Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Life of Birds.gif Part 3: The Spookening

Mwa ha ha! Happy Halloween! To me, the amateurnithologist, there's nothing spookier or more appropriate for the season than birds. Why? Well, basically because birds fit every mood or season for me. You could say I'm CRAZY for birds! Now, like the mad (amateur) scientist I am, I will subject you to the most creeptastic spooktacular bird .gifs I could gather from BBC Nature's 1998 bird doc, The Life of Birds.

Boo! This haunted hawk is a perfect example of bird getting into the spirit of the season! What's that? Not enough bird skeleton to scare you? How about this-

Now that's what I'm talking about! What's going on in this moving image? I'd tell you, but isn't it more frightening not to know?

Know what else is scary? Dinosaur birds! Also, drowning. This imagine deviously combines your two greatest fears!

And what is the only thing prehistoric birds fear? Gigantic ancient eagles! No, it's not silly looking at all, it's super scary. Believe me, if you were there you'd be scared.

Enormous flocks of birds have been scary since, at least, The Birds. Imagine if these guys all decided they wanted to peck you to death or something. You must be positively quaking in your boots by now, so I won't go into any further detail. This is a family blog.

You know who's not afraid of giant masses of birds? Sir Attenborough! He's the hero of this grisly tale. Would you make it out alive? Well, that's it for spooky .gifs for this year. I decided to relent and let you off easy, lest all my readers be scared to death and my blog becomes a ghost town. I mean, more than it already is.

In the mood for more .gifs? They may not be spooky, but they are spookily high quality and interesting! Parts 1 and 2 available here! I hope you've enjoyed our scary bird showcase this last month. May all your trick-or-treaters have bird related costumes! See you next fall! Eeh hee hee hee hee!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mountain Chickadee

Welcome back to bird blog's Spooktober special! Today's bird might not be as shockingly scarifying as last week's Turkey Vulture, but you wouldn't know it by the company he keeps-
Ahh! I know, it is pretty terrifying, but try to read on. More than just being a frightening image, this picture raises some haunting questions. A bird on a spooky skull, wow, how did amateurnithologist even get such an awesome Halloween picture? Did he make a deal with the bird devil (presumed to be a goose at this point)? And why is it so mysteriously blurry, is it the spirits of the dead communicating with us from the other side? Or perhaps it was shot through a sliding glass door. Like all the best scary stories, I'm afraid this blog will leave these questions suspiciously unanswered. On with the profile!

Mountain Chickadee
Graeagle, California, USA
Member of the Titmouse and Chickadee Family
§A Dissimulation of Chickadees§

~true bird fact~ Sometimes a bird just doesn't have very many interesting facts about it. My usual sources were full of hopefully worded tidbits, but I like to think everyone involved understood that these details were kind of boring. They make a cap for their nest to keep their eggs warm when they're away! They only need to eat 10 calories per day! Mountain Chickadee Eggs take a week longer to incubate than Black-capped Chickadee Eggs! Wow! The closest I got to a really fascinating thing was that they are colloquially called Cheeseburger Birds, because this is what their call sounds like, Cheese-bur-ger (to an insane person presumably).

Loves rustic DIY projects. Big into Pinterest type stuff
Advocates for her friends a little too enthusiastically without realizing it is not really what they want (ex. Complains about a friend's meal to a waiter when the friend was actually only a little disappointed that they forgot the, i don't know, cornbread, and would have rather just let it be)
Always has a lot of questions for you. Good at keeping up the conversation
Uses the word "discoveries" describe things she has bought

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Turkey Vulture

Mwahahaha! Welcome back to Amateurnithologist's Spooktacular Shocktober Birdstravaganza! We continue our exploration of the spookiest birds with a really prized find. That's right, Turkey Vulture is finally joining the blog as I've had a few lucky occasions lately to finally get a good picture of these guys. These two pictures were taken at Mount Diablo (scarily topical!).
What do you think of when you think of spooky birds? Probably owls first (and for good reason, they are heavily connected to the supernatural after all). Perhaps crows? At some point you start to think about the only bird that you ever hear about eating human flesh, the vulture. The Turkey Vulture is the western hemisphere's archetypal scavenger-bird. You might know him better as a Turkey Buzzard, or simply Buzzard. The bird that outlaws are left to in the desert. That guy.
It might not surprise you that we here at bird blog have a different perspective on vultures to offer you. First and foremost, Vultures serve an important purpose and occupy an otherwise empty rung of the avian food chain. In fact, vultures are so important to the ecosystem that on other continents, there are convergently evolved bird that are almost identical. Furthermore, some cultures see the Vulture as a sacred being because of his role in the intersection between life and death. Zoroastrians in India and Tibetan Buddhists are both known to practice "sky burials", in which the dead are left somewhere high up for Vultures to consume them, thus releasing their souls. Great job vultures!

Turkey Vulture aka. Turkey Buzzard aka. aka. Buzzard aka. John Crow aka. Carrion Crow
Cambria, California, USA
Member of the Vulture Family
§A Committee of Vultures§

~true bird fact~ They really are harbingers of death though. Turkey Vultures have an extremely refined sense of smell, assisted by an unusually large 'smell section' in their brains, which allows them to sniff out a special gas emitted by newly dead corpses. Very few birds use their sense of smell for much of anything, but Turkey Vultures can find their food using smell alone.

Meticulously organized. A real bean counter
Appreciates the chance to 'let loose' with coworkers every once in a while
Never showy, but contributes a lot
Knowledge gained through studying and reading a lot, not through innate talent

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mystery Bird: Anxious Bird

Church Lake, Nova Scotia, Canada
Best Guess: Brown-headed Nuthatch (out of usual range?)

Obsesses over timing. Always thinks about being 'too late' or 'too early'
Puts everything on an immaculately color-coded calendar. Good at planning
Awkwardly freezes up at parties and uncomfortable social situations. Better one on one. A little better.
Really thoughtful gift giver. Knows just what you like

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Razorbill / Great Auk Talk

Bird Islands, Nova Scotia, Canada
Member of the Auks, Murres, and Puffins Family
§A Strop of Razorbills§

~true bird fact~
Hide the babies and the grandmas, unless it's a sassy grandma who raps or something. This bird loves sex. Razorbills are one of those famous monogamous type birds who picks a partner and then sticks together. Sounds charming and quaint, right? Well, let's just say they the fire doesn't go out for our Razorbill couple. Quoth Wikipedia- "The pair will mate up to 80 times in a 30 day period to ensure fertilization". Sure Razorbill, to ensure fertilization, that's what you're having all that sex for.
As long time readers know, one of my jobs as amateurnithologist is to come up with imagined personality traits for birds. These ideas are usually snap judgements, vaguely impressions gained from spending time around the bird, or conclusions I come to based on a highly dangerous and mystical mind-melding techniques. Sometimes, however, your opinion of a bird changes based on your research. To be honest, I never would have pegged Razorbills as enthusiastic lovers. They seem more like fighters to me. Maybe it's the name (and it is probably the most bad ass name among birds), or maybe it's that their closest relative is the extinct Greak Auk. Since I'm not so sure about Razorbill's personality anymore let's talk about his ancestor instead.
John Gerrard Keulemans, Wikipedia.org. Public Domain

This impressive bird was the northern hemisphere's convergent evolution of penguins. Almost three feet tall and with a razor sharp bill almost as long his wings, this flightless bird cut quite an imposing figure. Of course not imposing enough to avoid being hunted to death by explorers. They were used extensively for their meat, their feathers, and as kindling for fires (no kidding, their flesh was oily enough that it was the only source of long burning fuel in places that were too far north to have trees). As Great Auk supplies dwindled, the demand for them and their extraordinarily large eggs only increased with wealthy Europeans. One was killed in England by sailors who thought the bird was a witch in disguise.
The final nail was driven into their coffin when a previously unreachable colony in Iceland was discovered. Ironically, museums who wanted specimens for preservation were responsible for killing the last birds in 1844. They were strangled to death, because the Great Auk as a species apparently hadn't been through enough already. I always hold out hope that extinctions like this turn out to be false, like the miraculous Coelacanth. They are, after all, sea birds, and if there's one place we perhaps haven't explored perfectly it's the Arctic Ocean. A report of a sighting in 1858 holds out a little hope for this kind of thing. Like his contemporary, the Dodo, the Great Auk has gained a place in culture as one of the few birds we've really gotten to see go extinct. Great Auk regret is a fairly common theme in literature, and wikipedia lists a number of depressing sounding children's books especially on the topic.

We'll close with an Ogden Nash poem about the bird

A Caution to Everybody
Consider the auk;
Becoming extinct because he forgot how to fly, and could only walk.
Consider man, who may well become extinct
Because he forgot how to walk and learned how to fly before he thinked.