Monday, July 21, 2014

How Far Is Migration?

Okay.  Just thinking about things here for a second.

  • Let's take a Blackburnian Warbler.  Cornell says that these guys weigh 0.3 - 0.5 ounces.  We'll use a heavier, pre-migration weight of 0.5 ounces.
  • Then, for fun, let's take one of the most southerly wintering Blackburnians, like maybe these guys who were found at Machu Picchu, Peru.  Then, let's find some breeders.  How about these guys, found along the piney shores of Moosehead Lake in Greenville, The Great State of Maine.
  • Google Maps has a new "measure distance" tool that shows a plausible Machu Picchu-Dominican Republic-Cuba-Florida-Greenville, Maine migration distance as coming in at 4,522 miles.
  • Using the field of study known as "math," I can multiple 4,522 x 0.5 to get a miles-per-ounce distance of 9,044.  OK.
  • The Information Superhighway says that the average human weight across the globe is 137 pounds.  There are 16 ounces in a pound.  So, using "math," I can calculate that that average earthling weighs 2,192 ounces.
  • So, if a human were to travel the same miles-per-ounce distance as a Blackburnian Warbler does during its twice annual migration, we'd have to go 9,044 x 2,192 = 19,824,448 miles.  Twenty MILLION miles.  
  • The moon is 238,000 miles away from us.  Venus is 26 million miles away from Earth.  On a per-ounce basis, a Blackburnian Human's migration would take us within a stone's throw from frigging VENUS.
  • Has anyone ever traveled 20 million miles from Earth, you ask?  Why, in fact, yes.  In the 1950s, and it was a complete unmitigated disaster.  And it was all caught on film.  See for yourself:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Interesting Historical eBird Checklists

I love looking at old eBird records to see weird records or historical distribution patterns.  I've uncovered some really unusual old checklists during the course of some recent research.  I've taken screenshots of the most interesting ones, click to embiggen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Solar Power Plants Are Literally Roasting Birds In-Flight

New piece up today at, the best goddamn website on this Spaceship Earth.

Solar Power Plants Are Literally Roasting Birds In-Flight

Friday, June 27, 2014

Google Street Maps Birding

I've created a monster.  A nerd monster.  (Instead of terrorizing cities he sits in his mother's cave and plays Basements & Humans).

Occasionally I pass the time slowly scrolling along random streets captured in Google Street View looking for birds.  I'm not proud of it, but as far as Things To Do go it's better than a heroin addition.  I've been able to find a bunch of birds and it's allowed me to travel All Over The WORLD!

There are other images of our world out there on the internet, and one reader, Greg of the Greg and Birds site, has started to find birds in them.  In Google Maps.  Overhead, satellite, far-away images of teeny-tiny birds.  I don't know how he did it, but Greg zoomed way into a lake on the southwest side of Indianapolis (here are the coordinates: 39.851657,-86.302702) and found a ... bird.  I'm not exactly sure what it is.  I captured a screenshot:

Greg suggested Great Egret but the structure doesn't look right.  Maybe its head is tucked up.  The wing shape looks to me more like a gull, but I don't know.  Guesses welcome.

Thank you Greg for this opening up incredible, pathetic new frontier.  God help me when I lose my job for spending the day scanning the backgrounds of real estate photos trying to identify passerines on feeders in the neighbor's yard.  It's an odd world, my friends.


Reader Urs Geider sent in a comment with a link to this screenshot showing 38.872515, -90.172794 (the Riverlands area in Missouri, across the Mississippi from Alton, IL). Looks like American White Pelicans to me!  Awesome!  Thanks, Urs.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Bunch of Photos From My Trip to Alaska

I don't like posting trip reports.  When I started this dumpy website, I wanted to fill the gap in the bird blogosphere between Hey Here's A Cardinal In My Backyard bird blogs and Here Is Some Insane Endemic Trogon I Discovered On An Island blogs.  Reports of my lame 30-species-days were not my area of interest.

But, dear reader, screw you.  It's my damn website and if I go to Alaska and see a ton of cool shit and lug around some huge lens everywhere to get pictures, then you're going to have to look at them.  So buckle in.

A quick note - my autofocus doesn't work.  I lucked into a Canon 30d camera body when my friend, it's previous owner, dropped it into a saltwater swamp.  He went to upgrade, I inquired about the condition of the damp body, he said it sorta worked, the rest is history.  Most of the time the thing works fine, but the electronic connections are rusty and there's not much communication between the lens and the body.  So some of the photos aren't that great and aren't in good focus but who cares.  Just so you know.

I traveled with my buddy Jake to Anchorage, Homer, Seward and Nome, Alaska.  I got 21 ABA lifers.  140 species total.  I drank a bunch of beers.  I saw musk oxen, sea otters, killer whales and guys smoking crack.  Here are some of the birds.

Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear

Golen Eagle
Golden Eagle

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Terrifying Face of Birding

I've been blasting this photo all over Twitter for the past few days, so apologies if you're stick of it.  Sorry, but I'm not sorry.  I cannot stop looking at it.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forget it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Grading Bird-themed Minor League Baseball Teams

Baseball's long, slow, hot, gorgeous season has begun, not just in those cities hosting Major League teams but smaller cities and towns across the country.  According to this list on Wikipedia, there are 27 minor and independent leagues in North America, many with teams named after those most endearing and non-threatening of mascots: birds.

You likely haven't heard of most of these teams unless you live in one of America's small municipalities or, like, did a project in school about minor league teams or something.  Well, friend, relax.  Let me save you the trouble of figuring out which teams have done a good job with their avian themes, and which ones are unworthy of their winged mascots.


Rochester (NY) Red Wings

So, they got their name in 1929 when they became the St. Louis Cardinals farm team (bonus points there), and a few extra bonus points for at least having a bird mascot - the NHL Detroit Red Wings aren't named for birds - but what the hell is this?  Why would they do this?  It's not a real bird, or even close.  Turn this in to a tanager or something, or a real hawk, then we'll talk.

Grade: D

Toledo Mud Hens

History has it (via Wikipedia) that the Toldeo Mud Hens were originally the "Swamp Angels" but they became known as "Mud Hens" because the swamp they played in was filled with American Coots.  A cool story, and an interesting bird to be named after, but this frigging thing doesn't look like an American Coot at all.  What even is this?  Why is this?

Grade: C-


Memphis Redbirds

This is the first athletic use of a cardinal mascot that doesn't have a yellow bill.  Do you hear that?  THE FIRST ONE!  Problem is, it's a fucking red bill instead.  Is there a shortage of orange?  What does everyone have against orange?  Adding insult to injury, the mascot has a yellow bill.  I love Memphis, but I'm furious.

Grade: B- 

Oklahoma City RedHawks

 I just want to check and see if teams are allowed to use birds that aren't red.  Is that permitted?  Did Congress pass something when I wasn't looking?  What the shit is a RedHawk and why isn't it two words?  It's not a bird ugghhh and that bat would break his beak this is the worst day of my life.

Grade: C-

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