Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: A Field Guide to Little-Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America

A Field Guide to Little-Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America is just a damn funny, well-observed, thorough and insightful parody, a book that rolls gleefully rolls in the mud of birding nerdiness and comes out squeaky clean.  It's a book seemingly borne out of that familiar feeling of not birding - of being stuck behind a desk or in a classroom thinking about birds and doodling them in the margins of your notebook.  It's imaginative, is what I'm saying, exploring the same sense of wonder that makes birders birders in the first place.

If you hadn't figured it out, it's a field guide to fake birds. Beautifully illustrated by John Sill and authored by John and his almost-certainly relatives Ben and Cathryn Sill (their relationship isn't made clear anywhere in the book), the bulk of the book is made up of fully-fleshed invented species.  Comedically, the species run the gamut from keen birding observations (see: the Middle, Least and Very Least Yellowlegs complex, or the Small Flycatcher) to plumage jokes (see: Military Warbler or Texas Warbler) to straight-up, satisfying puns (see: the Spring Kite, a raptor with a long tail and a diamond shape that perches by tangling in a tree).

It's tempting to skim through and laugh at the illustrations, but the book rewards cover-to-cover reading (or punishes, depending on your stomach for worn-out groaners including the "Under the Bleachers by I.P. Freely" family).  Good riffs on field guide self-seriousness and biologic mumbo-jumbo are there for the taking.  Buy this book and give it to a birder friend of yours, they'll recognize it as the work of kindred spirits.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Birds at Large: BBC's Life of Mammals

I am not a religious man but I do have sacred texts. Like the Christian Bible, my texts are comprised of chapters and help explain the origins of life. Unlike the Bible, though, my texts are produced by the BBC and are only available on DVD. They're the series of nature documentarties produced by the God-like David Attanborough: Blue Planet, Life of Birds, Life of Mammals, Life in Cold Blood and Life in the Undergrowth (there are others, too, but those are the ones sacred to me).

In all seriousness, I cannot understate how wonderful these documentaries are. They have absolutely shaped how I view the world. Frankly, it's another post for another time.

I am posting here because I believe there comes a time in every young person's life where be begins to question his beliefs. Perhaps the world he or she is experiencing simply isn't meshing with what is he reading in his or her particular religious text. Questions creep in, faith is tested.

I am not questioning the accuracy of these BBC documentaries, but something is undoubtedbly lost when you hear the ol' "Red-tailed Hawk Noise Used for an Eagle" trope. See the Vine below, for the exact moment.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is This Bird ABA Countable?

Hi friends.  There are complicated rules governing whether a bird you've identified in the American Birding Association area is actually countable on your official life/state/patch/whatever list.  I've made a helpful spreadsheet you can use to determine* whether or not your bird counts.



*This is meant for humorous purposes, please work your way through the ABA's rules for countability and exotic populations to determine whether or not you're actually looking at something countable. 

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