Posts Tagged ‘Cornell Lab of Ornithology’

Bird Identification

May 11, 2009

cl_birdonly_rgb_4502.gifThe Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a new video series on bird identification.  Broken up into 4 ten minute videos, two expert birders take you through a protocol for identifying birds.  Starting with “size and shape” they take you through the most important things to look for including color pattern, behavior, and habitat in addition to size and shape.  An organized approach to identifying birds helps enormously when you have only a few seconds to locate and identify a bird that may fly away any second.  Except warblers, of course.  Nothing helps with them because the warbler you just saw flew away about a millisecond after you found it.  And into thick cover.

We were thinking a lot about an organized approach to things last week when one of us updated our wilderness first aid skills in a two day seminar.  First aid instruction  begins with a systematic approach to rendering aid, which, if you can remember it under the stress of the moment, will prevent you from overlooking any problems your patient may have.  The course included enactments in which some of us played the roles of victims.  One scenario included a hypothetical group of birders who spotted the rare Big Yellow Bird in the top of a cottonwood.  We climbed up the trees to get a better look and fell out.  One of the first things you do with a victim in the wild is assess her consciousness level.  Someone who is fully alert is “alert and oriented times three.”  (A&Ox3) Those of us playing the role of victim were supposed to be A&Ox3 but I announced that anyone stupid enough to climb, unprotected, thirty feet up a tree to get “a better look” is too dumb to ever be considered alert and oriented.


That’s the new Cornell Lab logo at the top of the post.  It is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which put us in mind of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.  Calvin is lying on the floor doing a crossword puzzle.  The clue he is working on is “bird.”  Calvin exclaims, “I’ve got it!  Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker”!  Hobbes says, “But it’s only five boxes for the answer.”  Calvin responds, “I know.  These idiots make you write real small.”

The Lab’s new logo was based on the work of Charlie Harper, who our readers know well.  In fact, we sell a notecard which is a smaller version of Mr. Harper’s original Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which is below.  Harper was a supporter of the Cornell Lab and donated work to raise funds for it.

Charlie Harper's Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Charlie Harper's Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 7, 2008

Every year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society run the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year’s is next weekend. Anyone can participate and it is no more difficult than looking out your window and counting the birds you see. You can do it all day long or for only a few minutes. All you have to do is spend a minimum of 15 minutes counting birds between February 15th and February 18th. Count the greatest number of any one or more species you see, write it down, then enter your results on the GBBC’s web page or mail the form and you are finished. It doesn’t matter where you count. If you want to get outside and head for a bird refuge, that’s fine. It is just as fine if you pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit next to your favorite window and count the birds you see from the warmth of your home.

The data you will be asked for is on this form. You simply write the highest number of birds for each species you see that were together at any one time. For example, if you watched a feeder for 15 minutes and saw three House Sparrows, then five, then two, you report five house sparrows. You can either mail the form or use the on-line form here.

Not sure of all the birds known to be in your area? You can download a list based on your zip code here.

This is real science. An annual snapshot of birds gives scientists information about migratory patterns, global climate change, local weather effects on birds, and populations of endangered birds. Last year 11 million birds of more than 600 species were counted.

If you have unfrozen water out for your birds — and you should have, they need it —  maybe you’ll see what Charley Harper saw; an American Robin bathing.


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