Saturday, 25 June 2022

8x8

morning chorus: a suspended hotel suite in Sรกpmi cladded with three-hundred fifty birdhouses 

meanwhile margaret atwood says hold my beer: teach and student, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, spar over which dystopian vision is more plausible  

don’t say g*y: Disney introduces its first openly closeted cast of characters  

makeup and monobrow: a quick survey of the female eyebrow in art 

border and backsplash: the mosaic tile museum of Gifu—over ten-thousands exemplars, many rescued from buildings slated for demolition 

i had hoped that god would work one of his signature miracles and spare me from is also signature “horrible pain in childbirth” curse: the Virgin Mary reclaims her nativity narrative  

stonk-and-go: the US Securities and Exchange Commission weighs sweeping change to curtail meme-driven trades  

a doghouse for eddie: charmingly, Frank Lloyd Wright (previously) builds a home for a canine and his human companion

Monday, 6 June 2022

sort sol

Revisiting an arresting and formative moment from his childhood in western coast Denmark, as the Guardian reports, photographer Sรธren Solkรฆr is exhibiting a portfolio of mesmerizing murmurations of starlings on the wing from the Wadden Sea to northern Spain. These flocks of hundreds of thousands of birds can blot out the sun (the dark sun of the title, referring to the accompanying coffee table edition), and it remains a mystery how autonomous individuals achieve this degree of mass-coordination for these majestic manoeuvre.

Saturday, 21 May 2022

motacillidae

H snapped a very good picture of a avian pal who’s been visiting and running about on the deck lately, Bachstelze or more descriptively a pied wagtail (Motacilla alba—a mistranslation of the Latin term “little-mover” from the medieval notion that cilla meant tail). I had seen these passerine birds on the path that runs by the pond (= Bach) with their distinctive gait, swift but halting after a few paces to bounce their tail feathers, but they hadn’t before ventured to our backdoor—apparently they prefer the bare range of pavement for foraging where it can best see and pursue and the deck met these conditions too. This comical, constant tail wagging is observed in all related species but the behaviour is poorly understood—possibly a tactic to flush out prey or signal vigilance to potential predators.

Friday, 6 May 2022

all-seeing or the eyes have it

Though apparently gregarious with most of the village as well, a young peacock—we thought it was a peahen but learned it was young one and the signature plumage and dimorphism does not develop until they reach three years of age—has adopted H and I and roams our yard and roosts in various spots on the balcony and the front stoop, friendly in guest territory but possibly territorial in his own backyard. He belongs to a neighbour and is called Charlie and often appears before the French doors and jarringly at times at the kitchen window sill. Apparently this behaviour in peafowl, congregating before glazed faรงades, is to examine themselves in the glass, like a mirror. I held up my cell phone display in front of Charlie to reflect back his image and he regarded it with interest, rather than destructive pecking at the screen and my hand. I remember the controversy a few years back over an airline passenger trying to board with their therapy peacock and at the time siding with those who condemned the act as performative and over-the-top but getting a sense of their calm demeanour and engagement, I have come around to the other side in thinking these are legitimate therapy animals, tail-feathers and all. We are looking into getting our own. The collective term for a group of peafowl is an ostentation.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

8x8

song birds: a printed circuit bluejay and other avian friends  

industrials: a leitmotif of edifying vocabulary—see previously—from Futility Closet  

occultation: Perseverance rover captures Mars’ lumpy moon Phobos partially eclipsing the Sun 

infinite tapestry: a generated side-scrolling landscape—via Web Curios  

days of rage: a gallery of activism posters curated by the USC Library system—see previously—via ibฤซdem  

art bits: an archives of HyperCard stacks (see also)—via Waxy  

ghost in the shell: skeletons in video games  

cheeps and peeps: the rich, melodic syntax of birdsong

Friday, 18 February 2022

7x7

pigeon fancy: Emil Schachtzabel illustrates unnatural selection in prize breeds  

act local, think global: a twenty-question quiz about one’s bioregion, immediate surroundings and a challenge for low-scorers 

onomastic terminology: petrichor, overmorrow, interrobangs and other proper orthonyms  

wysiwyg: Jane Austen used straight pins to edit the rough drafts of her manuscripts before word processors and correction-liquid  

device orchestra: various peripherals, gadgets and appliances perform “Seven Nation Army”  

pandemic cartograms: our unvaccinated world  

hodowla goล‚ฤ™bi: profiling Poland’s pigeon keepers, moving up in the pecking-order

Saturday, 12 February 2022

7x7

forum gallorum: step into this unassuming salon to inspect a piece of Roman London, reminiscent of discovering this shopping mall in Mainz—via Nag on the Lake  

burds: just a fun little cleanse—cartoony birds hopping about—via Waxy  

shred, white and blue: the totally normal and perfectly legal ways the White House handled official records 

neft daลŸlarฤฑ: a decaying offshore oil platform in the middle of the Caspian Sea  

the thoughtful spot: the Phrontistery (ฯ†ฯฮฟฮฝฯ„ฮนฯƒฯ„ฮฎฯฮนฮฟฮฝ, Greek for the thinking place) catalogues a treasury of rare and obscure words—via Kottke  

gumshoe: the bygone era of the hotel detective—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump  

be mine: the Lupercalia and the origins of Saint Valentine

Friday, 15 October 2021

lieutenant pigeon

Topping the UK charts this week in 1972, the novelty band’s song “Moldy Old Dough” (a play on the flexible jazz-era phrase vo-dee-o-doe) featured Rob Woodward and his mother Hilda respectively on keyboard and piano, not only making this short, endearing tune the only number one hit to feature mother and son but also the eldest woman to earn that distinction, aged fifty-eight at the time. The band from Coventry was the second incarnation of a project called Stavely Makepeace and subsequent recordings included “Desperate Dan,” “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen,” “Grandfather Clock,” and “Disco Bells.”

Thursday, 7 October 2021

pair bonding

Endearingly, Kottke brings us the story of the requited courtship and romance of zookeeper Chris Crowe and his non-corvid bird wife, Walnut—a spry twenty-three year-old white-named crane, the former earning the latter’s affections despite being a rather lacking (by avian standards) mate and life partner.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

rewilding

Via Super Punch, we learn that not only has the Swiss ambassador to the US made the expansive embassy grounds in Washington, DC, a former farm in the Woodley Park neighbourhood, a biodiverse oasis, replacing the manicured lawn with native shrubs and trees to attract and sustain birds and other wildlife, the ambassor’s actions have set a positive example, leading other diplomatic missions to adopt ecologically sounder landscaping practices including vegetable gardens and beehives. More from the Audubon Society at the links above.

Monday, 24 May 2021

7x7

television memories: John Hoare reflects on his birthday by tracking down what was on BBC at the moment he was born 

hijack: a Belarusian fighter jet diverts a commercial airliner in order to apprehend a dissident blogger  

greatest of all time: legendary gymnast Simone Biles has a rhinestone goat on her leotard  

please sir, three of your finest cocaines: a pharmaceutical advertisement from 1912  

europigeon songbird contest: the grand prix goes to Turdus (see previously) Philomelos 

 stardust: a collection of micrometeorites and a guide how to hunt for them  

omnibus programming: a revue of fifty obscure British comedy series from the 1980s

Thursday, 20 May 2021

bombylildรฆ

While in Europe we don’t have humming birds (Kolibris), we are lucky enough to have these uncanny important pollinators called the fly bee or the humblefly (Wollschweber). Our garden is absolutely full of them but I’ve never managed to capture a picture of one until now when I spied one resting on a flower (see also), which by the end of the season can grow quite substantially and present like their avian cousins but less so than the equally camera-shy Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Taubenschwรคnzchen) that hovers and has a proboscis for nectaring. We’re visited by them too and maybe if I’m patient, I’ll be able to get a photo.

Friday, 26 February 2021

bitmap bull finch

Via Present /&/ Correct, we really enjoyed these graphics of pixelated renderings of common birds of Japan (ๆ—ฅๆœฌใฎ้‡Ž้ณฅไธ€่ฆง) and especially, vis-ร -vis a pair of our recent posts, could firstly relate to the slander and naming conventions of obvious avian defamers and secondly to more personalised labels for new electronic file folders and its source catalogue.  Much more to explore at the links above. 

Friday, 12 February 2021

intermediate egret

Vis-ร -vis our last post, here’s a bit of a coda on avian nomenclature in this extensive thread of birds named by ornithologists who were clearly frightened by birds as young children and have since worked through that trauma hurling insults at select members of the group. There were too many funny names to mention them all but some of our tragic favourites were the Monotonous Lark, the Red-Rumped Bush Tyrant, the pictured Perplexing Scrubwren (our poster birb), the Rough-Faced Shag and the Smew. What’s your favourite and which would be a suitable stage name for you?

Thursday, 11 February 2021

bird box

Via Waxy, not only do we learn that delightfully on classic Korean operating system and file storage utility, that a newly created folder was assigned the name of a type of bird (the Korean for “new” ์ƒˆ๋กœ์šด saelon being homonymous with bird, ์ƒˆ sae) and if one made too many folders (on the order of the hundreds) they would pled by starting to call them things like “I’ve run out of bird names,” “You’re still making folders” or “Please stop,” based on this Easter egg and programming artefact, there’s now an extension for Macintosh that draws on a list of over ten-thousand avian species at random and gives those names to new folders.

Monday, 7 December 2020

twitterpation

Predawn birdsong for some reason seems to peal with far more volume in the city than at home in the forest, and was noticing this fact on this dark December morn, also recalling how I’d read somewhere that more animals were becoming nocturnal to avoid human, so perhaps in the woods, our feathered friends aren’t compelled to be such early-risers, nor have they taken to our bird-feeders. So this latter sentiment from Victorian poet Oliver Herford (*1860 – †1935, born on the day that the referring article was published) coupled with the fact that ornithologists do not really know why birds sing during the winter with mating season so far off—both courtesy of Better Living through Beowulf—resonated with us as a reminder that the cold, dim days don’t last forever: 

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember. 

“We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

little birdhouse in your soul

Spotted first at Pasa Bon!, the designation third space—which this apartment tower in Beijing also carries (2010 by architect Li Xinggang, ๆŽๅ…ด้’ข)—usually denotes a vanishing though often idealised hang-out spot that’s not work or home (Central Perk, the Peach Pit from 90210 but I think that these architectural accents, these roosts like birdhouses that project off each unit do qualify as somewhere liminal to escape to. Less like crowded apartments cheek-to-jowl, these flats seem more like stacked, vertical villas.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

ravenmaster

Via compatriot internet caretaker Nag on the Lake, we learn that troublingly the Tower of London’s resident corvids (see previously) are straying from their home, uncaptivated and driven to distraction by the lack of tourist traffic.
While lore holds that Charles II in 1675 just after the restoration of the monarchy (I wouldn’t take any chances either) first ordered the ravens to be cared for after receiving the prophesy that the crown and tower would both crumble if the birds departed, others source the mythology as a Victorian bit of whimsy, whom were rather probably more morbidly attracted to the spot in the first place due to all the executions and encouraged to remain because their scavenging habits that kept the place tidy. Whatever the case, I hope they’re not compelled to stray too far and that the crowds can return soon.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

tuppence a bag

I had the thought walking through the city the other day noticing the persistent scratching and pecking of pigeons amid all the rubbish on the streets and wondered if the two factors (pigeons aren’t pests, just opportunistic and very tolerable of human vermin) could be combined to achieve a solution. I don’t want to frame pigeons as underachievers but I don’t know if they can be trained—although doves seem very patient and compliant with prestidigitators and seen to have enjoyed their work as emissaries—to pick up and sort trash.
I’ll have to ask a friend who is a pigeon fancier what he thinks of my scheme. Maybe it’s simpler to train people to be decent and not litter rather than have someone else clean-up after us. In any case—that same thought has been turned into a real exercise at a historic park in France, where rangers and handlers are training rooks to spruce up the place and pick up any stray litter, human visitors being generally respectful about leaving nothing else behind, in exchange for a small morsel of bird food. What do you think? As with any intervention, there could be unforeseen consequences. Perhaps corvids are better at teaching other birds to execute clean-up missions. I think, especially with the insect population dangerously low with knock-on effects up the food chain, maybe this relieves some pressure on the competition for scarce resources by feeding the birds as a reward.

Monday, 2 July 2018

post-dated post script: shore birds

We’ve returned to a very fine campsite on the southern end of Lake Garda (previously) but this time were graced with a pitch directly on the water, just behind a copse of reeds that despite the foot-traffic of campers and dogs, a variety of sea birds use as a living and breeding habitat.
There were the familiar friends in mallards and those more mysterious and wary black plumed birds with the white beaks that I called Nล theatre ducks until learning that they’re properly called bandicoots (Fulica—Latin for coot, a mud hen, apparently oder eine Blรคsshuhn) but judging by the multi-voiced chorus each morning, a crescendo of calls that formed this wall of sound, there were more sorts of birds hiding in the tall grass.
Later some sea gulls, crows, pigeons (the latter being strange candidates for cohabitating I thought) revealed themselves but we still weren’t able to identify all the cries, which was quite the persistent wake-up call with no snooze option. For warmth, growing ducklings sleep all tangled up, like a rat king.
I recall reading how in huge colonies, bats and other swarming creatures distinguish their vocal signatures by choosing unique places in terms of frequency or pitch but in situations where range is shared, I wondered how confusion was avoided—except that these diverse species seem to respect one another and wait their turns, going in a sort of coordinated, pre-arranged sequence. Here are a couple of audio samples, which became a pretty endearing accompaniment over the next few days. I wish I had taken a recording during the first few days before the weather turned stormy as the sounds seemed more distinct and there was less lapping of waves but happily all the residents and the reeds weathered the winds and driven rains just fine, if not a bit off key.