Tuesday, August 30, 2005

August 30, 2005

“Thus, remarkably, we do not know the true number of species on earth even to the nearest order of magnitude.” - Edward O. Wilson in Conservation for the 21st Century, edited by David Western and Mary Pearl

Okay, no rants today. So far I haven’t seen any “hurricane birds” at Roundtop, though that is often a birder’s benefit from one of these devastating storms. And Katrina is certainly worse than nearly all. Here, all that is forecast is an inch or two of rain, though the western part of the state will have more.

Here’s the birds I did see or hear on my dawn walk this morning (though each morning now there is less and less “dawn”):

36 Canada geese sheltering along the eastern edge of the new pond, drifted slowly towards the center when the Dog and I appeared. Dog was unimpressed, as I suspect the geese were as well.

1 steel-belted kingfisher at the old pond. These birds are often around, but this particular one has been ubiquitous the past week or so.

6-8 American crows (the usual crowd of busybodies who feel duty-bound to report to the entire forest that yes, indeed, the world has survived another night).

1 Eastern wood-pewee. Okay, so maybe the robin is the early bird that gets the worm, but that’s only because the pewees don’t want them. This is the first bird I hear in a summer’s “morning,” and the pewee’s idea of “morning” doesn’t match anyone else’s. I’m not even sure astronomical dawn (sun still 18º below horizon) has begun when this bird starts his call.

2 Mourning doves a.k.a. “pinheads,” as designated by a birding friend of mine. I’m not sure if he called them pinheads because of their stupidity or their silhouette. Doesn’t matter. Either fits.

Chickadee sp. This is the current politically correct way to identify these birds in areas such as mine where both the black-capped and Carolina chickadees occur. I used to differentiate these species by their call, but now I’m told that isn’t definitive. In winter, because they come to the feeder and I can see them up close, I believe I can differentiate them. I look at the white patch on the head and how it extends behind the eye. In what I call Carolinas, this patch is smaller and fades to a dirty white. In black-cappeds, the patch bright white and larger. I figure it’s only a matter of time before I’m told this isn’t right either, and that it’s just a variant and/or subspecies or possibly a hybrid. And if that happens, how long will it be before the “lumpers” in the American Ornithological Union (who have been long out of power) overpower the “splitters” and declare that this is just one species, after all.

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