Saturday, May 31, 2008

Birds at Large II: Windex Commercial

Would you expect a Pied Crow to have a New Jersey accent? I wouldn't, because Pied Crows don't live in the United States. This Windex commercial, though, sees nothing wrong with it. Yeah Yeah, he narrator has a non-American accent and maybe the commercial was made in another country and just played here, but I don't care. You can't pass off a clearly foreign bird as having an American accent and get away with it. Thx.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I and the Bird #76

I was too lazy and forgetful to submit anything, and the new edition of I and the Bird is probably better off for it. Check out the collection of the best birdblog posts at Wanderin' Weeta.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Curlew Sandpiper - Seawall Beach, Maine

I had plans at Popham Beach this afternoon so I jumped at the opportunity to look for the Curlew Sandpiper that has been seen for the past few days at nearby Seawall Beach. It took a LOT of walking - four miles round-trip on Morse Mountain Road, at least another mile or two of wandering back and forth on the giant beach - but I finally found the bird with a group of twenty or so Semipalmated Sandpipers and a single Dunlin.

Life birds make sunburns itch like victory. Mediocre pictures below.

Also, the walk in on Morse Mountain Road was absolutely beautiful. I kept up a good pace to reach the beach, but I did manage to find my first-of-year Blackburnian Warbler (a few of them, actually) on the way in.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Guys That Birds Are Named After #2: Thomas Lincoln

Ah, Wikipedia! Scourge and savior!

I love Wikipedia and am quick to defend it against those who say it's uncertain or incomplete. Sure, I say, it may not be the best reference for controversial topics like George W. Bush, or the Arctic Refuge Drilling Controversy or Barry Manilow (Trust me, it's true), but what reason could there be to lie about mundane things like Sibbach v. Wilson or, say, Lincoln's sparrow?

No reason that I can think of. Yet, there it was. While I was doing research for this post I clicked on the link (now changed, by me) for Thomas Lincoln, the man James Audubon named Lincoln's Sparrow after. The link brought me here. Lincoln's sparrow named after the future estranged father of Abraham Lincoln?! That's blogger gold!

Fool's gold, however (I'm a great writer). Wikipedia led me astray. Further research - something every good journalist (and me) must always do - allowed me to discover that Audubon's friend who first shot the sparrow that would later bear his name was not Thomas Lincoln, father of Abraham, but Thomas Lincoln of Dennysville, Maine.

Turns out: still gold. Thomas Lincoln was a cool guy. Plus, he's from Maine. Here's what I could find out about him:

According to page 109 of this book, Thomas Lincoln was born in 1812. Thomas came from successful stock, his grandfather being Benjamin Lincoln, a Revolutionary War general, a fatso, the recipient of the sword of surrender at Yorktown, and a friend of George Washington (I knew presidents would be involved somehow). Benjamin's fifth child, Theodore, was Dennysville's first settler, a Harvard graduate, a Judge, and Thomas' father.

Coming from such a prestigious family, it's amazing to me that Thomas is most responsible for the Lincoln (of Dennysville) family name being remembered. While I couldn't find a whole lot about the man himself, what I could find painted a portrait of a man who wasn't quite as exciting as his relatives. According to this page, Thomas was "a successful farmer, taciturn neighbor and a staunch abolitionist." A taciturn neighbor! If, in a hundred years, the only thing people remember me for is being shy around the people who live nearby I'm going to spin in my cremated remains.

Regardless of how infrequently he spoke to his neighbors, Thomas Lincoln will be always be remembered as the man the Lincoln's sparrow is named after. The story is short and sweet: Lincoln, a friend of Audubon's son, hopped aboard Audubon's 1833 trip to Labrador in search of new bird species. One day in June, Audubon heard a song he didn't recognize and challenged his crew to find its singer. Lincoln, being an excellent marksman, shot the little bugger and presented it to Audubon, who named it "Tom's Finch" (or "Lincoln's Pinewood-Finch" as it appears on Audubon's first sketch of the bird) on the spot. Audubon wrote that he named the bird for Lincoln because he was a favorite among the crew, and Thomas was given three cheers for the honor. Good times!

So that's the story of Thomas Lincoln. Being a good Mainer, I wondered whether other "Lincoln" named things in Maine were named for Thomas or the Dennysville Lincolns. Turns out: No. The Town of Lincoln and Lincoln County were named for Enoch Lincoln, Maine's first governor. Also, Fort Gorges, that beautiful creaky deathtrap in Casco Bay, was engineered by a man named Thomas Lincoln Casey. Thanks for all your help, Wikipedia, I'll never say a bad thing about you again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Birds at Large: Jeep Liberty Commercial

New feature here: Birds at Large. It could also be called Media Birds or Commercial Bird Errors or I Can't Believe It's Not A Real Bird or People Are Stupid and Lazy. BaL is essentially this: as a live my life and interact with the world around me I notice that birds are often misrepresented or presented incorrectly to non-birding public. I want to point out those errors and mock those involved. Cool? Let's get started with this wicked stupid Jeep Liberty commercial:

Around the 30 second mark a pair of birds fly into the Jeep and start singing along with the idiot driver. Notice anything weird about those birds? I do. What do I notice? They aren't a real species of birds. Not in North America, anyway. The commercial was created by hotshot American shop Cutwater, themselves a branch of the terrifyingly-named advertising juggernaut Omnicom. I say this because I presume that the commercial was shot in America and designed for and American audience, thus ruling out the possibility that this freak-bird is a species elsewhere.

So what is it? The crest-feathers are reminiscent of a quail or something, but the body is clearly different. The long, thin body and the small, flat, sharp beak reminds me of something in the lark family. India's Malabar lark (pictured) or a gray, mutant version of the good ol' Horned Lark.
But it ain't neither of those birds. It doesn't exist. So many annoying questions arise: Why wouldn't the people behind the commercial just use a bird that actually exists? Why go to all the trouble of inventing a new bird when you can use any of the perfectly good ones we've already got? There are no answers to these questions except "laziness." It's a dumb commercial, and it's a dumb mistake.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Here Are Some Photographs Of Birds I Have Recently Seen

Hey! I know I'm supposed to only to interviews here but, as I explained below, I have been too busy with finals to get any interviews going. BUT that don't mean I 'aint been out lookin' for birds! It's migration for [swear words]'s sake! Here are some pictures of poor quality I've taken in the past few weeks for your viewing amazement.

This Herring Gull appears to have partially swallowed a rubber band or something. Poor guy. When I saw him I thought it was some crazy extralimital "Red-Bridged Gull" but it wasn't.

Another shot of the unlucky gull.

Laughing Gull at Back Bay, Portland, Maine.

Kennebunk Plains in Kennebunk, Maine is a weird place with some great birding. Miles of deep woods suddenly give way to midwest-style grasslands. As far as I know it's the best place in the state to see Upland Sandpiper, Prairie Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, the endangered Black Racer snake and ticks. Lots and lots of disgusting ticks.

Anyway, the Pulitzer Prize-winning shot below is my first ever Upland Sandpiper. Huzzah!

I'm sure National Geographic will be kicking in my door and forcing my to sign a lifetime photography contract when they see this shot of a Vesper Sparrow, again from Kennebunk Plains.

Field Sparrow at the K'bunk Plizzains.

Spotted Sandpiper at Higgins Beach in Scarborough, Maine.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Law School Finals Time

I'm not just jerk who's not posting anything because I'm too busy playing Grand Theft Auto 4 in my mom's basement, I'm a jerk who's busy studying for 1L finals in my mom's side-house.
I'll try to get some HOT NEW INTERVIEWS when I'm done this living hell.

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