30 December 2011

Waxwing in the Tree

Twice, I've blogged about cedar waxwings, so my affinity for them is no secret. However, I usually see them much more in the summer because their search for fruits and berries leads them far and wide in the winter.

This year, my mom got me a waxwing for the Christmas tree. The ornament doesn't flutter from its perch to pursue flying insects or give off the distinctive trilling whistle of a waxwing, but it's a nice holiday companion nonetheless--one of my favorite birds decorating the season.

26 December 2011

Bird Brains

For a while, people have known that certain types of birds, especially crows and parrots, are pretty smart. As The New York Times reports, we now know that pigeons can learn abstract rules about numbers.

Just a few weeks ago, I blogged that calling someone a rat could no longer be an insult. Now, it appears birdbrain is also out as a slam.

I think the new things we find out about animals and their capacity for intelligence and feeling reveal how our own knowledge is a work in progress.

21 December 2011

Appy Holidays

Just in time for the holidays, the National Wildlife Federation has released three new apps for kids. They are all nature-related of course, and they feature Ranger Rick and his friends.

Two of the apps are for either the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. The third app is for just the iPad. One of them is for ages 2-5 while the other two are for ages 7 and up.

For more information, click here.

13 December 2011

That Hums

Yesterday, I came across a great video clip on hummingbirds. It is a promotional piece for a 2010 episode of PBS's Nature.

The images are stunning and enlightening, but what I really like is how the filmmaker talks about seeing into the birds' world and getting another look at an animal we thought we knew. Both of these ideas are important to developing our understanding of nature because we should always be prepared to learn from the natural world.

It's great that technology is allowing us to see more and more of nature. Check some out in the video below:

11 December 2011

Spread Those Wings

I've blogged before about BirdSleuth, which the Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses to provide teachers with curriculum for citizen science projects.

The program is continuing to expand. As this story describes, a classroom of students from Oregon and a classroom of students from Florida used BirdSleuth to conduct a peer-reviewed bird-watching project. Such collaborations are beginning to rise up across the country, and the goal is now to facilitate similar interactions on an international level.

Considering bird migrations don't pay much attention to state or international boundaries, this is a great way to track birds throughout their range and get children around the world engaged in science. It's also cool because the birds are helping bring people together.

If you are a teacher, this is an exciting time to consider getting involved with BirdSleuth.

09 December 2011


When a person calls another person a rat, it's not a good thing, but maybe it should be.

In a very interesting study reported by DiscoveryNews, rats were observed helping free other rats from imprisonment often even when presented with the alternative of eating a whole pile of chocolate chips.

The scientists conducting the study say the actions show that rats are empathetic. According to the conclusions, the results of the study indicate that empathy is a biologically rooted trait likely to exist in many species. This is interesting, especially considering how people used to think that humans were the only species capable of such feelings.

I wonder what assumption about our superiority over other animals will fall next.

08 December 2011

He Who Has Stalled

The climate conference in Durban, South Africa, has not been going very well, and the United States may be a big reason why. In the last week, the message has circulated through the conference that the US is seeking to delay action until 2020.

Well, as The New York Times reports, the US delegation got an infusion of fresh blood today, when Abigail Borah, an American representative of the International Youth Climate Movement, interrupted a speech by the US special envoy at the conference, saying the envoy had forfeited his right to speak because the US delegation seemed to be delaying action. Before she was escorted out by police (of course), she called on the delegates to act now on global warming and earned an ovation for her efforts.

This may be the most positive action undertaken by an American at the climate talks in years.

Thanks, Abigail.

02 December 2011

Sharing Sadness

Important note: The video I am posting and blogging about tonight is very sad. However, in an effort to help the affected family and others like them and to try to work toward preventing anything like this from happening in the future, I want to share it.

The trap that killed Maggie the dog and the approach being taken to address animals we have identified as "problems" need to be reevaluated. They put us and those we love at risk, and they represent one of the ugliest ways we touch nature. I think letting the US Department of Agriculture know that it needs to rethink its operations is an important first step. By taking this approach to dealing with wildlife, the agency is creating the type of world that I don't like living in, one full of secrets, danger, fear, and senseless killing and absent of accountability and compassion.

For more information about the issue, click here.

01 December 2011

Lost Again

An interesting documentary focusing on an admirable effort is about to come out. Tomorrow, in New York City, Lost Birds will make its debut.

The film chronicles sculptor Todd McGrain's campaign (The Lost Bird Project) to place his sculptures of five extinct North American bird species near the place each species was last seen in the wild. McGrain says he made the sculptures to keep the birds, including the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet, the Labrador duck, the great auk, and the heath hen, from going extinct for a second time, this time from our memory. He thinks (and I agree) that remembering the birds' extinction is important to honoring those species and to how we approach our relationships with species that still exist today.

I hope the film's release widens to the rest of the country (and the world) soon. Be on the lookout for it. I'll try to post about it again if I hear more. Here is the trailer: