Friday, April 13, 2018

Good Birds, Bad Pics

Hey all. Sometimes birding is hard out there. When you've been doing it for as long as I have, and trying to blog about once a week, for the last, like, 6 years, sometimes you come up short of really great pictures of birds you've never written about before. More and more I'll come back from a walk with a camera full of birds and find that they're mostly ones I've already done. Being truly 'out of birds' is not something that I have to worry about for a while, but there's also the pictures to think about. I know I don't need to tell you, reader, that sometimes the quality of the pictures varies a lot. Of course, I do try to keep some kind of standard, or at least only flex that standard for a bird I'm really excited about. Sometimes a bird pic is just not good enough to run as a 'portraiture' entry. I just know I haven't captured the 'essence of the bird', so to speak, so I don't count it.

All that is to say that after looking through the last few months of bird photos, and a couple of misstarts to the ol' blog, this is what I've decided to go with. A trio of birds I was quite excited to get, but that don't really warrant a full blog on their own. Just on a, like, quality level. This way I get to show off these cool birds, but still reserve the right to do a full entry on them later, if I ever get a great picture. Let me know if you hate this blog entry, cause it's a little different. Love you lots. -A

Savannah Sparrow
Salinas River State Beach, Moss Landing, California, USA
January 2018
Member of the American Sparrows and Towhees Family
§A Flutter of Sparrows§

Quickly dismisses others' concerns

Hooded Merganser (male, non-breeding)
Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California, USA
February 2018
Member of the Ducks, Geese, and Swans Family
§A Brace of Ducks§

Feels persecuted for his taste in music

Hermit Thrush (probably..)
Point Molate Beach Park, Richmond, California, USA
February 2018
Member of the Thrush Family
§A Hermitage of Thrushes§

Spaces out

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen's Hummingbird
Point Molate Beach Park, Richmond, California, USA 
February 2018 
Member of the Hummingbird Family 
§A Tune of Hummingbirds§

~true bird facts~ Truly a feisty little guy, he gets very particular about his territory. He has been observed to chase much larger predators, up to and including hawks and kestrels, out of his area. Not only that, but male and female Allen's Hummingbirds live in completely different environments- men go to more open and visible areas, with the women coming and visiting to check out the mating dance of the males, before returning to the denser, more protected woodlands where they make their nests. We all need a little space sometimes. That mating dance, by the way, is an arcing pendulum motion followed by a 100 foot dive that is so fast that it actually allows him to make a chirping noise with his tail feathers. It's pretty cool (here's the Anna's version of it, couldn't find any good Allen's videos).

So, as all long-time readers will know, Hummingbirds are not actually birds, but rather bugs, robots, or bio-robotic organisms. Some research indicates that they might actually be arcane (magical) relics that have been activated by wizards or something. As such, we'll skip the personality section, as Hummingbirds don't have em'. But still, you might be wondering, who is Allen's Hummingbird named after- that's right, it's time for another Naturalist Profile!

Image result for tim allen
Tim Allen

Tim Allen is a human actor, well known for his television shows and movies. The Allen's Hummingbird was actually created for an episode of his most famous and popular show, Tim Allen's Tool Time. In episode 07_18, Tim tinkers with nano-machines, electro-fields, and dark, ancient illustrations that his neighbor Wilson buys at an Illuminati auction to create the 'living' 'bird'. However, it is only after his son, Jonathan Taylor Thomas Allen, sneaks into his laboratory late at night, and properly aligns the crystal matrix, that the creature comes to life. Therefor, you could argue, that the naming convention applies to either or both Allens. The rest of the episode is spent in the zany antics of trying to prevent the hummingbird from reaching a source of argon gas, which it of course needs to reproduce. Obviously Allen was unsuccessful, and I'm thankful for it, since otherwise we wouldn't have these great hummingbirds today.

I know this is a lot of information that might be surprising (I never watched the show much, so I didn't know), but I got it directly from the Tim Allen wiki, which is very well-sourced.

Ok, so let's say that you don't want to know the #Truth about Hummingbirds, and instead want the mainstream media's alternative facts. Here's the guy they say discovered this alleged bird-

Charles Andrew Allen
1841 - 1930

There is virtually no information about Charles Allen on the internet- only this one picture (which is from a pdf of his obituary) and no wikipedia article, which is sad for someone who named this great hummingbird. He was born in Massachusetts, and his interest in birds started early, with a childhood friendship with a taxidermist, which isn't a weird thing to have at all. He held a variety of odd jobs- carpentry, fishing, civil war soldier-ing. Eventually the conditions in the furniture mill in which he worked caused him so many respiratory problems that he decided to move out to California. There he worked as kind of an early park ranger, and it was during this period of time that he collected bird and mammal specimens, which he sent to a colleague or friend for collection and classification. No information on whether or not he 'discovered' other birds, but it was his observation that led to the understanding that Rufous Hummingbirds were a different species from the above bird. He had 3 kids.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Monterrey Bay, Monterrey, California, USA 
January 2018 
Member of the Ducks, Geese, and Swans Family 
§A Raft of Ducks§

{Etymology Corner} You might wonder what exactly a merganser is, if you're the type of person who reads this blog. Well, what separates this guy and his relatives from other ducks, for the most part, is that he is a hunter. He's got a saw-toothed bill, and dives for fish (Red-breasteds like to hunt at sea, other mergansers prefer rivers or lakes). But what does the name Merganser mean? Well, it comes from his Latin name, Mergus (no surprise there, when you see a nonsense word in a bird's name, it's probably from the latin). The fun part is that Mergus translates to 'unidentified water bird'. Really reaching for the stars with that ID.

~true bird fact~ May in fact be the fastest duck. Wikipedia states that the fastest recorded speed for a duck came from a Red-breasted Merganser, flying at 100 miles per hour. The speed was recorded as the duck was being pursued by an airplane. To me this just raises so many questions about what we're doing out there with these ducks. Did the Merganser commit a crime? Anyway, I don't feel confident in really calling it for the record, since who knows what many species would be capable of with a plane barreling after them. Still. an impressive feat. No word on whether the bird got away or not.

Owns a lot of obscure metal band t-shirts (doesn't play an instrument)
Definitely thinks hunting in the ocean rather than a lake makes him cooler and more legit
Gets a tattoo every year on his birthday

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Rhinoceros Auklet

Rhinoceros Auklet aka. Rhino Auklet aka. Unicorn Puffin(?!) aka. Horn-billed Puffin
Monterrey Bay, Monterrey, California, USA
January 2018
Member of the Auks, Murres, and Puffins Family
§A Loomery of Auks

{Etymology Corner} Technically not an Auk, he is the only living member of his genus. Closer to a puffin, but honestly just his own thing. You could see why they would think he was an auklet though, when you see the absolutely wild looking birds he's related to. The rhinoceros part is pretty easy to figure out, it's that 'horn' above his bill. It's actually pretty mild in this photo, it gets even craggier. It only appears in breeding season, like the horn on a Pelican, and no one knows what it's for.

~true bird fact~ Was able to repopulate California's Farallon Islands after the introduced rabbit population there was eliminated. Obviously rabits don't eat the Auklets, but they did drive them out of burrows, preventing them from breeding there. Sort of a conservation success story. I was only able to see this guy with his horn because of the population there

Gives off bad vibes, a dangerous bird
He didn't see nothin', this bird, and who's asking?
Mother issues
You know, I don't normally do this, but this bird looks kind of like if one of those mugshot magazines fell in a puddle and was actually a bird
He has a displeasing head shape and eye position
His wings looks like they were just knocked off, thrown away, picked up out of a garbage can, and then glued back on by a clumsy child
Looking at this bird I feel like I've traveled back in time to an era before birds developed aesthetics
He looks just smart enough to be mean
Bird looks like when he honks a cigarette butt flies out of his throat
Let's be frank, this bird looks like he is honored and grateful that you invited him to your daughter's wedding, on the day of your daughter's wedding