Aug
20

Upcoming Events and Tours

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Birders birding La Crau sheep barn

September 8: Birding Brookdale Park.

September 10: Birding Brookdale Park.

September 12: Birding Brookdale Park.

September 15: Birding Brookdale Park.

September 21-27: Birding Cape May with WINGS.

October 2: Lecture and book signing for the Southern Ocean Birding Group.

October 15: Lecture and book signing for the Bergen County Audubon Society.

November 8: Birding Sandy Hook with the Linnaean Society of New York.

February 18: Lecture and book signing for the Queens County Bird Club.

February 19: Lecture and book signing for the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club.

February 20: Lecture and book signing for the Wyncote Audubon Society.

March 13-18: Birding southeast Arizona with the Linnaean Society of New York.

March 21-26: Birding Nebraska with WINGS.

April 18-25: Birding Catalonia with WINGS.

Sycamore-Rick.jpg

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You can read my newly published Nebraska Bird Review article about a pigeon collected by none other than Ferdinand V. Hayden here.

Many thanks to the World Museum, Liverpool, for permission to publish the photographs of the skin. 

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Aug
29

What Have We Learned?

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In the autumn of 1915, local hunters boasted to W. Lee Chambers of “how easily” they killed a favored local gamebird:

The method was to fasten a dead or half-dead pigeon on a stick or wire in the top of one of the oak trees where the birds commonly congregated…. This decoy would lead flock after flock to the slaughter, the market hunter being able to kill all he wanted without moving from the tree.

Sounds familiar.

This “simple device” had long been used to decoy the passenger pigeons, extinct just a year before. This time around, though, the victim was the band-tailed pigeon, in San Luis Obispo County, California, and Chambers warns “against a repetition of this former disgraceful method of slaughter.”

Band-tailed pigeon

Sad history had already begun to repeat itself two years before, when Chambers found the Sunday trains packed with “game hogs” who came out to shoot the pigeons for fun.

One can hardly calculate the number of birds killed by hunters in automobiles and those who started from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Santa Maria, Paso Robles, Lompoc and other small towns…. If something is not done very quickly these birds are doomed.

The situation was grim. Fortunately, Joseph Grinnell was on the case, and in 1913 he published a manifesto to save the band-tailed pigeon in California. A new ethic shines through his observation that

we would certainly be blamed forever if we took no steps to prevent a repetition of the deplorably thoughtless treatment which was given the now extinct Passenger Pigeon of the eastern states.

Yes, we learned something. Too late for the one, but just in time for its closest relative, the other big pigeon of the US and Canada.

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Aug
28

One Last Chance: 1911

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Screenshot 2014-08-27 08.41.11

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Aug
27

Holding Out Hope: 1909

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Screenshot 2014-08-27 08.35.03

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The Originals: Reading the First Descriptions of North American Birds

Thanks to the magic of the internet, the original descriptions of most of the world’s birds — long buried in the stacks of far-flung libraries — are now at our fingertips. Some are just as dusty and dry as you might expect, but many provide answers to questions we might not even have thought to ask. Join me for a tour of the fascinating, often surprising stories hidden in the first descriptions of some of our most familiar birds.

Screenshot 2014-08-26 08.47.50

And yes, I considered an entire evening of just Linnaean footnotes.This one is among my all-time favorites:

The genus Strix differs from the genus Falco in the same way a moth differs from a butterfly: the one is diurnal, the other nocturnal.

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