Sunday, June 30, 2002

Bird Blogging

With more than 54 million bird watchers in the United States, including more than 20,000 "serious birders" (i.e., members of the American Birding Association), where are all the bird bloggers. There must be some others out there besides myself, but I have yet to find them. I suppose the really serious birders would much prefer to be out chasing down the rarities.
Appreciative Comments

Thanks to onepotmeal for these flattering comments about Birds Etcetera.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Online Bird Journals and Other References - Number 20

Birds & Blooms: Beauty in Your Own Backyard. Birds & Blooms is a commercial magazine published by Reiman Publications. The content of the online version is limited to a Table of Contents of the current issue plus a few selected articles. But the print version, which is completely devoid of advertisements (a rarity among popular magazines), makes up for any online deficiencies. Each issue is packed with full-color photographs and chock full of helpful hints for making your backyard more attractive to birds. Read the "epinions" of 24 reviewers who collectively gave Birds & Blooms a 96 percent approval rating.
Birds in Human Culture

As a tribute to the World Bird Festival 2001, the folks at Birdlife International assembled a fascinating compilation of Web pages entitled The Inspiration of Birds. Sixteen topics are discussed in all, ranging from literature to pub names, with multiple examples of each. A must see! Birds are truly pervasive features of human cultures throughout the world.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

An Obliging Catbird

On the late news last night on our local TV channel--NBC 25 in Hagerstown, Maryland--one of the feature stories was about a case of animal abuse. As the reporter was telling the story, viewers were shown footage of a street scene in a residential neighborhood. Just as the reporter mentioned the word cat, a catbird flew into the frame and landed on the curb in the foreground. What an incredible coincidence! Or had the script and film footage been carefully edited for just that effect? I somehow doubt it!

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Bird Thief Caught in the Act!

European Starlings are famous for their ability to find their way into tight little nooks and crannies, especially when the nesting urge strikes. They become very adept, for example, at navigating dryer vents and other manmade contraptions. Now, it appears that they have mastered coin-operated car washes. This bird–it's thieving ways caught on film–probably thought it had found an ideal nesting site, if only it could keep the cavity free of all those shiny pieces of metal that kept showing up!

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

New Jersey Frogs and Toads Make Voices Heard

When the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife produced a CD entitled Calls of New Jersey Frogs and Toads, they expected it to attract a limited audience. That was before news of the CD was broadcast by several wire services. As a result of that publicity, the CD--which features 16 species on 40 tracks--has drawn worldwide acclaim and demand. Scott Simon interviews Linda Tesauro, executive director of Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Monday, June 24, 2002

Notable Bird Quotes VIII

"When the cock is drunk he forgets about the hawk" --Ashanti proverb (from The Quotable Birder, edited by Bill Adler Jr.)
Online Bird Journals and Other References - Number 19

Bird Trends: A Report on Results of National Ornithological Surveys in Canada. Bird Trends is an annual newsletter published by the Canadian Wildlife Service. It aims to provide (1) feedback to volunteers of ornithological surveys, (2) information on trends in Canadian bird populations, and (3) a menu of volunteer-based ornithological projects in Canada. Three issues are currently available online:

Number 6. Landbirds (Spring 1998) - HTML
Number 7. Seabirds (Spring 1999) - HTML
Number 8. Shorebirds (Winter 2001) - PDF

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Their Goose Has Been Cooked

Faced with a population of more than 300 nuisance resident Canada Geese, the Kansas City Zoo implemented a plan of action earlier this week: they rounded them up, slaughtered them, processed the meat, and donated it to the poor, a solution that was reasonable but not without controversy, as you might imagine. Listen to Robert Siegel's interview with zoo director Mark Wourms on NPR's All Things Considered.

Use of Online Bird Material: What are the Rules?

Joel Weintraub complained on the BirdChat listserv that one of his posts from 1996 was pirated and published (essentially verbatim) without attribution in the June 2002 issue of Birding magazine by an author identified only as Anonymous, thus spawning a most interesting discussion about plagiarism. Follow the threads: June ABA article (2 posts), using CHAT material (26), and copyright (5).

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

More Goose Poop

A Google search yielded an interesting assemblage of articles on this increasingly foul subject.

Ridding Long Island of Goose Poop

During a public appearance yesterday, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) unveiled a plan of action to rid Long Island's public parks, ballfields, and golf courses of the unsightly droppings left behind by a growing number of resident Canada Geese. Read Schumer's official press release here, and two local newspaper accounts here and here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Catfish on the Table

This post has nothing to with a catfish dinner, but everything to do with Bob Boyd's web site of the same name, which is visually appealing and intellectually stimulating.
Cultural Ornithology

With that simple juxtaposition of words, I have just created a new field of science. Yeah, right! I'm thinking of something along the lines of a body of scientific inquiry that would study the intertwinings of birds with human cultures and belief systems. Actually, that concept is probably already emcompassed by the much broader field of ethnobiology, which is the "interdisciplinary study of the relationships of plants and animals with human cultures worldwide." Not surprisingly, there's even a Society of Ethnobiology (SoE). Within the field of ethnobiology, ethnobotany and ethnozoology are major sub-disciplines. Could there also be such a narrow speciality as ethnoornithology? If so, it's adherents must be few and far between. They don't have much of a presence on the Web, at any rate (although a few ethnoornithological abstracts do appear in the published proceedings of SoE meetings). Before leaving this subject, I must mention that American ethnobiologist Amadeo Rea has written three notable books on ethnobiology of the North American Southwest: on botany, mammals and birds (the out-of-print Once a River: Bird Life and Habitat Changes on the Middle Gila).

Ornithological Movie Bloopers

Movie producers have gained a reputation among knowledgeable birders for dubbing-in the songs and calls of inappropriate species into movie sound tracks. Robert Winkler provides some glaring examples in an article that appeared in Salon. Thanks to Marie La Salle for posting this information on the BirdChat listserv.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Delmarva Shorebirds

Do a Google or Yahoo search on the keyword shorebirds, and the top-ranked site you retrieve will be the Home Page of the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles in the South Atlantic League. Definitely one of the cooler names in professional sports. They also have a really cool logo, but I'm afraid it looks a lot more like a heron than a shorebird!

"Catbird Seat"

Merriam-Webster's "Word of the Day" for June 17, 2002. The origin of the phrase "in the catbird seat," meaning a "position of great prominence or advantage," is normally attributed to legendary baseball announcer Red Barber. But researchers at Merriam-Webster's have traced it to a 1942 short story by James Thurber titled "The Catbird Seat." Although Barber certainly popularized the phrase, he started using it himself only after reading Thurber's story.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Turkey Biologist Par Excellence

Here is a nice tribute to Wayne Bailey, former wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (1945-1970), who is still looked upon as the “dean” of Wild Turkey restoration in the eastern United States. The impetous for this article is the recent publication of a new book by Bailey--now 84 years of age--entitled Wayne’s Turkey World: 60 Years of Hunting (see this review).

Friday, June 14, 2002

A Bird in the Bedroom

Last Saturday morning, I was lounging around downstairs when I heard a frantic shriek from my wife, who was upstairs, followed by "John! . . . There's a bird in our bedroom!"

Incredulous at what I thought I had just heard, I rushed upstairs, not knowing quite what to expect, but thinking perhaps a European Starling or House Sparrow had somehow found their way into the house. Sure enough, there really was a bird in the bedroom--a very agitated Carolina Wren, as it turned out. How on earth did it get in? That question would have to wait for later. My immediate problem was figuring out some way of getting the bird back outside, where it belonged. Not having any good way of capturing the bird without injuring it, the first thing I did was shut the bedroom door to confine it to that one room of the house. When I first entered the room, the wren was fluttering against the glass of one of a group of bay windows, all of which were closed tight. So, the next thing I did was to slowly make my way across the room to the bay, trying not to inflict any more stress on the bird than necessary, and opened the bottom sash of one of the double-hung windows. My approach to the bay windows brought me closer to the wren, which caused it to take flight and settle on a bookshelf on the opposite side of the room--as far from me as it could get. Okay, so now there was an open window--the only possible avenue of escape for the wren--but the wren was now on the wrong side of the room. I gradually backed away from the open window and slowly walked toward the wren, not directly but at an oblique angle, hoping that my approach would cause it to fly back to the other side of the room, to the vicinity of the bay windows, where it would have a chance of finding the open window and make it's escape. Well, I have to give that wren credit. Whether it was intelligence, instinct, or simply dumb luck, that bird flew directly toward the open window and disappeared to the outside without so much as a goodbye chip.

Now, how did that wren end up in our bedroom? All of the doors and windows of the house were shut tight, with one exception, and we have no exterior holes or cracks in the house that would have allowed the wren access from the outside. The one exception is the downstairs back door, which had been opened to bring in the cool morning air. The screen door was closed, but there is a large hole in the bottom half of the screen that the dog has come to use as a quick exit/entrance from/to the house--and which I have been negligent in repairing. And a pair of Carolina Wrens has set up territory just outside the back door, where I believe the female is attending a nest in some shrubbery. Earlier that Saturday morning, I had heard the male singing quite close to the back door. I finally concluded that the hole in the screen door was the only possible way that that wren could have found its way into the house. But why? What strange sense of curiosity caused him or her to explore this strange new world?

Getting into the house was one thing. That was easy. But once through the hole in the screen, the wren would have had to have made a right-hand turn into the kitchen, proceeded straight ahead through the kitchen and into the hallway, travelled vertically up the stairwell 15-20 feet, and made a left-hand turn into the bedroom. There were many other places in the house that the wren could have ended up. But it chose an upstairs bedroom, one of two rooms in the house that was occupied and where it's presence would be noted. To put this into human perspective, this wren's journey through the foreign terrain of our house would be equivalent to a 6-foot, 250-pound human blithely entering a strange structure with 130-foot ceilings (that's roughly equivalent to the height of a 13-story building) inhabited by 80-foot creatures weighing two-and-a-half tons, and whose intentions and dispositions are unknown, and nonchalantly wandering around for a distance of about 1,600 feet, or about one-quarter mile.

For good reason are wrens sometimes described as bold and inquisitive!

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Online Bird Journals and Other References - Number 18

Wetlands NewsLink: A Compilation of Wetland and Migratory Bird News from Around the World. Wetlands--which are rapidly diminishing in quantity and quality--provide some of the richest and most valuable of all habitats for migratory birds. Wetlands Newslink is a monthly online news service (also available by email subscription) supported by the Association of State Wetland Managers and the U.S. Geological Survey. It is designed to keep anyone interested in the conservation of wetlands apprised of the varied events that are affecting these precious habitats and the migratory birds that use them.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Birds of the Neighborhood (June 1-10, 2002)

The "neighborhood" consists of a 9-block rectangular area (my block plus the surrounding 8 city blocks) in a downtown neighborhood in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. But most of my observations are of birds seen in, or viewed from, my yard, an area just shy of 0.25-acres. The period was relatively warm (highs in the 80s, for the most part), with increased humidity more typical of the summer season; one extremely severe thunder storm. The following list of 17 species is probably fairly typical of what you would expect to see in many older, small-town urban residential areas in the Mid-Atlantic States at this time of the year (species are listed in alphabetical order, with numbers in parentheses indicating the order in which each species was detected, # symbols indicating species new this period, and * symbols indicating species not native to the area):

American Robin (1) - common throughout period; nesting
Blue Jay (9) - noted periodically
Canada Goose (12) - flock of 7 flying over on 6/1
Carolina Wren (15) - common throughout; occupied nest in backyard
Chimney Swift (4) - abundant throughout period
Common Grackle (6) - small numbers throughout period
Downy Woodpecker (17) - 1 on 6/9
European Starling* (5) - abundant throughout period; nesting
Fish Crow (16) - noted on just a couple of occasions
Gray Catbird (7) - small numbers throughout period
House Finch* (3) - abundant throughout period; nesting
House Sparrow* (2) - abundant throughout period; nesting
House Wren (13) - occasional singing noted
Mourning Dove (8) - small numbers throughout period
Northern Cardinal (11) - common throughout period; nesting
Red-eyed Vireo (14) - 1 singing on 6/
Rock Dove* (10) - abundant throughout period; nesting

Total Species This Period - 17
New Species This Period - 0
Cumulative Species Since 3/11/2002 - 35

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Bette Midler's for the Birds

In a news item entitled "For Bette, Home Tweet Home," the June 17, 2002, issue of People magazine reports:

"Midler, 56, is working with the Department of Agriculture and the conservation group Ducks Unlimited to convert a portion of her 1,400-acre estate in Kauai into wetland habitat for Hawaiian waterbirds, including stilts, ducks, coots, and gallinules. Midler, raised on Oahu, bought the property--which had been drained and used to grow sugarcane--in 1999 for $4.4 million. Details of the plan, which would allow Midler to retain ownership but give up the right to put the land to other use, are not complete, but Midler seems committed." A photo caption notes that "The ruby-throated warbler [i.e., Ms. Midler] hopes to assist the Black-necked Hawaiian Stilt and other birds."

As a long-time admirer of The Divine Miss M's vocal talents, I'm pleased to learn that she also has a strong sense of environmental stewardship.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Online Bird Journals and Other References - Number 17

Birdscapes: News from International Habitat Conservation Partnerships. Birdscapes is published three times a year (Spring/Summer, Fall, and Winter) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service. It is primarily a vehicle for advertising the successes of a variety of cooperative bird habitat conservation projects initiated under the auspices of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. Articles are organized within 7 regular departments: Project Profiles (Canada, Mexico, United States), Partners, Research, Species at Risk, How To, Furthermore, and The Bookshop. All articles are available online, but without the glossy color photographs and graphics that enliven the printed version. All issues since Fall 2000 have been posted online.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Predator Control and Homeland Security?

I usually try to steer away from politics, but I can't refrain from commenting on President Bush's proposal for a Department of Homeland Security. In particular, I would like to comment on the proposed inclusion of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the new Department. At present, APHIS is a relatively unknown agency within the Department of Agriculture. According to the APHIS Web page, it is organized into 9 (actually 8) functional units:

Agricultural Biotechnology - Regulates the movement, importation, and field testing of genetically engineered plants through permitting and notification.

Agricultural Trade - Enforces animal and plant import and export regulations to help ensure that foreign pests and diseases are not introduced into this country and that U.S. agricultural products meet the standards of importing countries.

Animal Care - Provides leadership in establishing acceptable standards of humane animal care and treatment and to monitor and achieve compliance with the Animal Welfare Act through inspections, education, and cooperative efforts.

Aquaculture - Serves important aspects of both plant and animal aquaculture, especially involving disease, pest prevention, and wildlife damage management.

National Veterinary Accreditation - A voluntary program that certifies private veterinary practitioners to work cooperatively with Federal veterinarians and State animal health inspectors, who help ensure that exported animals will not introduce disease into another State or country.

Plant Health - Synonymous with Plant Protection and Quarantine.

Plant Protection and Quarantine - Preventing the introduction of plant pathogens into the United States.

Veterinary Services - The mission is protect and improve the health, quality, and marketability of our nation's animals, animal products, and veterinary biologics by preventing, controlling, and/or eliminating animal diseases, and by monitoring and prom ing animal health and productivity.

Wildlife Services - Seeks to minimize the economic damage caused by wildlife.

As envisioned by President Bush’s top-secret planners, all of these APHIS functions would be transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security, where they would be lodged in the Border and Transportation Security component (see graphic). Their sister agencies within that component? Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs Service, Coast Guard, Federal Protection Service, and Transportation Security Administration. What does APHIS have in common with these other 5 agencies? Not a thing, a far as I can tell.

Now I’d like to focus specifically on the Wildlife Services function of APHIS. Historically, Wildlife Services was a program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where it was known as Animal Damage Control. ADC was transferred to USDA and APHIS in 1986 under the administration of Bush the Elder. This was a political move orchestrated by agricultural interests, who felt that their predator control needs were not being adequately addressed by the USFWS. The name was later changed to Wildlife Services to project a more positive image to the American public. But their primary mission has NOT changed. They are still in the business of controlling and killing wildlife to benefit economic interests of the American public, primarily agriculturists. Now, unless terrorists have devised a plan for using predatory wildlife such as blackbirds, coyotes, and cormorants to inflict agents of mass destruction on the American public, I am at a loss to explain what possible role Wildlife Services would play in the new Department of Homeland Security.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Notable Bird Quote VII

"Listen to all, plucking a feather from every passing goose, but, follow no one absolutely" --Chinese proverb (from The Quotable Birder, edited by Bill Adler Jr.)

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Honeybee Named State Insect of West Virginia
According to an article in the Summer 2002 issue of Goldenseal, a quarterly publication of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, the Honeybee (Apis mellifera) has been named the Official State Insect of West Virginia: "The resolution [of the State legislature], which became effective March 7, noted the honeybees' [sic] contributions by pollinating plants and trees in West Virginia's forest-rich hills. It also recognized the expansion of the State's [sic] honey industry. In 2001, West Virginia produced approximately 1.2 million pounds of honey, with more than 1,300 beekepers and 20 beekeeping organizations Statewide." I take the above report to be true, although I wasn't able to find this resolution listed on the West Virginia Legislature's Web site.

By this action, West Virginia becomes the 40th State with an Official State Insect (also see additional information here), and the 17th State to recognize the Honeybee as its Official State Insect. The popularity of the Honeybee is ironic considering that it is not native to the United States. It is a tribute, no doubt, to the economic importance of the Honeybee as a pollinator of agricultural crops. West Virginia also has an Official State Butterfly, the Monarch.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

"Extinct" Bird Still Alive in Brazil

The Golden-crowned Manakin (Pipra vilasboasi), discovered and named by German-born ornithologist Helmut Sick in the Amazonian region of Brazil in 1957 but not seen since, was presumed extinct. But it has recently been rediscovered--a single male observed several hundred miles from the site of the original discovery. The bad news is that the species' habitat is threatened by logging.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

More on Sunday Hunting

Andy Hansroth continues to report on the Sunday hunting debacle in West Virginia in this article in the Charleston (West Virginia) Sunday Gazette-Mail. In a nutshell, the elected Commissioners of 35 counties decided to put the issue of whether or not to allow Sunday hunting on public property to a public vote. The referendums were soundly defeated in all 35 counties.. I am not a hunter, but neither am I anti-hunting. And as a professional wildlife biologist, I understand the important role of recreational hunting in controlling deer populations, which otherwise can quickly get out of hand. In an earlier article, Hansroth contended that the defeat of the Sunday hunting bill was due to "anti-hunting" or "anti-gun" votes by liberal Democrats. In the current article, Lee Morris, Vice President of the West Virginia Rifle and Pistol Association, makes the same argument. I disagree with this analysis. At least in Berkeley County, which tends to be heavily Republican, ethical, moral, religious and safety concerns were raised by citizens and public officials. The three County Commissioners who voted to put the issue on the ballot, are all Republicans, and at least one of them spoke out strongly against allowing Sunday hunting. I believe that the fundamentalist Christian voting block, which weighs heavily toward the Republican party, was largely responsible for the defeat of Sunday hunting, considering it to be an affront to the peace and quiet of the Sabbath.

Monday, June 03, 2002

How Does Birds Etcetera Rate?

That's the proverbial $64,000 question! As of May 30, 2002, it ranked in the top 10 percent of web logs listed by the Eatonweb Portal. Only 7.6 percent (353) of 4,640 web logs scored a greater number of hits. Not bad for a site that's only 3 months old! Thanks to everyone who has tuned in.

Birds of the Neighborhood (May 21-31, 2002)

The "neighborhood" consists of a 9-block rectangular area (my block plus the surrounding 8 city blocks) in a downtown neighborhood in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. But most of my observations are of birds seen in, or viewed from, my yard, an area just shy of 0.25-acres. The period was relatively mild (except for the last few days, when the thermometer reached the low 90s) and wet. The following list of 19 species is probably fairly typical of what you would expect to see in many older, small-town urban residential areas in the Mid-Atlantic States at this time of the year (species are listed in alphabetical order, with numbers in parentheses indicating the order in which each species was detected, # symbols indicating species new this period, and * symbols indicating species not native to the area):

American Robin (4) - common throughout period; nesting
Blue Jay (9) - several encountered during period; probably nesting
Canada Goose (15) - heard flying over on 5/26
Carolina Wren (5) - fairly common; occupied nest in backyard
Chimney Swift (12) - abundant
Common Grackle (8) - fairly common; presumed nesting
Eastern Wood Pewee# (18) - 1 singing on 5/26
European Starling* (1) - abundant and nesting
Fish Crow (10) - encountered occasionally, with daily maximum of 4 birds
Gray Catbird (13) - fairly common; nesting
House Finch* (3) - abundant and nesting
House Sparrow* (2) - abundant and nesting
House Wren (14) - a few pairs probably present; singing noted occasionally
Mourning Dove (11) - common throughut period; nesting
Northern Cardinal (7) - common throughout period; nesting
Northern Mockingbird (16) - uncommon; a couple of territorial males present
Red-bellied Woodpecker (19) - 1 heard on 5/26
Red-eyed Vireo# (17) - 1 singing on 5/26
Rock Dove* (8) - way too abundant; nesting

Total Species This Period - 19
New Species This Period - 2
Cumulative Species Since 3/11/2002 - 35

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Notable Bird Quote VI

"A bird in the hand is the best way to eat chicken." --Anonymous (from The Quotable Birder, edited by Bill Adler Jr.)


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