bird talk at a beer hall the other night. Which is kind of cute, in a way, since it was given by one of the area's preeminent ornithologists, Jeremy Kirchman, whose working province is the "Hall of Birds" at the nearby New York State Museum. Since "beer hall" is just another name for "bar," though, it was pretty loud and crowded at City Beer Hall, the exact opposite of a successful bird watch, but if you were quiet and listened intently (as most of us did), you could make out a good deal of what the speaker was saying. He showed some slides and talked about his job, the field-work part of which he clearly enjoyed the most: the hiking, the camping, the capture and banding, and the "delightful" feeling of a bird in the hand. At one point he was asked which bird was his favorite one to catch in a net, and which one was his least favorite. Chickadees, he replied, are the worst. They screech loudly and rear back, batting at you hysterically (rather, one imagines, the way some people might say "girls" fight), plus their legs are easier to break than toothpicks. Thrushes, he added, are the best. The second they hit the net, they go utterly limp, lolling their heads to one side as if to say, "Ya got me!" He told us that chickens and ducks lived alongside of dinosaurs, and that the duck's "quack-quack bill" ("Is that a scientific term?" asked his partner and stooge who was roaming throughout the audience with a mic) had evolved that way so the ducks could scoop water into their mouths with their muscular tongues and then sift through it for food, sort of like a baleen whale does, before spitting it back out. One person asked about the Museum's Sesame Street exhibit: "What kind of bird is Big Bird?" Kirchman said he would definitely place the large flightless creature in the Paleozoic Era, before the massive species die-off known as the "Permian-Triassic Extinction Event." And I can't remember why, exactly, but I think he said that the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was his all-time favorite bird, though he was also partial to some "rails" he encountered once down in the Tropics. We caught just one sample of today's typo, a seemingly rare breed, in OhioLINK, and 16 of them in WorldCat.
(Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Grands-Jardins National Park, Quebec, Canada, 20 July 2010, from Wikimedia Commons.)