Thursday, August 28, 2008

RTP's Legacy: My Pile of Peterson Books

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Roger Tory Peterson's birth today, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds, of course. But second, I think of all the other field guides and nature books that bear the Peterson moniker. Houghton-Mifflin's "Peterson Field Guide" series has always been a favorite of mine. Here's my pile of Peterson field guides.

I know Roger himself didn't write many of these, although he did edit some and he has forewords in many. Most of these guides are pretty good, but a few are a bit less useful and get pretty technical at times (The Fern guide, for example, ugh!). I always love getting new Peterson guides simply for the fact that they're a great intro to a topic. They also Some of the field guides are outdated and new, better books have appeared in many areas - insects, butterflies, etc.

It seems like it's been a while since a new Peterson non-bird guide has come along (late 90's perhaps?), but there's one that I'm waiting for: Ed Lam's Peterson Field Guide to Dragonflies. It's one of the few areas that the series hasn't covered and they've got a really phenomenal artist to do it. Being a big fan of Odes, I'm psyched.

Is there a topic that you'd love to see covered in a Peterson guide that hasn't been covered? Do you have a favorite non-bird Peterson guide? Please leave a comment!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meal Meme

I picked up this one from A Snail's Eye View even though I wasn't tagged. I always said I'd have a food blog if I didn't have a nature blog. The idea is to mark out in bold the foods you've eaten and cross off the ones you wouldn't touch. Wow, there's a lot of stuff I need to try. As you can tell, I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to food.

Nettle tea (I did have nettle cheese once)
Huevos rancheros
Steak tartare
Black pudding
Cheese fondue
Baba ghanoush
Calamari (just last night!)

PB&J sandwich

Aloo gobi
Hot dog from a street cart
Black truffle
Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
Steamed pork buns
Pistachio ice cream
Heirloom tomatoes
Fresh wild berries
Foie gras
Rice and beans
Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
Dulce de leche
Bagna cauda
Wasabi peas (have some in the cabinet)
Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

Salted lassi
Root beer float
Cognac with a fat cigar
Clotted cream tea
Vodka jelly/Jell-O (they mean jello shots I presume?)

Curried goat
Whole insects (meal worms - they are insect larva)
Goat's milk (as ice cream and cheeses)
Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
Chicken tikka masala
Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
Sea urchin
Prickly pear
McDonald's Big Mac Meal
Dirty gin martini
Beer above 8%
Poutine (oh man, I can't believe I went to Montreal and missed this)
Carob chips
Frogs' legs
Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
Fried plantain
Chitterlings or andouillette
Caviar and blini

Louche absinthe
Gjetost or brunost
Hostess Fruit Pie
Lapsang souchong (this stuff smells like beef jerky)
Tom yum
Eggs Benedict
Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
Kobe beef
Horse (Does camel count?)
Criollo chocolate
Soft shell crab
Rose harissa
Mole poblano
Bagel and lox
Lobster Thermidor
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

I'm too lazy to tag people, but feel free to participate and let me know if you do.

The Onion on Hummingbird-feeding Grandmothers

Article here

If we can't laugh at ourselves eh?

Too bad they mention red food coloring in the nectar!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review: Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America

To honor the centennial of Roger Tory Peterson's birth (August 28), the new Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America has been published. This time, Houghton-Mifflin has lumped the eastern and western versions into one volume. They updated the text, digitally enhanced the images, added some additional artwork by Michael O'Brien, updated the range maps, and have leapt into the digital age by adding 3 hours of podcasts.

You'll immediately notice one thing: the size of the guide. It's slightly smaller in height and width than the big Sibley guide, but thinner. It's weight is comparable though, highlighting one of the reasons they split the Sibley guide into 2 pieces in the first place. This guide doesn't fit into a pocket and is best left as a reference in the car or on the desk.

The digital enhancement of the artwork makes it look crisp and Michael O'Brien new plates blend in amazingly well. I started birding with the 3rd edition Peterson guide and then the 4th, but I haven't really used the 5th edition which I know made some leaps in the layout. One thing I like about this edition was the inclusion of the maps with the plates which I know they did in the 5th edition too. In this edition, they've also included larger maps in the back - something I don't think they did with the 5th edition. All in all, what doesn't change is that this is still the Peterson system. It simply works for most every day birding. Sibley added flight shots and a lot of detail for many species, Nat Geo shows every plumage under the sun and every bird on the ABA list in a compact size, but I think the Peterson system still holds up. It's a shame we can't have them all combined into one book - Sibley's art, Nat Geo's compactness, and the simple arrows and text of the Peterson system.

The podcasts are an interesting inclusion. At first, I thought, "Ok, they are just including this because it's the 'hip' thing to do and it hasn't been done before. I wonder if they'll be any good." I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. It took me a bit to figure out how to get to the podcasts, but I found the instructions on the second page before the table of contents. I checked out a few of them, created by the blogiverse's own Jeff Gordon and Bill Thompson III. They include limited full motion video and are more of a self-paced PowerPoint presentation. There are a few Peterson biography podcasts well worthy of watching. There are also family overviews, species profiles, and tutorials on topics such as bird topography and bird song. The content of these videos is spectacular and will improve the skills of any beginning birder from the comfort of their couch. I watched the shorebird family overview which gave a nice recap of the challenges of shorebird identification. The species accounts are fun to watch to learn more in-depth natural history about some of the more charismatic species. I watched the song bird tutorial which was an excellent summary of what one would fine on "Birding by Ear Volume 1." One thing I would have loved to see is a few really detailed podcasts on some of the challenges that face more experienced birders like aging gulls and molt patterns. This would have made them more appealling to the experienced birder.

I've always been a big fan of the Peterson system and still recommend the guide to beginners. I don't think I'd recommend this version to beginners though because it is just not portable. I would either recommend the 5th edition Peterson or the Kaufmann guide for them instead. All in all though, I welcome this centennial edition of the book to my shelf and I know I will enjoy looking through it and learning more about the birds I love.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Props to Swarovski

When we were in Oregon, my beloved scope broke. The sun shade just came off and wouldn't go back on. So, I contacted Swarovski and they told me "no problem" and to just send it to them. It was a good chance to get a loose screw fixed too (the one that makes the angled scope turn for short people). They told me it could take 7 weeks if they needed to send it to Austria to get fixed. Sure enough, about 7 weeks to the day I got the scope back. No charge to me whatsoever. By the look of the scope, I'd swear it's a brand new one. The body is definitely new, probably due to the screw replacement. Where you could once not read "Swarovski" on the body, it is now crsytal clear. The lens looks magnificent. There were sand particles and all sorts of dust near it, but it looks better than the day I got it. AMAZING! Three cheers to Swarovski for returning my scope as promised and doing a stellar job fixing it.

Now I need to send my bins to Nikon at some point for cleaning... I've heard some stories there... Any tips on companies that clean binoculars would be appreciated.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Neat Blue Wasp

I photographed this Blue Mud Dauber (Chalybion californicum) yesterday at Willowwood Arboretum. Apparently, they primarily prey on Black Widows. I didn't see any of those, fortunately.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Butterflies of Fairview Farm and Willowwood Arboretum

I took a short trip to Fairview Farm and Willowwood Arboretum today to look for butterflies and other bugs. Here are some highlights:

Silver-spotted Skipper

Male Zabulon Skipper

The ubiquitous Cabbage White

A blurry picture of a Swarthy Skipper. These guys are TINY.

A cruddy pic of a Spicebush Swallowtail showing the missing orange spot on the underside that helps distinguish it from a Black Swallowtail.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Photoshopped Bugs

When I first played with PhotoShop way back in version 3, I was most amazed by the built-in filters that could be used to make your photos look like drawings, paintings, etc. I was messing with these filters with a few butterfly and dragonfly pictures I have. Here are the results. Do you have a favorite filter in PhotoShop?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Opposable Chums: A Review

Last night I watched the World Series of Birding documentary, Opposable Chums by Jason Kessler. Based around the 2002 World Series of Birding, the film tells the story of the event by interviewing participants and notable birders and following around teams through their 24-hour romp. Notable personalities like Pete Dunne, David Sibley, Kenn Kaufman, and John Fitzpatrick help chronicle the history of the World Series, its goals, its evolution, and the craziness that goes into an event like the WSB.

Having participated in the World Series many times, I could relate to everything that was shown. The film crew did an outstanding job capturing the nuances of the WSB. Things like scouting, eating, bathroom stops, and police encounters were all given attention. Several teams are featured showing the variety of groups participating in the WSB - from the hardcore Cornell guys to the leisurely folks from Pronatura Veracruz to the two nut-jobs who ran the whole thing on foot. My favorite element to the film was the use of humor. Things like nemesis birds, bugs, and encounters with the mammals really captured the essence of the event and had me laughing out loud on many occasions. The film also includes messages about conservation and education that are interspersed nicely without being preachy.

Even if you're someone who hasn't done a Big Day, I'm sure you'll find the film incredibly enjoyable. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this film. You can order it online from the Opposable Chums website. I haven't shown the film to any non-birders yet, so I'd love to hear from anyone who has. Or if you've seen the film, please leave a comment.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Honeymoon Clue

Beth and I will be on our honeymoon in early October. We finally booked it today. Can you guess where we'll be?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ducks, trains, and kids

On Monday, Beth went to New York with her sister, our 8 year-old niece, and our niece's step-sister. The train to New York drives right through NJ's meadowlands and is a great way to do some leisurely birding. Beth was pointing out birds to the kids and the conversation went something like this:

Beth: Look! There are some birds.

Beth's Niece: They're DUCKS!

Beth: Well, ducks are birds.

Beth's Niece: Yeah, but they don't fly!

I guess from a kid's perspective who mostly sees ducks in parks, this is their perception!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bird Poop Facial

Beth heard about this on The View today. Ever wonder what Nightingale poop feels like on your face?

Very local bird news

Recently, a construction site in our town of Piscataway, NJ shut down temporarily so a Killdeer could complete its nesting. Pretty cool!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Etsy and Birds

Rare birds abound in the NY/NJ area this weekend. Both Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-necked Stint appeared within 1000 feet of each other at Jamaica Bay NWR in NY. Now there's a report of Sprague's Pipit way down in south Jersey on a sod farm. That's a bird not on the official NJ checklist. In any event, I haven't seen any of these.

In other news, my sister (who is always up on neat things that are sold on the net), has sent me several links to different sellers on who have bird-related items. If you're not familiar with Etsy, it's a site where crafty and artsy people (AKA people who are not me) can sell their stuff for a small % fee (kind of like eBay without the auctions).

Here are a few samples. Just go there and search for 'bird" and you'll be inundated with sellers.

The Mincing Mockingbird - magnets with funny sayings, prints of nice paintings

BirdzNBeez - Handmade bird and nature-themed jewelry

Bird bird - Gocco screen prints and little wool things