Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Out of the Birdcage (Again)

Out of the Birdcage Again


Warren on birds in “The Seafarer”

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“The earn (white-tailed eagle) can be confidently identified, and the swan and mæw labelled at genus and family level, respectively. Which swan and which gull we are dealing with is less certain. Whooper swan has been suggested more than once (Goldsmith, ‘Seafarer and the Seabirds’, 226–7), which ts well with the scene and theme of migration, but the mute swan with its familiar ‘musical’ flight is more associated with song (see Exeter Riddle 7 and Etym., XII.vii.18–19). OE swan derives from an Indo-European onomatopoeic cognate broadly meaning ‘sound’; see W. B. Lockwood, The Oxford Book of British Bird Names (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), s.v. Swan. Moreover, OE does have two terms for the genus: swan, and that which appears in The Seafarer, yflete. In the glossaries, these terms correspond to different Lat. names (olor and cygnus, respectively), indicating that Anglo-Saxons may have differentiated, although this is inconsistent. If we are to go on which species was most likely to be seen over the swanrade, the arctic migrating whooper (or Bewick’s) seems more likely, whose modern name refers to its distinctive trumpeting call. For further discussion on the possible distinctions, see Peter Kitson, ‘Swans and Geese in Old English Riddles’, Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History, 7 (1994), 79–84. Ganet seems straightforward, but is problematic in that the term glosses more than one lemma in the glossaries. The undeniable portrait of a labelled juvenile gannet in the Sherborne Missal (British Library, MS Add. 74326; c. 1400), however, makes it clear that this term was applied to this species by at least the late medieval period. Lockwood also gives an attestation from 1274 (British Bird Names, s.v. Gannet). The prevalence of this white species, the largest British seabird, nesting en masse on coastal cliffs (Bass Rock has the world’s largest colony), could hardly have been missed by Anglo-Saxon observers, though, and there is no reason why the word might not have been assigned to this species even if it was also used as a more general term for sea-fowl. The huilpe and stearn have never been positively identified. For a full discussion on possible species, see Goldsmith, ‘Seafarer and the Birds’, 228–9 and 230–4, respectively, and Lacey, ‘Birds and Bird-lore’, pp. 93–5. Following most editors, I translate huilpe as ‘curlew’ on the basis of cognates in modern Germanic languages (e.g., Mn Dutch wulp; see Lockwood, British Bird Names, s.v. Whaup), the distinctive ‘bubbling’ or ‘whaup’ call of this species (BWP, vol. 1, p. 660), and its common presence in British coastal regions. Poole and Lacey recommend the whimbrel instead (‘Avian Aurality’, 408), but these species are very similar and it is impossible to say which might be intended. The whimbrel also causes the same problems as stearn (usually translated as ‘tern’) because it is a brief, summer passage migrant. Stearn does appear in the glossaries, but all we can say with any likelihood is that it names some sort of gull or gull-like species. The kittiwake (as suggested by Goldsmith) or fulmar might be other possibilities.” ~ Michael Warren, Birds in Medieval English Poetry: Metaphors, Realities, Transformations (Boydell & Brewer, 2018), pp. 37-38 (footnote 35).

Dr. Michael Warren – The Compleat Birder

Worthy and interesting …

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Birding Ballona Freshwater Marsh & Royal Palms Beach

This morning, early, I headed out to Ballona Freshwater Marsh, a birding “hotspot.” There I saw my first Common Yellowthroat, two Eurasian Collared Doves, several California Gnatcatchers (and I walked along the path with one female for a stretch). A delightful, highly vocal Song Sparrow who did me the favor of flying out, perching on the high branch of a bush, and singing her little heart out! I saw lots of ducks: cinnamon teals, gadwalls, mallards, greater scaups, green-winged teals, pied-billed grebes,  as well as American coots and a White Egret and a Snowy Egret. I see these commonly, and they stand out because they are so large and bright white, but I still love to see them, especially when they are standing still, reflected in still water.

Inspired by a movie, a book, and L.A. eBird (as well as the virtually empty freeways during the holiday!), I realized I could go birding in two places today, so I next drove over to Royal Palms Beach. There I was thrilled to see nine Black Oystercatchers keeping company with one American Oystercatcher. I also saw four or five Whimbrels (including one who looked back at me!) and a Spotted Sandpiper on the rocks, doing her characteristic bobbing about. Really wonderful to see! In addition, there were many willets, terns, and gulls as well as yellow-romped warblers and white-crowed sparrows. One of the yellow-rumps flew down to the rocks right by the ocean and was sprayed by the waves!

Melian the Maia

Melian the Maia by kimberly80

An image of Melian the Maia with three birds,

from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion,

by kimberly80

She taught the nightingales to sing.

Royal Terns, Western Gulls, and Heermann’s Gulls

Today I went to the beach in Santa Monica. I was delighted to ID several Royal Terns on the edge of a rocky shore, with the help of binoculars, and I heard them making their distinctive calls. There were a number of gulls, too, including first-year Western Gulls and first-year Heermann’s Gulls.

Common Buckeye Butterfly

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spotted on the service road from Brackett Airfield
to Bonelli Regional Park