Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scary Birding Stories!

Halloween is the best holiday.  No honoring anything, no family obligations, no guilt trips, no presents to buy, just good old fashioned scaring each other and eating candy.  Other than Valentine's Day (which is a baloney holiday cooked up by greeting card companies), Halloween is the only holiday that honors an emotion: fear.  It's always seemed incredible to me that we would dedicate a day to scaring the crap out of each other, and that's part of the reason I love it.

I'm not sure what emotion that word "birder" evokes in non-birders.  Unfortunately, it's probably "bored" or something.  Those people are dumb.  Birders experience the full spectrum of emotions: joy, disappointment, envy, lust, hope, anxiety, doubt, and, yes, fear.  To prove it, I asked some birding friends to share with me their scariest birding stories.  Read them below...IF YOU DARE!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Let's Rename Some Birds After Different People

John Cassin.  Georg Steller.  Edward Harris.  John Kirk Townsend.  All of these guys have a couple things in common.  First, they were each top-notch naturalists in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Second, each are honored in the common names of multiple North American birds.  Third, if it weren't for these species, current birders would probably say these guys' names a lot less frequently.

Having a species named after you is scientific immortality.  It's the highest honor a naturalist can recieve.  The naturalists listed above are each fully deserving of their species based on their contributions to scientific discovery, but it seems a problem remains - important scientific contributions to ornithology didn't stop in the 1800s.  There have been plenty of people deserving of having a species of American bird named after them, why should these guys get more than one?

Steller's Jay is named after the German naturalist Georg Steller

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spy Birds

I've noticed a couple of stories in the news recently about birds being detained in foreign countries, suspected of being spies.  Here is one from Egypt.  Here's another recent one from Turkey

In both of these cases, some folks saw a bird with tagged, either leg-banded or wearing a GPS backpack.  The average bird not typically being accessorized, these people became suspicious that the birds had more complicated backstories, and detained the birds so they could be checked out by the authorities.  In both cases, the birds were cleared of all "charges" and released.

These stories were represented as "News of the Odd" in the East, peppered with "in a case that ruffled feathers..." puns and "check out these wacky foreigners!" attitudes.  It's a frustrating condescension, because these stories tell me something much more interesting and sad about the current state of things.

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