There exist about 338 species of hummingbird in the world, and all are found only in the Western Hemisphere. Of those, about 16 or so can be found north of Mexico. The great majority of that 16 are west of the Rockies, leaving us in the east with one representative: The ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). Many birds can go unnoticed in the course of a person's day but hummers aren't in that group. Virtually everyone has seen one.
For Ben "Bubba" Schwartz the road back to Bemidji (the home of his youth) is rife with setback and success, sprinkled with a healthy dose of adventurous flavor. Not that he's a full-time resident again mind you, but, for the summer at least, this southern Arizona falconer is occupying a prominent space at Bemidji's Headwaters Science Center. It's here that Schwartz is rousing public interest in the natural world with his small collection of raptors and reptiles. Never one to let much grass grow around his feet, Schwartz has received mail on five different continents.
"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.