Archive for Quizzes
We asked: What does Christopher Marlowe’s Barabas mean when he asks
Into what corner peers my halcyon’s bill?
Tom solved this one neatly:
Since the lines before and after both refer to wind direction, I’d guess it refers to the folk belief that a dried, dead kingfisher hung on a string pointed downwind (even indoors).
His answer (and his reminding us, too, of the place in Prometheus Unbound where Shelley’s kingfishers dine — rather uncharacteristically abandoning their usually fishy diet — by “thinning one bright bunch of amber berries”) wins him a copy of David Tipling’s Bird Photography Field Guide.
There has never been a more comprehensive and compelling, more thorough and more readable discussion of the place that birds hold in human history and culture. I’m guessing that for most of us, this beautiful book will come off our shelves and onto our laps more often even than our favorite field guide. Read it!
Into what corner peers my halcyon’s bill?
If you know what his character Barabas means by that, leave a comment below: the best, most learned, or wittiest response wins a copy of David Tipling’s Bird Photography Field Guide.
Have at it!
What a beautiful day to be out and about! Cool, bright, and clear: it feels like the first day of autumn. I know we’ve got a lot of summer ahead, but the weather, combined with a few Semipalmated Sandpipers and my first Semipalmated Plover of the fall on the beach at South Amboy, is enough to get me through to the time of northwest winds, just a month away now.
I don’t know whether it was the sudden autumnal turn, the weekend peak in human traffic, or the noticeable increase in the numbers of relentlessly kleptoparasitic Laughing Gulls, but the tern numbers at Morgan Avenue where way down this morning. To make up for it, most of them had brought their kids.
I counted seven fresh juvenile Common Terns, and one of the two pairs of Least Terns there was feeding a flighted young, too.
The nice surprise in the flock was an apparently unaccompanied minor.
Roseate Tern is a rare bird in New Jersey away from Cape May (and plenty scarce even there). This one eventually stood up to show that it was unbanded, so we’ll probably never know where it came from; the nearest breeding birds are on Long Island, so not that far distant. Unfortunately, when it stood up, it also showed something I hadn’t been expecting.
The orange tarsus, just visible here where the bird is stretching, is “wrong” for Roseate Tern at this age, at least according to Malling Olsen and Larsson. The red at the base of the bill seems a bit excessive, too. But no other species of tern has that distinctive back pattern, with black crescents and chevrons on a cold gray ground.
I don’t like the “H-word,” but it seems not inconceivable that this might, just might, be a bird of mixed parentage. The nearest breeding colony of Roseates that I know of is on New York’s Great Gull Island–and the birds there have been known to produce hybrids in the past. Interbreeding is also known from Nova Scotia, where the chicks were said to have shown none of the classic dorsal markings of Roseate juveniles. The single photograph of a Common x Roseate hybrid in MO&L is more heavily marked (and thus even more roseate-like!) than my bird from today.
So I’ve cast my id bread upon the waters of wg01. I’m hoping that there’s an experienced terner out there who can tell me that Roseates do at times have bright feet and bills, but I’ll let you know what I find out.
I’m impressed: Hats off to John for knowing that the pheasant genus Phasianus is named for a river that flows from the Caucusus to the Black Sea. I have to ask: Why on earth did you ever learn that?
The species in the photo above, the Common or Ring-necked Pheasant, is Phasianus colchicus. The species epithet refers to the ancient city of Colchis, on the banks of what we now know as the Rioni River.
It may be a while before I pose another quiz question: you’re too good for me.
Gull-billed Tern has long been a favorite of mine, not least because its species epithet, nilotica, makes it the only North American breeding bird named for an African river.
Now here’s a tough one: What common bird has a genus name derived from an Old World river? Answers in the comments, please.