Archive for the ‘Bird Discoveries’ Category

Spotted Owl

SpottedOwl

This morning, when there was not yet bright light in the sky, I was walking across the University of La Verne Campus. I saw a bird crouched behind the leopard statue beneath one of our giant oak trees in Sneaky Park. It flew up from the ground to one of the oak-tree branches. I was sure from the shape of its head that it was an owl, not a hawk, though I was surprised it was still abroad in the morning! I quietly walked under the oak-tree canopy and looked up, and the owl turned her head to look at me:  her eyes were so dark! The dark eyes, along with the large size of the bird, confirmed that I was looking at a Spotted Owl — a rare bird these days, but one that does live in oaks near the San Gabriel Mountains. After we had looked into each other’s eyes for a few moments, the owl swooped away across the street into the branches of another oak tree. I went to my class, where I was teaching (among other poems), Tennyson’s “The Eagle” — and I couldn’t help mentioning my first owl of the day!

  • The image I share here captures the pose of the bird I saw this morning, tho’ of course this one is in a pine tree.
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Sora

sora_robinarnold

Sora

On Saturday, I went walking in Bonelli Regional Park with my neighbor Michelle. When we were by the reeds along the edge of Puddingstone Reservoir, I spotted a lone Sora hunting in the waters — her white tail bobbing behind her! There were many other birds to see there, too, of course, including the ubiquitous red-winged blackbirds, American coots, white-crowned sparrows, purple finches, hummingbirds, Canadian geese, mallard ducks, black phoebes, and the always-beautiful Great White Egrets.

 

“Albatross”

Dore-Albatross-RimeoftheAncientMariner

“At length did cross an albatross,

thorough the fog came;

as if it had been a Christian soul,

we hailed it in God’s name”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Rime of the Ancient Mariner

(drawing by Gustav Doré)

“The Dipper” by Mary Oliver

AmericanDipper

Once I saw
in a quick-falling, white-veined stream,
among the leafed islands of the wet rocks,
a small bird, and knew it

from the pages of a book; it was
the dipper, and dipping he was,
as well as, sometimes, on a rock-peak, starting up
the clear, strong pipe of his voice; at this,

there being no words to transcribe, I had to
bend forward, as it were,
into his frame of mind, catching
everything I could in the tone,

cadence, sweetness, and briskness
of his affirmative report.
Though not by words, it was
a more than satisfactory way to the

bridge of understanding. This happened
in Colorado
more than half a century ago—
more, certainly, than half my lifetime ago—

and, just as certainly, he has been sleeping for decades
in the leaves beside the stream,
his crumble of white bones, his curl of flesh
comfortable even so.

And still I hear him—
and whenever I open the ponderous book of riddles
he sits with his black feet hooked to the page,
his eyes cheerful, still burning with water-love—

and thus the world is full of leaves and feathers,
and comfort, and instruction. I do not even remember
your name, great river,
but since that hour I have lived

simply,
in the joy of the body as full and clear
as falling water; the pleasures of the mind
like a dark bird dipping in and out, tasting and singing.

Mary Oliver

Note: On Thursday, July 6th, I gave a poetry reading at the John Natsoulas Gallery in downtown Davis. Afterwards, I was pleased to sit down and talk with Steve, a poet and a bird-watcher like myself. He mentioned this poem, “The Dipper,” by Mary Oliver in our conversation. Mary Oliver first saw the bird in Colorado, where Steve had also seen it. Though I have lived in Colorado, I have not yet seen the American Dipper in situ, bobbing and fishing in nature’s favorite stream. However, I have had a preview! The little bird is simply delightful.

p.s. John Muir loved the bird, which he called a water-thrush. He wrote of it: “THE waterfalls of the Sierra are frequented by only one bird, —the Ouzel or Water Thrush ( Cinclus Mexicanus). He is a singularly joyous and lovable little fellow, about the size of a robin, clad in a plain waterproof suit of bluish gray, with a tinge of chocolate on the head and shoulders. In form he is about as smoothly plump and compact as a pebble that has been whirled in a pot-hole, the flowing contour of his body being interrupted only by his strong feet and bill, the crisp wing-tips, and the up-slanted wren-like tail.”

730 Birds of North America in ONE Chart

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To zoom in and see the birds close up,

visit Co.Design Infographic

“Byrne-Jones and his Birds”

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BYRNE-JONES AND HIS BIRDS 

Not everyone gets to open the Kelmskott Chaucer
on Valentine’s Day, and see the woodcuts
Byrne-Jones made of Constance, adrift in her boat,
with the seagulls wheeling over the waves,
but I did: she is looking back, over
her shoulder – her hands are clasped in prayer –
and twenty-six white birds surround her
like promises or grief.

jb

2/14
McCune Room
JFK Library
Vallejo
CA

Birds Can Smell

gabriellenevittFor a long time, scientists believed that birds could not smell. However, Dr. Gabrielle Nevitt conclusively proves otherwise in her research.

My specialty is olfaction – the sense of smell – and much of my research has focused on exploring how marine birds and fishes use smell in the natural environment. I have worked in areas ranging from olfactory homing in salmon, to olfactory foraging, navigation and individual recognition in birds, and in particular, petrels and albatrosses … 2016_lsh_nevittWhile most of my work has focused on the procellariiforms, I am broadly interested in the sense of smell in birds. Birds use chemical cues for a variety of behaviors, but olfaction and taste are largely ignored in behaviors from foraging to communication and sexual selection. nevittgabrielle179We were among the first groups to show odor-mediated individual recognition in birds. Long-lived Antarctic prions recognize the odor of their mates (Bonadonna and Nevitt 2004, Science) and leach’s storm-petrel chicks can recognize the individual odor signature of their nest (O’Dwyer et al. 2008). In collaboration with Henri Weimerskirch of CNRS / France, we were the first to apply high-resolution tracking to investigate the sensory basis for foraging in albatrosses. Our work shows that wandering albatross hunt by smell and can detect prey from kilometers away. (Nevitt et al. 2008, PNAS, Cover story).


BIRDS CAN SMELL
by Nancy Averett

Yet changing long-held beliefs takes time, and the scientific community is no exception. Dozens of Nevitt’s grant proposals have been rejected because of the birds-can’t-smell fallacy. A program officer once called to say her application was the worst he’d ever seen. “Your idea that birds can smell is ridiculous,”he said. “This will never be funded, so stop wasting your time.” She ignored him, and her perseverance and inventive methods have inspired others who share her fascination … Nevitt, Hagelin, and other avian olfaction trailblazers have pushed past criticism, failure, and even bodily injury in their quest to disprove one of biology’s most pervasive myths. “In science,” says Nevitt, “we rediscover the obvious sometimes.”

For more, see:

http://www.audubon.org/magazine/january-february-2014/birds-can-smell-and-one-scientist