Tag Archives: birds

Spring Breakthrough: Nesting Bald Eagles

I’ve been watching this bald eagle for several days via Ustream webcam. Her nest is perched atop a tree at a fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa. Over the past day one egg has pipped and hatched, and another is imminent. See a 24-hour video collage. Continue reading

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A Hawk in the Library

Cicero envisioned paradise as a library in a garden. This week his vision could be amended to include a hawk in the library. A Cooper’s hawk (above) somehow found its way into the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. It perches near the top of the library’s magnificent dome, and from time to time it circles over the main reading room. The bird is a juvenile female, and its only repast in six days was a frozen quail. Falconers will try to net the bird today so it can be released outdoors. (Below) The hawk is seen circling beneath a Edwin Blashfield mural restored recently in the dome of the Library of Congress. [Photos by Abby Brack/Library of Congress/NPR] Continue reading

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Audubon’s “American Flamingo” & “Snowy Heron”

The modest little heath hen drawn for a bank note made me think of John James Audubon’s grander bird portraits of the American Flamingo and Snowy Heron (Snowy egret). Both images come from individual plates from Birds of America in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The NGA identifies the artists as “Robert Havell after John James Audubon” and the media as “hand-colored etching and aquatint on Whatman paper plate.” The engravings were made in 1838 and 1835, respectively. Continue reading

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Even John James Audubon Sold Clip Art

In 1824, John James Audubon wrote in his journal that he had drawn a heath hen for a Philadelphia engraver. The drawing was intended as incidental art for private bank notes – there was no national paper money at the time. Audubon’s drawing would be considered clip art today. It’s believed to be his first commercial illustration, although a printed example was found only recently by Audubon scholar Robert Peck, a curator at Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences, and numismatic historian Eric Newman. Continue reading

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Even Grebes Have Redneck Cousins

I haven’t pursued competitive birding since I was twelve years old. I can’t tell you how many bird species are on my life list now. While I still have the habit of listening to the spring migrants in id-May, I don’t compile a century count. Today, though, I felt something like the frisson of seeing a new “life bird” even though I had seen it once before, decades ago, in Alaska. Ms. Modigliani treated me to a birthday breakfast of lox and bagels on the Oakville jetty early this morning. We heard an astonishing bird call that sounded like a bleating lamb led to slaughter. I couldn’t name it. Then a bird photographer working near the lighthouse showed us a pair of red-necked grebes at the mouth of 16-Mile Creek. I never heard their call in Alaska. I had no idea they were nesting in the Great Lakes region. Continue reading

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Fish Aren’t Biting? Let’s Kill Some Cormorants!

This week I’ve been sitting on the Navy Street jetty in Oakville, Ontario. I while away the ours watching the aerobatics of common terns and Caspian terns feeding at the mouth of Oakville Creek. I haven’t seen or heard a cormorant yet. Continue reading

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All Together Now: “Spill, Baby, Spill!”

This happens whenever I doze while listening to Morning Edition. I had this crazy dream. All those patriotic delegates at the Republican National Convention – the smiling mob who roared at Sarah Palin’s self-congratulation about pit bulls and lipstick – every one of them flew to Louisiana on their own dime. BP and the Chamber of Commerce didn’t pay a penny. And they were mucking around in the swamps with baggies and soda straws, prepared to siphon oil off sick birds. And Rudy Giuliani was cheering them on: “Spill, baby, spill.” Continue reading

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Listening for The First Song of Spring

After 12 days of snow cover and subfreezing temperatures, I’ll take any sign I can get that spring will come. I heard it just before daybreak this morning in the song of a Carolina wren. It’s been around all year, of course, and I hear its call notes every day. But today it sang its strident territorial song for the first time this winter. It’s singing a week earlier than I expected. Continue reading

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A Cacophony of Cranes Made Me a True Believer

Every December a  dark moment comes when I tell myself that I’m too old for cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood.  This moment arrives with the first ice storm of winter, when I need to work outside in marginal conditions with … Continue reading

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Teaching Whooping Cranes To Migrate

This Way Survival: An ultralight plane piloted by an Operation Migration team member guiding whooping cranes from Wisconsin to their winter nesting grounds in Florida. [Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux/NYT] Ever since childhood, Whooping cranes have animated for me a personal … Continue reading

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