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The Audubon Society Annual Backyard Bird Count begins this Friday, and we’re ready! This morning, Ari and I braved the weather to scope out the best spots for viewing in the fields around our house.
Our brazen rescue cat, Mouse, relegated against her will to indoor life, nevertheless found a good viewing spot near the dining room window. There, she catalogues the comings and goings of birds, no doubt with malicious intent.
Her more reserved sister, Leila Tov, has smartly decided to pace herself for the long weekend, and is currently catching up on sleep near the fireplace.
Hopefully, that will mean she has more energy for blogging. We might need it: each day, we’ll be compiling reports from around the area and from the blogosphere. Regardless of where you live or whether you’ll be participating in the actual count, we’d love to hear from you! Send any observations or sightings to us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or post them on our comments page. Our crack team of pundits, expert sources, webmasters, and production managers will be working around the clock to keep track of the weekend bird blitz. And don’t forget, we have a prize for the blogger who contributes the most bird sightings!
In the meantime, we thought we’d post a little information about the man for whom the Audubon Society is named. And I have to admit, we’re a little conflicted.
John James Audubon (1785-1851) loved dogs. Although the above sketch show him with a setter, that was not his preferred breed of choice. Like many naturalists of his era—including explorer Meriweather Lewis and park planner Frederick Law Omstead—Audubon shared his fieldwork with an affable Newfoundland. Audubon’s was named Plato, and the naturalist wrote regularly of the Newfie’s intelligence and wise demeanor. Local legend suggests that the two of them actually wandered not far from our house, looking for boreal forest birds. That appeals to us.
So, too, do his field sketches. In fact, some of Audubon's most beautiful paintings are of representatives of the canine family, including this rendering of Eskimo dogs. Look familiar?
The real controversy in our house concerns Audubon’s means of ornithological study. Whenever possible, he’d shoot and stuff the birds so that he would have ready access to them whenever he needed to confirm a detail about their physiology. Mouse and Leila Tov have no qualms about killing birds, though they don’t quite see the point of doing so only to stuff them. Ari has never been one to kill anything—even when the opportunity presents itself. But she’s famous for eviscerating every stuffed animal she can find. Why someone would want to waste their time putting stuffing inside a creature is beyond her. So too, I have to admit, is Audubon’s approach to science.
Even still, we thoroughly appreciate his love of the outdoors and his general approach to naturalism: long, slow walks in beautiful places. And we can’t wait to see what new friend will alight on our feeder in the coming days. Stay tuned!