Thursday 25 January 2007

I and the Bird #41

    Birds express all that is beautiful, joyous and free in nature. They delight our eyes, charm our ears, quicken our imagination, and through association with the bushland inspire us with the profound love of country.
Neville W. Cayley, Introduction, What Bird is That?

Published in 1931 and reprinted many times, What Bird is That? is a classic of Australian ornithology.

It was the first of its kind—a comprehensive guide to all the birds in Australia. Cayley arranged his birds not in systematic order but by habitat, and he illustrated every species in gloriously busy colour plates. It was a book written by someone who loved birds and wanted to inspire the same feelings in his readers.

Species entries were often accompanied by descriptions of behaviour, presented in an conversational tone. Cayley told us that the generic name of the gang gang cockatoo (Callicephalon) was derived from the Greek for beautiful head. That when chestnut-backed quail run "... their heads are thrown up as high as their necks will permit, and as their bodies are carried very erect, a waddling motion is given to their gait, which is very amusing". That dusky wood-swallows roost "clustered together, like a swarm of bees, on the limb of a tree". And that red wattlebirds are surprisingly good tucker: "Its flesh is excellent eating, and great numbers are killed each year for the table."

No less passionate and personable are the contributors to I and the Bird—whether reporting on a field trip or an unexpected sighting at a feeder, recounting treasured moments or exploring the subtleties of colour. We invite you to dip into the collection ...

Chapter I. Backyard bonanza

In the mornings the doves line up on the power lines, waiting for the breakfast call., writes Pam at Tortoise Trail in her post on backyard birds. The doves know who's on their side in Tucson.

I was so excited to see this guy yesterday I was shaking. Sarala at Blogaway shares her excitement over an unexpected visitor to her Chicago garden.

A few weeks ago, every time I went out the front door after dark, I heard a flutter of wings and could just catch the silhouette of a winged form as it disappeared into the trees. James of Coyote Mercury welcomes a guest to his house in Texas.

I spent a pleasant hour or so watching, and attempting to photograph, Musk Lorikeets, this morning. Alan of Birds in Tasmania enjoyed the antics of a flock of musk lorikeets in the grounds of a local school. But only after he'd been given the treatment by a dive-bombing lapwing.

I have had several pairs of bluebirds hanging around since we moved in, mainly scoping out the bluebird houses. Jayne's Journey Through Grace tells us that the bluebirds are having a great time at Chickadee Lane in Georgia.

Cackling like a wild banshee -
The master chisler
Carves our tree trunks well

Cindy of WoodSong's haiku celebrates a family of pileated woodpeckers matching wits with Phoebe the GSP off the beaten track in Michigan.

Chapter II. Winter wonders

It was an awesome day! Lynne from Hasty Brook went out with the Duluth Audubon Society and saw nine lifers including a ... Oh, you'll have to read it!

On Saturday I travelled to Tamarack Resort for a cross country ski race. Rob of Rob's Idaho Perspective went for the skiing and stayed for the birding. And was he glad he took his camera along? What do you think?

I got out today and did some of my first birding in Maryland .... Nemesis Birder Drew's day started a little slowly but livened up when he saw the croissant-shaped birds. Intrigued? Read on.

bon•ny also bon•nie (bŏn'ē)
Adj. Scots., -ni•er, -ni•est.
  1. Physically attractive or appealing; pretty.
  2. Excellent.
Bill of BRDPICS has a bonny day out at Bonny State Park in Colorado, where he not only saw plenty of birds but also engaged in a mini-marshmallow fight.

It started with the following email:
Hello Peregrine
I have been reading your blog with interest
And so have we! Craig at Peregrine's Bird Blog showed a group of visitors around the best birding spots in Belfast.

With the days rapidly ticking down toward the start of the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival I took a break from my preparations yesterday afternoon to do some scouting for my field workshops.
It's not all ice and snow. Kevin at NaturalVisions spent quality time with some roseate spoonbills in Florida.

Chapter III. Total Birdcall

My birding activities have been virtually non-existent for well over a month now, due to the fires .... Duncan's had a lot on his plate at Ben Cruachan in eastern Victoria but his workload is our gain as he shares his most memorable birding moments.

Some fortunate folks have been endowed throughout history with the awesome responsibility of ascribing common names to newly discovered avian species.. Mike of 10,000 Birds ponders on the nuances of colour. Are you absolutely rufous?

How to use films for birding. Trevor of Trevor's Birding in South Australia shares some of his top tips for lazy birders. Watch birds from the comfort of your armchair. Beer and popcorn optional.

Chapter IV. Enraptured by raptors (and owls)

Martha and I are avid consumers of so-called popular science, Michael of Bur Oak tells us. Their enthusiasm for knowledge took them to the Mountsberg Raptor Centre near Toronto.

I hope I won't disappoint you ... this is not about John Ashcroft. Just as well, Greg, because I’d have to refer you to I and the Bush. Greg Laden writes about his encounters with juvenile bald eagles in Minnesota. Or are they golden eagles? A lot of people mix them up.

When Jim and I found the Merlin (Falco columbarius) during our survey of our part of the Presqu'ile Christmas Bird Count he started to talk about birder's luck. Pamela of Thomasburg Walks in Ontario enjoyed more than a drop of birder's luck when she finally spotted a bird that had been eluding her for a couple of weeks.

It was 2:30 by the time I'd finished helping friends with their move. The rain was steady, and the temperature was 37 degrees. I went birding.. His fingers might have been ready to drop off, but David of Sense and Serendipity* kept going. Then he saw a pair of harriers ...

Chapter V. The edge and beyond

Numbers. Sometimes the thrill of birding is about the numbers. Charlie of Charlie's Bird Blog traces the decline and extinction of the passenger pigeon, once the most abundant bird in North America. Gone. And almost forgotten.

On our way to Florida, we left Congaree National Forest in South Carolina, a majestic old growth forest in the historic range of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and in which a current search for the Ivory-billed Woodpeckers is taking place. Lillian and Don of Stokes Birding Blog take us on a journey to find an ivory-billed woodpecker at Choctawatchee River. Trace their steps (part 1, 2 and 3) in this photo essay.

Chapter VI. Marvellous miscellanea

Winter brings visitors from the north, and attracts short-distance migrants into the Piedmont and coastal plain, John from A DC Birding Blog enthuses about fox sparrows, which have moved south for the winter.

Two years ago at Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin I saw two life birds (among others) Marsh and Sedge wrens. Birdfreak of Birdfreak's Birding Blog sings the praises of his favourite birds.

Google Maps provides an excellent resource for recording field trips and sightings. Ben of NYC Nova Hunter shows us how he used it to document a recent trip to Great Kills Park, Staten Island.

The ancestors of modern birds are thought to have been small, feathered dinosaurs, the theropods. Grrlscientist from Living the Scientific Life brings us news from the palaeontologists—the feathered Microraptor may have glided on four wings like a biplane. Why not explore the world of birds from another perspective?

Cormorants have suffered bad press over the years. I make an attempt to restore the good name of the cormorant but ... well .. the opposition is too skilled.

Chapter VII. A new beginning.

The next edition of I and the Bird will be hosted by the Neurophilsopher's Blog on 8th February. Don't miss it!

*Note that Sense and Serendipity has a new URL.