Monday, May 20, 2013

Holy Vomiting Stellar's Jays, Batman!

Mom sent me this great article about training Stellar's jays not to eat marbled murrelet eggs (and humans not to feed the Stellar's jays).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

State Birds

Tam sent me this article in Slate about improvements to the state birds.  It's definitely worth reading.

I asked Robert about the range of the Connecticut warbler (the author's suggestion to replace the current state bird of Connecticut), and he sent me the following, which I present as a guest post:

"You are right, the Connecticut Warbler isn't found in Connecticut.  It is an eastern flyway migrant and the first specimen was from Connecticut, but most of them move inland after flying the length of Florida in the spring, and nest north of and around the Great Lakes.  (It is, in fact, a breeding bird maybe 50 miles north of here.)

Other errors and inappropriate choices:
Florida - American Flamingo
From his link:
Name:  American flamingo
Scientific name:  Phoeniconais ruber ruber
Range:  Columbia, Galapagos Islands, Caribbean, Venezuela

I'm sure he's seen big pink birds in Florida, thought they were Flamingos, and was actually seeing Roseate Spoonbills.  Or his birding in Florida was done at the old Hialeah Park racetrack.

Illinois - Greater Prairie Chicken.  Found in Nebraska, Kansas, the Dakotas, etc.  Not in Illinois, which is some 150 miles east of its range.

Maine - Black Capped Chickadee - ok its found there, along with every other northern state, but why go small when you can go with the Atlantic Puffin - Maine is the only state it breeds in. (If you want to reserve the Puffin for Newfoundland, where 95% of them breed, give Maine the Common Murre.)

Tennessee Warbler - winters in South America.  Breeds in the North Woods and points north.  Flies through Tennessee in the spring and fall as quickly as its little wings can take it. 

Washington - Glaucous-Winged Gull.  Why does he hate Washington?  Yeah, it is found there, but it is a noisy, annoying trasheater.  Also found in Washington - Harlequin Duck."

Talking to Robert about these birds made apparent that he and I use the term "endemic" slightly differently.  I use it (and interpret it) to mean a bird that is widespread in an area -- e.g., "The red-tailed hawk is endemic to Texas" (it's found all over the state of Texas [but also other places]).  Robert uses is to mean a bird that is particular to or restricted to an area -- e.g., "The golden-cheeked warbler is endemic to Texas" (it's found only in the state of Texas [but not all over the state]).  We are both right -- the word can have both meanings -- but man, it's sort of confusing!  I think I use the term "specialty" for Robert's sense of endemic -- e.g., "The golden-cheeked warbler is a Texas specialty."  But this being said, in looking at links for this post, I came across a couple of sites that used endemic in precisely the way Robert does.  Perhaps in the context of birds, endemic does generally mean "occurs nowhere else."

I like Robert's suggestions and would like to suggest the following observations and substitutions of my own:

The author seemed to frequently go with birds that are endemic in Robert's sense -- specialty birds to a state -- but not mine.  I can see doing that, though I think there is value in choosing birds that people across the state can relate to.  For instance, the golden-cheeked warbler is a wonderful Texas bird, but it's really seen (in Texas, anyway) as a wonderful Central Texas/Hill Country bird.  I think something like the red-tailed hawk, which is an exciting, super-common bird that people see all the time in Texas, might be better than something that even most people in the Hill Country haven't even seen.

The Florida suggestion of the flamingo is truly bizarre.  Florida has so many great birds.  I felt like his own criteria would lead us to a bird restricted to and named after Florida: the Florida scrub-jay.  Or how about the limpkin, a freaking cool bird that breeds all over Florida but no other US state? 

His allowance of the delightful but dirt-common-to-half-the-US black-capped chickadee for his home state undermined his argument against the American robin, northern cardinal, etc.  Robert's suggestion kicks its ass.  Hard.  He also disfavors an exotic species for South Dakota (ring-necked pheasant -- a popular bird to hunt) but suggests an exotic species for Nevada (Himalayan snow-cock).  He has separate arguments for replacing the pheasant and switching to the snow-cock, but they are not internally consistent.  This kind of makes me nuts.

Some state should choose a kingfisher as their bird just because the kingfishers are obviously the best.  Almost any state could go with the common but fabulous belted kingfisher.  If Texas were going to go with a bird that is cool, but not found all over the state, the ringed kingfisher (aka "The Big Boy" in Sally-speak) or the green kingfisher (aka "The Little Guy") would be perfect. 

I did love some of this suggestions -- e.g., sandhill crane for Nebraska.  The sandhill cranes on the Platte River is one of America's great bird spectacles, and you do not have to be a bird expert to appreciate it.  We're talking a half million big, gorgeous, loud birds being a thousand kinds of awesome.  (I haven't seen it in person yet, but I will.  I even wrote a haiku about it about 10 years ago, just based on photos and descriptions in a book about cranes that I read.  I don't know what happened to that haiku, but I'm sure it captured about 2% of the splendor of the cranes.  I really love cranes.)

On a final note:  I have always loved that Oklahoma's state bird was the scissor-tailed flycatcher.  It's a lovely, wonderful bird that I strongly associate with summers growing up.  I remember riding in the car down semi-country roads where you would see flycatcher after flycatcher along the fence line.  Unfortunately, I suspect this isn't as common now -- or maybe the places that were rural and open enough to have flycatchers hangin' out in large numbers back then have been developed now and the flycatchers have moved on to different places.  In any case, a fantastic bird and a fantastic bird choice. 

Any thoughts?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fear of a Human Planet?

This disapproving rabbit just slays me.  (Of course, he would love that!)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Recent Projects

As a belated birthday present for my mom, I made her four kleenex box covers.

Clockwise from top left:  Bedroom, office, living room, kitchen.

As a mother's day gift, I revisited the clown pants (i.e., elastic-waisted pants) pattern that I have to make PJ bottoms, made shorts length.  Here's what the first ones looked like.

I have purchased fabric to make four more pairs, but when I sat down at my sewing machine yesterday to wind the bobbin thread, I found that my bobbin winder was broken.  (A google search suggests to me that there is a particular part that wears out, so even though the engine is working, the bobbin holder on the top of the machine doesn't turn.)  The sewing functionality isn't damaged, only the bobbin winding.  Sears charges a flat fee of $79 to look at your sewing machine (plus parts costs), which was pretty high given that my entire sewing machine didn't cost very much when brand new.  Fortunately, I found that you can buy a separate bobbin winder for under $25.  I ordered it and it should get here on Thursday.

In addition to the fabric I picked out for my mom's PJs (based on the colors of tops that she wants to wear with them; like me, she prefers woven bottoms and knit tops on her PJs, and she's repurposing some t-shirts as sleep shirts), Robert picked out fabric for me to make a pair of full-length PJ bottoms.  It is ridiculously adorable.

I also tried adding ruching to one of my somewhat-too-long t-shirts and I'm not entirely pleased with the results.  I can't decide if I don't like the ruching job I did, or whether I just don't like how the ruching looks on me personally.  I also hadn't considered that adding ruching to the sides (i.e., adding skinny elastic which you stretch out as you sew it on so that the shirt scrunches up when the elastic is relaxed) would shorten the sides more than the front and back (DUH), and I'm not sure I like the effect.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Small Rebranding

We need to start calling it "dinosaur watching."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May Day

There is something wrong about it being cold and snowing (yes, again) on May 1.  And I was feeling generally grumpy and whiny and wimpy much of the day.  To counteract this weather downer and gloomy mood, when I finally got dressed in the afternoon (having spent most of the day in my exercise clothes after a pathetic, for me, 3.5 miles on the treadmill), I jazzed up a black t-shirt, grey sweater, and jeans with some spring-like accessories:

First I added a scarf that I bought earlier in the week at Target (during a brief warm period, when it got into the upper 60s and a 1 mile walk to the pedestrian mall was quite pleasant -- the return trip was not because my left shoe, which I hadn't worn since last summer, decided to rub a huge blister on the back of my foot that popped painfully within minutes of leaving the store, so I limped home with my treasures) and then realized, Orange with green accents?  Gotta be a bunny with a carrot!

Robert got me this pin for Easter several years ago, and I love how jaunty and self-satisfied the rabbit seems, holding this gigantic, fresh, gleaming Carrot of Goodness.  I had forgotten about this pin entirely until I happened across it last week when I knocked a box out of the bathroom closet while trying to extricate my hair dryer.  Before our move, I had donated most of my costume jewelry to Goodwill, but of course I'm happy I kept this prize.  Wearing an awesome rabbit elevated my mood several notches for the rest of the day.