan Valley of north-central West Virginia this weekend, June 1-3, 2007. A full slate of activities is planned.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #41

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 Bird Blog:
Sparroworking in Quebec – “Birding – gardening – good things,” by The Sparroworkers in Montreal, Quebec (online since January 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (entire):
Good Day

Things started moving last night – today in the garden we had White-crowned Sparrow (the ones in the cycling helmets), Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Least Flycatcher amongst others. [as originally posted here, including photograph, by The Sparroworkers on May 9, 2007]
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Seeking Answers to One of Life’s Universal Questions

What is it about (a) the game of volleyball or (b) differences in physique between the sexes that requires female volleyball players of all ages to wear very skimpy and extremely tight-fitting shorts (video) while males are able play the same game equally well (apparently) in baggy shorts (video)? Does it seem to you like there is a double standard here?

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #40

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 Bird Blog:
Remembering New Jersey – “A doctor-birder remembers New Jersey and other scenic landfills,” by Ken (online since September 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
New Boss Duck but No Babies

Early this March, a group of four Black Vultures congregated on our next door neighbor’s lawn, at the shore of our lake. They were tearing apart the dead body of a Muscovy Duck. Later in the day I took a look at the carcass, now little more than a bunch of feathers and cleanly picked bones. I did not think much of it until a few days later, when I noticed that tough old “Pato El Presidente,” the alpha drake who ruled our section of the lake’s shore, was missing. See previous blog entry about him here.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Ken on May 7, 2007]
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Monday, May 28, 2007

Remembering George H. Breiding

Lifelong West Virginia resident George H. Breiding (1917-2007) died peacefully at his home in Morgantown on February 2, 2007. George, a noted birder and naturalist, was a stalwart fixture in the Brooks Bird Club for most of his adult life. Although I met George only once (at a meeting in Morgantown in his later years), I felt I knew him well from having read the many articles on West Virginia birds that he had written and published in The Redstart, the journal of the Brooks Bird Club. George’s spirit will remain with us in the many contributions that he made to West Virginia natural history and ornithology, and in the hearts of those he educated about the wonders of the outdoors. A formal obituary can be found here.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #39

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 Bird Blog:
Nebraska Birding – “Because I love to birdwatch,” by Kayleen in southeast Nebraska (online since May 2007)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Alas, No Bird Photos

Sitting next to a wetland this morning, the Killdeer were really chattering. A good deal of the chatter seemed to be coming from one particular Killdeer. After about 20 minutes, I said, enough already, I can’t hear anyone else but you. A few moments later an Eastern Kingbird swooped the offender and then proceeded to chase him for about a minute or so. Think possibly the kingbird was tired of listening to him also? Regardless, I thanked the kingbird graciously.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Kayleen on May 27, 2007]
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100 Countries

According to Neocounter, Birds Etcetera has been accessed and (presumably) read in 100 different countries, if you can consider “Satellite Provider” a country.

The top five countries, which collectively account for 90.6 percent of the 9,779 visitors logged by Neocounter (as of 5/28/07), are the United States (77.4 percent), United Kingdom (6.2), Canada (4.6), Australia (1.6), and India (0.7).

I think a field trip to some of the under-represented countries (such as Fiji or the British Virgin Islands) to conduct personal outreach efforts might be warranted.

Norm Ferguson, Webb Smith, and the Pluto flypaper sequence

An absolutely fascinating and must-read article by Michael Barrier examining some rare Pluto drawings.

Thanks to an anonymous collector(I think I know who that might be--and if I'm right--email or call me, you-who-shall-not-be-named! I need to talk to you), Barrier has posted some wonderful pages of sketches of Pluto, studies for that famous stuck-on-flypaper sequence in "Playful Pluto"--not only a very funny cartoon bit in itself, but exceptional enough that none other than Preston Sturges chose to feature it in the climax of his masterpiece "Sullivan's Travels"(Joel McCrea's Sullivan is a prisoner in a chain gang, taken for a rare "movie night" at a local black church; when he sees the desperate, beaten, dead-end prisoners laughing their guts out at Pluto's antics, he has an epiphany that stands as Sturges' own personal and professional credo).

Here's just one page--go to Barrier's blog to see more:

image courtesy of michaelbarrier.com

I personally don't believe that these are gag drawings, but agree with John Canemaker's assessment that they look much more like they'd come from the animator himself(Ferguson, the great Pluto expert). That said, they are more finished than one might expect of 'Fergie', so perhaps Barrier's other suggested possibility is true--that it's the work of yet another, third party studying the Ferguson sequence.

In any case, It's just great to be able to see rare material like this. Many thanks to Barrier and his generous contributor.

RIP Charles Nelson Reilly


Sad news for fans of goofball television on a Memorial Day: Charles Nelson Reilly has died.

Lest some readers of Blackwing think I am going the way of blog-potpourri with this post, rest assured that Charles Nelson Reilly was a friend to wonderfully cheesy and strange cartoons and the kids that watched them; he deserves a moment of reflection and thanks.
I mean that sincerely. A terrific comedian, likely the first openly gay man many kids ever saw regularly on television, he was also a serious student of acting, a director of award-winning stage productions, and a playwright. He was also a sweet, funny, engaging man in real life--an opinion I base on running into him after work at Pavilions on Ventura Blvd., doing his grocery shopping. Here was a guy who truly made life--or buying a lamb chop--a moveable party.

And speaking of parties, try catching up with some reruns of "Match Game", a game show where the game mattered not at all, the guest celebrities all knew each other and were often a little tipsy as the day's taping went on--and Charles "underplayed" if not underdressed his usual persona to wonderful effect. That man got away with some of the most unbelievable insults (mostly to the woman who became a close buddy, Jack Klugman's then-wife Brett Somers) ever ad libbed on american television. For kids who were watching it all made adult life seem like some bubbly cocktail party...or reminded us of funnier versions of our own parents, I'm not quite sure.

Of course, there was also Sid and Marty Krofft's "Lidsville", "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", and one fantastic performance on "The X Files"(the latter really showing what the man could do without all the schtick). He won a Tony award for "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" on Broadway. He's done voices for "Spongebob", Hanna-Barbera, Disney television and many Bluth features.

He said he'd be eulogized as a game-show guest, and he will--but the important thing is that he'll be remembered by millions of people who have a genuine, fond affection for him, courtesy of his own inimitable self. He afforded us some killer laughs. That's a real rarity. Hail and farewell.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cartoon Modern



Look at these wonderful sketches from Cartoon Modern. There's plenty more where these came from.
I am really remiss in keeping current with a lot of blogs lately, and Cartoon Modern is one of those with some fascinating posts I've missed. The artwork above is by UPA designer Sterling Sturtevant. She's pretty keen, I think.

Blog Blurb: Will Finn


self-portrait by Will Finn, swiped from his new blog

...and another sucker answers the siren song of the blogosphere!

Welcome Will Finn to the fold, everyone!
Surely a man who needs no elaborate introduction to animation folk, I will nevertheless say that my introduction to him(though not his to me)occurred in an ex-bank building on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, California.

Don Bluth studios had their facility there at the time they were doing Space Ace, etc. and while I was visiting with a friend of a friend I picked up a little studio newsletter with a column about the studio cat, written by a Will Finn, accompanied by his own charming illustrations. This Finn was a story guy, or an animator--or both, I can't remember now.
He's done a few things since then(though if he'd done nothing else but supervise the damn clock I'd be in total awe).

Seriously, this blog should be fun and interesting reading. Carry on, Will!

Travel, vintage, cartoons


I was always told jet lag a)wears off after the first day or so, and
b)is always worse when flying west to east.
Neither has been true for me...or maybe Paris has a special hangover effect. That must be it.

Anyway, here's a little something that popped out at me from today's(May 27)New York Times:
Because We're Not There Yet

Someone found a copy of a 1954 book on traveling with the family via car. It looks like fun(I love this kind of social anthropology), and has some neat illustrations to boot.
Here's two:



Unfortunately the illustrator of this little book isn't credited in the article.

I do try and keep the posts here specific to animation, but I think all the animators I know wouldn't mind seeing these or knowing this book exists--Ward Jenkins, I'm squinting at you--so...

ETA: More Fun: The intrepid Scott Santoro found this fun b/w clip of the author of "Traveling By Car", Carol Lane, demonstrating how to pack.

Weekend Bird Blogging #3

An eclectic weekly collection of recent posts about birds, birders, and birding by bloggers throughout the blogosphere—but mostly from sources other than the mainstream bird blogs—that illustrates the universal attraction of our feathered neighbors, presented here for your reading and viewing pleasure:

Scamming Technorati Authority?

I just ran across a blog that is less than a month old, having first started publishing in May 2007. And then I noted that this blog already has a Technorati Authority score of 109.

If you’re at all familiar with Technorati, you know that “Technorati Authority is [based on] the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has.”

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that I’m only aware of 2, or at most 3, North American bird blogs (of the more than 200 that I’m familiar with) that have Technorati Authorities that exceed 100. So how is it that a “new kid on the block” can have a valid Technorati Authority of 109?

I have nothing personal against this particular blog or the blogger, it just seems that it is being operated within a system designed to scam Technorati. The blog of which I speak is hosted by a company called 451 Press (for more information about how this company functions click About and Write for Us at this link).

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #38

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 Bird Blog:
Introduced Birds Weblog – “A blog about ‘the birds from elsewhere’ – the alien, introduced, invasive, non-indigenous, and non-native birds of the world,” by John L. Trapp in West Virginia (online since October 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Ruffed Grouse Transplants in Alaska

One rarely considers the relatively unspoiled wilds of Alaska when thinking about bird transplants, translocations, or introductions, but they have occurred, even in recent years. This report (.pdf, 27 K) discusses in detail a recent transplant of Ruffed Grouse and mentions another in passing.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by John L. Trapp on May 3, 2007]
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Creationists Claim Scientific Support for Genesis

Nothing new there. But you really have to wonder how the American public became so ignorant about science and evolution? According to an ABC poll, 60 percent of Americans believe that God created the world in six days. That is so embarrassing!

And that kind of mentality has lead to the creation of The Creation Museum, set to open on Memorial Day in northern Kentucky, and which will display dinosaurs cohabiting the planet with man. So what’s wrong with that picture? Jeesh!!

Read the story, watch the video from ABC News, and visit the Web site of Answers in Genesis (the organization behind the museum). The latter site will explain to visitors how the Biblical account of creation is supported by science, while vilifying leading modern-day evolutionists (and scientists) such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins.

Selected excerpts from the video:
ABC reporter Dan Harris: "The stakes are high. The museum argues that evolution jeopardizes people’s belief in the Bible, and leads to social ills like pornography and abortion."

Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis: "If you have an evolutionary worldview, why should you have things like absolute morality? Why would it be wrong to kill someone? I’m not saying that evolutionists aren’t moral, I’m saying they have no logical reason to be moral."
Disclaimer: If it’s not already abundantly clear, you should know that I’m a fervent believer in evolution and my religious beliefs hover somewhere between agnosticism and atheism.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #37

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 Bird Blog:
Lovely dark and deep – “from kingbirds to kookaburras…,” by Corey Finger (aka Scott Catskill) (online since February 2007)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Almost Squished Wood Thrush (and a fox)

On my way north on Route 9J, a bit south of Castleton-on-Hudson, I spotted a Wood Thrush just sitting on the other side of the road. After going past I pulled a quick three-point turn and went back hoping to get a good picture. I was surprised when the bird didn’t move at all, and figured something was wrong with it. So I pulled off the road, but the flashers on and went over and picked it up! . . . . [click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by scottcatskill on May 18, 2007]
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Review of Eats, Shoots and Leaves

My only justification for reviewing Lynne Truss’s book, subtitled The zero tolerance approach to punctuation, is a brief anecdote that appears on the back cover that Truss uses to illustrate the importance of correct punctuation, and from which the book takes its name:
A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I’m a panda,” he says at the door, “Look it up.”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
The above excerpt should make it obvious that Truss uses humor and witticism to actually make reading this book about punctuation enjoyable. Even if you are not particularly enthralled with apostrophes, commas, colons, semicolons, dashes, exclamation points, question marks, italics, quotations marks, double dashes, brackets, ellipses, and hyphens (and really, who is?), this book will leave you much more knowledgeable about these cornerstones of written English.

I have just one major disagreement with Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and that is in the title itself. You see, I firmly believe in using the serial comma (also known as the Harvard comma). A serial comma is the comma “that precedes the last item in a list of three or more items.” It is widely (though variably and not universally) used in American English, less so in British English. Where I would write “sausage, egg, and cheese,” Truss (Brit that she is) would write “sausage, egg and cheese.” A minor annoyance at best, though I would argue that, on the whole, use of a serial comma results in fewer ambiguities.

Not withstanding my minor quibble with serial commas, this is really a very readable book. I would recommend it to all bloggers who want to make sure they aren’t sending the wrong message to their readers.

Avian Dissenter

News about birds and their interactions with humans (the good, the bad, and the ugly) can sometimes show up in the most unexpected places, such as Dana Milbank’s “Washington Sketch” column in today’s Washington Post. Here are the pertinent paragraphs:
Is there no safe haven for President Bush?

It happened midway through his news conference in the Rose Garden yesterday morning, in between his 10th and 11th mentions of al-Qaeda: A bird flew over the present and deposited a wet, white dropping on the upper left sleeve of his jacket. Bush wiped the mess off with his bare hand.
A caption beneath a photograph illustrating the story says, “The president encountered dissent from the avian-American community.”

The article fails to say what kind of bird it was that shit on the President, but my guess is that it was probably one of those trashy illegal-aliens of the bird world that litter our city landscapes with their fowl excrement, the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), or House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

Somebody needs to warn the President and his handlers that The Birds is/are about to make a comeback. It would behoove them to be on the lookout for more avian dissenters!

Addendum: Coverage of the Bush bird incident is widespread in blogland.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Patents for Bird Feeders

If you ever had any doubts that backyard bird feeding was big business, those doubts will quickly be dispelled by scrolling through the 406 396(!) patents issued by the U.S. Patent Office for bird feeders of various design. The vast majority of these patents appear to have been issued since 1980. The earliest I found was this design for which a patent was issued to Lewis P. Kelly in 1926:

Click here to enlarge.

Back with a question about Disney's Peter Pan



A page spread from the Golden book of Pater Pan. We had this one in the house when I was a kid, and I was nuts about it. The finished film has scenes that come as close as any in Disney's canon to matching the appeal of the visual development artwork.

Finally back in Los Angeles, and back to work.

Paris is unsurprisingly everything everyone says it is and more. It fills the mind and heart with a burning love for and appreciation of the beauty that is everywhere apparent--and not just in the concrete surroundings.

But right now, it's the interminable plane ride back that has me writing, with a question tossed out to all and sundry--I know someone knows this.

The in-flight entertainment included french and english versions of Disney's 1953 "Peter Pan". Since the flight was over 12 hours long(I'm still recovering)I had several opportunities to watch it in various pieces.
Now I can't get "You Can Fly!" out of my head(thank you, Sammy Fain)--and also would very much like to know:

Who animated the youngest Darling child, Michael?

He really struck me as being particularly solid and well done; even though he has only a supporting role he rings totally true as an about-3-and-a-half year old boy--and is completely charming(to me, anyway). Whoever did that work deserves a hand...Lounsbery perhaps?

I hadn't realized how long it's been since I'd seen the film. For me it has some of the most successful art direction and design of any of the features, if it's not a classic of the order of "Pinocchio" it's still able to inspire delight, in some scenes simply to look at.
And again, here's a Disney animated feature where the credits manage to evoke a sense of wistfulness, grace and anticipation for the story--the credits! This by a combination of absolutely gorgeous paintings, length of shots, choice of shots, and naturally the music score--all perfect.

This reminded me that I've intended for months to do a post about credits--how good they can be, and how frequently they're a missed chance for additional filmmaking in today's cinema, especially in animation.

So, who did animate Michael?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #36

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 Bird Blog:
Brinkley Birding – One person’s photo journal of a visit to Brinkley, Arkansas, following “rediscovery” of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, by Casey Tucker (online since February 2006) [Note: This blog has been inactive since the initial entries were posted in February 2006; no further activity is anticipated]
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
[No Title]

Some of the woodpecker holes are pretty large (Swiss Army Knife for comparison).

[click here to read and view the entire entry, including photograph, as originally posted by Casey Tucker on February 21, 2006]
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“a deep rich novel”

I wrote two earlier pieces about Lesley Thomas’s Flight of the Goose (see here and here), a novel that should be of interest to birders and naturalists because of the central role that birds and other wildlife play in the everyday lives of the people portrayed.

Thomas provides an honest and vivid portrayal of life in northwest Alaska in 1971, before the advent of the Alaska Pipeline and the Alaska Native Lands Settlement Act brought profound changes, and not necessarily for the better. It is a story of people and their intimate relationships to fish and wildlife, and to the land and the sea that nourishes them all. And it is a story about the improbable inter-cultural relationship that develops between Gretchen, a young Alaskan Native orphan, and Leif, a white ornithologist who has come to the arctic to study an endangered goose.

Just this month, Colleen Mondor, a reviewer of books at bookslut.com, compared Flight of the Goose favorably with Seth Kantner’s Ordinary Wolves (reviewed here by Gerry Rising). Mondor concludes her review thusly:
Two honest books about Alaska in two years, maybe literary times are changing for the Last Frontier. Maybe, just maybe, everyone is finally ready to set all those old comfortable myths aside. Flight of the Goose is certainly another step in the right direction, and a deep rich novel that will leave readers eager for more of the truth about the 49th state.
So, if you want to get a glimpse of what Alaska is really all about, pick up a copy of Flight of the Goose and set aside some quiet time to allow yourself to be absorbed into the entrancing blend of mysticism and realism that characterizes Thomas’s prose.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #35

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 Bird Blog:
The Urban Pantheist – “Loving nature while living in the city,” by Jeff Taylor in Boston, Massachusetts (online since October 2003) [Note: Since completion of the 365 Urban Species theme at the end of 2006, posts about birds are nearly non-existent in The Urban Panthiest]
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
365 Urban Species—#341: Brant

Along with the many species of ducks that appear in winter, there is at least one species of goose that can be seen in Boston in the cold months. (There are a few species, in fact, but all but the brant are only rarely seen.) The brant breed in the very northern reaches of Canada, but winters along both coasts of the United States. . . . [click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Eric Taylor on December 7, 2006]
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The Essence of Birding

Virginia of the Animal Spirits blog wrote a wonderfully evocative essay in which she asked, Why Birding? In her concluding paragraph, she captured the essence of what it means to be a birder:
Why birding? Because without opening my eyes to see and to know and to understand my winged friends, I would see less and know less and smile less and be less than I am when I am a birder.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #34

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 Bird Blog:
SE Colorado Birding – "A conservation-oriented birding blog that emphasizes low-impact birding and sustainable birding practices together with the enjoyment of birds," by SeEtta, Leon Bright, Stan Oswald, and J. W. Thompson (online since October 2005)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Red-headed Woodpecker in flight

This morning 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers were engaged in loud interactions as they chased between large cottonwood snags intersperced by bouts of drumming on the dead wood. I got these photos as they chased around. Be sure to double-click on them for enlargement. [click here to read this entry in its entirety, including photographs, as originally posted by SeEtta on May 19, 2007]
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Bird-Book Bargains

I visited my favorite all-books-for-a-dollar book store today and picked the following bargains:

  • Eifert, Virginia S. 1962. Men, birds, and adventure: the thrilling story of the discovery of American birds. Dodd, Mead, and Company, New York.

  • Halle, Louis J. 1989. The appreciation of birds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Hilty, Steven. 1994. Birds of tropical America: a watcher’s introduction to behavior, breeding, and diversity. Curious Naturalist Series. Chapters Publishing Ltd., Shelburne, Vermont.

  • Kastner, Joseph. 1986. A world of watchers: an informal history of the American passion for birds. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, California.

  • Rand, Austin L. 1955. Stray feathers from a bird man’s desk. Double Day and Company, Garden City, New York.

  • Terres, John K. 1968. How birds fly: under the water and through the air. Hawthorne Books Inc., New York.

  • Ware, E. H. 1946. Wing to wing: birdwatching adventures in five countries. Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York.
Now the trick will be trying to find the time to actually sit down and read one or two of them!

Weekend Bird Blogging #2

An eclectic weekly collection of recent posts about birds, birders, and birding by bloggers throughout the blogosphere—but mostly from sources other than the mainstream bird blogs—that illustrates the universal attraction of our feathered neighbors, presented here for your reading and viewing pleasure.

Blackwing a Paris



The Diaries are away in Paris at the moment. Back in a few days!


Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face" looks out over a Paris balcony. While this scene was shot on a sound stage in Culver City, the film has a lot of fun location footage with the actors dancing around the real Paris-and some very appealing interior art direction, too.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #33

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 Bird Blog:
PAHawkowl – by Grant Stevenson in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (online since December 2005)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (entire):
Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)

In Allentown, PA, PPL Tower looms large above the skyline. Around it while living there I found: 2 Turkey Vultures, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Black and white Warbler, 4 Hooded Warblers, 1 Canada Warbler, and 1 Summer Tanager, plus a Wood Thrush that hit the glass and was dazed. At night, 8 Common Nighthawks, a dead Ovenbird, and no doubt others. [as originally posted here by Grant Stevenson on February 13, 2007]
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How Do Birds Procreate?

I once used the word “procreate” in a blog post that had absolutely nothing to do with procreation. I’ve started to notice that an awful lot of the referrals to Birds Etcetera are from people asking, How Do Birds Procreate? I find that rather amazing. I presume that most or all of these inquiries are from adolescents, but procreate? That’s an awfully big word for teenagers to be using in place of SEX

Anyway, Birds Etcetera still remains “banned” at the public library in my hometown in Michigan, not because of the content but merely because it is hosted by Blogger. The State of Michigan has a long history of imposing Internet filtering on public libraries, a practice that continues to this day.

Oh, by the way, most birds procreate by means of a simple cloacal kiss. Look it up.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #32

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 Bird Blog:
My Birding Journal – “This journal primarily features the birds in my backyard that visit my feeders,” by avesbirder in western :Pennsylvania (online since November 2003)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
New Yard Bird

This week brought a new yard bird – Wild Turkey! I spotted three of them towards the back end of my yard. At first, I was teasing my cat, Snowball, to “look at the doggies” only to realize they weren’t dogs! LOL! I know there were two hens and one tom turkey. I was kind of surprised to see them in my yard. For all the years I’ve been at this house, I’ve never seen or heard them before. . . . [click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by avesbirder on April 8, 2007]
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Curious Birders

Bill Wingell shot this delightful photograph of a cadre of birders on the steps of the county court house in downtown Binghamton, New York, as they scoped out a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). Birders are a curious lot, are we not? You just have to wonder what passersby unfamiliar with the customs of the birding tribe must think when they see such a gathering. And what, pray tell, must the birds think of such spectacles? This would make for a great photo-caption contest.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #31

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 Bird Blog:
Andy Wraithmell’s Birding Blog – by Andy Wraithmell in Tallahassee, Florida (online since May 2006) [formerly known as Limeybirder’s Diary]
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Swallows in Jackson County

Went to bed last night at 10pm and set the alarm for a respectable 5:30am. I drifted off to slee dreaming of Champions League glory……5 bloody 30! Well sense prevailed and the alarm clock was dutifully silenced and I crawled out of bed at 7:30 instead! Rest easy fellow county listers your positions are safe! So after a bagel and a drink I headed North to my third favorite Florida county to see if I could add a few more county ticks in my quest (eventually) to become Florida’s saddest bastard!

Bazzel Pond was pretty disappointing and the expected northbound shorebirds didn’t get my memo, the gits! 3 Little Blue Herons, a Summer Tanager and a singing Northern Parula were all I could muster. . . . [click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Andy Braithmell on May 7, 2007]
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http://www.surfbirds.com/

Counting Goatsuckers

The goatsuckers or nightjars (Family Caprimulgidae) of the eastern United—Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferous) and Chuck-will’s-widow (C. carolinensis) specifically—are among the most poorly surveyed of North American birds. Their nocturnal habits make them poorly suited for early-morning surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey (on which detections average fewer than 1 bird/BBS route with goatsuckers), and they are equally likely to go undetected on diurnal bird surveys (e.g., detected on fewer than 1 percent of eBird checklists).

To help fill this void, the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary has announced that they are initiating the Southeastern U.S. Nightjar Survey Network in 2007. The goal of the survey is to monitor Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will’s-widow population trends in 10 southeastern States, including West Virginia:
Nightjar Surveys are standardized counts conducted along census routes at night. Observers count all Nightjars seen or heard for a six-minute period at each of 10 stops along the route. The entire survey will not take much more than one hour to complete. We have designed a series of routes in each State based on the existing BBS [Breeding Bird Survey] but also have provided methods for interested participants to create their own route.
The success of the program relies entirely on volunteer participation. Details on how to participate are found here. This sounds like a pleasant way to spend a late spring/early summer evening (survey dates are May 24 through June 8) while making a significant contribution to our knowledge of nightjar populations.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #30

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 Bird Blog:
2 Birders to Go – “This is a journal of our birding/photography trips,” by Bob & Cynthia Kaufman in South Pasadena, California (online since August 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Hepacure

We were cruising down the 5 Freeway. Songs of praise and worship softly playing from the car stereo. Both of us unusually quiet. Unbeknownst to each other, we were thinking the same thoughts. Given our recent spate of bad luck, is it worth driving the 120-odd miles to San Diego to see a species of tanager that is seldom seen in these parts of California? But we are birders and birders are made of sterner stuff. We take our disappointments lightly and our victories jubilantly. We persevere, taking no-shows with a grain of salt and then moving on.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Bob and Cynthia Kaufman on February 26, 2007]
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Chinese Fortunes

My all-time favorite*:

  • Your mentality is alert, practical, and analytical
My second favorite:
  • You are original and creative
And one for the more virulent of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker skeptics to consider:
  • Strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause
*All fortunes listed here are from the last two weeks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #29

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 Bird Blog:
Jeff Gyr’s Birding Blog – “Natural history, especially birding, around home in Delaware, and anywhere else that I can get to,” by Jeff Gordon in Delaware (online since March 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Terrific Birding in Tikal

I’m in Guatemala, having a great time.

Here I am with Bill Thompson, III, and Julie Zickefoose, just moments [after] having seen the Orange-breasted Falcon above. A lifer, and a totally wonderful creature.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Jeff Gordon (aka Jeff Gyr) on February 18, 2007]
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Older and Wiser

A few signs I’ve noticed that suggest I might be growing OLDer (or, as I prefer to think of it, more mature):
  • I refuse to order a TALL cup of anything when what I really want is a SMALL.

  • I recently asked for a gift CERTIFICATE rather than a gift CARD.

  • I refuse to bag my own groceries at the supermarket.

  • I recently walked out of a nationally-recognized sub shop without making a purchase when confronted with a place-your-own-order computer kiosk (and I noticed that the woman who entered the store behind me did the same thing).

  • I refuse to use the self-checkout lines at the supermarket.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #28

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 Bird Blog:
Chickadees, Juncos, and Jays Oh My! – “Backyard bird watching in northern California,” by Anonymous (online since February 2007)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Baby Chestnut-backed Chickadees in Backyard Nest Box

This [photo] is [of] a tiny Chestnut-backed Chickadee eating at a tube feeder. Chickadees’ favorite feeder foods are black-oil sunflower seed, suet, hulled peanuts, hulled sunflower, peanut butter mixes, and safflower seed.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are bold, active birds calling frequently to fellow flock members, curiously investigating their environment, and performing amazing acrobatics on all kinds of feeders. . . . [click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Anonymous on April 22, 2007]
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Bird-Book Illustrator

Tracy Hall, a watercolour artist in Scotland, is engaged in a project to illustrate a book by author Tim Dean on the birds of the Orkneys that is due to be published in December 2008.

Ms. Hall has been posting many of her illustrations for the book on her blog, Watercolour Artist Diary. Being partial to seabirds, I direct you to her painting of cliff birds (double-click for a full-screen view), which I find to be absolutely marvelous! I recommend that you search out others of the bird paintings on her blog.

Eating Poison Ivy

File under: Only in West Virginia!

Bob Schwarz, a staff writer for the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, apparently got the idea for eating poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) from a Euell Gibbons book.

In this video interview, Schwarz claims that “One of the great side benefits of eating poison ivy is that you gain an absolute knowledge of what it looks like, and that helps.”

I have lots of poison ivy in my backyard, but I’m not about to go out and stick it in my mouth. It’s the potential side effects (itching and irritation) “at the exit point on my body” that I’m worried about!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #27

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 Bird Blog:
Birdfreak Birding Blog – “Building a conservation community through birding,” by The Birdfreak Team in Rockford, Illinois (online since December 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Blogger Bio Blitz

Despite birding every day for the last week, we decided to do our Blogger Bio Blitz at our own preserve, the Callaway Nature Preserve. The C.N.P. is ¼ acre in size and is located in Rockford, a city of 150,000+.

First of all, our bug expert is only nine and he slacked off a bit, so our numbers are low there. [click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by The Birdfreak Team on April 30, 2007]
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Weekend Bird Blogging #1

An eclectic weekly collection of recent posts about birds, birders, and birding by bloggers throughout the blogosphere—but mostly from sources other than the mainstream bird blogs—that illustrates the universal attraction of mankind’s feathered neighbors.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #26

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 Bird Blog:
QCbirding2006 – by Mark Dennis in Montreal, Quebec (online since January 2006) [this blog is inactive, having been replaced by Quebec year list 2007]
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
26 December 2006

. . . birding has been quiet recently We had nice (through bins) if brief views of a brown type Gyr Falcon while sat at traffic lights in Montreal west a couple of weeks ago, followed by a pretty awful CBC count in downtown Montreal last Saturday (16th) Things picked up on the Sunday when I saw my first Snowy Owl of the winter, a male, along one of the farm roads near St-Clet. [click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Mark Dennis on December 26, 2006]
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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Spencer Fullerton Baird—Ornithologist and Ichthyologist

Here’s a wonderful photograph of Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887) taken in 1867, when full beards were in vogue. Baird was a contemporary of John James Audubon, a founding member of the American Ornithologists’ Union, U.S. Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries (1871-1887), and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (1878-1887). Long gone are the days in which a person can expect to be considered an expert in two different fields of natural history.

Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), Baird’s Trogon (Trogon bairdii), and Baird’s Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii) are named for Baird.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #25

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 Bird Blog:
Big Country Blog – the blog of the Big Country Audubon Society in Abilene, Texas (online since February 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Splish Splash, Fox Sparrow Takin’ a Bath

While birding Fort Griffin State Park with Heidi (awesome birder, transplanted Houstonian, she too has been stuck in the mud), we came upon a small puddle of water where the local residents were taking public bathes. But these residents bathe with their finest attire, and one unusually good lookin’ “Winter Texan” (well he came to Texas to get away from the snow) put on quite the show. [click here (and scroll down) to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Laura on February 14, 2007]
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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Notable Audubon Quote: What is the Source?

Inspired by an article on quotations that I found in the buzz log, I discovered the following quote attributed to John James Audubon by zaadz:
A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.
That's a lovely sentiment, and we all want to believe that Audubon would have said something like that. But did he, really? Well, a Google search certainly leads one to believe that he did, yielding nearly 300 sources attributing this quote to Audubon. The trouble is, none of these online sources provide an exact citation to any of Audubon's writings in which the quote appears.

Turning to Audubon's two most recent biographers, we find that the word "conservation" is listed just twice in the index of William Souder's Under a wild sky and not at all in Richard Rhodes's John James Audubon: the making of an American. Souder's reference to Audubon and conservation is perhaps telling:
Audubon's zest for killing wild animals is jarring to modern sensibilities, especially to people who cannot reconcile hunting with the idea of conservation--the latter a cause now closely associated with the name Audubon. Today, most hunters consider themselves conservationists, and their sport has become an essential tool in the management of game and in raising money to preserve wildlife. But Audubon was a premodern man. He hunted, as everyone did then, to put meat on the table. He also hunted for sport. . . . He recognized and often speculated about the impact overhunting could have on wildlife populations. But he was never deterred. He sometimes said a day in which he killed fewer than a hundred birds was a day wasted.
If Audubon really did pen those words about "A true conservationst," as we are led to believe, then he was truly a man ahead of his time, and no doubt more attuned to reality than many of today’s political leaders who refuse to acknowledge the reality of imminent environmental threats such as global climate change.

My challenge to you, dear reader, is this: find a reference (title, page number, etc.) to one of Audubon's journals, letters, or other written works in which this exact quote is found. Let me know what you find.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #24

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 Bird Blog:
Vagrant – “Ruminations on birding,” by Tom Auer (online since January 2007)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
missing the midwest

I started crafting my NatureScape News article today and I realized how direly I miss the Midwest. Birders just don’t get it out here [in Arizona]. There’s always birds and they’re always available. Midwesterners get punished all winter, then rewarded handily with waves of bright newcomers and rarities galore. And this looks like one hell of a season. Minnesota is on fire. And all the community. There’s a real sense of working the season as a group of birders, something I just don’t get a sense of out here.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Tom Auer on May 9, 2007]
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Ward in his element, take two


Ward Kimball in his train room, circa 1977, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times. CLICK to make this image huge.


Thanks to an entry in one of my must-visit blogs, L.A. Observed, I found this great photo in UCLA's brand new online, searchable photo database. I am busy enough that I didn't have time to do anything more than the most cursory search--I actually found this photo of Ward by accident--so there must be plenty of other treasures there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Useful Tips for Contrarian Bloggers

A couple of months ago, Mike at 10000 Birds and John at A DC Birding Blog offered some useful tips for becoming better bloggers.

But the contrarians among you might want to take a gander (no pun intended) at "The Contrarian Blogger Rules" posted by Donutbuzz on April 17, 2007. Since Donutbuzz doesn’t offer direct links to individual posts. I hope he doesn’t mind if I post his tongue-in-cheek rules in their entirety:
1. Write about your lunch. I disagree that nobody cares what you had for lunch. Hamlet said that “there’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” I believe that no topic is too common, too sublime or too ridiculous that you can’t write something interesting about it.

2. Don’t focus on anything. This is also known as my “write what I feel like” rule, and it’s really a corollary of the first rule. Sometimes I want to post about something in particular, but I simply can’t find the words. Today, for example, I wanted to write about the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I don’t have the words now. This is why I’m posting this list now because I need to write something.

3. No ads. You’re not writing for a newspaper, are you? (I didn’t think so.)

4. Avoid foul language. Foul language is like hot sauce. The hot sauce should flavor your posts, but should not overpower the substance. Use the “f” word a few times because you can. After that save the salty language for those rare moments when you want to deliver an extra “kick” to your post’s flavor.

5. Never provide more than three links per post. Unless you’re using these links as your own bookmarks for later, chances are that most folks aren’t going to take the effort or time to follow them.

6. Don’t link to a page within your own site. I’ve violated this rule many times, and so do most bloggers. This hobby is narcissistic enough as it is.

7. Don’t dwell on your traffic. Sitemeter’s fun, but don’t let it ruin your day. Have fun with writing.

8. I forget what eight was for. The non-sequitur rocks.

9. Post images sparingly. It’s my favorite contrarian blogging rule. Feel free to ignore it.

10. Remember: There are no rules. Except, of course, for my one post per day rule, which I actually violated yesterday.
I violate rules 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 regularly. What I haven’t quite figures out is, does that make me a contrarian blogger or a conformist to the more middle-of-the-road blogger rules?

My thanks to jedi jawa at This is not my blog for making me aware of Dunutbuzz’s contrariness.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #23

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 Bird Blog:
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 (online since June 2006)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
Feeder frustration, feeder predation

Darn these grackles and red-winged blackbirds; they scare away all the songbirds! I’ve tried leaving the feeders empty for a few days, but then when I fill the feeders again, the pests come back. Any suggestions?

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by dguzman on April 14, 2007]
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Searching for Sasquatch and Other Books for Children

Not long after posting my story about Bigfoot, I became aware of a book for children by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer called Searching for Sasquatch, “a compelling, original story about the adventures of a cryptozoologist and his skeptical son.”

Despite what some skeptics might think of cryptozoology, it is a subject of great interest to children (think dragons and such)—I myself was drawn to the subject as a young teen—and a great way to get children hooked on the natural sciences.

Other books by Lachenmeyer that might be of interest to birders with nestlings at home include The Decoy, a comic story about a lighthouse keeper who is convinced that the duck he has carved—a merganser—has come to life (available in June); and Broken Beaks, the story of a sparrow with a missing bill that helps educate youngsters about the tragedy of people who are homeless or mentally ill (available in the U.S. in fall 2007).

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #22

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 Bird Blog:
San Diego Birding and Photography – by Spike, a birder and amateur nature photographer in San Diego, California (online since August 2005)
Today’s Featured Bird Blog Entry (excerpt):
The Warbling Desert

The spring warbler migration in the desert is an amazing spectacle to see. In places where you see very few birds for the rest of the year it seems that each bush has at least two or three warblers of various species!

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Spike on April 22, 2007]
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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"Puffin Fever"

Atlantic Puffins are definitely the clowns of the bird world, and this time of the year they are more apt than not to work themselves into a veritable “fever” (or is that fervor?) of exhibitionistic courtship, as illustrated in this audio-enhanced video from YouTube. If you prefer a more traditional view of a puffin social gathering (with natural background sounds), click here.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #21

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 Bird Blog of the Day:
rkbirding - “A journal of my bird watching, starting from the very beginning,” by Ryan Kulla in Murrieta, California (online since January 2006)
Random Bird Blog Entry of the Day (excerpt)
three new birds (excerpt):

I have three new birds to add to my list, but one to take off. I’ve decided to take “Costa’s Hummingbird” off my list because at the time I labeled it I was very inexperienced and after looking at the pictures, and through more thinking, I realized it was an Anna’s Hummingbird. It was the only bird on my list that I never felt one hundred percent sure about.

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by Ryan Kulla on March 13, 2007]
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Monday, May 7, 2007

Birders and Ornithologists Lambasted by Ivory-billed Woodpecker Investigator

Mike Collins, perhaps better known to people on both sides of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker dispute as FishCrow, has conducted a personal search of Louisiana's Pearl River Basin for the past two winters. He claims several personal sightings of Ivory-bills in the Pearl, including one purportedly documented with video footage.

Mike is famous for his blunt statements, which give evidence of apparently having never learned the fine art of tactful diplomacy. Collins truly has a strange way of ingratiating himself to the people he is most trying to impress, as illustrated by two recent comments in his day-to-day log of the 2007 search season (which has extended from September 2006 to May 2007).

On 5/5/07, Collins criticized “top birders” and bird record committees:
I started reading Geoff Hill's book last night. With all the excitement in the air two years ago, I had to read Tim Gallagher's book in one sitting. Geoff's book is every bit as hard to put down, especially to someone who has spent time in the Choctawhatchee. I agree with many of Geoff's opinions, but not when it comes to birders. I don't understand why a professional ornithologist would submit a report to a records committee, but Cornell did so in Arkansas, and Geoff also thinks it's a good idea. It seems unusual for professionals to submit their findings to amateurs for their approval. I do believe that amateurs have an important role to play in ornithology, but the birding community blew a golden opportunity to do this by failing for decades to document a species that occurs in several states. Over the years, ivorybill reports were repeatedly dismissed and ridiculed by the types of people that Geoff refers to as "top birders." My definition of a "top birder" would have gotten out in the field after Cornell's announcement two years ago and found ivorybills at new sites (like Geoff did in the Choctawhatchee), but none of the so-called "top birders" has even managed to see an ivorybill at one of the sites where hard evidence has already been obtained. Geoff mentions experience as a guide as one of the criteria for being a "top birder." Working as a guide may enhance the reputation (and ego) of a "top birder," but it's not the most effective way to learn about birds. Geoff mentions the ability of "top birders" to analyze video. After interacting with some of these "dudes who own video cameras," I found that they don't have a basic understanding of geometry, probability, interpolation, sampling, and other concepts that are essential in video analysis.
On 5/6/07 he criticized ornithologists:
I spoke my mind yesterday about so-called "top birders." I'm going to speak my mind today about ornithologists. I don't give a damn what either group thinks of me. I have the strongest evidence that has been obtained yet for the existence of the ivorybill. If anyone wants to challenge that claim, then go here and try to refute the twenty reasons I have given why the bird in the Pearl video is an ivorybill. I recently found a frame that shows every detail of the left wing, including the white trailing edge, the black leading edge, the black primaries, and the boundary between black and white where the wing is attached to the body. I haven't been able to publish this data, which is stronger than the Arkansas and Florida data. I apparently can't publish in ornithology journals because I'm not one of them. I'm not in their league. I take that as an honor because, in the realm of science, ornithologists are little leaguers.
Collins is apparently frustrated because he has been unable to convince birders and ornithologists that his video footage provides undisputable evidence of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. But with rantings like this, is it any wonder that he has not been afforded the degree of respect that he thinks he deserves?

Collins laid out his claim for the existence of at least one Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the Pearl River here. What do you think? Is his evidence convincing? Are birders and ornithologists guilty of some sort of conspiracy against Collins and his Ivory-billed Woodpecker claims?

In the interest of full disclosure (if not objectivity), I should point out that the FishCrow video was perceived by 506 people who responded to an Internet survey (.pdf: 484 K) to be the weakest evidence presented to date (cf. Luneau video, double-knocks, kent calls, and sightings) for the existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Random Gleanings from the BirdSphere #20

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 Bird Blog of the Day:
Veracruz Hawkwatch – “For birders and raptor enthusiasts everywhere; a weblog about spring and fall raptor migrations in Veracruz,” by David McCauley in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz (online since January 2004)
Random Bird Blog Entry of the Day:
[No Title] (excerpt):

Yesterday we passed the 200,000 mark for raptors counted at the spring hawkwatch here in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz. It has been an amazing spring. . . . We have logged 207 hours and seen 19 migratory raptor species. Really good stuff!

[click here to read the rest of this entry, as originally posted by David McCauley on April 25, 2006]
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