Thomas R. Dunlap’s excellent In the Field, among the Feathered: a History of Birders and Their Guides (Oxford University Press, 2011) describes how bird guides gradually improved over time. One important innovation was the development of place- or region-specific guides and checklists.
In this post, I note 7 such guides and checklists with an eye on the California condor.
Continue reading “Regional field guides & checklists: 1964-2009”
There are historical reports of California condors in Canada. For those who like to consider the evidence, here are details from 8 sources.
Continue reading “Canada”
Birds and trees go together.
I have seen hundreds of images of California condors roosting or nesting in trees. In most of these images, the tree is dead.
Is that because California condors prefer their trees dead? Or is it that people prefer images of condors in trees that are dead?
Continue reading “Live trees or dead trees?”
Many images of the California condor also show their habitat in the background. We see condors soaring over mountains and the ocean, roosting in trees, and nesting in caves.
Habitat matters to the California condor. As part of his argument against capturing all condors for captive breeding, environmentalist David Brower wrote:
A condor is five per cent feathers, flesh, blood, and bone. All the rest is place.
In this post, I present images of just those places, the habitat, from a variety of sources.
Continue reading “Illustrations & photos of habitat: 1880s-1990”
It is hardly surprising that comparisons have been made between the California condor and large aircraft. Here are some examples.
Continue reading “Aircraft comparisons”
Last year, James K. Sheppard won an award for his 3-dimensional map of the space utilized by a single California condor. This remarkable map was made possible by data obtained from a global positioning system (GPS) device attached to the condor’s wing. Developing the map required complex analysis performed on a supercomputer, plus artistic talent.
Sheppard’s remarkable map, and all the winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition 2015, can be seen here.
Maps such as Sheppard’s have become possible thanks to new technologies. In the past, information showing where a species of bird lives was often presented only in words.
For example, Roger Tory Peterson’s A Field Guide to Western Birds did not include range maps in the 1st (1941) or 2nd (1961) editions. The 3rd edition (1990) does include maps showing where bird species breed, winter, and are resident year-round. But there is no such map for the California condor. All condors were in captivity at this time. There is only a 1-sentence description of their former range. (The 1st 3 editions of Peterson’s guide were published by Houghton Mifflin.)
In recent years, range maps have become more common. Even the typical maps that show range in 2 dimensions can convey a great deal of valuable information about where birds live.
To demonstrate the variety of range maps and how they have changed through time, I present 10 maps for the California condor. These are in chronological order.
Continue reading “Range maps”
Birders are listers. For some who are interested in birds, check lists are about keeping track of the birds they have (and haven’t) seen. For others, these lists are about monitoring and understanding the diversity of birds.
Lists are available for all the world’s bird species and for just the species found in specific places. Place-specific check lists are available for the birds found in states and provinces, cities and counties, parks and forests, and mountains and islands. For example, Theodore Roosevelt kept a list of the birds he saw in Washington while he was president.
There is something haunting about coming across a species in a place-specific check list when that species is no longer found in that place. There is also a sense of hope when a species long gone from a place has returned. But having either of these experiences — feeling haunted or hopeful — depends on the existence of records, such as check lists, from the past.
This post is a brief look at 9 place-specific check lists published in the 2nd half of the 19th century. All these lists include only minimal notes about each species. And all these lists include the bird we now call the California condor, a species that was not found in any wild place during the years 1987-1992. Some of the check lists are for places where the condor has now returned and some are for places where the condor is no longer found but could return some day.
Continue reading “Place-specific check lists from the 19th century”