Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ha, ha, birders!

Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Boy it was cooking in Sapsucker Woods yesterday--humans really have screwed up the planet's cooling system. It was in the 90s, and I was so hot I was panting. So when I noticed Laura Erickson studying me and taking my picture, I wanted to tell her to go to hell. I know that most humans with binoculars have trouble telling us flycatchers apart if we don't come right out and tell them who we are, but I figured why should I go to the trouble of singing just so she could be sure of my identity? I mean, even if she did figure out whether I was a Least or a Willow, it wasn't like she'd know me from Adam or Tom or Dick or Harry or any of my other friends. People think when you can identify a species you know enough about birds, but hello? We're individuals. And on a day like yesterday, when I was hot and hungry and weary from traveling, I was just too cranky to play along with her stupid "year list game."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Check out the baby bluebird photos!

BluebirdNB3 20090412L 005wf
Originally uploaded by lucycat
Our friend "lucycat" (who is neither named Lucy nor is a cat!) takes fabulous baby bluebird photos every year, which she posts on Flickr. Click on the photo and go enjoy some amazing pictures!! ("Lucycat" also contributed the cover photo for BirdScope a year ago!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pop quiz, Jack...

Tufted Titmouse
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Romeo and Juliet's first argument was about the identification of a bird. What species did each of them think it was? Who won the argument? (And extra credit if you get the non-Shakespearean reference in the post title.)

(By the way, if you haven't been following this blog from the start, you may not know that my name is Vera. My brothers Chuck and Dave and I are the bird world's "pop culture" experts--we get a kick out of people and their amusements. And I'll give more extra credit if anyone knows how we got our names.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Bluebird of Happiness

This time of year, when people talk about the "Bluebird of Happiness," I like to think they're thinking of ME. We arrive back in spring and start migrating before those poky Neotropical migrants start wending their way north, and we like to think that our early presence on a bleak brown landscape, when snow is still not just possible but likely, is a cheerful thing.

But holy Toledo! People in northwestern Ohio are completely ignoring us Eastern Bluebirds this year, just because some poor schmo got lost. Yes, one lousy Mountain Bluebird shows up in the wrong place and birders from all over descend upon it, exultantly posting photos on the Internet and acting like Mountain Bluebirds are the best thing since sliced bread. I just don't get it. They're not as colorful as we are, and you can bet your bippy this one isn't going to breed in Ohio. It's the second time a Mountain Bluebird has shown up in Ohio in the past 100 years. Meanwhile, we return faithfully, year after year after year, and no one writes about us in the paper. What's the big deal? I just don't get it. But you can read about it here, in the Toledo Blade.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Doting mallard

Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
She once being loof’d,
The noble ruin of her magic, Antony,
Clapson his sea-wing, and like a doting mallard,
Leaving the fight in height, flies after her.

Now come on--this one should be EASY--at least to identify the play! And ::ahem:: a nice little invention called Google could make figuring out these references very easy.

Die for adultery?

Winter Wren
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
die for adultery! No.
The wren goes to’t, and the small gilded fly
Does lecher in my sight. Let copulation thrive.

(Well, that's MY motto this time of year! I'm no troglodyte, at least not in the reclusive sense of the word.)

Thou cream-faced loon!

Common Loon
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!
Where got'st thou that goose look?

Actually, I'm in MUCH prettier plumage this time of year, but thought it was time for us birds to start our little tribute to Shakespeare, since his birthday is coming up soon. We'll leave it to you, gentle readers, to put the play and character and context into the comments, if you care to.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Preening in the sunshine...

Great Blue Heron
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
...feels ever so good.

Miss Bennett...

Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.

Well, maybe it wouldn't silence me completely, we drakes being what we are.

I take no leave of you, Miss Bennett.

Canada Goose
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I send no compliments to your mother.

I laugh at you all!

Great Blue Heron
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Notice my binocular vision.

Great Blue Heron
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I can see a photographer as clearly as I can see a fish. Click on my photo to see how my eyes are turned to look right at YOU!

Incubating is hard work.

Canada Goose
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Hard, boring work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Help me star in a reality show!

Well, maybe not ME. My name is Maggie. I was hatched in 2005 in Duluth, and the first day I tried to fly, well, it wasn't pretty. I got grounded in a parking lot, and some lady with a camera took photos of me and then got me back on the roof. And then I fell again! And someone else found me and got me back on the roof.

Now they've got high tech camera equipment to keep track of the new babies in my parents' nest each year. The people at Hawk Ridge's Peregrine Watch monitor them with borrowed equipment during the official Peregrine Watch period, but would love to know what's going on now. They'd love their own receiver and monitor, and you know something? They really deserve this equipment. But that means they need donations. That smiley lady Julie O'Connor wrote on Peregrine Watch today:
We're trying to raise $1500 to purchase our own monitoring equipment for Peregrine Watch. If you have any leads on funds, donations can be sent to:

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory/Peregrine Watch Equipment Fund
PO Box 3006
Duluth MN 55803
Right now some people have almost as little money as us birds, and we don't want anyone to hurt their own household finances with this. But if people could just send $5 or $10, it would add up quickly--and you'd make those downtown peregrines feel like Mr. and Mrs. George Bailey with everyone in their town helping them out. If you do make a donation, tell 'em Maggie sent you!

Airplane kills Bald Eagle. Passengers survive.

Bald Eagle near nest
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Jet strikes eagle, returns to Sanford Orlando airport

Willoughby Mariano and Gary Taylor | Sentinel Staff Writers
April 7, 2009

A collision with a bald eagle forced an Allegiant Air flight to return Monday to Sanford Orlando International Airport — the sixth fatal encounter for an eagle there in three years, according to an airport official.

Read the whole story.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Airplane-bird collisions up

Canada Goose
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
USA Today has an interesting story today about airplane-bird collisions. But please remember, we're not trying to hit your planes, and many, many more of us die in these collisions, which are costly and, rarely, tragic for people but always tragic for us birds .
Aircraft hit birds 62% more since '90s - USATODAY.com
Dangerous collisions between aircraft and large birds like the one that forced a commercial airliner to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River in January have risen dramatically, according to government data obtained by USA TODAY.

You people can be so cruel to each other...

...but you can get along so beautifully, too. This video shows some of the best of being human.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"White Fang, you are smarter than I thought."

Florida Scrub-Jay
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Remember in the book White Fang when Judge Scott insisted that there was no way his son Weedon could teach White Fang to leave the chickens alone? Weedon bet his father that he could, and left White Fang in the chicken house for over 2 hours. The wolf ignored the chickens completely, and in the end Judge Scott had to face White Fang and say, sixteen times, "White Fang, you are smarter than I thought."

Well, being a corvid, I know how smart birds can be, and find it endlessly frustrating that people pooh-pooh our intelligence--they even came up with that ridiculous term, "bird brain!" Now some scientists have made what they think is a breakthrough--they figured out that we corvids look people in the eye and can figure out what is going to happen. Well, DUH! I want so see people look ME straight in the eye and say, "Jerry Scrub-Jay, you are smarter than I thought."

But I won't hold my breath.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Avert your eyes...

...if you don't want to watch me eat. I'm posting these because I'm sick and tired of people calling me "cute."

Yum Yum!!

Steve Ingraham took this video of me, which is fun to watch to remember a most pleasant meal and my own personal sidekick.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Americans might be coming to see ME soon!

Hooray! Americans might eventually be able to come to Cuba to see me and my buddies! Why is that so cool? Because, if you can believe it, most people don't even realize that we Cuban Todies are the Most Adorable Birds in the Universe. But if a few people come and take photos and videos and get us plastered all over the Internet, we'll be famous. Because we really ARE the most adorable birds in the universe! Our moms told us so.
Published: April 5, 2009
The move fulfills a campaign promise and signals a possible warming of relations with the Castro government.

Yes! Michigan State advances!

Go, Spartans!

High-tech Owl!!

Laura Erickson brought me to a Girl Scout event at the Cayuga Nature Center today, and a nice young woman named Maura took my picture with her cellphone! Of course, that happens a lot, but Maura was nice enough to email it to me! So here it is--the first cellphone photo (that I've ever actually seen) of me! Thanks so much, Maura!

Notice how we hummingbirds are headed to Detroit just in time!

You may notice a few of us hovering overhead, taking in the action, and watching for our legendary heroes in the stands!

Go, Spartans, Go!!

Of course we hummingbirds are supporting Michigan State! I mean, DUH! Their colors are green and white, and just as important, they have in their history two of the tiniest, yet most focused, speedy. aggressive, successful players in Big Ten history, from the early 70s. Mike Robinson, who was 5'10" (huge by hummingbird standards but right puny by basketball standards!) led the Big Ten in scoring during the two magical years he played with 5'5" guard Gary Ganakas, who led the Big Ten in assists. Gary Ganakas could zip in like a revved up hummingbird and grab the ball from a gigantic forward, all the while keeping track of where Mike Robinson was, toss the ball to him like it was no big deal, and Mike would pop it in for the score! That kind of sheer bravado, speed, and finesse was not unlike that I saw when my own tiny mate dive-bombed a Bald Eagle and lived to tell about it!

The years Gary Ganakas and Mike Robinson played, the Spartans had great seasons even if they didn't make the final four. Really, they played for a better reason than grabbing a trophy, just as my mate did when he attacked that eagle, or like every one of us does each fall when we strike out over the Gulf of Mexico--we cross the entire watery 640 miles or so without a moment's rest, during hurricane season, no less! There's a special kind of beauty and joy in taking on insurmountable challenges and holding one's own in the face of all odds. By that standard, that good old Michigan State team so many years ago might well have been channeling the best of what it means to be a hummingbird.

Gary Ganakas and Mike Robinson's numbers should have been retired, along with the oh-so-handsome and Zen-like Bill Kilgore. Legends of this amazing team are still passed from parent to child in hummingbird lore, which, when you think about it, is quite amazing in itself, since we hummingbirds are always in the tropics during most of basketball season--no one even knows how our ancestors found out about them. Probably heard about them from some chickadee.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gee but it's great to be back home!

Great Blue Heron
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Home is where I wanna be. I been on the road so long, my friend, and if you came along I know you wouldn't disagree.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Can't a bird have ANY privacy?!

Peregrine Falcon
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
Okay, so I'm back in Duluth, getting caught up in the whirlwind of romance and baby-making and pretty much minding my own business, when what do I find on the Internet but a report from that busy-body Julie O'Connor about MY personal sex habits! She posted on Hawk Ridge's Peregrine Watch listserv on Hawk Ridge's PeregrineWatch website:
I'm expecting 'copulation reports' to start coming in any time now. They should be courting and flirting, flying and displaying, sharing food and vocalizing to each other, then we'll start to see the male landing on the female's back for brief intervals. That's it... it's quick and fleeting, but there's no other reason for him to stand on her back. ;-) Though it starts and ends quickly, they copulate between 20 and 50 times a day for several days, so there should be ample opportunity to catch them in action.

Here's a link I found to the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group's website on peregrine courtship behavior: http://www2.ucsc.edu/scpbrg/behavior.htm. It's pretty cool to read about behaviors I recognize!
I suppose this summer she's going to be back with that spotting scope and laptop hooked into the nestcam, showing everyone in downtown Duluth what's going on with my growing babies, too. Everyone runs over to the Hawk Ridge website to read about our every little movement, like we're some reality show or something. Well, THAT isn't as bad as it sounds--when the babies are in trouble, thanks to that network, someone is always right there with help. But still--what kind of world is it when people are so fixated on sex among peregrines?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

For one magical day each year...

Attention, League of Women Voters

Bald Eagle near nest
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
The League of Women Voters has a long and storied history of environmental concern and also of support of equal rights for many minorities. But if you can believe this, the League has never supported legislation extending the basic rights of citizenship to birds! It makes sense that chickadees and hummingbirds are not allowed to vote, since not one of them has resided in the United States for 18 years. But one would think that we Bald Eagles, who live well into our 20s and even 30s, would enjoy that right so fundamental to a democracy. We can legally be denied entry into public buildings and access to public records. We aren’t allowed to obtain a driver’s license in a single state, are denied the right to a social security card, and are even denied our basic right to bear arms—something the National Rifle Association has been equally remiss in addressing.

The average income for eagle families is well below the poverty level, and the League has closed their eyes to this egregious socioeconomic injustice. They supported the Endangered Species Act and other protectionist laws while denying us the right to own property or receive a basic public school education. The League of Women Voters’ spotty and shameful record when it comes to extending the basic rights of citizenship to an honorable body of Americans who have dedicated our lives to service as our national emblem should be corrected to restore the credibility of this organization before it's too late.

This is the last time I use electric rollers.

Fish? Yuck!

Great Egret
Originally uploaded by Laura Erickson
I'd like a rutabaga, please.