Monday, September 3, 2018

Birds At Large: Battle Beasts

Toys in the 80s were frigging awesome, and I had a lot of them. GI Joes were my primary obsession, but I also had M.A.S.K. toys, DinoRiders (correct, these were soldiers that rode dinosaurs outfitted with lasers and missiles), Ghostbusters, Transformers, and more.

And I was just recently reminded about some things called Battle Beasts. These things sucked. They were little armored animals with no articulation and a little hologram sticker thing on their chests that was supposed to show an image when you warmed it up with your thumb but never worked and always just fell to the bottom of the toy chest.

They sucked, but they were around, and I've just stumbled onto a page showing all of them and I want to show you because there are bird ones and they're hilarious.

OK, so, these toys started in Japan in the early 80s and then were released by Hasbro in the United States in 1986, which is when I must have got them. The "story" behind these fighting animals is just pure batshit malarky. From Wikipedia:

The universe history of 2011 [what?] in the galaxy territory [whattt] of the Decepticon’s “Planet Beast.”
The intelligent race of animals called Beastformers lived in peace on Planet Beast. [LOL Planet Beast] However, the scheming evil hand of the Decepticon’s bent on domination of the entire universe to the peaceful Planet Beast was fast approaching.
To defeat the Lion Family that ruled the Planet Beast, Galvatron supplied Alligatron with weapons in order to overthrow the Lion family. Alligatron was given the Sharkticons, who were the military escorts of the Destrons to fight in the rebellion. This is how the Beastformer war began.
The Beast Star was suddenly engulfed in war. Before Alligatron the wielder of the Decepticon Power and his Decepticon Beast’s could capture the Cybertron Beasts, they were able to escape into the forest. In order to ask for help from the Transformers Cybertron Army, the Cybertron Beast’s strongest warrior Platinum Tiger had to make his way to the occupied communication room of the palace.
However, Alligatron planted a trap there called the "Holography Mirror." As soon as Platinum Tiger unwittingly set foot in the palace a sudden flash of light, trapped the strongest warrior in holography mirror.
Is Planet Beast going to remain under occupation? What about the fate of the Supreme Commander White Leo’s Cybertron Beasts? Can Platinum Tiger escape from the power of the Holography Mirror? Right now, the battle and mystery of the Beastformers is just beginning.
Holly shit whattt? The nineteen eighties were just the pinnacle of complete garbage. Anyway, look at these idiots:

AHAHAHHAA what is going onnnn it's a rubber ducky-ass armored fighting cyborg with ... a gun? A club? No idea what that is, and he's got one hand and one foot on the end of his arm? I can't even with  this thing. His "name" is Run Amok Duck.

This loser is "Colonel Bird" which is funny because he's just, like "a bird" where all the other figures were some more specific species. This is the equivalent of being like "Major Mammal" and it's just a brown furry blob with nipples. Colonel Bird was the only avian member of Battle Beast's 28-figure Series 1, which did include a guy named Crusty Crab...which I hope and pray was the inspiration for the restaurant in SpongeBob.

This is Knight Owl. Creepy that they all have human hands!

This is Harrier Hawk, the 70th figure in the toy lineup. I'm kind of surprised it took them so long to get to a badass bird like a hawk, considering animals included before Harrier Hawk were (no joke): Tanglin Pangolin, Cutthroat Cuttlefish, and Major Moose. Also dumb that harriers and hawks are two kinds of birds...I don't think they were thinking too deeply about it all.

Crooked Crow! This dude frigging rules! He's got a scythe! I bet this is the image Edgar Allen Poe had in mind when he was writing The Raven.

AHAHAHAH! Yoooo you can't have a flamingo. You can't have a battle flamingo. Look at this moron. He doesn't want to be here AT ALL. "Hey, doofus, get out of that pond. You're Frenzied Flamingo now. Take this, like bent-ass coathanger and go slap someone with it."

Annnnddd Pugnacious Penguin. 

These are THE WORST toys I've ever seen, and I want ALL of them. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Maine Mariners Hockey Team's New Puffin Mascot

I was 9 when the Maine Mariners hockey team played their last game in the Cumberland County Civic Center. I wasn't there or anything, but I had been to a game or two and at one point had owned a t-shirt featuring their endearingly-80's "cyborg radiator" logo.

The Mariners left and were replaced by the Portland Pirates, who played until 2015 before leaving for the greener pastures of Springfield, Massachusetts (lol). But time is a flat circle etc. etc. and a new team is back to knock pucks along Casco Bay: the Maine Mariners.

Not the old Maine Mariners, the new Maine Mariners, with a new trident logo instead of the radiator. Not an improvement, if you ask me, but I'm rooted in nostalgia and there's not stopping it.

Nostalgia won again in the choice of the Mariners name, which was decided via a public vote. Mainers chose between Mariners, Lumberjacks, Wild Blueberries, Watchmen, and ... wait for it ... Puffins.

Can you guess which name I voted for? Here's a hint, in the form of a potential logo I child-scribbled with colored pencils:

Yeah, the Puffins. The Puffins would have been a radical name, and showcased one of Maine's most iconic wildlife species, a bird with a cool color scheme, and a chunky little cutie pie. Alas, Mariners won the day.

But there's more to this than just a name, and just this week the Mariners unveiled their new mascot: Beacon the Puffin. Right on. 

Looks pretty good! It's an Atlantic Puffin -- the species found in the Gulf of Maine -- and all the colors appear in their right places. You never with these sports logos whether they'll mix up colors or use the wrong species or something.

Sounds like the Maine Mariners have done it right. The "facts" about Beacon on this page tell us that he was born in Machias Seal Island, an important but controversial island in the Gulf, and that among his hobbies is raising awareness of Project Puffin

Welcome to Maine, Beacon the Puffin!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Product Review: Wunderbird Gyrfalcon Sweatshirt

I am a long-time skeptic of birding-specific clothing. Too often I see birders out in the neighborhood parks looking like they're embarking on an African safari: zip-away khaki pants, million-pocketed vest, bucket hat, and other needless accessories. Play it cool, you know?

But, I keep an open mind, and when the Wunderbird company asked if they could send me a sweatshirt to try out, I readily agreed. Birder clothing that doesn't look like "birder" clothing? Happy to investigate. They sent me a large blue Gyrfalcon hoodie.

First things first, this sweatshirt looks great. It looks cool, which is not something I'd ever thought I'd say about birding clothes. It fits really well -- sleek and not too baggy, which can be a real downer in a sweatshirt. The fabric is smooth and there's a ton of reinforced stitching; it's a high quality item, no doubt. Here I am wearing it in the DC heat, pointing out some great birds to Hisao.

There's more to this sweatshirt than just good looks, though, there are specific features just for birders. The most interesting, for me specifically, is the chest pocket for carrying binoculars. I have never been a fan of binocular harnesses, those dual loops that swing around each shoulder to keep your binoculars tight to your chest. I just don't like them, and prefer the longer strap. But harnesses do have the undeniable benefit of allowing you to walk around without your bins bumping annoyingly off your chest. This sweatshirt attempts to solve that problem by including a zippered pocked on the chest. See below:

It's pretty handy! The binoculars sit in there snugly and come right out when there's something flapping by that I need to examine. I really like this feature. I have heard from some women, however, that this chest pocket isn't a great solution for them. I don't know whether the women's cut version of this sweatshirt might somehow make this pocket work better, though.

The other "birder" features include a large front pocket complex that includes side-entry hand warming pocket and a large velcro front pocket for storing a field guide or snacks or whatever. There's a smaller mesh pocket inside this large front pocket. I really like the side-entry pocket, it's snug and comfortable -- again, this is a really well made sweatshirt. The large front pocket was nice, too, though I don't imagine I'll use it to store very much, and the single strip of velcro could use some reinforcement. 

Wunderbird's Gyrfalcon sweatshirt represents a new world of clothes for birding. I wouldn't be caught dead in a khaki vest or bucket hat, but I'll wear this whenever the weather allows. See you out there!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Still Alive!

Hi friends! Lots been happening here, just not a lot of it for this ol 2002-lookin-ass blog. (I should probably overhaul this, right? It's been years. I know people don't really do blogs even anymore but I don't want to get rid of it, but don't really know what would look better. Suggestions welcome.)

I had some plans this spring for some original blog content (!) but just couldn't get it together in time. Maybe next spring.

I had a baby in March! That's going great, but taking up a lot of time, as you can probably imagine. He came birding with me a bunch of times in May, which was a blast. Here's a pic of him peacefully hanging out with me at Theodore Roosevelt Island during a super-heavy migration morning.

And here we are at Constitution Gardens on the Mall getting up close with some Canada Geese.

I've still been writing, too, just not as frequently as I once was. It's hard with a little baby and a busy day job! Here are a few links.

I've written a couple more pieces for National Parks Magazine, one about Sooty Terns at Dry Tortugas National Park (one of my all-time favorite places), and the other about birding on Civil War battlefield parks.

And a couple of new articles on

I've also been birding, but not as much as in previous years. A baby will do that to you. No new ABA birds yet this year, but four new District of Columbia birds: a Golden-winged Warbler (what a stunner!) in Rock Creek Park, a good look at a Virginia Warbler at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and an overdue Alder Flycatcher at the same spot, and then a trio of Least Terns just today on the Potomac. The city was enthralled for a week or so by a strangely confiding Northern Bobwhite in a yard up above Georgetown until it came out a week later that the bird had been raised from an egg by some neighbors. Fun to get a good look, of course!

Enjoy! Will hopefully get some good stuff up here soon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Swans and Robots

Do you think the words "swan" and "robots" have ever been used in the same sentence before? I can't imagine in what context. Well, there's a first time for everything: I've published two recent articles, one on swans and another on robots, for, and wanted to share them here.

First, with incredible custom artwork by Lilli Carre, is a very silly piece I wrote about the modifications I'd have if I were a birding cyborg robot.

Next, with an image from Lynn Long / Audubon Photography Awards, is a piece encouraging birders to seek out wild swans -- not domesticated pond floaties.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Renaming Birds By Their Anagrams

I've written a lot about renaming birds. I've tried to give some birds their dignity back by changing their embarrassing comparative names. I've suggested some new people to name birds after. I've probably done other things I can't remember. Now, I'm doing something else.

We know there are a lot of birds with names that are...less than optimal. The Red-bellied Woodpecker barely has a red belly. The least evident part of the Orange-crowned Warbler is its crown. House Wren is just a flat-out boring name.

But how do you pick new names? Is Boring Greenish Warbler really any better than Orange-crowned? Who the hell do I think I am?

Maybe I'll let the current names do the work for me. Here are a bunch of new names for badly named birds (and then birds with good names just because they're fun). Thanks to the Internet Anagram Server for the heavy lifting. Enjoy.

  • Red-bellied Woodpecker -- Credible Deplored Woke (topical!)
  • Ring-necked Duck = Crick-kneed Dung (improvement?)
  • Western Tanager = A Stranger Tween (prequel to the Netflix show)
  • Hooded Warbler = Roadbed Howler (great blues musician name)
  • Rock Ptarmigan = Croaking Tramp (lol)
  • Whooping Crane = Powering Nacho (new Taco Bell menu item)
  • Elf Owl = Fellow (aw)
  • House Wren = Nowhere Us (Radiohead track)
  • Dickcissel = Dick Slices (can't stop giggling)
  • Spotted Towhee = Tweeted Photos (brand integration!)
  • Orchard Oriole = Hairdo Recolor (hey that's a thing, right?)
  • Phainopepla = Papa Pinhole (I think this was a ska band I listened to in the 90s)
  • American Robin = Macaroni Brine (gross) and Airborne Manic (fits)
  • Tree Swallow = Wallet Worse (I know how you feel)
  • Oak Titmouse = A Muskie Toot (haha yeah that's the good stuff)
  • Purple Martin = Praline Trump (topical...?) and Terrapin Lump (the UMD bench)
  • Boreal Owl = Oral Below ( :-| )
  • Rock Pigeon = Precooking (not funny but a single word) and Cooing Perk (accurate!)
  • Sandwich Tern = Wind Snatcher (accurate...?)
  • Red Knot = Dork Net (aka bird twitter)
  • Osprey = Roe Spy (I mean, they're after fish)
  • Least Bittern = Titan Trembles (great sci-fi novel)
  • Reddish Egret = Dished Regret (badass)
  • Snail Kite = Saintlike (yes)
  • Spruce Grouse = Pug Resources (one-stop dog shop)
  • Piping Plover = Propping Evil (diabolical!)
  • Marbled Godwit = Girdled Wombat (a great bar in Melbourne)
  • Lesser Nighthawk = Lengthwise Shark (science)
  • Horned Grebe = Boner Hedger (haha out with a bang)
 Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Birding Santa Detective

I got a gift bag for Christmas that had an image of Santa birding. It's maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen. I put it up on twitter (@thebirdist) and tried to figure out just where Santa was pictured, given the species present. Here's how it went down:

Great work, all.

Despite some Google reverse image searching and just general Googling, I wasn't able to track down the illustrator or anything else about the image. If you know, please tell.


Some quick work from readers has revealed that this image is "Bird Watching Santa" by a popular artist named Tom Newsom. Here's the image from his site, which apparently was reversed on the bag I got.

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