Saturday, December 29, 2007

Your Friend the Rat-the Little Golden Book version

If you haven't been by Jim Capobiano's blog lately you might not yet know that there's a new Little Golden Book out that's going to be a must-have. It's a companion piece to his wonderful short film "Your Friend The Rat" that debuted on the "Ratatouille" DVD release.

I snagged the above image from the Amazon website, which is where I suspect Jim got the cover shot he posts on his blog; he says the color is off and he'll soon post a more accurate one(it's really got to annoy when one works so hard on these things to see wrong color advertising it anywhere). For more information about it, hie yourselves over to Jim's blog pronto.
He's been busy putting up some very interesting posts with behind the scenes tidbits about the making of his film-this is really gold.
photo of Scott Morse by Jim Capobianco, courtesy of his blog

I love seeing the process and reading about what people go through at work. Jim had a special added investment, something usually extracurricular to a director/story person's normal plethora of jobs: he cowrote the song that ends the short film. That little song, sung in character by "Remy" and "Emile" was so charming...also pretty darned clever--and the visual accompaniment a tasty treat.

I'm sure the short needs no touting from me to entice anyone to watch it, but honestly, along with the feature itself(a film that I think plays better with repeated viewings-what a pleasure that is to say), it was such a great gift to put it on the DVD. Superior work by everyone, and lots to be inspired by.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I and The Bird #65

Visit I and the Bird #65, hosted by Amy at WildBird on the Fly, for a Holiday Season carnival full of great posts (32 in all) about birds and birding.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

This is a view of the backyard as seen from the deck of my recently-purchased home in Berrien County, Michigan, as taken on or around Thanksgiving Day 2007 by the previous owner. I'm looking forward to moving back to the area of my birth sometime in January 2008.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

It's been 18 months since these were first posted, and as it's the right time of year and I haven't a new post ready, I repost them here for your enjoyment.

Have a lovely holiday, everyone.

all the rare material here appears--as before--through the generous courtesy of James Walker

...and here's one more for the road, from my house:

Merry, merry!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Disney's 1956 Holiday Card

Another old favorite, originally posted when I started this blog two years ago: the Disney Studio's 1956 Christmas card.
It looks much better in person.

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Christmas 'round the corner

A million things to do, and with work steaming along right up to the brink of the break, posting has become an intangible dream at the Blackwing factory. Just for kicks I'll post a few of the entries of Christmas past this weekend; fun graphics and perhaps entirely new to more recent visitors.

Hope everyone's doing their duty in the malls and byways of the planet, taking time to breathe--and enjoying the filmic qualities of this most noisy/twinkling time of year. My own (early 20th-century street designed)street has transformed into Bedford Falls lately--the happy version.

Carbon-Neutral Birding—The BiGBY

Are you a die-hard lister? Have you ever fretted about the impacts on the environment of chasing birds around your State in a gas-guzzling pickup or SUV? Well, fret no more, as Sparroworking in Quebec has come up with one of the coolest ways for birders to be green and still enjoy the fun of competitive birding: the Big Green Big Year, or BiGBY for short.

Two types of BiGBY are recognized:
  • The Walking BiGBY – Includes all species seen in areas reached by foot by walking from home. This is like extended Backyard Birding.

  • The Self-Propelled BiGBY- Same as above except that cycling, boating (i.e., by canoe or rowboat), skiing, and snowshoeing are included as acceptable modes of transportation.
  • To learn more about the BiGBY and to sign up to do your own Big Green Big Year, go to the “Bigbying” Web site. You’ll get to know the birds of your neighborhood better, improve your health, and do something positive for the environment and the birds.

    Friday, December 21, 2007

    Demise of a Bird Blog

    The blog formerly known as the Ivory-bill Skeptic was one of my all-time favorite bird blogs. Judging by the number of “hits” that it generated, I gather that this controversial blog was a favorite of many others as well. Initiated by Minnesota birder Tom Nelson in July 2005 in response to Cornell’s announcement of the “discovery” of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in Arkansas, it provided an important outlet in the ensuing debate for people of a skeptical mind regarding the adequacy of the evidence provided in support of the continued existence of the so-called Lord God Bird. While I didn’t always agree with Tom’s assessment of the situation, his methods, or his motives, I generally enjoyed the posts and embedded links and the comments that they engendered.

    In mid-September 2007, Tom announced that he was “quite bored with the current Ivory-bill hysteria” and was changing the name of the blog to Tom Nelson, leaving him “free to post about anything that interests me.” Since then, the focus of the blog has gradually switched over from Ivory-bills to the debunking of anthropogenic global warming, as revealed by the following statistics showing the percentage of monthly posting that were specifically about Ivory-bills:
  • August 2007 – 97.5 percent (39 of 40)
  • September 2007 – 46.4 percent (26 of 56 postings)
  • October 2007 – 37.1 percent (33 of 89 postings)
  • November 2007 – 11.6 percent (29 of 250 postings)
  • Tom’s Ivory-bill postings are increasingly being lost amongst his growing blather about global warming. He would have done those of us interested in continuing to follow Ivory-bill events, especially the skeptics among us, a great favor by creating a second blog for his rants on global warming.

    Martinson Collinson made a similar argument (here) about the Ivory-bill Skeptic/Tom Nelson blog, noting that 37 posts about Ivory-bills in November 2006 generated 450 comments while 247 posts in November 2007 (“nearly all on climate change”) generated just 12 comments. Sadly, while Tom has continued to post about Ivory-bills at only a slightly diminished rate (i.e., 29 in November 2007 vs 37 in November 2006), his focus on global climate change has caused his loyal Ivory-bill skeptic readers to desert him.

    Because Tom continues to post occasionally about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but especially because of the vast amount of Ivory-bill information still present in his archives, I have decided to retain Tom Nelson on the list of known North American bird blogs.

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Life Birds Are Where Your Find Them

    In early December I had an opportunity to spend a four-day weekend with a life-long friend in Oakland, California. This was a social visit, not a directed birding trip. The only serious birding was a half-day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore in strong winds, where we saw a nice (but not extraordinary) assortment of birds and enjoyed a notable up-close-and-personal encounter with a very curious Common Raven (Corvus corax) at Limantour Beach. Still, I managed to tally four life birds, a benefit of having spent little time in coastal California. These included two parids—Oak [=Plain] Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus) and Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)—seen in the neighborhood while walking the dog, a pair a California Towhees (Pipilo crissalis) that awaited us on the front porch when we returned from Sunday brunch, and a Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) foraging for food on the sidewalk at the Oakland International Airport. I guess the moral of this story is, always keep your eyes open and your binoculars handy.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Known North American Bird Blogs #7

    This list was last updated on June 2, 2007, when the net addition of 15 blogs brought the list of known North American bird blogs to 223.

    This update (a) adds 34 blogs and (b) deletes 13 12 blogs (including 11 that are no longer available and 2 1 that are is no longer about birds); the net result is the addition of 21 22 blogs, yielding (c) a total of 244 245 known North American bird blogs currently available online (including 24 with no posts in the past 12 months that are defined as inactivee).

    Criteria for inclusion on this list are found here.

    (a) New Blogs (n=34):
    • Arkansas Birding – “Birding & photography of Arkansas birds,” by J. Karl Clampit in Arkansas (June 2007)
    • Avian Tendencies – by Caleb Putnam in Grand Rapids, Michigan (January 2007)
    • Bird Year Blog – “a year-long, 12,000-mile fossil-fuel-free journey in search of birds,” by 15-year-old Malkolm Boothroyd and his parents (April 2007)
    • Biological Ramblings – “Your source for the latest science musings straight from my brain,” by Nick Sly in New York (April 2007)
    • Colder by the Lake Birding – by Mike Hendrickson in Duluth, Minnesota (August 2007)
    • Craig’s Birds – “Birding and photography of Minnesota birds,” by Craig K. Marble in Minnesota (April 2006)
    • Ecobirder – “Birding, Wildlife, Environment,” by Ecobirder in St. Paul, Minnesota (April 2007)
    • Fledging Birders Blog – “Reflections and stories of sharing the appreciation of birds and nature with kids,” by Dave M. in southern New Jersey (April 2007)
    • Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas Birding Blog – by Debra Hess (August 2007)
    • From My Perch – “Birdwatching photos and stories,” by Maria Bajema in Michigan (February 2007)
    • International Bird Rescue Research Center – “News, views and photos from IBRRC on the San Francisco Bay oil spill response,” by Russ Curtis in San Francisco, California (November 2007)
    • Iowa Voice – “Speaking through the camera,” by Moe in the Quad Cities, Iowa (January 2007)
    • Life, Birds, and Everything – “Blogging about wild things that make my heart sing,” by Sherri Williamson in Arizona (August 2007)
    • Minnesota Birdnerd – by a high school science teacher in the Twin Cities, Minnesota (June 2007)
    • My Birds Blog – “A selection of birds who visited in my backyard and left a lasting digital impression,” by Abraham Lincoln in Brookville, Ohio (September 2007)
    • Nature Knitter – “Stories and pictures about birds and nature mostly in my backyard, with occasional bits of pets, knitting, weather, food and family thrown in for variety,” by Ruth Johnson in Rochester, Minnesota (March 2007)
    • NCIOS – North Central Illinois Ornithological Society – the blog of the Rockford Bird Club in Rockford, Illinois (February 2007)
    • Neo Birding – by Jim McCarty in Cleveland, Ohio (July 2007)
    • Nervous birds – “One should leave the world they experience not as they found it…they should leave it better,” by Dan Haas in Annapolis, Maryland (April 2007)
    • OC Warbler – “Birding (mis)adventures in Orange County, California, and beyond,” by Felicia in Costa Mesa, California (May 2007)
    • Ornitheologisms – by Ornitheologist (September 2007)
    • Ortego Birds – “Where Big Bird comes to nest,” by Brent Ortego in Texas (May 2007)
    • Pish – by Bennet in Massachusetts (November 2007)
    • Roger’s Blog – “Bird observations primarily western Oregon,” by Roger in Oregon (April 2007)
    • Sibley Guides Notebook – “Bird identification and more related to the Sibley guide to birds,” by David Sibley (August 2007)
    • The Backyard Birdman – “Who wants to learn more about how to attract wild birds to your backyard,” by Larry Jordan in northern California (September 2007)
    • The Drinking Bird – “Birding and whatnot,” by N8 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (July 2007)
    • The Feather and the Flower – by Noflickster in Horseheads, New York (March 2007)
    • The Houston Birder – “Random tales and thoughts of a birder in Houston,” by Carey in Houston, Texas (April 2006)
    • The Nightjar - “Where the ancient world meets the modern world,” by HoaryRedpoll in New York (April 2007)
    • The Zen Birdfeeder – “focuses on the birds and other nature we find in our own yards and the principles of attention, acceptance, and responsibility,” by Nancy Castillo in Saratoga Springs, New York (April 2007)
    • Vermont Center for Ecostudies – “News and notes from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies” (January 2006)
    • Vulture Cafe – “Picking up bits and pieces from the side of the road,” by Dawn in the Pacific Northwest of the United States (October 2007)
    • WBU’s Birding Blog – by the owners, staff, and customers of Wild Birds Unlimited in Tallahassee, Florida (August 2007)
    • Weekend Shooter – “A Photo Blog,” by John Mikes in Woodbury, Minnesota (June 2007)
    (b.1) Deleted Blogs/No longer available (n=11):
    • 2007 Big Year Blog
    • Bird the Planet
    • BirdBlog – Ruffling Feathers
    • Birding Watching in South Florida
    • Chicago Bird Watching
    • Eric’s Birding Blog
    • Hamilton Birding
    • Illinois Birding Blog
    • Ohio Birding Blog
    • TrumbullBirders’s Bird Blog
    • VINS Conservation Biology Blog
    (b.2) Deleted Blogs/No longer about birds (n=2 1):
    • Fluid Five Birding
    • Ivory-bill Skeptic (now re-titled Tom Nelson, it focuses on climate-change issues) Note: I have decided to retain Tom Nelson on the list of known North American blogs because of it's large archive of material on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
    (c) Complete List of Known North American Bird Blogs (n=244 245)
    Previous Posts in This Series:
  • Known North American Bird Blogs #6 (06/02/07)
  • Known North American Bird Blogs #5 (04/20/07)
  • Still More North American Bird Blogs—An Update (03/14/07)
  • More North American Bird Blogs—An Update (12/07/06)
  • List of Known North American Bird Blogs (11/21/06)
  • North American Bird Blogs (05/08/06)
  • Monday, December 17, 2007

    Birding Tipping Point

    Originally coined as a sociological term in the 1960s, “tipping point” was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling 2007 book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

    One such “little thing” that turned the art of birding, or birdwatching (as it was known in the early decades of the 20th century), on its head was described thusly by Scott Weidensaul in his 2007 book, Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding:
    All his life, [Roger Tory] Peterson made a point of crediting those whose encouragement and ideas were crucial to his development as a birder and a field guide author. At the head of the line stood Blanche Hornbeck.

    Although she only taught in the Jamestown, New York, schools for a single year, beginning in the fall of 1919, the pretty, red-haired Miss Hornbeck changed young Roger’s life. He’d always been interested in nature, but when Miss Hornbeck started a Junior Audubon Club in her class, distributing the illustrated leaflets from the National Association of Audubon Societies, Roger Peterson fell hard for birds.
    And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Peterson himself described Hornbeck’s influence in a 1996 article in International Wildlife (excerpt):
    Had it not been for Blanche Hornbeck, my seventh-grade teacher in Jamestown, New York, my life probably would have gone in a different direction. Who knows? She was a red-haired lady of about 30; I was a rebellious kid of 11.

    She started a Junior Audubon Club. Students paid a dime to join, for which we received a button with a Red-winged Blackbird [Agelaius phoeniceus] on it and 10 leaflets, each with a colorplate of a different bird and an accompanying outline to be colored in with crayon. Miss Hornbeck decided this was not the way to learn to draw, so the next day she gave each of us a little box of watercolors and a colorplate by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, one of the leading bird illustrators of his day, from his portfolios of the birds of New York. She gave me the Blue Jay [Cyanocitta cristata], which I copied with care.

    Our efforts were put up on the blackboard. I thought I did pretty well, but my Blue Jay was credited to Edith, the girls who sat across the aisle. Discovering my distress, Miss Hornbeck soon put things right. The Blue Jay will always rank among my favorites because it was the first bird I drew.
    In his 2007 biography, Roger Tory Peterson, Douglas Carlson writes of Miss Hornbeck’s lasting influence on Peterson:
    Peterson and Miss Hornbeck would rediscover each other in an exchange that clearly reveals his sincerity concerning the importance of the Junior Audubon Club and provides a rather touching footnote to the story. In 1950, Miss Hornbeck read a magazine profile of Peterson in which he acknowledged his debt to her. She wrote him enthusiastically to say that she had discovered “that a former pupil was the great and honored Roger Peterson! My joy and satisfaction in your wonderful achievement is unlimited and I am more happy than I can tell you to have played some small part in helping you to discover your life’s work.” She remembered a rainy morning bird walk when she expressed surprise that anyone came. “I can still hear you say, ‘You can count on me, no matter what the weather.’” Peterson sent her two inscribed books, including his collection of birding recollections, Birds over America, which prompted her to write about her joy in “participating vicariously in events which I would like to have had.” Peterson continued to send books to her until he learned of her death.
    How many of todays birders have had similar, if not quite so dramatic, tipping-point moments as children: a seemingly uneventful learning moment with a teacher, a fleeting encounter with an adult mentor, or perhaps an influential book that caused them to be turned on by birds? We all owe a collective debt of gratitude to the unsung Blanche Hornbeck's of the world.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Nico Noël

    Like most of my ilk, every year I save those holiday cards that are either sentimentally precious or very appealing-or both.
    The thing is, after I put them away I rarely know exactly where I've put them. Here's an example from lo, these many years past(1994 actually); it just fell out of a pile of saved paper.
    The artist is the prodigious and wonderful Nico Martlet. He handmade and painted all his cards that year-lucky me!

    Tuesday, December 4, 2007

    “Shoot the [Feral] Cat[s]”

    Let me say right up front that I have no problem with pet cats (Felis domesticus) and the people who own and care for them; I was once a cat owner myself. But feral cats are another thing altogether. Feral cats are a scourge on the landscape. Feral cats are invasive animals (being listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s 100 worst) that, through their predatory habits, do significant damage to native bird populations. Trap, neuter, and release (TNR) programs are not the answer. They are nothing more than a public relations sham. They merely allow individual, free-ranging cats to live out the remainder of their normal lifespan. Meanwhile, the cats will continue to kill native birds and other animals, even if well-fed. The solution to the problem of roaming and unwanted stray cats is euthanasia. Properly administered, euthanasia is completely humane. It’s more humane, in fact, than the slow and painful deaths inflicted on their prey by feral cats.

    Bruce Barcott, a contributing editor at Outside magazine, wrote an excellent essay in the December 2, 2007 issue of the New York Times Magazine that examines in detail both sides of the feral cat issue. A copy of this article is available in full at David Quintana’s Lost in the Ozone blog (see Kill the Cat that Kills the Bird).

    Much of the article focuses on Jim Stevenson, founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society and “the most notorious cat killer in America,” and the nationwide controversy he caused when he shot a feral cat that was preying on Piping Plovers (an endangered species) near Galveston Island. An excerpt:
    Much of the controversy focuses on the nation’s population of 50 to 90 million feral cats (exact figures are impossible to ascertain), former pets and their offspring that live independent of humans. Feral cats may not have owners, but they do have lobbyists. Alley Cat Allies, a national organization founded by an ex-social worker named Becky Robinson, harnesses a fierce coalition of celebrities, cat experts and feral-cat-colony caretakers to fight for the rights of wild cats. Her allies include Roger Tabor, a leading British naturalist; Jeffrey Masson, the outspoken author of “The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats” and “When Elephants Weep”; and, fittingly, Tippi Hedren, the actress best known for starring in the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, “The Birds.” Which, as you will recall, was a film in which Hedren spent two hours dodging attacks by murderous birds.
    Both sides weighed in on Stevenson’s shooting. Cat advocates called him cruel and criminal. The blog Cat Defender (“Exposing the Crimes of Bird Lovers”) labeled him the Evil Galveston Bird Lover. The president of the Houston Audubon Society condemned Stevenson’s “illegal methods of controlling these animals,” but other bird-watchers hailed his actions. One Texas birder, a fourth-grade science teacher, suggested that Stevenson be given a medal for his actions.
    I wouldn't go quite so far as to praise Jim Stevenson for his actions, but I do find them to be far more ethical, humane, and ecologically sound than those of the feral-cat lovers. Feral cats need to be removed from the wild in a humane manner, and by "removed" I don't mean live-trapped and relocated elsewhere.

    Monday, December 3, 2007

    Daniela Strijleva... my new hero.

    She's just started a sketchblog and it's a visual feast--already full of beautifully observed work.
    As if her own drawing wasn't enough, she's also gone to the trouble of posting quite a few illustrations from Ronald Searle's must-have Paris Sketchbook, a task I'd intended to do but not yet got around to.

    Pay her a visit:
    Daniela Strijleva

    Sunday, December 2, 2007

    Show and Tell-Mickey Mouse Ephemera

    click to view at a decent size

    I've been tidying my drawing area trying to cull the unnecessary stuff, and just for fun I thought I'd share this keen pencil box, a birthday gift from my friend Elinor. I've had it on my desk for ages, propped up where I can look at it--the colors and general fun of the thing are a nice bit of eyecandy for the workspace.

    Saturday, December 1, 2007

    Weekend Bird Blogger #11

    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 appeal and attraction of our feathered neighbors, personally selected by me for your reading and viewing pleasure: