Blog Birding #108
by Nate Swick
If you're not following BirdCast, Cornell Lab of O's new project which takes eBird data, combines it with weather forecasts, and comes out with a product that seeks to predict the movement of migrants and vagrants across the continent, you should be. The most recent post weighs in on at that big cold front that's currently making its way eastward:
The Weather Channel has taken to naming winter storms for the 2012-2013 winter season, and Brutus is at bat. This powerful storm is dumping heavy snow in parts of the Rockies, and the associated frontal boundary strongly demarcates much colder from very warm air. As the low tracks east, strong southerly and southwesterly flow prevails across much of the Plains through the Mississippi River valley north to the Great Lakes. These conditions are likely to produce a significant western flavor to late season bird migration, including the appearance of more Cave Swallows in the Great Lakes by the weekend.
Mark Catesby is one of the most influential of the 18th Century naturalist/artists cataloging the New World. Rick Wright, at Birding New Jersey and the World, takes a look at some lexicographical inconsistencies in the translation of Catesby's work to French:
By the mid-seventeenth century, French had made great progress towards displacing its elder brother, Latin, as the language of learning in western Europe. More important than that, even, and an obvious point not brought up in the discussion, the savants of Paris and Blois were a huge audience for books in natural history. Printing Catesby’s text in both languages, English and French in parallel columns on the page, both lent the book an air of scientific authority and opened the continental markets in ways that a monolingual text might not have.
Tis the season for flyover flocks of blackbirds. David Sibley shares his technique for looking for Rusties among Red-wings and Grackles:
First, listen for a slightly different call. All of the blackbirds and grackles give a low harsh check or tuk call in flight. In Red-winged Blackbird this is a relatively simple and unmusical chek, like hitting two twigs together. Rusty Blackbird’s call is more like chook, it has more complexity and depth. Rusty’s call is slightly longer, slightly descending, and with a bit of musical tone. It reminds me vaguely of the harsh chig call of Red-bellied Woodpecker.
The venerable birding blog carnival I and the Bird returns at 10,000 Birds. This month's theme? Nuthatches.
Few groups of birds are as endearing as the noble nuthatch. The family Sittidae offers birders across the Northern Hemisphere no shortage of opportunities for merriment as they clamor through trees and feeding stations, almost always oriented on the vertical plane and offering vocalizations variously described as yanks, toots, and the squealing of arboreal rubber ducks.
Laura Erickson shares a tale of her capture by Caprimulgids, her first nighthawk:
That evening, Russ had to do some work in his lab at the Natural Resources Building at Michigan State University. I often tagged along to keep him company when he worked at night, but when we got to the parking lot and I saw the nighthawks, I was rooted to the spot. He went in and I parked myself right there, sitting on one of those parking space cement thingies for an hour or two, utterly mesmerized. The gracefully erratic flight was made even more beautiful because the white patches near the wingtips looked like crescent moons.