Friday, April 27, 2007

Note for those who have Ivory-bill questions...

If you have questions about my IBWO postings, and you express them via comments on Tom Nelson's blog, I will not be able to respond to them there. He does not allow me to post comments on his blog, even when the discussion is about me and my writings. If you have an honest question of general interest, I'll respond to it even if you submit it here anonymously. If you just wanna call me a pseudoscientific poopyhead, Nelson's blog is the right venue for you.

P.S. I thought to qualify as a "_crow" I had to claim an actual Ivorybill sighting of my own?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dad's Obituary

Posted today:

William R. Pulliam, 1931-2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Life and Death

This Season of Death continues with the passing of my father from a sudden and very aggressive lung cancer. It is a cacophony of contrasting imagery now: plants that appeared dead bursting new green buds, but others that seemed to have survived now slowly dying off, while 15 species of warblers sing in the brown crumbling forest. It is a strange and disorienting Spring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mr. Deity

Unbelievably funny. I should have posted this link months ago.

Zickefoose on NPR today

Julie Zickefoose is on All Things Considered today, talking about the impacts of this widespread freeze on birds. She was on at about 4:45 p.m. Central time, which means she should be on again at 5:45 Mountain/4:45 Pacific/Who:knows:when Arizona/Hawaii/Alaska. Or you can get the audio off the web at the ATC link above after 19:30 EDT/23:30 GMT.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Silent Disaster

There was no dawn chorus today.

After six weeks of sometimes freakishly mild weather, the climate gods changed their minds. Across middle Tennessee this morning the temperatures at NWS and Co-op reporting stations were in the low 20s. Here in our hollow where cold air drainage often keeps us colder than any of those stations, the temperature slipped below 18F. Spring was well-advanced. Fruit trees were in full bloom or beyond. Leaves were out on most of the hardwood trees. All in the past tense.

The dawn this morning was not greeted by the cacophony of spring arrivals and year-round residents that had been the norm in recent weeks. Instead, there was a profound silence, broken by a cardinal here, a titmouse there. The new spring leaves hang now like boiled spinach on wilted twigs. By this afternoon the spring greenness of the forest landscape was gone, as this devastated foliage was already turning brown and beginning to fall. It looks as though we suffered an attack of Agent Orange. Some species, such as elms, willows, black cherries, and blackberries, seem to have been almost unaffected. Others, especially maples, have drooped but still look as though they may recover. But the oaks, hickories, tulip poplars, sycamores, hackberries, sumacs, and many others have been blitzed. They will doubtless leaf out again once the weather warms. But they have already spent the large part of the reserves they safeguarded through the winter, and it will be a massive stress on them. It's a safe bet there will be essentially no crop of nuts or acorns this year. After two years of drought, this added strain might weaken many trees enough to trigger some die-off. Only time will tell. And, needless to say, hopes for all cultivated fruit crops for 2007 can be forgotten here and through much of the south. Our blueberries are already dropping their sad brown corollas, and the withering and blackening bud stems tell me that the rest of the aborted berry will go soon.

This is a widespread disaster, playing out at this very moment across the South. Of course, the mainstream media and mainstream mind will hardly notice. What coverage that there is will focus on those strange and anachronistic people called "farmers" with whom the average american now feels almost no connection, as well as an inconvenience to that quaint little hobby known as "gardening" that so few people really pursue anymore no matter how much they might like waching the TV shows. The real effects on habitat, ecosystem, wild food crops, game and non-game wildlife populations, and countless other pieces of the puzzle are unlikely to even be contemplated. Nothing more fundamental than produce prices in the grocery stores tends to capture mass attention. Suburbanites are actually far more likely to celebrate the drop in pollen counts than expend a thought on starving wildlife and wounded trees.

We're not done. Two more freezing nights to go; tonight may be the coldest.

Update: The next night was the coldest, down to 13F / -11C. About 90% of forest canopy foliage killed. 100% leaf and flower kill on all oaks, hickories, poplars, sycamores. Loss of nearly all fruit, wild and cultivated, except perhaps for a few cherries and blackberries. Persimmons and walnuts also possibly spared by later bloom and leafout. Cultivated peaches, blueberries, grapes possibly suffering substantial whole plant kill, not just fruit loss. Almost no flowers on anything, wild or domesticated. The landscape is surreal...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Larimer County Colorado bird atlases, 1998

Way back in 1998, I did a pair of personal bird atlas projects in what was then my home of Larimer County, Colorado. I used the standard Breeding Bird Atlas grid (USGS 7.5' quads divided into sixths) as my basis. Twice during the year, winter and summer, I spent at least 15 minutes in every block in the county that was accessible by public road. I published my winter atlas results back then on a now defunct web site, that still might be accessible in part from the Internet Wayback Machine. I never got around to publishing my summer results in any form. Now that I have all this data put into eBird, it is finally available online in some form. You can see eBird summaries of my results here:

Winter Atlas

Summer Atlas (no distinction made between breeders and non-breeding summer visitors; includes some late spring migrants)

What you are actually looking at are eBird summaries of all Larimer County records from Dec. '97 through Feb. '98, and May '98 through July '98. So far, I am the only person who appears to have entered any eBird data for the county in these years, so you are just looking at my records for this period. In a funny eBird way, the opening bar graph only list the species found during the specified time period, but shows their occurence for the entire year. The most interesting thing is probably the individual species maps; click on a species name from the table to get the species summary. Then click the Map tab to bring up a presence/absence map of the species, such as this one for Blue Jay in winter:

and this one for Veery in summer:

The dots show the locations of data; green is present, gray is absent. Remember that each point is usually only 15-30 minutes of coverage, so it's a grainy underexposed fast-shutter-speed snapshot, not a detailed time exposure. You can also see how much more extensive my mountain coverage was in the summer than in the winter. There's a lot of interesting detail in the abundance patterns across the county that is mostly lost in the presence/absence maps. Still, I'm glad to finally have this data in a public archive.

As for the missing White-tailed Ptarmigans, I actually did get some on the summer atlas on August 3, but that gets cut off by using eBird's whole month approach. Imagine a single green dot on the western border of the county... pretty close to the single green dot for Brown-capped Rosy Finch in the winter atlas. And the Gyrfalcon? That was a wonderful bird (not originally found by me) at the Rawhide power plant that delighted throngs of birders during its visit.

The Sixteenth Minute

Interesting... one week later and not a single comment about my previous posting, just a few questions about Mike Collins' video, which is really beside the point here. I was mentioned on birdforum and by cyberthrush, but no one (at least no one who actually appears to have read my posting) cared to discuss it further, positively or negatively, superficially or insightfully. So it seems that in spite of the fact that all published analyses of this video have suffered from critical (even fatal) flaws that fundamentally undermine many of their basic conclusions, the birding community is bored with the subject. Ah well, such are the whims of pop culture. The Luneau video's 15 minutes appear to be over. Good thing that nothing really important hinges on this subject, eh?

ADDENDUM: A discussion of sorts has finally started in the comments section of Tom Nelson's blog. In classic Nelson style, even though the discussion is about my analysis, I am not allowed to participate in it. The comment I submitted that he rejected is posted below as a comment to this posting. And, of course, even though Nelson won't post my own contributions, he's allowing rebuttals to my rejected comment. Well, that is if you consider "Bill Pulliam is a dodo head nyah nyah nyah" to be a rebuttal. No additional discussion of anything of substance, no actual challenges to any of my specific points.

ADDENDUM 2: Still waiting... for any of Nelson's anonymous contributors to directly address any of the points or examples I actually presented.

ADDENDUM 3: Just for fun, I indulged another one of my interests (linguistics) and looked at the writing styles of the recent anonymous posters on Nelson's blog. I examined typical stuff: sentence length, frequency of "big words," punctuation, distinctive usages and errors, etc. Looks to me like nearly all of his anonymous postings recently (dozens of them) are actually written by only two different people. I've dubbed them "High Fog" and "Low Fog" after their scores on the widely-used Fog Index of Readability. Both writers have other disinctive, specific, and consistent features of their individual styles that distinguish them that I won't go into. Low Fog is especially prolific, sometimes contributing several comments in sequence as though they came from different people. In a recent posting that received 23 comments, Low Fog appears to have written over half of them. He is rarely insightful, mostly just mocks and name-calls and proclaims the god-like 100% truth of his opinions. High Fog writes in a much more erudite style with an occasional British spelling, though he still rarely advances novel ideas ("he" is used here in the unavoidable grammatical sense, not because I assume both writers must be male). These two writers account for essentially all of the "pro-Nelson" anonymous contributions. The others tend to be far more critical and far less frequent contributors. Other than the "anons" we have the IBWO_athest, who even though I disagree with much of what he writes actually puts significant original thought and insight in to it; and that's about it these days for the folks who don't sign their actual names. Fascinating.

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