"No sooner has the bird reached its destined abode, than whenever a fair morning occurs, it mounts the topmost twig of a detached tree, and pours forth its loud, richly varied, and highly melodious song." That's how John James Audubon described the singing habits of the Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum). The bird is common in our area although it is likely heard more than it is seen, being a somewhat shy dweller of heavier scrub edges.
A friend called my wife one evening a couple of weeks ago. The other woman was somewhat desperate and seeking advice on how to handle an orphaned baby American Robin. My wife turned to me on the couch and asked what advice she should relay to this would-be savior. Looking up from what I was reading, I simply told her to take the bird back to where she found it and walk away. In addition, it is illegal.
The recent high price of gasoline is being felt by anyone who drives an automobile. Those whose jobs require more travel are undoubtedly dedicating a growing portion of their monthly budgets toward fueling their vehicles. It just so happened, the last weekend in May marked the date dedicated to bird field trips sponsored by the North Dakota Birding Society. Last fall they had picked Williston as the site for this spring's gathering. Very little bird information flows out of that particular region of the state.
There is a shorebird currently in our midst that possesses a rather impressive collection of offbeat behaviors. I was pleased to find a substantial number of them recently while conducting a shorebird survey for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This little prairie nester I'm referring to is the Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor).
It was 1918 when a fellow named Robert Ripley began drawing cartoon panels for newspapers with the heading, Believe It or Not! Ripley would pass along weird facts and oddities from around the world and present them in these panels. The feature became immensely popular and made Mr. Ripley a very rich man. The franchise still exists with many "museums" scattered around the country in popular tourist locales. I'm not exactly sure where this gentleman harvested his factual data or how it was verified. But facts have a way of getting lost in the murky sea of hearsay and wives' tales.
In all the years of books and television coverage dealing with Egyptian culture I've never run across a segment that tells of birds colliding with the great pyramids. But I suspect it probably happened. Since humans have been erecting structures there have likely been consequences for the birds. Unintended, to be sure, but very real. Unintended consequences are an almost inevitable part of life. We dream up a great idea, create a plan, execute the plan and evaluate it. In the end, there are usually effects stemming from our original idea that were totally unexpected.
I've come to hate the months of March and April. They represent a cruel time of teasingly warmer weather and balmy days, only to be snatched away in an instant and replaced with yet more snow and winter winds. It's as if the nasty neighbor kid who, in a strange magnanimous moment, gives you his prize marble. Then he takes it back with a vicious grin. I keep telling my wife there will come a day when we won't be around to experience these heartless attempts at spring. Instead there will be palm trees. And green grass.
What's black and white and read all over? Just about anyone knows the answer to this age-old riddle: a newspaper. If, on the other hand, a person was to pose this question to a group of birders interested in woodpeckers, that person would tweak the question slightly. Instead of "read all over," it would have to be "red on the back of the head." The answer would then be a male of either the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) or the Hairy Woodpecker (P. villosus). Both of these common woodpeckers are entirely black and white and very recognizable to Americans.
Those who enjoy the outdoors typically do so for myriad reasons: Fresh air, stress relief, hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, or whatever. Getting outside to enjoy some hobby or another commonly leads to other interests as well. Most folks I know who enjoy birds came at it from one side or another but usually from an outdoor pursuit of some sort. I've been asked how I got into bird watching (or 'birding') many times.
cutline: This leucistic female House Finch was observed last week in West Fargo. It's white head feathers would normally be a plain gray-brown. People watching. We all do it I suppose. I even know some folks who will head to the mall with nothing else in mind but watching people. Whatever the motive, it can be interesting at times. In the course of this pursuit it becomes readily apparent to even the casual viewer that the human race is quite varied. We come in different sizes, different colors, different shapes and different races.