Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Chuck and Sue, the pair of robins nesting on my apartment building, fledged all four of their babies last week. I miss them! I'll have lots more photos and information in the coming days. These photos of Chuck holding a bug (I couldn't bother him for long because he wanted to feed #4) were taken at nice close range, from just outside my door, on Sunday morning.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Oh, dear--it's probably because of the NBA championship, but suddenly I can't get a commercial from about 1970 out of my head. John Havlicek (I had SUCH a crush on Hondo!) was SINGING a song--his voice was great!--about a diet cola (maybe Diet Rite?) that went, "No, sir, I'm not on a diet. That's not why I buy it. 't's just got the taste that's right for me." It went on another stanza that I can't remember, and then he's in the locker room with the other Celtics and sings (with them repeating) "What a waste! (What a waste!) What a waste! (What a waste!) When it's got the greatest cola taste!"
Anyway, I never did try the cola, so it must not have been that compelling a commercial, but it sure was delightful. But it doesn't seem to be anywhere on YouTube. If you know where I can see it, let me know.
I think it's such a rooky deal that my brain is so filled with this kind of thing from 1970, but I have trouble remembering people's names and other important details of my life in 2008. Chickadees have it so much better than us. Every fall they can selectively allow brain neurons to die, presumably when the neurons are storing memories they no longer need, and they can actually replace them. I wish I could delete unnecessary files and defrag MY hard drive.
The ever effervescent and newly-uniformed BirdChick beat me to it, but a recent Colbert Report focused in on Israel's new national bird. I have other photos of Hoopoe's on my Iraq Bird Gallery. Soldiers, contractors, and civilians in Iraq send me photos of the birds they see for my gallery. Check it out!
This is sublimely silly. Bea Arthur as Carrie Bradshaw? Sally Struthers as Samantha?? Katherine Helmond as Miranda? Check it out! And add me to the list of people who (mistakenly) thought Abe Vigoda was dead.
Friday, June 13, 2008
In a dramatic dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the decision will bring about "disastrous consequences" and "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed." He went on to write that "the nation will live to regret what the court has done today."I mean, really. Did he care about the "disastrous consequences" that almost certainly really did cause more Americans to be killed as a result of a 5-4 Supreme Court decision 8 years ago? Does he care that the nation has lived to regret what the court did on that black day?
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Visual Services department is having a close-out sale on bird slides. All slides are $1 each. Slide sets are 50% off. This discount applies to online orders only.
The images are great for use in PowerPoint presentations if you have a few minutes to scan the slides.
Hundreds of images are available. To see the catalog (pdf format) and order online, visit http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Shop/VisualServices.html.
This is your very last chance to purchase slides! Sale ends on June 25, then Visual Services will close for business. Please forward this message to any colleagues, friends, or family who may have an interest.
When I started doing public programs about birds, I bought a LOT of those slides--some are simply supurb.
Tomorrow at 6 p.m. I'll be doing a program about "Ithaca's Splendid Spring Birds" in the Borg Warner Community Room at the Tompkins County Public Library. I promised one mother of a six-year-old to do owl calls, too. Read more about it at the Tompkins County Public Library blog.
Monday, June 9, 2008
I've been trying to figure out the best way to organize all my photos, and when I came across these Trumpeter Swan pictures suddenly wanted one for my computer's "wallpaper." Just in case you might, if you click on either of these you'll get a 2000-pixel enlargement, compressed a bit for the purpose but still pretty huge.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I am in the process of writing a couple of reviews of new field guides, and wanted to look up Richard Pough, who wrote my beloved Audubon Land Bird Guide and Audubon Water Bird Guide. So I did a Google search, and at the top was a New York Times obituary--he died four years ago this month.
Richard Pough was one of the founders, and the first president, of The Nature Conservancy. The New York Times obituary says:
Through his long career, which included stints at the National Audubon Society and the American Museum of Natural History, Mr. Pough (pronounced poe) also wrote a series of Audubon guides on birds; helped to get a law banning the sale of wild-bird feathers; became one of the first to warn of the dangers of DDT; established several important preservation groups; and inadvertently established the house finch population of the eastern United States.How was he connected with establishing the House Finch in the East?
I was particularly fond of my Audubon bird guides because they focused on so much more interesting information than the Golden and Peterson guides. As the New York Times noted:
Mr. Pough's efforts on behalf of a less exotic wild bird had unforeseen and wide-ranging consequences.
Noticing a Macy's advertisement offering ''California linnets,'' he went to Macy's and recognized the birds as house finches, natives of the West Coast protected by federal law. He again alerted federal agents, who began shutting down dealers who supplied the birds to Macy's and pet stores. But agents could not act quickly enough; some dealers, hoping to avoid fines, simply opened their windows and shooed the birds out. By 1941, the birds had spread across Long Island and today inhabits areas from Mississippi to Canada.
While Mr. Pough was protecting birds, he was also writing about them. His Audubon Bird Guide was published in 1946. Unlike the Audubon field guides by Roger Tory Peterson, which bird-watchers use to identify birds in the wild, Mr. Pough's guide provided information about behavior and arguments supporting species protection.
It's been a while since I thought about Richard Pough. But he led a life worth emulating. I particularly liked this:
On his 94th birthday, Mr. Pough told The New York Times about his first experience as a preservation advocate, when, at age 18, he set out to save the largest Indian mounds in the Mississippi Valley from being plundered by souvenir hunters. Taking an Illinois legislator to the site, he extracted a promise to save the mounds, but faced the obvious question: ''What's in it for you?''
''I said, 'Nothing,' '' Mr. Pough recalled. ''But it taught me a lesson I never forgot. There was never going to be anything in it for me in any civic activity I undertook, a principle I have adhered to all my life.''
I took this one in St. Louis in February--I was birding with my excellent birding buddy Susan, and we came upon several Trumpter Swans, with one family VERY close!
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Dear Lab members/birders/citizen scientists/nestwatchers:
We are embarking on a major redesign of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, and we're looking for guidance from the experts - the site's everyday users. We invite you to take part on our new blog: http://redesign.birds.cornell.edu, where we'll float ideas, preview features as we develop them, and most importantly, ask you what you think. The blog is now live, so please check in on us, and come back often.
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act is the only source of federal funding dedicated specifically to bird conservation throughout the Americas.It is an extremely effective matching grants program that coordinates and funds the conservation of Neotropical migratory birds and their habitats in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. It has a proven track record of reversing habitat loss and degradation, and of advancing innovative management and habitat restoration strategies. This Act is now up for reauthorization in Congress, and thanks to a bipartisan bill, cosponsored by Reps Kind (D-WI) and Gilchrest (R-MD), funding could be dramatically increased from the current $6 million to $20 million. All grants made by this Act must be matched by other funds at a ratio of 3:1, meaning every one tax-payer dollar from the Act leverages three from private sources. Overall, the program could leverage some $60 million in additional funding for bird conservation!
So last night I went to visit a local man who is going to set me up with an electric assist bike. It's going to cost about $1300--a LOT of money!--but the physical and environmental benefits will augment the amount I save on gas. I got to test it out, and wow! It was like riding any other bike, only when I wanted a power boost, I pulled a little lever on the handlebars and didn't need to pedal so hard to get up a hill. It's extremely quiet--I bet I could hear a Le Conte's Sparrow singing from 40 or 50 yards away with the motor going. Well, if it wasn't too windy. So I'll see way more birds on my rides to and from work.
I can't wait till it comes! I'll post photos as soon as it's here.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
I would love to be rich enough to buy an electric-assist bicycle to help me on my daily 6 1/2-mile commute to work (it's darned hilly here!) , and maybe to travel to a few more places in the world seeing birds. But even more, I really do want people to learn what took me three years of research to write, so I'll be almost as happy if you read the entire content of my book via Google as I'd be if you actually buy the book. I'd rather be rich in birds, and confident of their future, than rich in my pocketbook any day.
The speed limit on Ellis Hollow Road is 45 miles per hour, which is way too fast for a narrow, winding, hilly road with lots of houses and apartments along it, some quite close to the road, and no sidewalks and, in most places, no shoulder. And the road slices through quality habitat--forested wetlands. Because it's so hilly, a bird taking off from mid- or upper-canopy on one side of the road can be at windshield height at the other.
Right now the estimate is that cars kill 60 million birds a year, and based on my little sample, over five months on a single quarter-mile stretch (1/2 a "lane-mile") of what adds up to 8 million lane-miles of highway in the U.S., I would bet cars kill even more than that. When I picked up this poor Yellow-throated Vireo, in the prime of his life, a bird that flew all the way down to Central or South America and returned at least once, and probably at least twice, and who was in the middle of a nesting season, I was shaking with sorrow and outrage. I mean, this is a bird I knew--one who was singing every time I walked past, from the same spot. I watched him and his mate in a couple of quick but romantic chases a few weeks ago. Nest-building can begin within hours of pair formation in this species, so I'd bet, based on my observations, that this male was busy feeding nestlings by now. If the female can't raise them all herself, she doesn't get another shot--renesting is extremely rare in Yellow-throated Vireos.
Everyone is griping about the cost of gasoline now, but it's as if Americans have a complete disconnect between how much they pay at the pump and how fast they drive. Slowing down measurably improves mileage--even on highways, most cars would do their best mileage-wise going in the lower 40s, and efficiency drops really fast above 60. (That's why Richard Nixon, of all people, lowered the speed limit to 55 on interstate highways during the oil crisis of the 70s.) My car's optimum speed seems to be 42 miles per hour--that's when I average better than 60 mpg. But some of the cars on Ellis Hollow exceed the limit by at least 10 mph--essentially going 55 on a residential street! When we drive fast, we put birds at risk plus we squander natural resources which hurts us and birds both. As #60 of my 101 Ways to Help Birds says, "Drive at the slowest speed that is safe, courteous, and convenient."
But that "courteous" is the sticking point. I'm getting sick and tired of cars barreling up behind me and flashing their lights when I'm already at or close to the speed limit, expecting me to speed up to accommodate them. Is it any fairer for the slow drivers to have to accommodate the fast ones than the reverse? In America, bullies prevail and then get royally pissed if the meek grow the least bit insistent about doing things our way. Well, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.