Posts Tagged ‘birding’


Photo: Mark Makela
Caleb Hunt, left, and Tony Croasdale at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia. In a city known for its punk underground and avian history, the friends have found an overlap that celebrates both niches.

No doubt among the pressing questions of our time, you have been wondering about the connection between punk rockers and birders. Wonder no more. Steve Neumann at the magazine Audubon has answers for you.

“It’s the evening golden hour at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. A whirlwind of swallows swims through the soft light, chasing midges into a frenzy. Nearby on a platform a handful of birders scans the dimming sky, exposed to the marsh and its blood-thirsty elements.

“In plain T-shirts and khakis, the group blends into the woods-y backdrop — with two exceptions. Caleb Hunt, a bookkeeper for an adult-entertainment boutique, rocks a Philly Punx tank top with a fanged, horned Benjamin Franklin splashed across the front. Next to her, Tony Croasdale, the leader of today’s walk, sports an aviary of skin art. A Swallow-tailed Kite, Belted Kingfisher, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Scarlet Tanager, and three types of vultures bedeck his legs, collarbone, and arms.

“Croasdale’s tattoos pay homage to two of his biggest life passions: birding and punk rocking. He plunged into the first as a kid when his father took him to Philadelphia’s Pennypack Park to learn about kingfishers. The music came later at age 19 when he launched the vegan thrashcore band R.A.M.B.O. under the stage name Tony Pointless. The collective quickly hit fame with two full-length albums and tours on five continents; but when it broke up in 2006, Croasdale came back to his home city and turned his focus to environmental activism. He eventually went on to found the BirdPhilly education program, which is how he and Hunt, who identifies as a committed punk, met in 2015.

“Though his moshing days are behind him, Croasdale says he still feels connected to punk culture. If anything, he’s found more space for expression by building birding into his practice. The hybrid approach has strengthened his resolve to tend to nature and fight oppression with personal action — a sentiment shared by his many ‘birdpunk’ friends around the country. …

“ ‘Philadelphia has so many row homes with basements,’ Croasdale adds. ‘That fosters a vibrant show scene.’ It was in those basements that Croasdale formed R.A.M.B.O. — an acronym for ‘Revolutionary Anarchist Mosh Bike Overthrow’ — in 1999 as lead singer. …

“Ultimately, that double lifestyle didn’t work out. Before a show in Malaysia, Croasdale and the band’s bassist, Bull Gervasi, went birding in Kuala Selangor, 100 miles away from where they were taking the stage. They gave themselves 10 hours to get back by bus, but it took 12 and they missed their call time.

‘It was kind of a big deal,’ Croasdale says. ‘It occurred to me that my head was not in the band; it was with the birds.’

“Today Croasdale is the site director for the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center … Working in conservation in West Philadelphia has helped Croasdale resolve a childhood dilemma. When he was 12, he realized that the government and in general, society, couldn’t be trusted to steward the planet and its resources. But it wasn’t until he fell into the punk scene that he was fully able to share that anxiety. ‘I found out there was music, a political ideology, and a counterculture that spoke to these issues. It provided me with like-minded peers,’ he says.”

More here.

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Photo: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Increasing numbers of young people, like boys in Cornell’s BirdSleuth K-12 program, are into birding — developing their observational skills and their inherent love of nature.

One of the most hopeful things around is to see kids get interested in birds, learning to identify them and to spot unusual ones. This summer I’ve been getting a kick out of grandchildren who aim to test my ability (limited) to recognize bird calls. We have a book with buttons that you press for different calls. They press, I identify. I’m getting better.

Penelope Green reported recently at the New York Times about young urban adults who assisted with an international bird count in May.

“On Global Big Day last month, birders around the world counted all the species they could spot in 24 hours. It was a super-birding event in the bonanza that is spring migration — which runs from late April to early June, but peaks for songbirds in May — when millions of birds make their way from parts south to breed in the Northern latitudes.

“In Prospect Park, members of the Feminist Bird Club did their bit for this enormous citizen-scientist data collection effort. Led by Molly Adams, its founder, the group clocked over 80 species in under 10 hours, including one black-billed cuckoo and a cerulean warbler. These were good ‘gets’: The cerulean warbler is at risk of extinction — like so many birds, a casualty of habitat loss — so noting its whereabouts is particularly important for conservation efforts. The cuckoo is not a rare bird, it’s just hard to see and not many of them stop in New York City during their migration; that made its sighting a bit of thrill, Ms. Adams said. …

“Younger urban birders — yubbies? — like those led by Ms. Adams are the new faces in the birding world. They use social media to track their ornithological marks, with digital assists from apps like Ibird or Merlin and websites like ebird — the data collection site run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology — which have replaced old-fashioned Sibley guides to aid in identification (though Sibley has an app, too). They are drawn in by the visual seductions of Instagram, as well as a desire for community inflected by environmentalism.  …

“Pete Lengyel, a co-founder of the Kings County Brewers Collective, a craft beer brewery and tap room in Bushwick, was hooked by [the movie} ‘Birders’ when he saw it a few years ago. Its filmmaker, Jeffrey Kimball, an urban birding convert, captured four seasons of Central Park’s birding community in an engaging portrait of its singular characters. … Mr. Lengyel, 44, sent the film to all his friends, and convened his own birding group, the Beerders, which includes two brewers, a baker, a butcher and a fashion designer — a nice cross-section of Brooklyn professions. …

“[Meanwhile, Chelsea Lawrence, a software tester for a television company] might spend half of a Saturday in Prospect Park, but if she spots a warbler at lunchtime in the planter in front of her midtown office, ‘that’s birding, too,’ she said. ‘I’m really into citizen science and data collection. It can be as competitive as you want it to be. It’s also really meditative. You have to be very present to be a good birder.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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On Sunday, the Concord Bookshop had a guest speaker, bird maven David Allen Sibley.

There was a great turnout to hear him and to have him sign the new edition of his guide.

He talked about his painting process and his interest in perception as it applies to people who are convinced they see a bird they are looking for. From what he has read, he says, it’s very much like the phenomenon of witness identification of suspects — many factors may distort what witnesses think they see. (Consider the old guy in the play Twelve Angry Men, for example, who didn’t have his glasses on.)

When asked how 12 people who identified the probably extinct ivory-billed woodpecker in Louisiana in recent years could all be wrong, he tries to explain why it’s likely: They get only a glimpse, they are desperate to see it, they are being paid to find it, etc.

I want to believe they saw it, of course, but I thought his points were interesting.

Also interesting was the way he paints. He has a very good sense of the profile of the bird, having drawn birds since he was seven. So in the wild he looks for identifying markers, sketches in the profile, and adds the marks. Then he paints the bird in the studio. He does a lot of research, but once he has done all he can, he takes only about an hour to do each painting.

Read more at Sibley’s website, here, and at his Facebook page, here.

Below is a bird that a woman in the audience Sunday asked about, the Snowy Owl. The questioner wanted know whether the many Snowy Owls that were sighted around New England this winter would stay. He said that, no, they were already heading back to the Arctic and only came because there were a lot of babies hatched up north this year and not enough food to go around.

Art: David Allen Sibley
Snowy owl

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If you can’t photograph the ivory-billed woodpecker in Louisiana or Cuba or wherever it is rumored to have survived, the next best thing is to find a brand new species. That’s what Simon Mahood did in Cambodia.

Thomas Fuller writes about it in the NY Times. “The discovery of new fauna conjures up images of Livingstone-like explorers trekking through malaria-infested jungles. But scientists working in Cambodia have reported a new species of bird in a decidedly less remote environment: the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

“Simon Mahood, the lead author of an article released Wednesday in the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail, says the bird’s primary habitat is about a 30 minutes’ drive from his home in Phnom Penh, ‘allowing for traffic.’

“ ‘I’ve always wanted to discover a bird species, but I never expected it would happen like this,’ Mr. Mahood, who works for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Cambodia, said by telephone from Phnom Penh. ‘I certainly didn’t expect to be standing in flip-flops and shorts a half an hour from home.’

“Roughly the same size as a wren, with white cheeks and a cinnamon cap, the bird was named the Cambodian tailorbird by the team that documented the discovery. Tailorbirds get their name from the way they build their nests, by threading spider silk or other fibers through a leaf, creating a sort of cradle.” More.

Photo: Ashish John/Wildlife Conservation Society
The Cambodian tailorbird was found near Phnom Penh.


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