urbpan: (dandelion)
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Where were we? Oh yes, the 98 meter pyramid on the bank of the Mississippi in the city of Memphis Tennessee. It's a sporting goods store.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Sunrise pigeons on a West Roxbury billboard.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Most of these Brooklyn Nature post pics are going to from Prospect Park, a nearly 600 acre Olmsted landscape, of which I explored a few hundred square feet. Alexis and I first looked at very early on Sunday morning, before the wreckage of Saturday night festivities had been cleared away. Here's the base of a planter, delightfully overgrown with moss and weeds.

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urbpan: (dandelion)

An old friend who has since moved to New York, came back to town last weekend to go to a wedding. After that she had a picnic in the park to reconnect with other friends and their families.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
Oh god this is a huge pile of photos. Don't worry, after this is the snapshots, then the rest were taken when my camera was acting weird so only a few of them are any good. Enjoy a wide range of pics of Antigua!

There are several kinds of dove and pigeon in Antigua, this one is the white-crowned pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala. These birds are suffering from the disappearance of their breeding habitat, mangrove swamps.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
The first morning of visiting a new city, I walk around and try to get a sense of what the urban birds are. They are very similar in every city I've been to--there will almost always be pigeons, house sparrows, and starlings. I was happy that in this neighborhood (Harbor City) to hear ravens croaking almost immediately. There were also a number of gulls, and some grackles. Unfortunately I didn't bring a local guide so I don't know many of the specifics. It was easy to identify these penguins I mean pigeons.

We spent much of the day at Long Beach, where there are lots of touristy things. Dad and I appreciated the moderate temperatures and immoderate constant bright sunshine.

There was some signage along the walkway identifying some of the creatures found nearby; I think this is a purple sandpiper--it looked and acted like a spotted sandpiper, a species I see a lot back home on fresh water.

We ended up in a place called Rancho Palo Verde, a beautiful cliff community. People go there to look out at the ocean at whales.

My favorite thing there was this hummingbird.
urbpan: (Default)

We had to walk by this view on our way from our room in the convent to the elevator.

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urbpan: (dandelion)

We woke up and looked around--nice enough beach, kinda built up though. Ours was the little pink hotel on the far left.
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urbpan: (Suit)
1. I'm pleased to see that after the Atheist Apocalypse there are still pigeons. It wouldn't have killed the cartoonist to change it to an American robin, but hey, I haven't given up the room in my heart for pigeons.

2. On account of the exciting mortgage crisis (Low income people out on the street! Bailouts for Wall Street Usury firms!) our options for where to move have temporarily expanded. Here's a question I asked on [livejournal.com profile] thequestionclub with predictably binary results (considering the binary nature of the question): You have two choices about where to buy a house. You have a 300k budget. Do you a) Buy a tiny house with no yard in Oakland California or b) buy a nice house with a gigantic yard 30 miles outside of Austin Texas?
urbpan: (attack pigeon)
Avitrol is a product sold for the control of nuisance pigeons. It's a poison that slowly kills the bird in such a way that it exhibits lots of behavior that alarms the other pigeons. This is the intended effect. When the flock sees one (or more) of its members acting this way they leave the area. The birds take the cue that there is something amiss and fly away. The product is mixed with feed corn. It is illegal to use it where non-target birds (anything besides pigeons, starlings, or house sparrows) might eat it.

The main drawback of this product, as I see it, is that it is so obviously temporary. If pigeons live in such high densities that they need to be controlled, they will return to a place they once saw as safe, even if a peregrine falcon, poison corn, or Godzilla drove them away. It's hard for me to imagine this stuff being developed for market. How do they sell it? "Once the pigeons are away, you can do all of the things to keep away pigeons that you should have done in the first place! Although that's really expensive and difficult and you probably never will!"

Then there's the problem of making sure that only pigeons eat it. This is basically impossible. Even in the heart of the city there are occasional seed-eaters and birdfeeder birds. You may only see the pigeons, but the other birds are there. Not to mention the secondary toxicity problem--secondary poisoning is when a predator eats a poisoned prey animal and becomes poisoned. While the pigeons might be freaked out by and avoid a thrashing, dying flock-mate, a red-tailed hawk or other predator will see it as an easy meal (the best kind).

Avitrol was invented because pigeon control is difficult. On the one hand there are pigeon fanciers and feeders, people who continue to artificially support the population of feral rock pigeons. To people who maintain buildings this is the equivalent of raising rats loose in their basements, allowing them to breed and disperse into their neighbor's houses. Then there is the fact that buildings provide ideal artificial habitats for pigeons. Ledges stand in for the stone cliffs of the Mediterranean, where pigeon ancestors nest. To make buildings unattractive to pigeons requires somehow redesigning every windowsill, every flat roof, every exposed duct. Bird spikes can cost 40 dollars for every three linear feet. And if the pigeons are persistent they'll simply pile sticks and refuse on the bird spikes until the ledge is suitable again.

Artificially increasing the levels of pigeon predators is one good step--some cities provide nest boxes for peregrine falcons. Nature provides the best solutions, but is very slow. What's needed in places where pigeons are pests are fully integrated approaches, combining many different methods with monitoring and education. One thing I'm learning about pest control is that there aren't many easy solutions. But throwing poison at a problem is very tempting for people who want a quick fix. Fortunately, due to mandatory IPM standards (more on that later), throwing poison at a problem is officially discouraged in most places.

Avitrol company website.

Watchdog group's re-editing of the Avitrol label for maximum alarmism. I guess they felt that people didn't quite grasp that it's a poison.

Article about Avitrol use in Worcester, which caused me to write this. A wildlife rehabber deals with suspected secondary Avitrol poisoning and possibly affected non-target birds.
urbpan: (pigeon foot)

Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor

The pied imperial pigeon is a large fruit-eating pigeon found in a large geographic range, between India and Australia. This individual is in Franklin Park Zoo's Birds World building, in the rainforest exhibit. Signage there indicates that "This bird has the ability to eat fruits bigger than its own head by stretching its jaws more than 2 inches."

On this day in 365 Urban Species: Horsetail.
urbpan: (attack pigeon)

Police shut down 10 blocks of businesses in the heart of downtown early Monday after dozens of birds were found dead in the streets, but officials said preliminary tests showed no dangerous chemicals in the air.

As many as 60 dead pigeons, sparrows and grackles were found overnight along Congress Avenue, a main route through downtown. No human injuries or illnesses were reported.

The reaction to this event is interesting to me. "Canary in a coal mine" seems to be the implicit message of closing the downtown area to human business. An airborne chemical strikes me as pretty unlikely, as these three bird species aren't going to be clustered together where a concentration of gas would kill them all--what are we imagining here? A dense cloud of poison gas hovering over the city? Have they detained the Joker?

I do love an urban nature mystery, and I hope they figure this one out in a hurry. Hopefully some brainiac has made the step of ordering necropsies of the birds to see what killed them. My prediction is that they will find that the birds were deliberately poisoned.
urbpan: (pigeon foot)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] bunrab for this story (I'm paying attention!)

I shan't debate the "usefulness" of ticks here today, but pigeons are yet again proving themselves to be very useful. Historic uses for pigeons have included food, amusement, and communication--now they're going to be used as scientific probes.

article text here )

Here are my questions: How many times can you use the word "blog" in a 250 word article? (This is one of the things I hate about a lot of science writing for the public--there's a need to be "grabby," to use some pop culture phrase that is part of the zeitgeist to lure the otherwise uninterested into reading the article--"blogs are hip right now, emphasize that aspect of the story!" 1/37th of the story is the word "blog." This article will be the most dated piece of writing in the world in 5 years.)

That aside, I'm actually much more interested in the photos the pigeons will be taking than the air pollution data. One of my fantasy projects is a movie filmed from the point of view of a pigeon. With this technology, plus rc helecopters, and some cgi, you could do a real convicing job. The tough part would be writing a script that anyone besides me would want to see. After all, I liked "Falken's Oga."

Another question--whose pigeons are these? I assume they didn't trap wild pigeons from San Jose, they must be using someone's captive flock. If so, are they protected at night in a dovecote? Or were they released, fully? (I doubt that's legal--but I don't know the laws regarding pigeon-keeping...hmm, how come pigeon keepers can release their birds into the city but if you did it with, say, goats, you'd get in trouble?)

The potential for using pigeons as scientific probes and spying devices I think is enormous. I can't wait to find out what happens.

That's right, I said "shan't."
urbpan: (pigeon foot)

Urban Species #020: Rock Pigeon Columba livia

Emblematic of urban species (and the symbol of The Urban Pantheist magazine), the rock pigeon is the most well known of all urban birds. Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt, and it is thus that this beautiful tame bird is greeted more often by disgust than wonder.

The pigeon (formally known as the rock pigeon, formerly called the rock dove) has a long association with humans. Native to North Africa, these seed-eating birds were well-situated when humans in Egypt and the Middle East began large-scale agriculture. The invention of rectilinear buildings, with their exterior ledges that resemble the cliff faces upon which rock pigeons nest, further encouraged the birds to keep close company with humans. Soon dovecotes, specially built nesting structures from which chicks could be harvested, strengthened the pigeon-human bond.

Pigeons became semi-domesticated animals--provided with nesting areas but allowed to freely roam for food. This arrangement persists today, although centuries of captive breeding have honed the pigeon into a different bird from its Mediterrenean progenitors. Today's pigeon, designed for homing, racing, and fancy plumage, is a stronger, faster, more physically variable bird, that always nests near humans (usually on man-made structures) and has little to no fear of us. Pigeons have been brought to the most remote inhabited places on earth, including the Galapagos archipelago and Easter Island.

The temptation to sing its praises for page upon page defies the purpose of this project. Suffice it to say, whatever enemies pigeons may have, they will always have a friend here.

On with the flood of pictures! )
urbpan: (Default)
I was disappointed, this morning, when they announced that my commuter train was boarding. I was having so much fun watching the pigeons! One waits for the trains indoors, on one of the very few benches, or more often, standing near the fast food kiosks. Double automatic sliding doors lead to the platforms. When a train arrives, the flood of passengers means that the door stay open for several minutes.

Enterprising pigeons fly in over the crowds to hunt for crumbs in the station. I crouched to offer crumbs of my breakfast sandwich, and the birds recognized the posture. Soon, one young female pigeon was taking pieces from my fingertips. I kept my actions discreet not wishing to draw the ire of those whose job it is to keep the floor clean.

After I stopped, another passenger-in-waiting, a woman also with a standing breakfast, began dropping crumbs. Her more brazen feeding attracted a plump, if drab male bird. He chased off competitors and deftly danced beneath the feet of the crowds of commuters. He even took the opportunity to engage in some courting behavior: strutting, puffing, cooing. A group of five pigeons in total milled about.

A young lady who I'll diagnose with aviphobia was seated on the nearest bench, reading. When a pigeon got near she shot out her foot, and a disgusted look. The birds retreated just out of kicking range, only momentarily distracted from their feeding and courting activities.

Ah, Nature!


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