Sunday, April 20, 2014

Google Street View Birding III: Mexico

Street View Birding is perhaps the nerdiest thing I have ever done.  But I love it.  I love it guiltily, in the dark and when no one is looking, like a candy bar smuggled into Fat Camp.

For those unfamiliar (or unwilling), sometimes when I get bored I just cruise random spots in Google Street View and try to identify birds.  Street View Birding works like this: (1) zoom down into streetview on a place that looks good (2) look around to see if you see any birds (3) move around until you find a bird or you get too bored or your reconsider the path your life has taken.  That's it.  It's very challenging, because the resolution is never good enough and the birds are always too far away.  But, hey, that's the challenge.

I've been to Florida and Texas.  I cruised around what is likely the Street View Birding Mecca of Midway Atoll.  This time I'm south of the border.

I've never birded Mexico except for two weeks ago, when I heard and saw birds on the other side of the trickling Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, but I've heard a lot about its birding.  Tropical forests in the south.  Deserts and grasslands elsewhere.  The Gulf of California.  I don't know much else about the country of Mexico, and I don't know its birds.  Sorry.  These IDs are all guesses so feel free to pitch in.

Let's go.

Baja California

I've heard that Baja is dangerous and whatever, but it looks pretty nice in streetview.  Some quaint little harbors.  Lots of cacti.  The first bird I found was on a cactus, and is probably a Gila Woodpecker.  See it circled in red there?  Click to enlarge.

I hit a good one next.  Real Life birders know that telephone poles and wires are a good place to look for sitting raptors, and Street View is no different.  On one pole along the Transpeninsular Highway outside the town of Santa Rosalia I found what I think is a Crested Caracara.  Pretty cool.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Birds at Large: Adorable Little Kids

My friend Ali teaches fourth graders in my home state of Maine.  A few weeks ago she posted a request to the teacher crowdfunding site looking for some magazine subscriptions she could share with her students.  Being the selfless, helpful friend that I am, I chipped in to help the project along.  Soon after I was updated via email that my contribution, along with others, had helped the complete the project: the kids would be getting their magazines.  Good deed done.

But teachers being teachers and kids being kids, my meager contribution would not go un-thanked.  In fact, Ali (ahem, Ms. Roberts) told her students a few facts about me and had them write honest-to-goodness Thank You notes.  One of the facts about me Ms. Roberts told her kids was that I liked birds, and into my mailbox today arrived a set of lovely notes, fretted over and laboriously colored and spelled out by a bunch of innocent nine-year-olds.  On some of them were drawings of birds.

The worst bird drawings I've ever seen.

Look, I'm not here to pile on to the American educational system.  I'm sure these kids are trying as hard as they can.  But the fact the remains that none of the "birds" these kids drew resemble anything close to a real species.  Have any of them even seen a bird before? Isn't there a window they can look out of?

Maybe we should just take it one bird at a time.

Unbelievable.  I don't know all 10,000 of the world's bird species, but I can say with complete certainty that there is no rainbow-colored bird that craps Stars of David from the air.  I've tried to do the world a service by spreading the word about the myth of rainbow-colored birds, but apparently I'm not getting through to the younger generations.

A first cycle gull with a beak deformity?  A brown jay, also with a beak deformity?  Maybe this guy is allergic to bees and just got stung in the beak...but then why would he be smiling?  How can he even smile? Ugh.  

The reason this bird looks to uncomfortable is because he's shaped like a tube of toothpaste and only has one wing and a puff-ball tail.  He's a complete disaster, and I'm amazed he's even in the air.  Other than that, he sorta looks like a white-crowned sparrow.  Maybe he got stung by the same bees as the bird above, but they got him in the body.  And the tail.  And bit off a wing?

"Bird's rock" sounds like an eBird hotspot, or maybe the geologic feature that this unlucky creature is about to plummet into, beak-first.  They've named it in his honor, some sort of creepy preemptive memorial.  What's even happening to this guy?  Is that a butt wing?

Look, these kids are sweethearts for trying, but clearly the systemic cuts to STEM courses have prevented them from learning anything about actual bird species.  PLEASE CLICK HERE AND DONATE TO MS. ROBERTS' CLASS, maybe she can buy them some dang field guides.

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