Friday, November 30, 2007

I Shot the Sparrow

The time, as I now recall some 43 years after the fact, was the spring or summer of 1964, the year I graduated from high school. The place was a farmyard on the outskirts of Galien, a small, rural village located in extreme southwestern Michigan.

I had pulled into the driveway of my girlfriend’s parent’s house early one evening to pick her up for a date. I was immediately greeted by one of her younger brothers who was in the front yard plunking away with a BB gun at the omnipresent sparrows (Passer domesticus) and starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that are the hallmark of any farmstead. Knowing of my love for birds, he challenged me to shoot one.

At that point, my adolescent male hormones must have kicked in. To put what happened next into context, you have to understand that I had not been brought up in a family of hunters, so the thought of killing things was rather foreign to me. Heretofore, my experience with “hunting” had been limited to shooting at the ground squirrels (we called them “gophers”) (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) that burrowed beneath the tombstones in the local cemetery, an activity engaged in by several of the neighborhood boys.

Well, I grabbed that BB gun and said something like “Sure, I can shoot that bird,” as I pointed the barrel at a nearby sparrow perched on an overhead wire. Aiming in the general direction of the bird, but not really knowing how to sight down the barrel and knowing full well that I would soon embarass myself with a wildly inaccurate shot, I pulled the trigger. To my utter shock and amazement, that sparrow fell from its perch and plummeted straight to the ground—dead. I recollect feeling shock, sadness, and remorse at this senseless deed, even if it was only a sparrow.

Needless to say, the brother was astounded at my incredible display of marksmanship. I think I went up a couple of notches in his eyes. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was chagrined that her kind, gentle, bird-loving boyfriend would be so cruel as to shoot an innocent bird. It took more than a bit of coaxing from me to convince her that I really never intended to kill that sparrow, that it was merely a lucky shot—lucky for me, but not so lucky for the poor bird.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What if? Kimball and Jones...

above image from the Cartoon Modern blog

Michael Barrier has a new post up today with some very interesting ruminations on what might have been regarding Disney's "Sleeping Beauty". Well worth your time.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Birds Etcetera in the Wall Street Journal

In an article by Beckey Bright entitled “Blog Watch” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on September 24, 2007, Birds Etcetera is one of just four bird blogs highlighted:
There are dozens of blogs dedicated to birds and bird-watching, but if you only look at those you’ll miss an abundance of good writing on birds that’s scattered elsewhere in the blogosphere. Birds Etcetera provides an excellent compilation of recent posts about birds, mostly from sources other than the mainstream bird blogs.

Recent posts include links to a discussion of the role pigeons may have played in the Minnesota bridge collapse, an item on the mutually beneficial relationship between birds and pine trees, an entry on avian intelligence and essays about personal encounters with birds. There are also photos and videos.
The other blogs featured are Bill of the Birds, BirdChick, and I and the Bird (brainchild of 10000 Birds).

In making note of the WSJ article, Terryorisms (a blog billed as “a collection of flotsam and jetsom from trolling the World Wide Web”) went so far as to call Birds Etcetera a “mainstream bird site,” a gross exaggeration if ever there was one.

Truth be told, there are many other bird blogs out there far more deserving of mention in the WSJ than my modest contribution, but I’ll humbly accept the compliment.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Status Unchanged—Ivory-billed Woodpecker

To their credit, the American Birding Association’s Checklist Committee (ABA’s CLC) has—for the time being—discounted all of the recent evidence provided to support claims of the persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in the ABA Area. This excerpt is from the annual report of the ABA’s CLC for 2007 (Pranty et al. 2007):
We apologize for the confusing statement in our previous report (Pranty et al. 2006) that we had not “decided” whether to vote on the recent reports of Ivory-billed Woodpecker persistence in the ABA Area. The CLC will evaluate the claims and counter-claims of Ivory-billed persistence in the ABA Area, but we may wait another year or two before we do so, either after formal surveys in some areas cease, or at least after another year or two of data have been gathered. We have received copies of the deliberations of the Arkansas Bird Records Committee, which voted in September 2006 to accept the claim (see Fitzpatrick et al. 2005 [.pdf], 2006; Rosenberg et al. 2005) that at least one Ivory-billed Woodpecker persists in the “Big Woods” of Arkansas, but some of the Arkansas votes were cast before alternative hypotheses were published (Jackson 2006, Sibley et al. 2006, Jones et al. 2007). To date, the Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee has not accepted any claims of recent occurrences along the Choctawhatchee River (see Hill et al. 2006) or elsewhere in the state. In the opinion of the CLC, none of the data presented to date proves the continued persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the ABA Area. For now, we will continue to treat the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as a Code 6 species that definitely or probably is extinct.

Fitzpatrick, J. W., M. Lammertink, M. D. Luneau, T. W. Gallagher, B. R. Harrison, G. M. Sparling, K. V. Rosenberg, R W. Rohrbaugh, E. C. H. Swarthout, P. H. Wrege, S. B. Swarthout, M. S. Dantzker, R. A. Chariff, T. R. Barksdale, J. V. Remsen, S. D. Simon, and D. Zollner. 2005. Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) persists in continental North America. Science 308:1460-1462.

Fitzpatrick, J. W., M. Lammertink, M. D. Luneau, T. W. Gallagher, B. R. Harrison, G. M. Sparling, K. V. Rosenberg, R W. Rohrbaugh, E. C. H. Swarthout, P. H. Wrege, S. B. Swarthout, M. S. Dantzker, R. A. Chariff, T. R. Barksdale, J. V. Remsen, S. D. Simon, and D. Zollner. 2006. Clarifications about current research on the status of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in Arkansas. Auk 123:587-593.

Hill, G. E., D. J. Mennill, B. W. Rolek, T. L. Hicks, and K. E. Swiston. 2006. Evidence suggesting that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) exist in Florida. Avian Conservation and Ecology 1(3):2-11.

Jackson, J. A. 2006. Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis): hope, and the interface of science, conservation, and politics. Auk 123:1-15.

Jones, C. D., J. R. Troy, and L. Y. Pomara. 2007. Similarities between Campephilus woodpecker double-raps and mechanical sounds produced by duck flocks. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 119:259-262.

Pranty, B., J. L. Dunn, S. Heinl, A. W. Kratter, P. E. Lehman, M. W. Lockwood, B. Mactavish, and K. J. Zimmer. 2006. Annual report of the ABA Checklist Committee: 2006. Birding 38:20-24.

Pranty, B., J. L. Dunn, S. Heinl, A. W. Kratter, P. E. Lehman, M. W. Lockwood, B. Mactavish, and K. J. Zimmer. 2007. Annual report of the ABA Checklist Committee: 2007. Birding 39:24-31.

Rosenberg, K. V., R. W. Rohrbaugh, and M. Lammertink. 2005. An overview of Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) sightings in eastern Arkansas in 2004-2005. North American Birds 59:198-207.

Sibley, D. A., L. R. Bevier, M. A. Patten, and C. S. Elphick.. 2006. Comment on “Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) persists in continental North America.” Science 311:1555a.

Surf Scoters Hit Hard by San Francisco Bay Oil Spill

As reported here, Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) comprise 40 percent of the 1,000 oiled birds captured alive and 25 percent of the 1,365 birds found dead following the release of 60,000 gallons of fuel after a cargo ship struck the San Franciso-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Matchmaker for Birders

I guess it was only a matter of time before someone jumped on the matchmaking bandwagon and tailored a Web site to appeal exclusively to a special-interest group as narrowly focused as birding. Has birding really become this popular, that birders are looking for dates with like-minded individuals, with reasonable expectations of finding that perfect someone within 100 miles? The owners of Birdwatcher Buddy obviously think so. I’m especially intrigued by the image of the cute young chick with the winsome smile that graces their home page. Could it be, do you suppose, that a subliminal message is intentionally being sent to male birders that the female birding “buddy” of their dreams will come equipped with such remarkably well-endowed . . . binoculars?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Podcast and Post alerts

A quick heads up to let readers know that Clay Kaytis has just posted a new episode of his Animation Podcast, this one an interview with Disney veteran Dale Baer. He's a man with a long and distinguished history as well as an enormous amount of goodwill in the industry; I've known dozens of people who worked with or for Dale and not one had anything but very happy memories.

an example from the pen of Dave Pimentel
And on Drawings From a Mexican there's some very good tips about drawing an uninspiring model. Dave Pimentel has been even busier than usual lately, so an update from him is always welcome.

And one more [technical] thing: although I like the "new" template that you currently see here(in particular its organizing sidebar that directs the reader to just how obsessive I am about Fred Moore and other subjects), the interface for adding links is a huge pain; they must be done one at a time, laboriously. Anyone who has a way around this, give me a tip, won't you? I cringe at losing all my links to blogs I love and want to point the reader to...but this one-by-one thing is for the birds.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Lou Redux

Lou Romano" "The House"

The mailman just now brought my household the Nov. 5 issue of the New Yorker. Flipping it open, I am looking at a page of artwork, all by various artists. One is obviously a John Currin...William Wegman's costumed weimaraners on the opposite page, and--what's this one at the top? Another lovely painting by--Lou Romano! With a cute character sketch underneath!

Lou's work is in the magazine again(he did a cover for them a while back) as part of a portfolio of artists' variations on the theme of Hansel and Gretel, to celebrate the Met's remounting of that opera in New York. All the art will be on display, the magazine tells me, at the Metropolitan's Gallery Met(I didn't even know they had a gallery, but it makes sense) from November 16 through February. I'd scan it but maybe you should buy the New Yorker and check it out. It's a good magazine.

As Steve Jobs would say "Pretty cool, huh?".

ETA: The New Yorker's online edition has much more from the exhibition posted on its website; there are two more of Lou's paintings there, including the image I linked to at the top of this post. Check it out by all means.