Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Birds at Large: Family Guy

I pulled these screen shots off an episode this season called "Call Girl."  Look, I'm not going to get in a huge debate over Family Guy.  When it first aired it was some pretty cutting edge stuff, frankly, but it's settled into a rut where it settles for nastiness instead of nasty wit.  Who cares.  I'll watch it on Hulu once in awhile. 

This episode had birds in it.  Real birds?  No. 

I wish these were real.  These birds are beautiful.  Some kind of Connecticut Warbler x Mountain Bluebird hybrid?  Artistically, they show a pretty good sense of ornithological construction, they just aren't a real species.  Alas.

The plot of the episode begins with Peter getting a falcon for some reason that I don't remember already.  Here it is, first eating those cool birds from a second ago, then squishing Stewie's soft spot:

It most resembles a Peregrine Falcon, or a Prairie, but unlike the blue birds before this bird is lazily constructed.  What's with those patches where the coverts should be?  Where's the tail in the bottom photograph?  Like the show, this falcon is crude, hastily-constructed and lazy...but screw it it's better than Honey Boo-Boo. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Google Street View Birding

Ah, March.  I'm tired of all the winter birds, and spring birds haven't come yet.  Plus, I'm stuck in the office most of the time and it's cold and it's raining probably.  What's a bored birder to do but dream of birding in faraway lands and in warmer temps? 

I was perusing Google Street View the other day when it dawned on my that it just might be the cure for my March birding blues.  A car travelling all of America's roads taking 360 degree video must have seen a few birds along the way, right?  How many could I find?  My task instantly overwhelming my brain, I cancelled all my other appointments (none), asked my secretary to hold my calls (I don't have a secretary and no one was calling), and set to work.

Turns out, birding on Street View is a lot harder than I thought.  Some of the images were taken more than 5 years ago, and the resolution isn't any good.  Sometimes, the weather was bad.  Mostly, though, there's just so many places to search!  There's a new set of images every 10 feet or so, and scanning the images looking for winged needles in the haystack is quite the endeavor.  I searched for gulls in Maine with no luck; Bald Eagles in Homer, AK but came up empty; couldn't even begin to think of where to look for roadside Red-tails. 

I started to focus by looking for gulls on causeways, figuring gulls were big and easy to ID and often flew right next to bridges.  Along Route 1 in the Florida Keys, I found my first hit: Laughing Gulls (click to enlarge).

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Wait, HOW Many Birders Are There?

Birders seems to have a bit of an inferiority complex in the world of outdoor recreation.  Some of it I think is social (we lack the macho chest-puffing of hunters), some of it is institutional (we lack the political organization and historical traditions of hunting and fishing).  I used to think that part of it was simply that there are fewer of us.  But, apparently that isn't true.

I recently stumbled upon this US Fish & Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fish and Wildlife-Associated Recreation and, frankly, it's pretty amazing.  [Apologies to all who wrote about it when it was released (I know 10,000 Birds did), but I somehow missed it.]  For me, the highlight of the report was this simple statistic: There are 22.5 million "away-from-home" wildlife watchers in the U.S., compared to 13.6 hunters.

There are ten million more birders than hunters!  Unbelievable.  And the best part is, this report was smart about how it asked the question.  In previous surveys of birders (that I know of), it was hard to distinguish between "birder on the road for a twitch" and "guy who glances out his window at his feeder."  For me, that lack of distinction made be question statistics about the numbers of birders.  This report, though, specifically identifies those who "took trips or outings of at least 1 mile from home for the primary purpose of observing, feeding or photographing wildlife."  Sounds good to me.

Better yet, the report lays out the economic impacts of each of these hobbies.  Hunters - with their NRAs and their Ducks Unlimiteds and their Federal Duck Stamps and their L.L. Beans and their million TV shows while birders have one (for now) - spend a total of $33.7 billion per year.  Birders, on the other hand, spend a whopping $54.9 billion, even more than anglers ($41.8 billion).  Incredible.

What does this mean?  It means that it's time for us to flex our muscles a little bit.  A great place to start is the proposed Wildlife Conservation Stamp.  We've earned the right through our participation and our spending to have money put aside directly for the preservation of non-game birds.  Birders need to be more vocal about their impacts, and use our numbers advantage to shift political priorities in our favor. 

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