Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Audubon.

High: 34° F
Low: 20° F
Conditions: Heavy rain, freezing rain, and snow. Total accumulation around 8 inches. Coastal flood watch is in effect.

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 (kmiles@unity.edu), 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!

16 comments:

The Daily Echo said...

Mom lived in Audubon, PA for many years and visited Mill Grove - one of Audubon's homes - frequently since it was within walking distance. It's a beautiful estate with alot of his artwork (and stuffed birds - blech!). I have volunteered to help Mom with the bird counting but she didn't seemed thrilled with that idea. I don't know why.
ECHO

Kapp pack said...

With the snow we've had we have had quite a few sightings of our resident blue jays and cardinals. I just don't understand why mom gets so excited everytime she seems them.

Woo woo, Kelsey Ann

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Very nice. Love the bird portrait you posted at the beginning. As I understand it, the rules of the BYBC this weekend is that we count for only for a 15 minute period of time, correct? I'll send you what I see, but, unfortunately, it will be another weekend 'away from the farm'. Aidan, my son, has a ski race on Mt. Hood, so we'll be away all day Saturday. Sunday, hopefully, will give us the opportunity to sit and appreciate the boids. :-)

Simba said...

Happy valentines day.

Lots of love Simba x

Katherine and Pippa, said...

I'm not interested in birds. Mistress likes them. She thinks the shooting and stuffing thing was a nineteenth century way of life - even for naturalists.

There is a lot about Audubon in the UK, because of when he was there, mistress thinks. I don't think she knew anything about his history (she has just looked it up).

We hope you have a good bird count and look forward to reading about it.

Pippa

JB's Big World said...

Very interesting post again. Your kitty looks sweet.
I asked my mom to put a basket on her bike.....that was a good suggestion!
Hope you have a happy Valentine's Day!
--JB

Ferndoggle said...

We don't have a whole lot of birds where we live. A couple sparrows and pigeons but nothing real interesting.

We can't wait to see what cool birds show up where you live.

Sherman, Penny & Lola

Marigold said...

I'll see what I can do about spotting any birds tomorrow...in between bits of hay. I am certainly glad that fellow didn't want to study goats. Happy Valentine's Day!

G Man said...

Ari, birds are pretty cool, we had tons of great birds where we lived in Cali. My mom's favorites were the Red-tailed Hawks and she liked the bats too but I don't think they're really birds, not sure.....

Gunner

PKPWV said...

Happy Valentines Day Ari!!!

velcro

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...

WOW!

Another khool lesson from Ari and
K(h)ate!!

We love to watch the birds too - I do try to flush them out of the bushes outside the door - Mom tells me not to hurt them!!!

I do like to eat their seed that drops from the feeders!

Wags&Khysses,
Khyra

Gary,Charity,Scarlett&Katie said...

Very interesting post. Katie thinks Audubon must have been a cool guy to have such a good understanding of the awesomeness of Newfies ;-) Scarlett appreciates the fact that he was interested in Eskimo type dogs as well. Gary and I love birds, so Audubon has something in common with everyone in our family. If we see any birds we will let you know.

Charity
ps Katie sends sloppy Newf kisses and Scarlett sends hoots and howls your way for Valentine's Day

Gus and Louie said...

=]That is a great story of Audubon. We did not know that he liked dogs so much..

We don't understand why anyone would want to stuff a bird either. Stuffings are definitely made to come out...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Fay said...

I understand how Ari and the cats feel about stuffed animals. Eew!

However, I have two Jack Russell Terriers in my house that would be serial killers if they were human! They will kill a mouse in a heart beat and if a bird isn't quick enough it would be lunch! Cats, terriers, same difference.

Fay

Dakota said...

From the base of the Catoctin Mountains. 8AM Friday 2/15. 29 degrees.
So far this morning, three birds. One Robin, and two smaller black birds - The Mom calls them Catbirds, but we're not sure of the technical name. We're going to find our bird bible and check.
Back to sighting........... Dakota

Dmitri said...

Great to see some new characters in this story. Those are two photogenic sister cats. They seem to operate on different planes, but maybe that's just where you caught them in that moment? I bet they'll be counting feverishly--and wanting to help gather some 21st-century Audobon specimens to update the ol' collection.