Monday, October 31, 2011
Review: The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America,, "among best photographic guides... ever"
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The bird you had to indentify correctly to win is a Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1st-winter. f. of the subspecies coronata. This used to be considered a separate species and was called Myrtle Warbler. The above photo appears on page 610 of The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Top Ten Reasons There Are No Birds at Your Feeder
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Wow, this is one strange looking Cardinal we thought when we looked in the shrub behind our feeder. We know this is a late stage juvenile Cardinal molting into his adult plumage. Notice the all black bill, mottled appearance and the grayish plumage on his back. Fledgling cardinals are mostly brownish with a black bill and little or no black around the bill.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
According to The Atlantic Wire "The Big Year Flops for Fox..Nobody turned up to see Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black's birdwatching comedy The Big Year, which grossed and anemic $3.2 million in its opening weekend." Says The Los Angeles Times, The Big Year Movie had the second worse debut of any 2011 movie so far.
"The Big Year," 20th Century Fox's comedy about competitive bird watchers, failed to attract moviegoers despite having three major stars. The studio co-financed the movie with Dune Entertainment for about $41 million before Canadian tax credits. Its backers will likely end up in the red because word-of-mouth isn't expected to be good — audiences gave it an average grade of B-minus.
"It's disappointing, and I don't think we'll be upping the marketing," admitted Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox. "It's a quality movie, and we're proud of it, but I guess people just aren't interested in bird watching."
So why is this??
The movie itself was rated an average of ok, but not great by critics, the subject matter of a comedy of 3 guys competing with one another in a hard-core birding competition was not appealing enough to a larger audience, and, in today's world of communication overload, it is VERY hard to get the word out to sell and promote just about anything.
Mainstream press and others gave mixed reviews, with some quite negative. Even the more prominent media gave faint praise. The NY Times said the comedy is "gentle and low key." Time called the movie a "slight but affable comedy...is soft as a bunny." Ebert gave it 3 stars and said it "has an innocence and charm that will make it appealing for families, especially those who have had enough whales and dolphins for the year." Is any of this enough to get average moviegoers, looking for big entertainment value, laughs, or excitement for their buck, flocking to the theater in droves? Evidently not.
Birders, including ourselves, liked The Big Year movie, many loved it and gave it positive reviews. What's there not to like about a movie that, for once, does not paint birders as Jane Hathaway, but shows birders as believable, varied, intelligent people who are passionate about seeing birds. Birders are always eager to promote birding and swell our ranks.
However, competitive birding to the extent of doing a big year is a rarified, small corner of the birding world. There is no big prize, title, or big following. It's not as if one was watching the Tour de France. No one would necessarily know who was doing a big year until the results of birders' year lists are published in the American Birding Association's Big Day/List Report.
The fact of the matter is that there are millions of Americans who relate to birds, but the vast majority, almost 50 million, do so by feeding and watching birds in their backyards. They would not call themselves birders although we think they could.
We define a birder as anyone who enjoys watching birds. We do not split hairs over the words birders, bird watchers, backyard bird lovers, etc. It's all a big tent and we welcome anyone with an interest in birds.
There are vast numbers of even intermediate birders who own binoculars, have taken a trip to see birds, but have never done any competitive birding. They do not know what a code 5 bird is or have ever heard of Attu (yes, there are still birding tours there, costs $6,000 plus.) They have no idea what a big year is or subscribe to a birding magazine or have heard of the American Birding Association and might not see a reason to see this movie.
Birders just assume that other birders will go see the movie. On facebook, I mentioned the movie was coming out and one birder's response was "old news." But it was not old news to the folks who read our blog or facebook, many of whom are casual or non-birders.
Getting the Word Out
In today's world one is faced with information overload with a constant barrage of data coming from an increasing number of sources. People spend more time in their own self-controlled bubbles of facebook, twitter, TV choices, and internet site visits. It, in most instances, becomes more difficult, each day, for anyone to try and sell, promote, or get a message out to large numbers of people, especially a message that takes explaining.
So if you are still reading this blog post, here is our message -
Go see this movie. You will see a variety of people holding binoculars (and cameras, another great way to interact with birds) enjoying birds. You will see some amazing places with beautiful scenery and footage (far too little) of beautiful birds. Seeing this movie may change your life and get you involved in this wonderful hobby. We were TV producers, hosts, and bird videographers of our own PBS birding TV series, Stokes Birds at Home (which reached 40 million people), and we know, through that, that we introduced many people to birding.
If you are a blogger and you want to inspire more people to become birders, don't whine or consider this old news. Continue to tell your friends and others to see The Big Year movie. If this movie gets more people involved in birding then it's not a flop. Truth is that birding needs all the help it can get introducing people to this hobby. Ultimately it may lead to people caring more about birds and conserving birds. Birds need all the help they can get and that is the ultimate message.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Sparrow ID, Melospiza Sparrows
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Keeping with the red theme, the Red Maple leaves are peaking now in their most vibrant fall colors. We walk around oooh-ing and aaah-ing.
Red Maples, lit like glowing embers, spill reflections on the pond we live on. It's peak leaf peeking, soon to be over. There's nothing like the fall colors in New England. Enjoy.
Friday, October 07, 2011
Here are the trailers, with a few explanations. for the non-avid birder.
The Big Year - Official Trailer
The original trailer pitches the movie to the largest possible audience, (not mentioning the word birding), as big adventure and a friendly competition between 3 guys. The "bird fallout" is a real thing and does occurs when a group (of sometimes very large numbers) of migrating birds are grounded due to weather conditions, such as strong north winds blowing on the Texas Coast so that northward migrating birds in spring, who have just crossed the Gulf of Mexico, are forced to land.
The Big Year- Stu and Brad Scare Kenny
Stu and Brad get Kenny worried that his record will be broken.
Evidently Kenny thinks his record is safe, but then has a wake-up call. In the book The Big Year, in 1998, three different birders, Sandy Komito, Al Levantin and Greg Miller (who is still an active birder see Greg's website here) chased Sandy's record of 721 birds but Sandy then set a new North American record of 745 birds.
Is anyone challenging that record today? Yes, at least one birder, named John Vanderpoel, who has a blog, is attempting a Big Year and as of Oct. 6th he has seen 726 species. There's still time to break the record. By the way, a Big Year area covered here means the American Birding Association area of the 49 Continental U.S. States including Alaska, and Canada and the French islands St. Pierre and Miquelon, plus adjacent waters to a distance of 200 miles from land or half the distance to a neighboring country, whichever is less. Excluded are Bermuda, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Greenland.
Many people do their own Big Year. It can mean how many birds seen in one year in a single US state, or Canadian Province, or hey, make up your own idea, and see how many birds you can see in one year in your own back yard!
The Big Year - Stu's Advice
The Big Year, Sea Sick Stu
Kenny tries to get Stu seasick on an ocean birding trip. Lots of birders go on pelagic trips out into the ocean to see cool birds. Besides gulls, birders are particularly eager to see pelagic birds, such as Albatrosses, Shearwaters, Petrels, or Storm-Petrels. If you do go, here are some hints to prevent getting seasick, such as don't eat a big greasy breakfast of eggs, home fries, and lots of bacon. On pelagic birding trips they may "chum", or drop fish parts over the side, to lure in fish eating birds.
The Big Year - The Bridge
A Pink-footed Goose, a rare bird, has been spotted at the end of the narrow boardwalk. Kenny runs ahead of people, Stu and Brad wait and let the explorer scouts pass by them and miss the bird. Birders doing a big year must drop everything in an instant to race to a rare bird sighting. There is always the risk they will miss the bird. Birders well know the feeling of elation in seeing a rarity and the letdown of a miss.
In the birding world there is much discussion as to how birders should act, especially around a rare bird event. It is important to not stress or scare the bird, or behave badly towards other people, or break laws. The American Birding Association has a birders code of ethics, which every birder should know.
Birders will pick apart the accuracy of this movie in terms of the birds. Will the movie have the right species of bird in the right habitat? Probably not always. Greg Miller was a birding consultant to this movie, and often on the set, but ultimately, the producers and directors decide what they think makes a good movie, bird inaccuracies aside. Would a Pink-footed Goose (a species from Iceland and Greenland that sometimes appears in the northeast U.S. in winter), be found near a Calliope Hummingbird, a small hummingbird of the West? Unlikely.
The Big Year - Audubon Clip,
Go see the movie and let us know how you like it.