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Ted Floyd
Boulder County, Colorado
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It's interesting and gratifying to reflect on how much has changed with the ABA's publications since this post went up two-plus years ago. Jeff Gordon has breathed new life into the conversation here: If you commented on this March 2011 post, what are you thoughts now, in July 2013? And could we carry the conversation over to the more recent post? Again: Looking forward to hearing from you!
Toggle Commented Jul 9, 2013 on The Future of Birding at ABA Blog
This statement fascinates me: Lewis argues that North and Middle America reveals that Ridgway had lost touch with trends in the biological sciences: the work is far more “Linnaean than Darwinian.” I confess, I haven't read the The Feathery Tribe. So maybe I'm jumping to the wrong conclusion. But I would say that a Linnean, as opposed to a Darwinian, point of view was all the rage in the biological sciences in the USA in the early 20th century. (I've argued that point extensively elsewhere. So have many others. It's in any basic text on the history of biological thought.) Within American ornithology, Louis Agassiz Fuertes (a Ridgway contemporary) was notoriously Linnean, and "exemplary" for his anti-Darwinian views. I'm curious, how is Fuertes treated in Feathery Tribe? And then there's the final nail in the Darwinian coffin with Peterson's neo-Platonic, neo-Linnaean, neo-Adamic, powerful and diabolical masterpiece of 1934, A Field Guide to the Birds. Well, you've made me want to read The Feathery Tribe and that's rather the point, isn't it?
Toggle Commented Jul 9, 2013 on Transforming American Ornithology at ABA Blog
Some folks may not realize that the ABA makes an award in the name of Robert Ridgway. From the ABA's website: The ABA Robert Ridgway Award Publications in Field Ornithology Given for excellence in publications pertaining to field ornithology. The award is given specifically for publications on the subjects of field identification and bird distribution in North America. It is given to either authors or artists. This award recognizes professional achievements in field ornithology literature. Recipients of the ABA's Ridgway Award have been Harold Mayfield (in 2002), Susan M. Smith (2004), Steve Howell (2005), Donald Kroodsma (2006), Bill Clark (2007), Bill Thompson (2008), and Richard Crossley (2012).
Toggle Commented Jul 9, 2013 on Transforming American Ornithology at ABA Blog
In a similar vein, I just got in from making audio-recordings of the early-July dawn chorus around my neighborhood in Boulder County, Colorado. Nothing at all remarkable out there, bird-wise, just House Finches, Mourning Doves, a distant Say's Phoebe, etc. But check this out: I got a photo bomb, in a sense, of a BIG BROWN BAT. I can't hear the recording (fundamental frequency about 20,000 Hz), but I could see the actual bat, and I can see the trace on the sound spectrogram. Is that cool or what?
Regarding "provenance," be sure to see Ned Brinkley's fine essay by the same name:
Although I tend to think that bird records committees are, on average, needlessly and irrationally "conservative" about provenance, I think it's entirely appropriate for John Puschock to have adopted a cautious approach right here, in this breaking-news report. He's right: Provenance will indeed be brought up. And it's good to state that we're dealing here with an "unverified report." So here's an enthusiastic vote for how John has handled the matter--and a two-thumbs-up, more generally, for the terrific service he's been delivering, via #ABArare, to ABA members and to the broader birding community.
I love places like this--not on the radar screen of most general American tourists, but wonderful for birds and birders. Years ago, I read an essay by a New Jersey birder who over the years had spent many weeks cumulatively in southeastern Arizona, but who had never seen, and who had no particular interest in seeing, a certain geological feature in the north-central part of the state. Bill's post gives me an opportunity here to put in a plug for the Lahontan Valley of northwestern Nevada. I suspect that most birders, let alone all-purpose tourists, have never heard of the place, but it is astonishing, attracting well over a million migratory water birds at the peak of spring and fall migration, plus land birds galore (always a few rarities) and gazillions of resident species, and the scenery and weather are always dramatic. All of you: What are some of your favorite under-appreciated or little-known birding destinations? I'm thinking not of micro-hotspots (a particular ranch, oasis, or sewage treatment pond), but rather of full-on landscapes like Badlands National Park or the Lahontan Valley.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2013 on Mako Sica- maybe not! at ABA Blog
Steve N. G. Howell and Sophie Webb’s Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America was groundbreaking on multiple fronts. Nearly 20 years since the book’s publication (can you believe it’s been that long?), the book remains highly useful. I frequently refer to it for basic field ID... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2013 at ABA Blog
I just heard a Lesser Goldfinch fly over, and, I swear, it said, in a tinny little voice, beeeeeeer. If we get the right folks involved (I won't name names, but you know who you are), I bet we can easily come up with 50, maybe even 100, bird species that say "beer." Bring it on, y'all.
Toggle Commented Jun 27, 2013 on Hic! Three Beers! at ABA Blog
Good stuff, Scott, and thanks for reminding us about Bartram's Travels (which Google). Here's my favorite Big Walk of all time: Runner-up: And of course:
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2013 on The Bare-Naked Big Walk at ABA Blog
Er, along for the "ride"... :-)
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on The Bare-Naked Big Walk at ABA Blog
Hey, Rob. I'm out of my league on this one, so the following may well be messed up, but here goes: I take a Julian year, in the broad sense, to be a time period that is 365 24-hour periods or 366 24-hour periods, in distinction from a sidereal year, which is a time period that is nearly, but not precisely, fixed. A sidereal year is approximately 365.25 "days," whereas a Julian year is either 365 or 366 "days." The question, in my mind, isn't the starting date for a Julian or sidereal year. Rather, it's the length, which is oddly variable for a Julian year, but nearly fixed for a sidereal year. Where's an astro-historian when you need one?... :-)
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on My Big “Year” at ABA Blog
An antshrike? Maybe what I thought was a winnowing snipe was really a Barred Antshrike? Talk to me.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2013 on The Bare-Naked Big Walk at ABA Blog
Ted Floyd goes all-out in the oddest Big Day you're likely to hear about. Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2013 at ABA Blog
Great idea, Dennis. Glad I thought of it... :-) No, seriously, we're working on putting together a sorta Top 10 list of posts that have generated particularly intense commentary. We'll publish that in Birding. Offhand, I don't see the need to convert the content to PDF format. Folks can just go straight to the post, then see all the comments below. If you want a printout (but why?), you can press PRINT. And if you actually want a PDF, you can press "CONVERT TO PDF." Which would be a bit like downloading the contents of your smartphone to the medium of 8-track casette... :-) Thanks again, Dennis. You'll see your suggestion in the pages of Birding, soon enough.
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2013 on Open Mic: The Field Glass Ceiling at ABA Blog
The problem, Bill, is two self-imposed restrictions: I have to be able to walk to the place from my house, and I can't use bins or a scope. Good luck to you and the Boulder County Julians. I hope the name sticks. I shall do my darnedest to see to it that it does!
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2013 on My Big “Year” at ABA Blog
"This post got me wondering what it would be like to do overlapping big years - start a big year on January 1, start another on February 1, start another on March 1, etc. and keep them all going." Lynn, you are the Garry Kasparov of Big Year birders: :-)
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2013 on My Big “Year” at ABA Blog
"...I am always interested in HOW people bird as much as why and where they bird." I totally agree with you, Mel. And on that note, be sure to see "A Birding Interview," appearing in the (very imminent) May/June 2013 Birding. It's as if you and the interviewee were in a Vulcan mind meld. You'll see. Also: "I learn from my fellow birders (women and men alike) the lessons they pass along." The best lessons are the ones that have nothing to do with birding per se. Mel, you've importantly influenced the way I give public talks. (Cf. your exposition, equal parts brilliant and subtle, in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain. Remember? Well, I sure do!)
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2013 on My Big “Year” at ABA Blog
Tomorrow (Sat., June 15th, 2013) my project will take a strange and perverted twist. I promise to post about it. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I must go now, to read about your 647 species and 1,000 awesome experiences.
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2013 on My Big “Year” at ABA Blog
Touche, Robert, but I haveta confess: The idea isn't original with me. I got it from, ahem, Albert Einstein, whose little "Relativität" is one of the finest specimens of truly interesting and original writing I've ever laid eyes on. (I'd give anything for a fresh, modern translation into American English. Where are Rick Wright and Ned Brinkley when you need them?) Einstein became fascinated by the, er, "relativity" of the human condition. Each of us has our own here and now; our own past, present, and future; our own place in the universe, distinct from every other observer's place. That sounds like philosophy, no doubt, but it's cold, hard physics. The following paradox is gratifying to me: The so-called rule-breakers are simply obeying the laws of physics, but the people who follow the supposed rules are living a lie... :-)
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2013 on My Big “Year” at ABA Blog
Annie Dillard, in her magisterial Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, conducts a thought experiment: “I wonder how long it would take you to notice the regular recurrence of the seasons if you were the first man on earth. What would it be like to live in open-ended time broken only by... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2013 at ABA Blog
This is a serious question: To those of you who favor a stable field guide checklist taxonomy and sequence, on what authority would you base it? The Peterson Guide you grew up with in the 1960s? The Nat Geo you grew up with in the 1980s? The Sibley Guide you grew up with in the 2000s? Still, aren't y'all tilting at windmills? I mean, even if you aspire to keep the linear sequence stable, what do you about the massive changes that have nothing to do with checklist sequence per se? I just whipped out my Peterson 4th from 1980, the bird book I grew up with, and it's got Blue-gray Tanager and Eurasian Goldfinch, but not Purple Swamphen and Eurasian Collared-Dove; it's got Sharp-tailed Sparrow, but not Nelson's and Saltmarsh sparrows; it's got Cave Swallow in an appendix with Stolid Flycatcher and Antillean Palm Swift, but it's got Corn Crake, Scarlet Ibis, and even King Vulture in the main text; it's not got Cackling Goose, but it's got something called Rufous-sided Towhee; etc., etc. Hey, no diss at all on Peterson-4; it was great at the time. But there have been massive changes, these past 30+ years, to our checklists in ways that have nothing to do with linear sequence. If you keep the checklists stable, you're still constantly updating with splits and lumps, new distributional knowledge (think tubenoses), truly new distribution (think Cave Swallow), newly introduced and established exotics, extinction and extirpation, deletions (Peterson-4's got Cape Petrel, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, and Caribbean Coot), and a lot more. I (still) want a field guide that helps me organize and make sense out of all the avian diversity around me--and that is best accomplished by a biological approach that admits current knowledge about morphology and behavior, status and distribution, and, yes, taxonomy and systematics.
Toggle Commented May 2, 2013 on Here We Go Again at ABA Blog
Some readers may not realize that Bird-Lore, in which TR's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue patch list appears, is an earlier name of the ABA's great journal North American Birds.
Toggle Commented May 2, 2013 on Teddy Roosevelt's Complete Checklist at ABA Blog
Note, too, that TR is following the AOU taxonomy of the day: doves before hawks; orioles before blackbirds; and so forth, all the way to thrushes at the very end. To folks who pine away for a "stable checklist," when loons were "always" first and the House Sparrow was "always" last, it's a pleasant fantasy. The AOU Check-list from the late 19th century was even more different from the checklist of our formative years than is the AOU Check-list from the early 21st century. And it will forever change, and we birders will forever revel in the wonderful and exhilarating new knowledge, awareness, and understanding. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Toggle Commented May 2, 2013 on Teddy Roosevelt's Complete Checklist at ABA Blog
"A list good enough, as it was noted by Andrew Core on the ABA's Facebook group, to put him 72nd on eBird's top 100 for the District of Columbia." I bet TR's list for that eBird hotspot is #1 all-time!
Toggle Commented May 2, 2013 on Teddy Roosevelt's Complete Checklist at ABA Blog