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Oct
01

Little Bird, Big Name

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Black-throated Green Warbler

This charming black-throated green warbler — an adult female, I believe — was busily picking nearly invisible bugs from Alison’s aster bed this morning.

The species ultimately owes its long English name to none other than William Bartram, who listed it in the Travels as

P[arus] viridis gutture nigro, the green black throated flycatcher.

In June 1756, the very young Bartram had sent skins of this species and of the black-and-white warbler from “the province of Pensilvania” to George Edwards, who described and painted them in the Gleanings of 1760.

Edwards, Gl 2, black-throated green warbler

Edwards called our bird the black-throated green flycatcher, and it was his account that Gmelin drew on to assign the species its formal Linnaean name, Motacilla [later Sylvia, then Dendroica, now Setophagavirens.

Interestingly, it seems that in the later eighteenth century there was resistance to the unwieldy English name adopted by Edwards. In France, both Buffon and Brisson called this bird simply “black-throated,” while across the Channel Pennant, Turton, and Latham all preferred to emphasize the color of the upperparts by calling it the “green warbler.”

wilson, Plate 17, green black-throated warbler

It was up to Alexander Wilson, Bartram’s grateful friend, to restore his master’s English name, which he did in only imperfect faithfulness to the original: the charming bird in the upper lefthand corner of Wilson’s plate 17 is labeled “Green black-throated Warbler,” as in Bartram, though his text reads — the first instance of the modern English name in print — “black-throated green warbler.”

Audubon, who was the first to depict the female of the species, followed Edwards and Wilson’s letterpress in using the sequence “black-throated green” rather than the more logical “green black-throated”:

Screenshot 2014-10-01 18.03.21

And so it has remained ever since, a long name for a tiny bird.

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Oct
01

Upcoming Events and Tours

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Birders birding La Crau sheep barn

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

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

October 25: Lecture at Cape May Autumn Weekend.

October 25: Book signing at Cape May Autumn Weekend.

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

November 20-29: Private Birds and Art tour: Venice to Florence.

January 31: Birding New Jersey with the Brooklyn Bird Club.

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.

March 31: Lecture for the New York City Audubon Society.

April 18-25: Birding Catalonia with WINGS.

May 11-15: Lecture and field trip for Biggest Week in American Birding.

Sycamore-Rick.jpg

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Sep
30

Do You Hear Hoofbeats?

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Gellert and I are used to running into interesting birds on his walks: in just the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen a fine peregrine falcon, a common raven, and a smattering of the commoner southbound warblers. This morning, though, we came across something totally unexpected.

Gould, SynAust, Zebra Finch

We screeched to a halt when a tiny, short-tailed gray thing flushed from the roadside into a low tree, and were startled to see a little zebra finch looking back at us.

It was a long flight on those short wings from this species’ native range. Or do you suppose — just suppose — that somebody left a window open last night?

Vieillot, OisChant, Zebra Finch

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Sep
29

Cape May

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Yes, we arrived a day late for the whiskered tern and we left a day early for the zone-tailed hawk: but my latest tour had a great time at Cape May last week all the same. A few photos:

Birding birders Cape May

The view from the hotel balcony at dawn.

Birding birders Cape May

Sunrise over the beach.

Birding birders Cape May

Some autumn color in Atlantic County.

Birding birders Cape May

An eastern ribbon snake in the Meadows (or some Thamnophis or another).

Brown Thrasher

One of many, many, many brown thrashers at Higbee Beach.

Birding birders Cape May

If you get a chance to bird with this genial gang, do it!

Birding birders Cape May

The beach scene across from our hotel.

Birding birders Cape May

Black skimmers and a nice variety of gulls and terns, there for the picking just steps from our door.

Birding birders Cape May

A great cormorant joins its smaller cousins on the concrete ship.

Birding birders Cape May

We’ll be back.

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Sep
28

Not Your Everyday Feeder Bird

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Black-throated Blue Warbler

This pretty little black-throated blue warbler was a welcome but not unexpected guest at the bird bath this morning.

But — as they say on the internet — watch what she does next.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

I think the house sparrow was as surprised as I was when the warbler flew up to the newly filled tray feeder.

She obviously liked what she found in there.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

I should explain that she wasn’t sharing the house sparrow’s millet: I’d put the remnants of a chunk of suet in there earlier this morning. Still, this isn’t your everyday feeder bird, is it?

Black-throated Blue Warbler

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