Friday, August 26, 2016

Blue Jay

Blue Jay aka. Jaybird
Peaks Island, Portland, Maine, USA
August 2016
Member of the Crow/Jay Family
§A Cast of Jays§
The Provincial Bird of Prince Edward Island, Canada

 ~true bird myth~ In old African American mythological traditions, the Blue Jay was thought to be in league with the devil. It was said that you wouldn't see a Blue Jay on a Friday because that was the day he was busy in hell, gathering sticks (for what purpose, who knows). Then, on Saturday, the Blue Jay was always in a very good mood and would be singing all day, due to the relief from, you know, not being in hell anymore. These pictures were taken on a... Tuesday, so I can neither confirm nor deny this theory.

~true bird fact~ Blue Jays are a member of the Corvid family, probably my favorite bird fam, and as such have all sorts of facts associated with how bright and inquisitive they are. They play with objects, use tools, and mimic the calls of other birds (either for communication or to scare others away). But that's not what I'm gonna talk about today, cause I feel like you've heard about most of those things before on this here blog. Let's talk about the color blue in a Blue Jay's feathers. Their coloring is unique in that it comes not from pigmentation, but because of light refracting on the crystalline structure of the feathers themselves. In other words, if you crush a Blue Jay's feathers, they lose their color completely. Neat!

Huge appetite, loves to eat. Never gains weight though, how annoying
Likes to take the contrarian opinion in arguments or debates, even if he doesn't feel that way. Finds this kind of verbal sparring entertaining
Thinks he might be a fish at heart
Popular with the ladies

Monday, August 22, 2016

Birds Are Going Back to School

Ah, late summer. It's that time of the year when it's super hot out, birds are least plentiful, and your Amateurnithologist struggles to get weekly posts out as he adjusts to returning to his full time job in the school system. Yes, school's back in session. But not just for you and me and maybe your kids. No, it's school time for birds as well. As birds return to school, they meet their new teachers for the semester and start to get a sense of what their next year is going to look like. Let's meet them too, since there's nothing better to do.

First Period: Professor Double-crested Cormorant
Subject: English Literature
Personality: Professorial in demeanor, a little stodgy. Think blazer with elbow patches. Believes in the power of learning and in the ability of books to change lives. Often disappointed in his students secretly, but doesn't show it. He's been doing this job for a long time and doesn't show signs of slowing down. Other teachers look up to him.
Teacher Rating: Inspiring

Second Period: Mr. American Crow (slightly leucristic)
Subject: Science
Personality: An eccentric who delights in finding creative ways to reach students. Lives for events like the rocket launch, the egg drop, or putting Mentos in Diet Coke. Very hands on. A little bit silly, gets along well with the kids since he's a bit of a kid-at-heart himself. Don't mention his leucism though, or god help you. He won't be mad, but he's a bit sensitive about it, and it'll hurt his feelings.
Teacher Rating: Fun

Third Period: Dr. Common Loon
Subject: Cooking
Personality: No one knows what her doctorate is in, why she is teaching cooking with a doctorate, or how a Loon acquired a doctorate in the first place. However, she is a good cooking teacher. Loves food, and the students tend to like her class, since it involves cooking and eating. Hints that she enjoys a full and interesting life outside of her job. Keeps these mysteries close to the vest.
Teacher Rating: Enigmatic

Fourth Period: Mrs. House Finch
Subject: History
Personality: Engages in a lot of rituals that shows her dominance over students, making them repeat things over and over or follow meaningless rules. Believes that the most important thing is that students submit to their teachers. Ruthless in her style with co-works as well, doesn't seem to be able to 'turn it off'. This style is successful for some young birds, but mostly leads to a lot of bad feelings.
Teacher Rating: Disliked

Fifth Period: Miss California Quail
Subject: Mathematics
Personality: Honestly not the greatest teacher, but very nice. Relationship-focused in her teaching philosophy. Gives her students a lot of affection and praise, doesn't put too much attention on the quality of the work. Students often come back years after graduating to visit Miss California Quail and give her a big hug. Maybe this is what's most important after all, since most of her students don't use the math very much (being birds).
Teacher Rating: Doting

Well that's all for today. Hopefully you learned a thing or two from these bird teachers, or at least got through your school experience relatively undamaged. Join me in a few days when I try to get back on the normal blog schedule with a common but fun bird that has evaded me for a long time. You won't want to miss it.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull aka. "Fast Food Gull" (derogatory?)
Hirtle's Beach, Nova Scotia, Canada
August 2016
Member of the Gull/Tern Family
§A Scavenging of Gulls§
Most common gull in North America (probably)

~true bird fact~ Many have wondered about some birds ability to migrate long distances and come back to the same exact spots year after year for nesting. It turns (or terns) out that they have something of a sixth sense for magnetism. Ring-billed Gull chicks as young as two days old could identify a magnetic bearing that pointed in the direction for their fall migration. This was probably one of the "cuter" science experiments.

Burning hatred for man and his evils
Aside from this few motivations or interests, almost nihilistic
Unlike many gulls, he doesn't even enjoy the junk food he pilfers, doing it only because he hopes it will upset or disgust us
Ongoing alliance with rats, ants, roaches

Monday, August 1, 2016

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Ash-throated Flycatcher
San Luis Obispo, California, USA
July 2014
Member of the Tyrant Flycatcher Family
§A Zapper of Flycatchers§ (all suggested collective nouns for flycatchers seem to be playing this lame game. Other options included 'swatting' of flycatchers or 'outfield' of flycatchers. I do not approve.)

~true bird fact~ Ash-throated flycatchers are another bird that has adapted unusually well to the presence of humans, often making their nests in cavities of man-made objects such as lamp posts, pipes, fence posts, or porches. Historically flycatchers built bowl nests and attempted to just disguise them to dissuade predation. You can still see evidence of this in their interestingly camouflaged eggs.

Overhears your conversation and just starts talking to you, even though he doesn't know you
Often befuddled
Frequenter of yard sales, always tries to haggle
Sarcasm is a pet peeve