Thursday, September 24, 2020

ABA Podcast, Illinois Kingfisher Mascot, Others

 Hey my dear friends what's happening. Will Blogger still be around after there's no democracy? Who knows. Better get these things up now.

I was recently a guest on the American Birding Association's This Month in Birding podcast, alongside superhost Nate Swick and with Nicole Jackson and Mo Stych. It was pretty depressing to start! Things are not great right now! But it got more fun and funnier! Click on the image below!

I also wrote a piece for National Audubon about an exciting initiative happening on the campus of the University of Illinois, which has been without a sports team mascot for over a decade since they ditched their own offensive Native American one. The new movement hopes to install the Belted Kingfisher as the new mascot! Great bird! I hope it works! I don't want to spoil the story, but I'll tell you that the vote went really well and that no one still knows what the next steps are! Exclamation points!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Flying Polish Hare of Google Street View

The Google Street View Birding Facebook Group is still going strong, nearly two years after its creation. It's pretty amazing. My goofy little procrastination side-project now has more than 4,300 members (most all of them much better at finding birds than I ever was), and has tracked down a simply incredible 1226 different bird species. It's a supportive and kind group of folks and I couldn't be prouder.

A line of discussion began in the group after Linda L. posted a screenshot of some caribou crossing the road in Finland - In all these miles of driving and recording by the Street View car, had it ever hit anything? Street View Roadkill? In theory you'd be able to see the entire story: a poor creature running into the road in front of the car and then left on the road out the other side. I had never seen anything, had others?

Well, yes, in fact. Group superstar Aaron Polichar recalled at least one likely incident which made the tabloid rounds in July 2019 and was brought to our attention by Oswaldo Zuniga: the sad saga of the Polish Flying Hare.

It's a sad saga because, although we can't be absolutely certain, it seems unlikely that this beautiful European Hare survived being struck by the Google Street View car and launched way, way into the air. At least it went with style. RIP.

Just as I figured, the constant recording of the Street View car allows us to reconstruct a sort of flip-book of the last incredible moments of this creature.

We're on a road called the Biala Droga, south of Krakow, Poland. The Street View car is cruising down the road -- and I do mean cruising - I wish I could mathematize the actual speed but it appears to be going much faster than I expected Street View cars to be able to travel -- and in the distance a hare appears running down another road.

First shot here.

The next click forward for the car and the hare is still coming down the road, into harm's way.

The hare has only moved a couple feet forward while the car has traveled, what, 40 feet? It's hauling, and the rabbit is right in the path. The next few panels are a little rough, because though you can't see the car itself, you can see the hare being struck.

Okay now so reversing to the back of the car, the poor animal continues to apparently bounce along near the top of the car and its camera tower. It's definitely moving upward, but it's unclear whether it's hitting anything else. That's its head facing outward in this image.

Next comes the incredible image. The hare has continued upward and is captured in what appears to be mid-leap, composed and graceful looking for all the world like its bounding to the moon.

The creature can be seen again as the Street View car continues on its path. Here, the hare is further off the road, still very high, and flailing.

The car continues and the hare keep falling. It's visible here, from further down the road, in a righted position still, what, ten feet in the air? Below the treeline and above the tree in the foreground.

Finally, it lands in the field, on its back. The grace is gone, and the sad reality of human destruction is all that's left.

It's sad, but an incredible sequence. There's no way of knowing what happened to the hare but it seems doubtful that the poor thing could have survived an impact like that, despite the hare looking fairly composed in some of the shots. Still, you never know. The Flying Polish Hare of Street View may have gotten back up, dusted itself off, and had one hell of a story to tell.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

ABA Podcast and Portland Phoenix

Hey friends just cranking along in this coronavirus hellscape, taking it one day at a time and just trying to put my pants on the correct legs and feet into the correct Crocs. It's tough out there, but the birds are still flying. And I am here to see them talk nonsense about them.

I did some of that nonsense-talkin' this month on the American Birding Association's This Month in Birding podcast, also featuring my friends Purbita Saha and Ryan Mandelbaum. Was an honor to have been asked back, and had a predictably fun and funny conversation under the moderation of Nate Swick. Enjoy!

Also quickly wanted to remind folks of my monthly column in the Portland Phoenix, a great local newspaper in southern Maine with innovative design and, clearly, a great taste in writers. My latest is about The Best Thing You Can Do For Birds Right Now.

Be good! Be nice! See birds!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Best of Twitter: Recreating the St. Louis Cardinals Logo with a Real Bird

Twitter is just the best sometimes.

For instance, the other day I was making some of my usual meaningless observations about birds, this time comparing a photo of a Baltimore Oriole on my feeder pole to one of the logos of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team:

Then, I wondered how close one could actually get to replicating that logo, which led me to:
I expected nothing to happen. Certainly lazy old me wasn't going to do anything about it. But then, Twitter. User Tess Rouillard (@WhiskyEyeBrews) actually went and built the dang Cardinals logo, and put it up near her feeders! What!
The trap, as she said, was set. It didn't take long for birds to visit, though they weren't the species we were looking for. A Common Grackle was first up to bat. Then a Blue Jay, which is actually a pretty hilarious mashup of two different MLB teams: Then, this morning, less than a day after I originally posted the thing to Twitter, Tessa and her feeders came through. A real live Northern Cardinal perched on the Cardinals logo!! Incredible! I think, frankly, that this is one of the coolest things to ever happen on the internet. I think Tessa Rouillard so much for her ingenuity and creativity and motivation. I'm hoping that the Cardinals team will see this and give her some credit for her work! Sports!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Stevie Nicks Has Definitely Heard a Dove Before


I've always had an appreciation (see here) for Stevie Nick's 1981 song "Edge of Seventeen" because of its shoutout to the overlooked and underappreciated White-winged Dove. The chorus of the song goes "Just like the white winged dove / Sings a song / Sounds like she's singing / Ooh ooh ooh."

It's a cool song I guess. Here's the video.

I've always enjoyed the specificity of the White-winged Dove reference. Was Stevie leafing through a Peterson guide when she came up with the lyric? Was she a secret birder? I did quibble a little bit with her representation of the birds song, but I gave her the benefit of artistic license. (Sibley says that the song is "a rhythmic hooting hhhHEPEP pou pooooo … reminiscent of a Barred or Spotted Owl, and a slow, measures series pep pair pooa paair pooa pair pooa" but these wouldn't fit into that song at all.)

Today, however, Stevie has unexpectedly shed confusing new light on the situation, claiming that she has just now for the first time (April 2020) heard a dove singing.
There's a lot to take in here.

First of all, the bird singing in Steve's video is a Mourning Dove, not a White-winged Dove.

Second, fast facts about the obscure White-winged Dove was on a menu on an airplane?

Third, there is absolutely no way that Stevie Nicks has never heard a dove before, White-winged or Mourning or otherwise. Let's focus on that for a bit, because it's goddamn impossible.

You'll often hear new-ish birder say that they feel like they're seeing the world for the first time. I was like that. Once I started looking and listening for birds it felt like I was living in a new world. One of the absolute grandest things about getting into birds is the awakening that they're all around us, nearly everywhere we go.

But that doesn't mean I didn't know that ANY birds were around. I knew a ton of birds before I was a birder, just from the unavoidabilities of life. The Mourning Dove was one of them (we don't have White-winged Doves in Maine). They sat on the wires outside my bedroom and sang their songs. How could I miss them? I had no occasion to know them, nothing like, say, writing an international hit song about them, but I still knew them because I was surrounded by them.

How could Stevie Nicks miss the White-winged Dove? She was born in Phoenix and raised in towns throughout the Southwest and California. Here's the eBird map of White-winged Dove for Phoenix:

I bet she heard them singing every day. I know I am extra sensitive to birds, but it still surprises me that people can be so insensitive, so unaware of their surroundings. I'm not trying to knock Stevie, and Lord knows she doesn't give a shit about what I think, but I hope we can all go outside and listen to what's around us.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

2019 Year in Review

My dear friends, we're rapidly hurtling towards the close of another calendar year (thanks Pope Gregory XIII, honestly the whole 'conduit to God' thing was impressive enough for me, inventing a whole new calendar seems like overkill...), and it seems like the perfect time to talk about some of the stuff I did.

2019 was a fun year (though not likely as fun for me as 1572 was for Cardinal Ugo Boncompagni, who was elected Pope and took the name Pope Gregory XIII). It wasn't my most productive, but I did a lot of different, enjoyable things. Let's take a look.

  • In early January I published a piece about birding in the video game Red Dead Redemption 2 at Audubon. I love that game, and played it for hours and hours this year, eventually achieving a nerdy 100% completion. I committed myself to the game, much like Pope Gregory XIII committed himself to putting into practice the recommendations of the Council of Trent. The piece was well-received, and was republished in the Guardian and got me an interview on German NPR

  • I raked some muck in 2019, some birdy muck. In late 2018 I made the papers here in Maine for discovering that our state doesn't actually have an official state bird species, but rather an ambiguous "chickadee" (we have both Black-capped and Boreal). A state legislator took up the issue and introduced a bill to clarify the situation, and I was eventually hauled up to Augusta to testify in front of a legislative subcommittee about why this was an important issue (it is) and what the new state bird should be (Boreal). I felt like a big shot, like when Cardinal Boncompagni was sent by Pope Pious IV to investigate the Cardinal of Toledo! I was again asked onto NPR, in America this time. I wasn't convincing enough, however, and the bill died in the committee in March. 

  • In April I spoke with Tim Kimmel, the Supervising Sound Editor on Game of Thrones, about how his team puts real thought into the birds singing in the background of that show, and I put together a field guide to the background birds of Westeros.  You know who else put thought into things? Pope Gregory XIII, who in 1580 commissioned artists, including Ignazio Danti, to complete works to decorate the Vatican and commissioned The Gallery of Maps.

  • I was honored to appear in THREE episodes of the incredible new web series from Rob Meyer and hosted by Jason Ward, Birds of North America. I had a blast taking Jason and his brother Jeffrey and the one and only Rosemary Mosco around during a chilly Christmas Bird Count, and then I debated feral cats, the Trump Duck, and other important topics with Jason, and finally was included in the last video of Jason and Jeffrey tallying lifers in Maine. So much fun. 

  • I was delighted in June to publish a fun article about fixing birdy pro sports logos in Deadspin, one of my favorite websites. Not the happiest of endings, though, as the website went belly-up thanks to disastrous mismanagement just a few months later, and I never got paid. I was disappointed, much like Pope Gregory XIII was disappointed when Thomas Stukeley joined his forces with those of King Sebastian of Portugal against Emperor Abdul Malik of Morocco after landing in Ireland to aid the Catholics against the Protestant plantations.

  • I went birding in Newfoundland in July! Holy cow was that fun. I was guided by the incredible Jared Clarke of Bird the Rock, and joined by Ted Floyd and Nate Swick of the ABA and Jason Ward of Birds of North America. Nate interviewed us all for a great ABA podcast episode, and I shouted out the amazing sea watching at Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, where I had one of the absolute best birding experiences of my life. Most importantly, I finally got my lifer Thick-billed Murre, by 691st ABA bird! I was as excited as Pope Gregory XIII was in 1575 when he gave official status to the Congregation of the Oratory!

  • I got another ABA lifer (#692) in September, a Great Skua from the Maine Audubon Bar Harbor Pelagic!

  • The goofy insane Google Street View Birding group that I started on Facebook in Nov. 2018 has swelled to more than 2,700 members and are still out there finding new species in roadside images from all over the world. As of today we've collectively found 1,144 different species. That's a much larger number than the 34 cardinals in eight consistories Pope Gregory XIII created during his pontificate.

  • With only a few days left in the year and a few possibilities left (I am in VA for a few days), I am at 272 ABA species for the year, a very modest improvement over the 268 I ended at last year and a far cry from the 400+ I made in the pre-kid years. I haven't had a real birding trip in two years now (other than Newfoundland, which was incredible but wasn't a really high species count area), but that's changing in 2020. I've been asked to speak at the Laredo Birding Festival in February (please come see me! We can hang out!) and also just bought tickets for a week with buddies in Ecuador in March. Follow here or Twitter or wherever to follow along.

That's it! Love to you all. And, as Pope Gregory XIII said as he laid on his death bed in early April 585: "Thanks for reading my blog."

Friday, September 13, 2019

How to Draw Birds

  1.  Draw a Pac-Man ghost
  2.  Give it a beak
  3.  Done

  1. Draw a chair
  2. Make it into a sandpiper
  3. That's all

  1. Draw a floor lamp
  2. Make it look like a duck
  3. You're all done

  1. Draw a baby cradle
  2. Add some bird things
  3. Stop because you're done

  1. Draw a happy eel
  2. Turn it on its side
  3. Good job

About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Blog Design | 2007 Company Name