Friday, January 23, 2015

Google Street View Birding IV: Florida

It's easy to look down upon Google Street View Birding. "It's for lazy people," they say. "It's not real birding if you're just using a computer," they whine. "Get a goddamn life," they snort.

I don't care what anyone says, Street View Birding is not only hard work, but a worthwhile pursuit. It requires stamina (eye strain), commitment (boredom), and patience (boredom). It's birding on the frontiers of the information superhighway, and baby I've got my pedal to the metal.

This installment brings me to Florida.  I was in the Sunshine State over the holidays and was reminded what a fantastic place it is to bird.  There are birds in every pond.  There are birds at every feeder.  There are birds covering the beaches. I'd venture to guess that there are more birds per square inch in Florida than anywhere else in the states.

So it stands to reason that there would be birds in Google Street View.  I found some downtime and took a look.


For most of Street View's history, the images were all captured from cars.  This made Street View Birding quite the challenge because, like, how often to birds fly right next to cars, right? Telephone wires and bridges were really the only places to look.  Recently, more mapping is being done by folks on foot.  This was clearly a boon for SV Birding on Midway Atoll, still the best vicarious internet birding experience available.

And it's also come to Florida. Some folks have taken it upon themselves to strap on the ol' backpack and walk nearly the entire walkable coast of the state.  It was clearly a Herculean task, but it resulted in some better images of birds that I had found anywhere else.

Yup. Great Blue Heron. Can't remember what I got this screenshot.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Upon The Discovery of the Semiplumbeous Hawk - A True Story

The year is 1848.  The place is the Columbian jungle, at the end of a long, hot day.  Two naturalists in khaki safari suits and pith helmets are sitting around a table, sorting through the bird specimens they collected that day. They pull a crow-sized raptor from the canvas gunny-sack and place it on the table.

Naturalist 1: "I say! My good man, a striking specimen we have here."
Naturalist 2: "Quite striking, yes! Accipitridae, would you agree?"
Naturalist 1: "Yes, my good man, I do believe it is Accipitridae or some genus thereabouts."
Naturalist 2: "Yes some genus thereabouts, but we'll let the chaps back in London sort through particulars, eh chap? Eh?"
Naturalist 1: "Ha! Indeed! 'Tis the life of the field for us! Striking creature, though, certainly."
Naturalist 2: "Indeed."
Naturalist 1: "Right, well, shall we commence with the description? Keen to take notes, ol chap?"
Naturalist 2: "Right, sir, dictate away, my good man."
Naturalist 1: "Right. Dictation commencing! Medium-size falcon, shot in these Columbian woods on this, the day of June the 5th, the year of our Lord 1848.  Got that?"
Naturalist 2: "Got it, dear chap, continue away."
Naturalist 1: "Commencing physical description of the specimen. The bird appears to be forty centimeters from beak to tail.  Snow white belly. Feet and beak of rich orange. Back and head of a stormy plumbeous."
Naturalist 2: "Hold up, butch."
Naturalist 1: "Yes? What's the trouble?"
Naturalist 2: "Plumbeous?"
Naturalist 1: "Yes, a head and back of plumbeous gray, what of it?"
Naturalist 2: "That's no plumbeous."
Naturalist 1: "What! Of course it's plumbeous. Look at it: the dull gray color of lead. Plumbeous."
Naturalist 2: "Not in the least, sir.  Too dark. It's castor gray, the color of wet muscovite."
Naturalist 1: "Wet muscovite! Are you mad? Has the damp air affected your vision? It's plumbeous or I'm the queen!"
Naturalist 2: "With all due respect, sir, I grew up with plumbeous. I had a plumbeous coat as a child. Our carpets were plumbeous. The soot from the factory in our neighborhood sent plumbeous plumes into the sky, and the soot settled on the houses in a thick plumbous snow. Growing up, I had a dog such the color of plumbeous that when we brought him home as a puppy the only name we could think of for him was Plumbeous.  I know plumbeous, sir, and this bird is no plumbeous!"
Naturalist 1: "Right, well, I didn't realize you had such a connection to the subject.  I do apologize."
Naturalist 2: "No need sir, really."
Naturalist 1: "Well then. Hmm. Listen, you do agree that there's at least a bit of plumbeous in this bird, eh?"
Naturalist 2: "Sure well of course it's a bit plumbeous. More plumbeous than cinereous, that's for certain!"
Naturalist 1: "Ha indeed. Well perhaps we could describe this bird in such a way as to reflect the fact that, while it's clearly not entirely plumbeous, it does indeed have a bit of the ol' plumbeous upon its plumage."
Naturalist 2: "Sure, I suppose describing this bird in such a manner as to reflect the true fact that its coloration - while not entirely plumbeous - does contain certain pigments that, on a sort of gradient scale from white to black could, with a few extra drops, eventually reach the pigment known as plumbeous."
Naturalist 1: "Excellent! It's settled then. Well negotiated, dear boy.  Now then! Take a look at this plover, what should we name him?"
Naturalist 2: "The Entirely-palmated Plover."

AAAAAAAnnnndddd scene.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Contractually-obligated 2014 Wrap-Up Post

You've probably never read the Terms and Conditions section of Blogspot, have you? Yeah it's OK, most people haven't. I'm not most people, of course. I've read those things from top to bottom, check for updates twice a month, and have run it through Google Translate and read it in German to check for discrepancies.

When you're as familiar as I am with the particularities of this here ol' web logging service, you'll be acquainted with Section 10.4(g)(1). This nifty little provision states (and I'm putting it in layman's terms for you, no need to thank me) that every Blogspot-hosted birding-themed blog MUST (no uncertain terms here) have a post in the last two weeks of December or first two of January summarizing the prior year's birding efforts. The penalty for noncompliance is fifteen broken image links scattered through old posts and an additional year's worth of mysterious, unsolvable formatting errors.

Being the upstanding, law-abiding citizen that I am (Falmouth High School's Most Likely To Walk The Straight And Narrow 2001), please enjoy the following dump of information, images, maps and whatever else I can come up with about the glorious birding adventures I undertook in that already-half-remembered lurching spin 'round the Sun known to the kids searching Wikipedia as 2014 AD.

1. I Saw More ABA Species This Year Than Any Previous Year

Last year I ended at 399 goddamn birds, an annoying number that somehow lessened the whole thing, like a photograph with one person's eyes closed.  I panicked after dipping on the reliable (before and after) Black-headed Gull near Baltimore and floundered around for the last days of the year, unable to get over the hump.  The lesson learned was that such unsatisfying proximity would not be repeated.  I was determined to hit 400.  LONG STORY SHORT my girlfriend-now-fiancee (thank you) agreed to a road trip to Florida, one thing led to another, and I landed at 413.

[Quick funny story: Once I hit 400 I immediately did as birders do and took aim at my buddy Jake's record of 413.  I spend Dec. 31 in a frantic dash across southern Florida looking to pick up birds, succeeding at least to tie the record...that is until Jake told me his record was actually 423 not 413 and that I was an idiot.]

Anyway here's a chart of my now 10th full year of birding.  The blue bars show my year-end ABA number, and the orange line showing my cumulative ABA life list, now sitting at 639.

That's fun, right?

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