Thursday, July 24, 2014

Put A Bird On It. Any Bird.


The Major League Soccer All-Star Game is going to be held in Portland, Oregon* this year, and they've just released images of the jerseys the players will be wearing.  Portland, OR being Zany Quirky Portland, OR (TM) (c), they stuck a bird on the inside of the shirt, a reference to the Put a Bird On It skit from the tv show Portlandia.

That's all well and good and Portlandians can check the "delightful irreverence" box that's probably required for anything officially done in Portlandia.  But something sticks in my craw.  The MLS release about the jerseys says that the bird on the jersey is a western meadowlark, the state bird of Oregon.  Let's take a closer look.


You've got to be shitting me.  That's not a meadowlark.  It's blatantly not a meadowlark.


Why even bother?  Does it cost more to print the silhouette of a meadowlark instead of that sparrow-type thing?  If you want it to be a meadowlark, make it a meadowlark!  If you don't care, then don't say it's a meadowlark!  Lord.  The stupidity of state birds is something I've discussed at length, but apparently my rantings have not changed anything.  Screw you, Portland, Oregon, and go Sounders.


*In 1845, two dudes with two very-1845 names, Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove, wanted to name their new settlement on the Pacific coast after their respective hometowns.  Lovejoy was from Boston, Massachusetts and Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine, also the beloved hometown of yours truly.  They decided that the only way to fairly choose a name was a best-of-three coin flipping contest.  Francis, using those strong Maine thumbs, flipped a winner, and proudly proclaimed this new site Portland, of the Oregon Territory!  Fast forward to today, and everyone's all "Oh, I am going on vacation to Portland" or "Today, the weather in Portland is..." without clarifying that they're talking about the also-ran city in Oregon and not the original American city in Maine.  It's bullshit and I hate it.

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 Slate.com, 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.

[UPDATE]

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.


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