Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday, May 29, 2009

Shame on You, Grackle!

A grackle was in my backyard this morning. He arrived in a ginormous hemi SUV blaring hip hop music, quickly festooned himself with $27,000 worth of photographic equipment and repeatedly flushed a Snowy Owl until it died by the toolshed. Then, he robbed six songbird nests and directed some Cowbirds to the ones he couldn't get to. He whipped out a ten-pound bag of mixed Garlic Mustard and Japanese Honeysuckle seed and dumped it all over the neighborhood, keyed my car, sprayed DEET on my scope and binoculars, tore off my catalytic converter, and put food out for the feral cats.

He raised his middle primary to me as he fired up his Hummer, belched fledgling feathers, and roared home to sleep it off. Of course, I tracked him to his flop and rousted him. In the nest, under his carefully folded Klan robes, swastika armband collection and New York Yankees memorabilia, were grisly souvenirs crafted from the remains of the Lindbergh Baby, Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart.

This report generated by eBird.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Captain and Mrs. Miroshnikov

Ivan Dmitryevich Miroshnikov was a captain -- maybe in the Red Army, maybe in Poland, and maybe during the Great Patriotic War. Tamara Arsenievna Miroshnikov was fond of hats.

Nikitenko behind them died on Halloween, 1973.


Thursday, December 4, 2008


There was a sharp-shinned hawk at the corners of Atlantic and Fredricksburg Aves. in Ventnor this afternoon. It was on the second of three brick steps going up to the front porch of a house. We did a quick U-turn to assure ourselves that we weren't seeing things and, sure enough, there it was. It had jumped up to the porch railing and was scoping out sparrows in the arbor vite. It didn't like us looking at it and it took off and flew across Atlantic Ave. toward the bay and landed in some sycamore trees. This is only the third time I've ever seen a sharpie on Absecon Island and I didn't want to spook it so we just left.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Never Said This Blog Didn't Have Its Faults

An orchard transected by the San Andreas Fault. The fault is the diagonal line where the rows of trees are misaligned. The rows were straight when the tract was planted, but the shift of the Pacific and North American plates has thrown them out of kilter. Neato.

Something New To Keep Your Eye Out for at the Feeder

hould you happen to live in equatorial Africa.

Smithsonian scientists published their discovery of a new bird species in Gabon in August. I just got the teletype.

Behold, the Olive-backed Forest Robin:

Olive-backed Forest Robin

Researchers first noted this dense-thicket creeper in the field in 2001, but only recently did closer lab examination and DNA work distinguish the bird from known Forest Robins -- or the known Forest Robin, as the taxonomy of the genus Stipthrornis is in some dispute.

Hartlieb named the nominate of the genus in 1855, and so things stood until 1996, when specimens of the the Sangha Forest Robin (pictured below) were collected in the Central African Republic's Dzanga-Sangha rain forest in the Congo Basin. These led to DNA work that suggested a division of the traditionally monotypical genus into a total of four species: S. erythrothorax, (Western), S. gabonensis (Gabon), S. sanghornis (Sangha), and S. xanthogaster (Eastern).

Sangha Forest Robin

The Stipthrornis genus of Forest Robins are part of the Old World flycatcher family of Muscicapidae or Chats, though they were once placed in the thrush family Turdidae, where you find our own American Robin and the rest of our true thrushes, the Veery, Hermit, Wood, Swainson's &c.

Anyway, whoever you are, Welcome, new guy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why Conservationists Should Be AGW Skeptics

Too many (i.e. all) birders I know are avid "warmenists."

I'm of the opinion this is a poorly thought out avenue of advocacy. It blindly endorses a political notion born of "findings" by an embarrassingly amateurish cadre within a nascent scientific discipline with little consideration (much less apprehension) of the positive effects of global warming itself, and the detrimental impact Anti-Global Warming focus has on more specific and readily addressed environmental and conservationist issues.

Say the average American gives $5.00 to "environmental" causes per year. Times 200 million adults, that's a cool billion. For one billion dollars, I could buy every private parcel of real estate in seven or eight rural Michigan counties, plant it with Jack Pine, and save the Kirtland's Warbler forever. For half of that, I could supply the entire watermen fleets of Jersey and Delaware with quality bait bags, reduce their horseshoe crab requirements by 70% and save the North American subspecies of the Red Knot forever. For one quarter of that, I could bird-proof 50,000 tall buildings in migratory pathways. For one tenth of that, I could outbid a developer on sixty-five beachfront acres of saltmarsh and sandbar and maybe save the Piping Plover for a while. For one 100th of that, I could offset the entire year's legal and operating expenses of a grassroots organization fighting to save a historic property from demolition and development that would threaten a prized and vulnerable preserve next door.

Well, somewhere between that 65 acres and the measly million is what's left after donations to global warming causes are factored out.

I certainly hope that these errant dollars actually have a positive impact on the 92 per cent of all species "threatened" by global warming in the online taxonomic resources. These same resources inform me that the American Roadrunner is threatened by sprawl, without comprehending that the warming that "threatens" the Cerulean Warbler will expand the Roadrunner's habitat by a factor of a billion (assuming you rely on Albert Gore for your science).

I don't like contradictions. I won't justify them, and I certainly won't accept them as scientific.

Fuck carbon, fuck TV ads from gigundo corporations with "green" graphics, fuck lighbulbs, ethanol and brainwashing kindergarten kids about footprints. I'll take the Warbler.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Favorite Bird

lack Skimmer is mine. Here is a bird that's got it all: Gross manifestations of evolutionary biology, plumage at once striking and understated, sleekness of form, and grace of flight. It sleeps like a passed out spring breaker after 15 pina coladas, five bodyshots and a bong session.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memorial Day Report - Part I: Exodus

t's a bit tardy, but when the reporter and the editor are the same guy in different hats, that's what you get. That's rustic.

It was a nifty, long weekend in Central New York, a part of the country I haven't visited since I was eight years old. Cooperstown, NY has always been a destination on my list. This village on the shores of Otsego Lake is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame and takes its name from the father of James Fenimore Cooper, the noted American fabulist behind the Leatherstocking Tales and Last of the Mohicans. Cooper's novels are set in this part of New York's middle tier, and Otsego is the model for his fictive "Glimmerglass."

As luck, and her parents' insurance policy, would have it, the GF did all the driving to Cooperstown, ably piloting our borrowed Acura north with an even hand and a mostly even head. As navigator, I was freed up to enjoy 200 miles of whiplash birding as the interstate-scapes of Northern Jersey, the winding blue highways of the Catskills and the rolling agricultural straightaways of New York's Central Valley rolled by under a bright sun.

Turkey Vultures rocked overhead throughout the drive, scouting out roadkill. Perched Kestrels watched the holiday traffic from phone lines. And a Cooper's Hawk was unceremoniously chased out of Roscoe, NY by a mob of Starlings and Grackles. A Common Raven sat in a farmhouse lawn outside Delhi, NY, and Chipping Sparrows tittered at my technique while I peed over a guardrail just south of Oneonta (at least I hope it was my technique). Finally, in the irony department: Bank Swallows over a barn in Otsego County, and Barn Swallows over a bank in Delaware County (a pond edge, not an S&L).

Tomorrow... Cooperstown, Baseball, Mascot Birds, Thoughts on B&Bs, etc.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dickcissel or Dick Sisler? Both, Baby!

ne is a sparrow-like prairie bird, the other is closely associated with Cardinals and preferred a highly specialized habitat consisting of grassy fields in urban areas. Though the Dickcissel is declining, Dick Sisler is extinct, having expired in Nashville in 1998.

For more of this silly wordplay, check this old thread from the message boards at America's finest formerly-broadcast-but-now-internet-streamed radio station.

Anyway, I'm off to Cooperstown for the long weekend, where both birds can be experienced in one form or another in close proximity to Baltimore Orioles. I intend to take in all of the Baseball Hall of Fame that I can, and hopefully squeeze in as much birding as possible in the vicinity of Lake Otsego (James Fenimore Cooper's "Glimmerglass").

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. All three of you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Weekend Roundup

riday was my first trip ever to Braddock (North Hudson) Park in North Bergen and it lived up to the hype I'd heard from other Hudson County birders. What it lacks in shorebird opportunities, it more than makes up for in arboreal habitat, with extensive trails through a mature deciduous forest with a continuum of understory ranging from tangled thicket to damp, muddy openings. There's also a large pond with a wooded central island and several acres of old-growth-over-grass parkland.

Temperatures were a bit on the cool side, and I experienced numbness in my fingers on a few extended viewings, but it was well worth it. Lots of warbler variety: Life-list Wilson's (yeah, I'm a n00b), Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Yellowthroat, Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Ovenbird, Redstart and Magnolia. Warbling and Red-eyed Vireo were also about, as were Hermit Thrush and Veery. Over the pond, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows were swooping in big numbers -- 30+ of each -- and pausing occasionally to perch on the coping for nice, clear looks.

Saturday, I hopped the train to Liberty State Park to track down some shorebirds that had been mentioned on the Jersey Birds list as having shown up in the marsh and mudflats: Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover and Short-billed Dowitcher. I was able to spot a half-dozen each of Dunlin and Dows, and 10-12 Semipalmated Sandpipers, but the only plover around were Semipalmated. Singletons of Glossy Ibis and Yellow-crowned Night Heron livened things up a bit. The big treat was on the way in though, as several Grasshopper Sparrows were buzzing on the fenceline.

Sunday I managed only a quick trip to LSP, with little to report from the scrape and mudflats except a Northern Waterthrush, finally. First of year after four weeks of trying.