Thursday, July 24, 2014

Put A Bird On It. Any Bird.

The Major League Soccer All-Star Game is going to be held in Portland, Oregon* this year, and they've just released images of the jerseys the players will be wearing.  Portland, OR being Zany Quirky Portland, OR (TM) (c), they stuck a bird on the inside of the shirt, a reference to the Put a Bird On It skit from the tv show Portlandia.

That's all well and good and Portlandians can check the "delightful irreverence" box that's probably required for anything officially done in Portlandia.  But something sticks in my craw.  The MLS release about the jerseys says that the bird on the jersey is a western meadowlark, the state bird of Oregon.  Let's take a closer look.

You've got to be shitting me.  That's not a meadowlark.  It's blatantly not a meadowlark.

Why even bother?  Does it cost more to print the silhouette of a meadowlark instead of that sparrow-type thing?  If you want it to be a meadowlark, make it a meadowlark!  If you don't care, then don't say it's a meadowlark!  Lord.  The stupidity of state birds is something I've discussed at length, but apparently my rantings have not changed anything.  Screw you, Portland, Oregon, and go Sounders.

*In 1845, two dudes with two very-1845 names, Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove, wanted to name their new settlement on the Pacific coast after their respective hometowns.  Lovejoy was from Boston, Massachusetts and Pettygrove was from Portland, Maine, also the beloved hometown of yours truly.  They decided that the only way to fairly choose a name was a best-of-three coin flipping contest.  Francis, using those strong Maine thumbs, flipped a winner, and proudly proclaimed this new site Portland, of the Oregon Territory!  Fast forward to today, and everyone's all "Oh, I am going on vacation to Portland" or "Today, the weather in Portland is..." without clarifying that they're talking about the also-ran city in Oregon and not the original American city in Maine.  It's bullshit and I hate it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Far Is Migration?

Okay.  Just thinking about things here for a second.

  • Let's take a Blackburnian Warbler.  Cornell says that these guys weigh 0.3 - 0.5 ounces.  We'll use a heavier, pre-migration weight of 0.5 ounces.
  • Then, for fun, let's take one of the most southerly wintering Blackburnians, like maybe these guys who were found at Machu Picchu, Peru.  Then, let's find some breeders.  How about these guys, found along the piney shores of Moosehead Lake in Greenville, The Great State of Maine.
  • Google Maps has a new "measure distance" tool that shows a plausible Machu Picchu-Dominican Republic-Cuba-Florida-Greenville, Maine migration distance as coming in at 4,522 miles.
  • Using the field of study known as "math," I can multiple 4,522 x 0.5 to get a miles-per-ounce distance of 9,044.  OK.
  • The Information Superhighway says that the average human weight across the globe is 137 pounds.  There are 16 ounces in a pound.  So, using "math," I can calculate that that average earthling weighs 2,192 ounces.
  • So, if a human were to travel the same miles-per-ounce distance as a Blackburnian Warbler does during its twice annual migration, we'd have to go 9,044 x 2,192 = 19,824,448 miles.  Twenty MILLION miles.  
  • The moon is 238,000 miles away from us.  Venus is 26 million miles away from Earth.  On a per-ounce basis, a Blackburnian Human's migration would take us within a stone's throw from frigging VENUS.
  • Has anyone ever traveled 20 million miles from Earth, you ask?  Why, in fact, yes.  In the 1950s, and it was a complete unmitigated disaster.  And it was all caught on film.  See for yourself:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Interesting Historical eBird Checklists

I love looking at old eBird records to see weird records or historical distribution patterns.  I've uncovered some really unusual old checklists during the course of some recent research.  I've taken screenshots of the most interesting ones, click to embiggen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Solar Power Plants Are Literally Roasting Birds In-Flight

New piece up today at, the best goddamn website on this Spaceship Earth.

Solar Power Plants Are Literally Roasting Birds In-Flight

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