August 17, 2008

Mock Me All Night Long

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells his children that they can have all sorts of fun with their new pellet guns (it was a different time, huh?), but they can’t shoot something beautiful and simple like a mockingbird. In fact, it’s the one thing Scout can ever remember her father calling sinful.

And, the mockingbird is beautiful and innocent…until it decides to sit outside your apartment window every night at 1 a.m. and sing to its ADHD heart’s content. Then, even the most loyal of bird lovers (that would be me) might wish for Scout’s pellet gun.

Of course, I did not shoot that little mockingbird outside my apartment window—that would be a sin (and illegal). And now, with a couple years of more restful sleep between me and the guilty bird, I am ready to tell you about how awesome it really is.

Your BOTW is the Northern mockingbird.

Fact: The Northern mockingbird is a medium-sized songbird with a long tail and legs. It is a pretty, pale gray above and white below. It has two white wingbars set against darker gray wings. And big, bright white patches can be seen while it is in flight.
Fact: The Northern mockingbird is best known for its talent of mimicry. A male’s song is long and complex, incorporating the songs of several other birds and sometimes the sounds of barking dogs, meowing cats, or machinery.
Fact: As I discovered in Victorville, the Northern mockingbird often sings well into the night, especially around a full moon.
Fact: It is believed that most of these nighttime singers are unmated males. I like to think of them as adolescent boys who will try any come-on to impress the girl.
Fact: The Northern mockingbird often combines its elaborate songs with wing flashing displays, jumping a short distance into the air and showing off its bright white patches. You’ll see the bird do just that right at the beginning of this video.

The Northern mockingbird is also known for harassing cats and dogs. Scientists debate whether it’s a form of play or actual nest defense. Whatever it is, I can’t believe how many videos there were on YouTube of mockingbirds teasing cats. This cat seems way to calm, by the way.

Fact: Song obviously plays an important role in the life of the Northern mockingbird. Not only does the bird establish territory and pair up through song, males actually sing before, during, and after copulation. (Females are a bit more genteel about the whole act, but they do quiver their wings afterward.)
Fact: The Northern mockingbird is also known for its “boundary dance,” where two males square off along some unseen territory boundary and basically try to “dance” each other away. I've never seen this before, but I like to imagine it’s a lot like the movie You Got Served.
Fact: The Northern mockingbird isn’t the only mimic from the bird world. In fact, its skills seem pretty amateurish when you watch this video of the lyre bird from Australia. (Sorry, embedding isn’t available for this BBC video.) It’s worth watching until the end; you won’t believe some of the sounds it can make.

This has been Your BOTW.

August 7, 2008

Yellow Fellow

With just a couple of weeks before my company's big international convention, I am ready to pull my hair out. (As are my coworkers, who make up the majority of my blog readers.) So, I thought I'd post a very special Bird of the Week that my husband, Tim, wrote a few months ago. It's great for two reasons: One, I don't have to take the time to write it. Two: it's short and funny, so you don't have to take much time to enjoy it. Everyone wins!

And while this special bird is familiar to all of us, you might learn a few things!

Your BOTW is Big Bird.

Fact: Sesame Street’s big yellow bird can roller skate, ice skate, dance, sing, write poetry, draw, and ride a unicycle.
Fact: Big Bird has a teddy bear named “Radar.”
While Big Bird is generally thought to be a canary, when he visited the Neighborhood of Make-Believe in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood he shared with X the Owl that he is a Golden Condor. (Highly endangered.)
Fact: Big Bird's birthday is March 20.

This has been Your BOTW.

Ah, gotta love Big Bird. Now, I could end this with a cute little video of the big yellow guy so we could all reminisce about our younger days watching Sesame Street. But we're all stressed and tired and probably mad at someone in another department, so I thought an angry spoof about Big Bird catching bird flu would be more appropriate. Enjoy!

August 3, 2008

Snowbird Blues Festival

Tim and I went to the Snowbird Blues Festival this weekend with my parents. Granted, the only connection between the festival and birds is the name of the ski resort where it was held. (OK, I saw a couple robins and swallows while I was up the mountain.) But the talent at the festival was amazing, so I looked up some YouTube video of my two favorite performers.

Paul Thorn of The Paul Thorn Band charmed me right from the beginning with his story-telling. Every song had a hilarious southern story behind it (including a bird receiving mouth-to-beak resuscitation). His songs were a great combination of blues, country, and rock, and they were all delivered with a cute little smirk. This song is one of my favorites from the evening.

Ruthie Foster sang earlier in the day, and she stole the show as far as I'm concerned. (It was just sad that more people weren't there to hear her sing.) Her soulful voice is incredible, and she combines it with an easy-going stage presence that just instantly connects her with the audience. I turned to my mom halfway through one of her gospel-inspired songs and told her that if I knew I would hear something like this on Sunday morning, I would be the first one to church. The festival emcee and Ruthie were both a little shocked when the audience almost rioted for an encore. Loved her. This video shows off her vocals in a big way. She's also a talented guitar and piano player.

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