This week, bird blogging on a melancholy curlew anniversary, why we like birds, the healing power of birding, pelagic tips, and the need for clever bird nicknames in North America.
Kenn Kaufman, at his own blog Birding with Kenn and Kim, marks the anniversary of the Eskimo Curlew’s extinction:
Hope dies hard, and some people continue to believe that some Eskimo Curlews might be making the long journey from the Arctic to Argentina and back, every year, undetected. Indeed, there continue to be a few claimed sightings. But none has been documented since 1963. And in the meantime we have an army of skilled birders scouring every shorebird habitat, telescopes and cameras in hand. Let a Black-tailed Godwit from Europe touch down in Florida, let a Red-necked Stint from Siberia land in California, and it is immediately documented in a thousand photos.
Nick Lund, the Birdist, leaves his site to pen a thoughtful review of Peter Doherty’s Their Fate is Our Fate at Slate:
A lot of people ask me how I became a birder—what it is about these creatures that drives my obsession to study them and think about them and search all over for them. Then they speculate on the answer themselves. “They’re so magical,” they’ll say, blowing the steam off a mug of chai tea clutched between two hands, “the freedom of the sky!” No. It has nothing to do with magic or freedom. It has nothing to do with the miracle of flight. I don’t hang-glide or fly planes. It has nothing to do with birds being beautiful, or cute, or impressive or fierce. I wasn’t attacked by a bird as a kid.
It has nothing to do with birds at all, really. It has everything to do with the natural world being too damn big.
Laura Erickson, writing for Birdwatching Daily, considers the healing power in backyard birds:
In August 2011, my husband was diagnosed with cancer that required surgery. The night he came home, he was in pain. We had trouble sleeping but awoke in the morning to the gentle chattering of Evening Grosbeaks — a sound we’d enjoyed almost every morning in the 1980s but hadn’t heard in our yard in over a decade. Sixteen grosbeaks stayed for the next six weeks. Naturally, as a birder, I was thrilled with this unexpected distraction. But my husband, a non-birder, found the grosbeaks a healing presence, too. (He’s healthy now, with no sign of recurrence.)
This one is a bit older, and I had meant to link to it when I first read it but forgot. Oh well. At Shorebirder, Nick Bonomo’s list of tips for a pleasant pelagic is still exceptionally useful:
Nearly everyone’s been there. Even your most seasoned pelagic veterans can recall the days on which they all-too-quickly transitioned from the excitement of embarking on a pelagic journey to that dreadful feeling of nausea and vomiting – the worst part being that you’re usually several hours from returning to land when it begins. Suddenly, death by voluntary drowning doesn’t seem like such a bad option.
British birders have loads of clever nicknames for their birds, but for some reason they haven’t caught on as much on this side of the Atlantic. At Nemesis Bird, Steve Brenner has some suggestions:
Like any eclectic group of hobbyists and professionals, birders have slowly developed their own language. In the broad sense, many of these terms are second nature to us: lifer, dipping, MEGA, etc. This custom vernacular is essential to bird watching culture, and often times can be the quickest way to identify a sympathetic avian maniac versus an innocent bystander curious about you standing in a hurricane on the side of the road looking at ‘nothing’ in a flooded field. Whether we like it or not, birder slang is here to stay.