Why Birds?

Backyard and Beyond

Why not mammals, asks Simon Barnes in The Meaning of Birds. He doesn’t use the example of dogs and cats, but these do illustrate our affinity for our fellow warm-blooded, lactating fur-balls. Of course, these are domesticated animals, tamed for precisely their human-philic characteristics. Wild mammals, which we nevertheless try to cute-ify and commodify, know better. They don’t want much to do with homicidal maniacs. Except for a few exceptions (and places), mammals are quite scarce to the eye. Cagey, elusive, nocturnal. (Did you know that the majority of mammal species, by far, are bats?)

Most birds, on the other wing, are diurnal. They’re found everywhere. They’re beautiful, sing marvelously, and fly, all extremely powerful attractions that have pulled us towards them for a very, very long time.

This is, in short, a book for the bird or nature skeptic in your life.

The forces of death —…

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Books of Lichen

Backyard and Beyond

An announcement from my other life:

As some of you may know, I write for JSTOR Daily, a free service of the non-profit database JSTOR. I usually write about historical topics, although I occasionally slip something in about natural history.

The Daily has decided to launch a membership component on Patreon. It’s expensive publishing seven days a week and they don’t want to go the ad route. They’re hoping readers will subscribe on a sliding scale of $3-$10 per month. Reading JSTOR Daily will still be free to all, but the organization is hoping superfans will help defray some of the costs. (Oh, internet!)

Please consider subscribing if that’s your thing. And if not, don’t fret over it.

And for putting up with this plea, here’s a sneak preview of Raptor Wednesday
and Thrusday.

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Raptor Wednesday

Backyard and Beyond

Walking home, the low November sun in my eyes, I was not at first sure that the shape on the corner of my apartment building was. I briefly wondered if there was an architectural flourish I’d never noticed. The silhouette quickly resolved itself. A Red-tailed Hawk.
With prey. And screeching at the other Red-tailed that landed on the parapet nearby. The source of this buteo excitement was a pigeon, probably one of the crew which regularly perch atop this roof.
A very stiff wind was playing havoc with the hawk’s feathers.
Mantling, or spreading wings and tail to shroud the prey, and rending squab, the bird screeched and watched the sky. The other Red-tail, also a juvenile, was still around.

Going to this leave a cliffhanger, or roof-hanger… until tomorrow.

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Raptor Wednesday on Thursday

Backyard and Beyond

Having spotted this Red-tailed Hawk on the roof of my apartment building when I returned home last week, I hurried up the five flights to see what I could see.
The bird was mantling over its prey, spreading out wings and tail feathers.
Classic raptor behavior. We surmise from this that the bird is trying to conceal its prey from others.
Like, um… so it seems a good surmise. This other Red-tail was also a juvenile. I wonder if these were siblings? (Saw four adult Red-tails soaring together over Green-Wood recently; more recently this last weekend, saw three from my window along with a Common Raven, but in the excitement and the cloudy light, I didn’t get any ages.)
Access to our roof is via the stairway bulkhead. The wind was fierce. I didn’t want to go out, which would probably have scared off the hawk. So I held the…

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A Pen, a Sword, and a Great Blue Heron walked into a bar. Which was mightier?

Life on the Lighter Side

I’ve been thinking about killing someone off, and it’s harder than I thought it would be. I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a campaign to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in the month of November. I have reached the juncture in my story where someone must die. I knew death was inevitable, but I’ve been writing around it for the last three days. I can’t bring myself to do it.

I am pretty sure that it’s a good thing that this is hard for me. It should be hard. After all, my novel is based on real events and real people whom I closely know, so this is personal. Even though death is a part of life, I wasn’t prepared to do the deed with my own hand on the keyboard.

In 1839, novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton penned the words, “The pen…

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Back Yard Photographer – What is this bird??

Abundantly Distracted

Mid morning I glanced out the window that overlooks my back yard, just to see if there was any bird activity. It was time for a break and I wanted to get some more photos of the birds. I have a few ideas of what I would like to capture, but so far the birds have not been agreeing with me on their poses. 🙂 I grabbed my camera and headed out to my back yard.

I heard the usual cardinal song as well as the morning dove. I’m pretty sure I saw a red headed woodpecker or two fly by. Most of the birds were in the trees and hadn’t come out to the bird feeders yet. My prospects of getting pictures of birds during this break were looking bleak. Then I saw a group of birds fly over head to one of my favorite trees. As I hadn’t…

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