How to Find Things Out: Bird Names

I absolutely love this blog post where expert birder Rick Wright describes how to properly find out the origins of bird names. Not only for the valuable information he provides—you should read and bookmark it if you love birds and words—but also for how it illustrates the valuable trait of having an investigative mind.

I love reading what other people think about birds and words and bird words. I love it even more, though, when they’ve taken the time to do a little homework.

“Do a little homework” is especially relevant to me. That’s what I recently wrote about in my work context: The Investigative Mindset. Knowing where to look is vital to the act of finding things out. Solving that curiosity itch.

Rick concludes with:

Next time the question comes up—in a “trivia quiz” or in the car on the way home from a birding trip—you’ll know the answer. More importantly, you’ll know how to figure out the next nomenclatural puzzle somebody poses: no more guessing.

Agreed.

Passenger Rail Study in Arizona

Eying the projected doubling of the population here in the Grand Canyon State by 2050 our forward-thinking Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is studying the feasibility of passenger rail service connecting our two main population centers, Tucson and Phoenix.

Giddy with excitement we participated in the first survey back in late 2012. We imagined whizzing through the desert in comfort without the hassle and danger of driving: haboobs, semis, congestion. After arriving in the Phoenix area one could speak their mind at the Governor’s office, explore a museum, attend a professional game, or catch a concert and then return home safely.

So we sent off our surveys and… (crickets chirping)… heard nothing. Figuring the idea had suffered a slow and torturous death we went on with our lives.

Good news! The next part of the survey is now here. ADOT has winnowed through the 6,500 plus comments and narrowed the route options down to three. After reading the background information I am even more impressed by the concept and hopeful that it will get built.

Sure, there are major obstacles such as funding but to ignore the existing traffic problems won’t make them go away, it will only make them worse. Trust me, we’ve tried doing nothing, and that hasn’t worked out so well.

If you live in Arizona please make your voice heard, take a few minutes, and fill out this survey.

On the Road With John James Audubon (Review)

audubon-on-the-road

A gift from my parents, On the Road With John James Audubon by Mary Durant and Michael Harwood is a travelogue and historical biography—and an enjoyable read. I recommend it if you like geography, history, birds, and travel. Especially if, like me, you aren’t deeply familiar with John James Audubon’s life story.

Tracing a person’s life by following his exact steps is an uncommon way to structure a book—and it works well here. Though the narrative started out a bit heavy on Audubon’s personal details, I felt that by the middle of the book the authors did achieve a balance of historical bits with modern day observations. Mixing snippets from Audubon’s letters and journals and examples of his famous illustrations, the authors wove together their story with his. Engaging with the places and people everywhere they went, adding flavor, detail, and humor as they explored the story with new eyes. (Note: though modern compared to Audubon’s day, this book was written over 30 years ago. Still relevant and interesting, however.)

A unique thing about this book is the trio of voices, where two authors—only one a “serious” birder—intertwine with Audubon’s personal account to create a fascinating description of a changing landscape and culture, of an America awakening to its vast natural treasures. Speaking to how important these treasures are for us to preserve, Durant and Harwood highlight over and over the troublesome relationship we’ve had as a nation with our animals, plants, rivers, coasts, and mountains. The struggle between conservation and exploitation of our resources.

Several times the itinerary followed a path similar to our own RV travels, places we’d stayed or visited. Which made me want to hit the road again! What I liked most about this book is how the authors combined their passions and interests into a compelling travel adventure. There’s something to admire in that; a story is more powerful when told with a purpose.