Monday, March 31, 2008
Mind, there were some bits of Newtonhill today that a dog has been sick on. But I chose not to publish my photos of those. Bit of birding before getting down to the main business of the day, which was to be throwing stones at things in Stonehaven. As usual now, a couple of White-throated Dippers on the Elsick Burn, but more of a surprise was a Common Chiffchaff bathing in the trickle of water by the path to the beach. Wow, spring really has started. I watched it drying off and preening in the bushes for 5 minutes. The beach was empty, though off the cliffs there was a raft of 100 Black-legged Kittiwakes and a few Razorbills and Guillemots. ON the clifftops, a Rock Pipit in song flight and hello, what's this, a male White Wagtail feeding. Ka-chow. Migration? I must look it up in a book, it's been so long.
Stonehaven beach, pm. Throwing stones and the occasional petrol bomb into the sea with the kiddies. A Red-throated Diver surfaced among the breakers and was nearly brained for its trouble. Now that would have been a sorry corpse for the Secret Freezer. Fortunately, it got away.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Loved the scribbles on your blog. Found mine and thought you'd get a laugh seeing them.
So with permission, in the spirit of universal synchronicity of back-of-the-envelope IBWO debunking, here's a classic back of an envelope with woodpecker wingbeat calculations.
The image has been edited slightly, apparently to remove Kylie Minogue's phone number, though I'm not sure I can believe that bit.
Without baiting anyone, I invite other Ivorybill researchers to submit their genuine back-of-an-envelope writings, musings or, if appropriate, sloppy procedural errors, for publication here. Anything is allowed and remember, it's only libel if it's not true.
Oh yes. As part of 'interact with the family week' :-) This was brilliant. Just don't mention the juicy pops!
Fnarr fnarr. How old am I?
Gentoo Penguin 'colony'. Can you spot Ghost Penguin? Ooooh Spooky.
Penguins go on killer rampage.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
And I came across this forgotten old envelope with numbers on it and I was like, dude, wtf? But when I saw the little scribbles on the right I remembered this is the night I was going through IBWO and PIWO videos counting the frames that they finished their wingbeats and realised that Pileated Woodpecker could flap as fast as ivorybill was meant to.
It's not quite the bit of paper where Einstein first scrawled E = mc2, gave himself a big tick and a smiley face and went out on the razzle. Nor is it the napkin where Darwin first wrote down that thing about fit birds or whatever it was and was violently ill on the Persian rug with excitement. But as it is in the recycling bucket now, I've scanned it here so when I'm old and senile I can look back at this and wonder what the hell it was, all over again. I'm also intrigued about what the payment was. Whatever it was, I probably spent it wisely on loose beer and cold fizzy women a long time ago.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Dear Martin. We haven't had any woodpecker stuff for ages. How about celebrating the anniversary of your paper by wrapping it up for figure 1 in Fitzpatrick et al., 2005?
Dear Imaginary Reader. What? I can't even remember what Figure 1 was. Recently I have been tuning into Cyberthrush quite a lot, especially now Tom Nelson's blog has so badly tanked. I like Cyberthrush because he retains the right balance of perspective and humour. Just today he posted some amusing and instructive videos of Pileated Woodpeckers dancing round trees, namely this one * and this one.
*Update - I should warn you that there is a fantastically sweary background soundtrack to the first video - what IS going on in that house??? "Shakespeare, go to your place"??
It occurred to me that it might be possible to use these to see what Pileated Woodpeckers look like when they are half-hidden behind a tree trunk. I remember NOW that Figure 1 in Fitzpatrick et al. showed a streak of black and white poking out to the left of a tree trunk and interpreted that as the big white wing patch of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Sibley et al 2006 in contrast reinterpreted it as the underwing of a Pileated Woodpecker that was opening its wings for flight. So can Pileated Woodpeckers look like that? Well now, imaginary reader, you can decide. Have a look at this thingy here. The top left panel is Figure 1 from Fitzpatrick et al, showing the frame in question from David Luneau's video and their interpretation of it (diagramatically). Then on the right hand side are some stills from those youtube videos, and in the middle some mild enlargement of those stills. I find the top three very informative and pretty much confirm that Pileated Woodpeckers can produce that frame from the Luneau video. 4th one down I took a clear underwing and tried to crop it and rotate it to produce the Luneau frame, as if the bird were heading off right behind a tree trunk. The bottom two are trying to determine whether a partially open PIWO underwing could produce the Luneau frame, and I'm not quite sure. However I think, dear imaginary reader, that the sum of the evidence just about wraps it up for Figure 1 in Fitzpatrick et al. I'm not sure if anyone cares (apart from Bill, who will cry 'fatal flaws', possibly :-) ) Happy now?
It is such a shame that Tom won't care about this any more. He would have liked it.
- Fitzpatrick JW, Lammertink M, Luneau MD Jr, Gallagher TW, Harrison BR, Sparling GM, Rosenberg KV, Rohrbaugh RW, Swarthout ECH, Wrege PH, Swarthout SB, Dantzker MS, Charif RA, Barksdale TR, Remsen JV Jr, Simon SD, Zollner D: Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) persists in continental
North America. Science 2005, 308:1460-1462 .
- Sibley DA, Bevier LR, Patten MA, Elphick CS: Comment on “Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) persists in continental North America” Science Online 2006, 311:1555a (dol. 10.1126/science1122778).
Monday, March 24, 2008
Dear Martin. I saw some pictures of you on the internet. You are looking great, and I thought the frilly pink cotton suited you better than the shiny black PVC. I know this is a bit sad, but could I ask you to link to my blog?
Thanks. 'Prodigal Tinman'*
*names have been changed to protect the guilty.
I am delighted to link to the Bitter Bonxie blog (oops, that gave it away), because it is entertaining and, unlike this one, sometimes has some news about good birds in it. Currently it has a bit of a thing going about the hypocrisy of the Songbird Survival (SBS) group, and details a peculiarly fork-tongued individual in particular. Me and SBS go back a long way - back in the days when they started off and their machinery hadn't yet got its guard up, I was able to talk to some of the founders and expose them in the press for the bunch of p*geon fanciers, ****** farmers, cuntry **** and ******* that they were. The names seemed to have changed now, but the intentions have not, apparently.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
'Dear Martin. Nice to see you the other day. You're looking really really tired and unwell. So what's the deal with these dead voles etc. Do you really find them or are you some sort of pervert who traps them for fun research or something?'
Dear Reader. I'm not 'some sort of pervert'. I'm the very best sort of pervert. The sort who spends his early hours of the morning between waking and rising working out his list of 'Top three Disney cartoon characters I would like to 'date', were I not happily married.' In third place, Sleeping Beauty (after the 16th birthday thing, of course). In Second, an old favourite, Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. In first place, and a relatively new entry in this chart -* Colette* from Ratatouille. I like a girl who knows how to handle a knife. I genuinely do not deliberately kill any voles etc. BUT I do seem to have this aura of small mammal death that surrounds me wherever I go. Like in the lab where my proximity within 3 m of any experiment pretty much ensures it will go t*ts -up. I'm not sure why I find so many dead things, except it must be a sign that I spend too much time looking at the ground and not at the sky. Like a Laputan*, but backwards.
'Laputan - Gulliver's Travels - 'Their heads were all reclined either to the right or to the left; one of their eyes turned inward, and the other directly upward to the zenith... . It seems, the minds of these people are so taken up with intense speculations, that neither can they speak, or attend to the discourses of others, without being rouzed by some external taction upon the organs of speech and hearing...' That's me alright, except that instead of having my one eye pointing upward to the zenith, it is pointing downwards to the errr... opposite of zenith. The oppozenith. The shrewith. What-ever. Don't think much of the Laputans. Grrr... they ruined Laputa. Me cago en Laputa. There, you could read bird blogs all week and not come across another Spanish pun.
A reader writes #2
Dear Martin, nice to see you at the star-spangled premiere of my latest movie the other day. You look awful - have you tried sleeping recently? I notice you have a keen interest in cagebirds. Do you keep birds, you sad man?
Dear Reader. No, I don't keep cagebirds. However I do have a keen interest in cagebirds, because it pays to keep up with what sorts of things are in mainstream trade. You'd be surprised. Wanna buy a Trumpeter Finch? Just tell me how many and I'll fill out the paperwork for you.
A writer writes
Sigh.... OK, birds. Today (Sunday). But first, weather - north wind and snow flurries. It ain't spring yet.
Looking out from my gorse forest ("... I approached the bush carefully observed a large brightly coloured passerine disappearing elusively behind the twig...") to the sea, it was all a bit 'Day After Tomorrow' but without the comedy bums.
I made a pathetic attempt to record some calls of a White-throated Dipper flying along the Elsick Burn. Skillfully captured the trundle of lorries along the A90, and the sound of my own jiggling as I removed a stone from my boot. Grey Wagtail over, checking all the overhead gulls for Glaucs, etc... very boring... going to sleep... zzzzzz... zzzzz. zzzzz. zzzzz...... mmm no Colette,... not in the cheese sauce...zzzzz.... zzzz.... eh, whassat??? A Goosander (Common Merganser) on the sea at the beach - just out from the mouth of the burn. That's unusual - all ?3 previous patch records have been flyovers. This one hung around for about 3 femtosecond and flew off. Very little else of interest offshore, EXCEPT a flock of 12 Bottle-nosed Dolphins heading north just offshore. Excellente. Very nice views.
Back through Newtonhill - 8 Eurasian Siskins at the playpark, haven't been around for a while, and then ohhhh yesss... momma. Or rather papa (he had a penis). This one.
Another big male Short-tailed Vole. Another victory for anti-Laputan philosophy.
A walk through the blizzards and around Cran Hill produced not much. Eurasian Skylarks singing between the showers, and a couple of Common Buzzards. And a Pied Wagtail, and the usual Winter Wrens etc.
A reader writes #3
Dear Martin. I haven't seen you recently because I am in Ireland, but I imagine you are looking great! I am going birding in China later in the year, but am worried about the situation in Tibet and whether I should support the Chinese tourist industry.
Dear Reader. The situation in Tibet is undoubtedly troubling, but let's face it, if you boycotted every country that enthusiastically suppressed revolts when it suited them, you could start with the Britain, USA, most of Africa and South America, Australia, Russia, the entire Far East, and in fact you wouldn't have anywhere left to go. Whether Tibet is special, or worse than elsewhere, I wouldn't be qualified to say. My understanding is that China never openly asserted its sovereignty over Tibet until (surprise!) the British invaded in 1904. So going to China is a positive statement against British Imperialism, probably. :-) Also that prior to 1950, a previous Dalai Lama had efficiently expelled Chinese nationals from Tibet :-( . Monty Python bit: Apart from social and economic reform, the secularisation of government, land reform, healthcare, the abolition of slavery, the roads, sanitation, the urban infrastructure, education, and the break up of the monastic estates, WHAT has China ever done for Tibet? :-) I'm with Mao Zedong and the Easter Bunny on the subject - Religion is poison, but chocolate is not. Have a good trip! eh?
Friday, March 21, 2008
You have to go to this
Which is based on whatever the heck this is
Which in turn, is presented without comment here.
Anyway, I don't actually hate anyone... my killer response to That Magic Guy, apparent no mean whittler, is borrowed from Cyberthrush
Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
errr... hold on... that's not right... let me get back to you
Sunday, March 16, 2008
For I change, todayI *wasn't* enjoying the beautiful sparkling healthy spa water of Bath. In Avon. I was in sunny/rainy/hot/cold 4-seasons-in-20-minutes Newtonhill, where only the chilly north-east breeze and the depauperate (is that the word?) (is that any word?) bird life remained a constant. And yet, it could have been so different. I'm not talking about a train ticket to Bath and a bottle of beautiful sparkling healthy spa water (amoebic dysentry free with every purchase). Mmmmmm amoebae. I'm talking about missing a potential garden tick. As St Vitus was raising me from my coffin first thing, and the wreckage of Saturday was disappearing down my corpse chute (whoops, I mean Tube of Innocence (c) Mr Burns), our neighbour rang to tell Diane there was a Common Pheasant (potential garden tick) in our front garden. I had a look out the window, but couldn't see anything, so of course decided that she was probably just drunk (Hi Liz!) and let it go. Frustrating. I went out birding, and came back 3 hours later to hear wondrous tales that the rest of my family, even the one whose brain has been addled by computer geekiness and Playstations, had had marvellous views of the Pheasant feeding along our back fence.
Usual stuff around the village - European Greenfinches singing and displaying (and eating my Pheasant food in the back garden), White-throated Dipper in position at last year's nest site. Two yellow-billed male Common Eiders with 5 green-billed ones, and some girls, offshore. Auks-a-go-go, with 150 Razorbills and Guillemots off the cliffs, another 100+ on the cliffs, and a constant back-n-forth of aukitude offshore. Also a single Red-throated Diver just off Fraggle Rock, where a single pair of Great Cormorants are in residence. Couple of pairs of Rock Pipits along the cliff tops, but last week's littoralis has gone, which just goes to show that there is some migration going on under the radar.
I walked the coastal fields, looking for a bit more migration - i.e. thinking a Northern Wheatear might pop up. Nae wheatears, but a single Northern Lapwing up from what, if it wasn't so pollluted with dogs, would be a good nest field.
Aha. Under the viaduct at Water Valley, my first kill, eerrr... I mean find... of the year. This whopping male Short-tailed Vole. Phew, what a beast. If only he hadn't entered my sphere of death.
Live fast, die young, leave a comedy corpse.
observations for passage of the Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) in southern kyzylkumy in spring 2006
O.V.Mitropolskiy, M.G.Mitropolskiy, V.A.Soldatov
On water body Ayak-Agitma with escaping water, situated in Ayak-Agitma hollow (Southern Kyzylkumy), in spring 2006 observations for the passage of the Slender-billed Curlew were continued, discovered here in spring 2005 (Mitropolskiy et al., 2005; 2006).
The short-term observations were conducted in the period 30 April – 4 May, when quite cold, windy weather was established.
The passage of the Slender-billed Curlew was begun 1 May, when three records with 1, 3 and 3 birds (in the same day 9 Curlews (N. аrquata) were registered too). In subsequent days the following number of the Slender-billed Curlew was registered:
2 May – 8 records with 85 birds, by groups in 1 – 47 specimens;
3 May – 4 records with 54 birds, by groups in 5 – 26 specimens;
4 May – 2 records with 25 birds, 2 and 23 specimens.
5 May in morning we have left Ayak-Agitma. Totally during 1 – 4 May 170 birds were recorded and at the same time 32 Curlews.
The Slender-billed Curlews are well distinguishing from Curlews by smaller sizes and bill and especially by voice in flight. Both species often occur in joint groups during feeding and on clayish saline soils on the banks of lake and on shallow waters. Large flock under observation consisted of 47 birds in evening (at 19 o’clock) has landed in saline soils, and in morning on the next day (at 8 o’clock) has flown away, even without approaching water.
All flocks of the Slender-billed Curlews under observation have arrived to Ayak-Agitma from southern directions, and started almost strictly in the northern direction. We think, that the next point of stop-over for this species should be vast shallow waters on saline soils of Minbulak depression (hollow) in Central Kyzylkumy that are situated at 300 km N of Ayak-Agitma and they are practically unstudied in ornithological aspect.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Yeh baby. Who's laughing now eh? eh? In.. your.. face.. in... your...face..!! Took it out for a spin for the first time today. I didn't really see very much, and I have to admit it blew off into the sea and is probably birding Denmark by itself. But as proof-of-principle, I think you'll agree it was a towering success, and a tribute to my team of designers and manufacturers. Go team!!
Last week's ONE White-throated Dipper on the Elsick Burn had become two today. Didn't the Spice Girls sing a song about that? I flushed them* from under the bridge at the Mill garden by my to-be-patented technique of emptying all the crap out of my pockets into the water and seeing what flies out from under the bridge in disgust. That last bit was a lie. Everything else is true, or at least I don't mind you thinking it's true. Actually that last bit was true... I just don't want you to know. Now even I'm confused.
*The Dippers, not the Spice Girls.
At low water, the beach was quite busy, relatively, with 14 Ruddy Turnstones in the rotting seaweed, male Pied Wagtail and Grey Wagtail and a couple of Rock Pipits, one singing lustily. A male Common Stonechat surveyed the scene haughtily from up the cliff sides, and complained about where all the litter at the mouth of the burn had come from.
Hmmm... on the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs, I saw a bit of bird behaviour (by accident, obviously) - two Rock Pipits, I assume 2 males, in aggression posture with the heads down slightly and rear nape feathers puffed up to give themselves a bull-necked effect. Walking backwards and forwards in front of each other, about 1 m separation, for a minute or so at a time, back and forth back and forth, a bit like stags. A LOT like stags, tbh. They'd do it for a bit, then wander off, or pretend to feed for a bit, before being back on the job. ONe of them, inttteerrreesttiinnggllyy, was a pretty good-looking littoralis, with a peachy flush to the upper breast, stronger white supercilium, greyer mantle and less splodgy breast streaking. Weird.
Offshore a tight knot of 11 Razorbills and a single Guillemot (Common Murre) (a bridled bird, as it 'appens) were off the breeding cliffs, all in that summer dress of theirs. They're going to need a bigger dress. That Guillemot is kidding itself if it thinks it's a size 8. More Razorbills flying back and forth in groups offshore, a few Northern Fulmars and a single Black-legged Kittiwake south at speed.
Walk round Cran Hill was uneventful, now that Mount Doom has left me, but I did see the World's biggest mole hill. But I didn't take a photo - didn't want you getting too excited.
What else happened today.... oooh yeh, 2 things.
1) Trip to Stonehaven to fill the kids with ice cream. The Herring Gulls were hanging around waiting to mug us. They rolled up their feathers to reveal their muscle tattooed wings and demanded chips with menaces. Ah, Herring Gulls... you're a b$tch, but I love* you anyway.
2) Preoccupied... I found out thanks to Google that a species of bird that is apparently no longer in trade can be mail-ordered in bulk, should I so want.
* but not in that way. More like a little brother or sister, or maybe like a pet fish. yes, a pet fish. I'd cry if I had to flush you down the toilet, but you're free to see other fish.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Well comrades, I don't mind telling you I had a terrible night's sleep... tossing and turning and tossing etc. worrying about how the Torbay Budgerigar and Foreign Finch Society was going to bring itself into the 21st century. But to my delight.... I read in Cage and Aviary Birds today that the club has got itself a website. Maybe tonight I'll get some kip then. Go to www.torbaybfbs.com for the lowdown, and to download a FREE copy of the September 1973 issue of the Budgerigar Bulletin, including Barbara Perry's World-famous Problem Postbag. That's my public service announcement for today. I'm off for a bit of CBT on my sarcasm problem now.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
A White-throated Dipper on the Elsick Burn was the first one I've seen for some time, certainly since the autumn, but I guess their breeding schedule is up and running by now. I'll start keeping an eye on last year's nest site. A few Eurasian Siskins flying overhead today, calling - they don't breed here, so birdies are onthe move. Nearly Spring, I guess.
A rumbling in the bushes down the track, and 4 Roe Deer ran out - a buck in full velvet, and 3 hinds -my textbook fieldcraft allowing me to stand there in full view as they noticed me immediately and ran off at high speed.
Two nice people made the mistake of trying to speak to me. It's not that I'm misanthropic (although I am - we had personality tests and everything), it's just that I wish everybody else would p*** off and leave me alone! Not really. But I'm not very chatty when I'm out birding, so they didn't get a lot out of me. Especially when they're telling me stuff I already know. But I think I'm not a very good advert for birdwatching as perceived by the general public. Like I instinctively think all lycra-clad cyclists are sad t******s after a particularly unfortunate encounter with one of them in a public toilet at a Youth Hostel in Lincolnshire about 20 years ago (probably one of the 1% that aren't very nice people). Well Joe Public meets me and thinks all birdwatchers are sad bespectacled loners who seriously need to wash their Army Parka, if that's what it once was. I'm not representative, OK? But I do accept donations if they involve old but relatively clean Army Parkas.
Rock Pipit singing at the cliffs, and offshore, a small flock of Northern Fulmars on the water, a few Common Eiders and a Great Black-backed Gull. Not very impressive. The Herring Gulls were in position on the cliff ledges and on Fraggle Rock, and there were three Razorbills in their breeding dress (a light flowery cotton number, big enough for all of them to squeeze in) on the water off the cliffs.
Cran Hill - shock! Mount Doom has gone. This massive pile of scrapings and effluent from the floor of the local cow shed has been a feature of my life and, dare I say it, a friend, for the past 4 years. Spread now over the fields like the pile of dung that it was. Ah! Mount Doom, we will miss your pungent aroma, and your senstive impairment of our sea view and our enjoyment of the sunrises. You will be remembered always in our hearts and our noses as a testament to the digestive powers of domestic cattle. I look forward to Mount Doom 2: the rise of the dungheaps.
A couple of Eurasian Skylarks were singing what could only be a requiem over Mount Doom's remains. Lovely. Other Cran Hill birds.... Yellowhammer, err... Song Thrush and 2 Common Blackbirds in the farm garden, 2 Common Buzzards circling. Do you ever get the feeling you should read what you're writing before you write it?