Mammals Monday

This week’s “featured creature” is the California Chipmunk, a member of the squirrel family. This particular species is normally found — you guessed it! — in California and and some Mexican states. Some chipmunks in captivity have lived up to nine years, but their life expectancy is around 3 years in the wild.

Chipmunks are known for their cuteness, and have played some starring roles in animated films — does anyone remember the original “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie?

For more information, check out our nifty Mammals of North America App, now available for iPhone and Android!

Previous Mammals Monday posts:

the American badger

the harp seal

the black bear

the chipmunk

the blue whale

the reindeer

 

Richard Crossley on the Christmas Bird Count

Think Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s Eve are enough to celebrate in December? Here’s one more family and friends get-together to add to the list — the Christmas Bird Count. I am a new birder and this is the first year I have been aware of the CBC so I asked Richard Crossley if he would answer a few questions. Read on to learn more about the CBC and how Richard’s count went this year.

 

Richard will be on Science Friday this week to discuss the CBC with host Ira Flatow and a nation-wide NPR audience. Check local your local NPR affiliate for the air time and tune in.

 

Richard, at this time of year we start hearing about the Christmas Bird Count. What is it?
The National Audubon started the CBC in 1900 in New York (Central Park I believe). The first one for my backyard, Cape May, was only 3 years later in 1903. It sounds amazingly simple, but the goal of the program is to have tens of thousands of volunteers literally count birds around Christmas time. For many this has now become an annual family tradition spanning many generations.

Do you have a sense of how many people participate in the CBC?
Well last year there were over 2200 groups reporting in and they saw over 60 million birds according to National Audubon. This year, the counts will take place until Jan 5th. Our patch, Cape May County, did ours on Sunday. There were 62 participants and we counted 152 species. The best birds I had were Rufous Hummingbird and Bells Vireo – both lingering rarities.

Is the CBC purely a collaborative venture or do teams compete with each other to find the most species?
It is a collaborative venture. Having said that there is clearly a little friendly rivalry within and between counts. There is often a meeting in the evening where most of the records are compiled and ‘war stories’ are swapped. Often people will try to find the rarest bird and announce it at the get together – all in good spirit of course. Neighboring districts will often try to have the higher counts. The most frequently heard comparisons are with the previous year and the previous high count for that territory. Friends on the west coast will send their results over to us, especially if there’s a goodie or a high count, they like to have bragging rights.

Who collects all this data and what do they do with it?
The Audubon takes all those reports from around the country and posts the data on their site (ed. note you can actually look up the figures by year or by bird here: http://cbc.audubon.org/cbccurrent/current_table.html). The beauty of the CBC is that it creates an annual snapshot of bird populations. Comparing this data year to year reveals trends in bird populations which is absolutely invaluable information for scientists and conservationists working on conservation issues. The earliest CBC counts are some of the best data we have on bird populations in the early twentieth century.

How can someone participate in the CBC? Do they have to be in an Audubon club?
Anyone can join, the count gets published with your name if you give a $5 donation, all in a great cause. Each area has its own coordinator who collects all the records.

You are originally from the UK. Is there a CBC there, too?
In Britain, there is a bird count for one day each year in winter, conducted by the RSPB and asks folks to look in their gardens for one hour. This has been ongoing for 25 years. Back in my day, when I lived in the UK the breeding bird census was the big census event. I remember spending days trying to find and count all the breeding birds in a relatively large area – I suppose I was a bit younger back then! Bird Population trends in Britain have changed even more dramatically in recent decades than here and so reinforces the importance of all of these counts, whatever the time of year. Certainly, an annual breeding survey on the same scale as the annual Christmas count would have a huge conservation impact.

Do you have a final word for people who are considering being part of the CBC?
Yes—do it. It’s a great way to get outdoors with your family and friends and inspire them to look for and count birds. Plus, you’re making an important contribution to bird conservation efforts so you can feel good about it too. Doing the CBC helps keep you young, as evidenced especially by Alan Brady. who has done it since he was 12 years old and is now 92. He has been doing the count for 80 years and still drives down for the event from Pennsylvania. If that isn’t what legends are made of, I don’t know what is!

combo

Colombia Tanagers courtesy of Richard Crossley

Richard is still hard at work on the upcoming Western version of The Crossley ID Guide. In the meantime, enjoy his video of Colombia Tanagers and other Western species coming in to feed on bananas. Listen carefully as he IDs a young male that his companions previously thought was a female. This type of ID — using transitional plumage — is where The Crossley ID Guide is absolutely invaluable. Richard’s photo spreads include more plumages, more specimens, more of everything to make difficult IDs easier.

Also, if you are a fan of NPR’s Science Friday, tune in this week to hear Richard discuss the Christmas Bird Count.

combo

Mammals Monday!

This week’s “featured creature” from the Mammals of North America App is the Ursus americanus — also known as the American black bear. These bears can be seen throughout the U.S., and are commonly found in forested areas away from human settlements.

Fun fact: A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh was named after a black bear named Winnipeg, who lived at the London Zoo from 1915 to 1934. This image shows Winnie with her owner, Lt. Harry Colebourne.

Check out our other Mammals Monday posts:
the chipmunk

the blue whale

the reindeer

So, what carnivore does Panthera president Luke Hunter think most “needs the spotlight for conservation efforts”?

Hint — it is one of the Wizard of Oz trifecta…

Click through for the answer and to access a wonderful interview with one of the leading Big Cats conservation voices in the world (and coincidentally PUP author), Luke Hunter.

In a revealing interview with The Wildlife Conservation Examiner Cathy Taibbi, Hunter reveals that the African lion is in what he calls a “conservation blind-spot”. Because tours run through heavily populated areas, it gives the impression that lions are thriving and populous in the wild, but Hunter notes that these tours run through protected areas and that the story is quite different in unprotected regions. Lions compete for resources just like any other animal and unfortunately in farming areas, people and their livestock are easy pickings which creates dangerous conditions and threatens the economic viability of the farms themselves.

There are lots of other great tidbits in the interview which is available on the Examiner web site: http://www.examiner.com/wildlife-conservation-in-national/carnivores-of-the-world-interview-with-dr-hunter-author-president-panthera-review

Read along to discover how Luke Hunter was bitten by the big-cats bug when he was a toddler, whether there really is a difference between the puma and the cougar, and whether re-introduced wolf populations really are different from the wolves of an earlier period.

Click on the cat to the right to view a sample page from Carnivores of the World.

A three year old birder shows us how it’s done — with The Crossley ID Guide

The Crossley ID Guide has terrific visuals — exactly the kind of thing that appeals to kids (of all ages, I’d argue, but in this case, of the younger ages). Check out Fisher’s spot-on IDs of the owls in the Crossley ID Guide in this video.

combo

Mammals Monday (on a Tuesday)

As we gear up for the holiday season, this  week’s mammal from the popular Mammals of North America App is the Caribou — also known as a reindeer! Caribou are found in Northern sub-polar regions including Canada and parts of Alaska, though they are endangered in certain areas.

Fun facts: The earliest fossil evidence of caribou comes from Germany and has been dated to about 440,000 years ago! Caribou are also the only species of deer where both sexes have antlers.

Check out some of the previous “Mammals Monday” posts:

the chipmunk

the blue whale

Mammals Monday!

This week’s featured mammal from the Mammals of North America app is the Eastern Chipmunk. As the weather gets colder, you might see chipmunks collecting food to store for the winter in their extensive underground burrows — these burrows can be up to 3.5 metres long, and often have multiple entrances.

Fun fact: a chipmunk is a kind of squirrel!

Previous Mammals Monday posts:

The blue whale

 

 

 

Mammals Monday!

Mammals Monday is back! Tune in every week for a screenshot from our exciting new app, Mammals of North America. The app, available for Android and iPhone, is an essential field guide to the land and marine mammals of the USA and Canada.

This week’s featured mammal is the balaenoptera musculus, also known as the Blue Whale. Blue whales are a protected species, and can be found in the Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and off the coast of Southern California.

Fun fact: Blue whales can live to be over 80 years old!

Get them hooked on birds young — so they buy books later!

Well, at least that’s what a self-serving bird book publicist might say.

A friend forwarded an announcement for the new My Bird World app for iPad. It costs 4.99 and features interactive games that help children (or even novice adult birders) learn basic information about hummingbirds, American goldfinches, sandpipers, and 21 other birds. The app was created using data, photos, and sounds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which is the leading birding research facility in the States so you know the content is spot-on. I downloaded it last night and managed to unlock two birds by matching trivia and speed-feeding the right foods to the right birds.

My Bird World is a fun way to engage younger birders and the perfect gateway into the world of birding (and hopefully to the broader natural world, too). For kids intrigued by the game, the perfect next step will be a good identification guide that is also built around the way kids learn. The Crossley ID Guide with its layered photo plates appeals to younger readers comfortable in a photo-shopped world and provides them with just enough information to spur their own observations of unlabeled birds in the book. At the events I’ve attended with Richard Crossley, children are almost universally interested in this book — drawn to its highly visual layout and the “Where’s Waldo”-esque tiny birds in the background.

So a thumb’s up for My Bird World and its attempt to get a younger audience engaged in bird watching.

combo

New app will identify birds by sound — too good to be true?

Could this really work? Next spring, Mark Berres, a University of Wisconsin–Madison ornithologist, will release an app called WeBird that identifies birds by call. I can’t wait to give it a try in my backyard! In the meantime, though, studying id books seems to be the way to go, so check out our full catalog of bird books here: http://press.princeton.edu/birds/.

 

UPDATE: Making a top-flight bird call identification app is tougher than it sounds, according to Mark Berres, developer of WeBIRD. While the project did not reach the public in spring of 2012, as Berres hoped, he says the app is on track to a release in time for the North American migration in early 2013. Books still good though: http://press.princeton.edu/birds/.

Do you love this book? Then help the author make a new edition.

Then go read this notice from the illustrator H. Douglas Pratt. He is hard at work on a new edition for 2013 or 2014, but needs additional resources. If you sponsor one of the illustrations for the book, you will receive the original artwork after the book publishes — this is an amazing opportunity to own a one-of-a-kind painting from one of the leading bird illustrators in the world and also contribute to a new edition of a now classic and revered text.

Want to see samples of the paintings from the earlier version of the book — click here.