Archive for Birds

Jul
04

Birdsong and bluster

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1x1.trans Birdsong and bluster

This is the scene.

As you well know, if you’ve stuck with me, I am driven to gnash my teeth more often than is dentally advisable at the uncivilized, un-neighborly behavior of certain people around here.

But then I come across something that demonstrates that I personally am still in the safe zone, because “neighbors” to me is a vague, general term that means everybody and nobody. On the other hand, some residents define “neighbor” as the ballbuster who lives next door who (A) annoys me or (B) annoys me.  According to whichever neighbor you are.

Here is what I discovered: two signs attached to what evidently was once a shop (as is the case with many closed doors and windows) and which has become someone’s garage/basement/attic/storeroom, here generally called a magazzino.

I am now going to file this in my TAKE THAT! folder, just as soon as I make it.

1x1.trans Birdsong and bluster

I WANTED TO THANK THE PERSON WHO WITH SO MUCH ZEAL REGISTERED AN ACCUSATION WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BECAUSE OF MY CANARIES. BECAUSE DUE TO THE OFFICIAL INSPECTION IT HAS BEEN SHOWN THAT I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED AND DILIGENT BREEDER. A TRUE, AND I UNDERLINE TRUE, ANIMAL LOVER. THEREFORE, AS SUCH, THANKS FOR HAVING BEEN ABLE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT. BUT I HAVE TO REPRIMAND YOU, AS A TAXPAYING ITALIAN. BECAUSE THE COMMUNITY FUNDS WOULD BE BETTER SPENT ON THINGS THAT ARE MORE SERIOUS, AND NOT TO GO TO SEE WHAT SOMEONE HAS IN HIS MAGAZZINO. ANYWAY, I HOPE THAT YOU REAP WHAT YOU HAVE SOWN IN THIS WORLD. (signed) TO ANYONE WHO UNDERSTANDS (along the lines of “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”).

1x1.trans Birdsong and bluster

ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS/RAISERS: THE ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS (F.O.I.) RECOGNIZED BY D.P.R. 15/12/1949, N. 1166 IS INSTITUTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT, DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION OF THE ORNITHOLOGICAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURALISTIC PATRIMONY. ITS PURPOSE IS TO PUBLICIZE THE LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE OF BIRDS AND THEIR HABITAT, AND BY MEANS OF ITS ENROLLED MEMBERS TO PROMULGATE THE SYSTEMS OF CORRECT NURTURE — WHETHER FOR ORNAMENTAL OR DIDACTIC PURPOSES — REPRODUCING IN CAPTIVITY EVEN BREEDS WHICH ARE IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION. IT IS CONCERNED THEREFORE ALSO WITH THEIR PROTECTION AND THE ASSOCIATED ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. TO RAISE IS TO PROTECT.

 

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Feb
03

And speaking of animals

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1x1.trans And speaking of animalsI suddenly realized that when I was proposing the going-away party for the boy — clothes, but possibly also food, because he must be really hungry by now — I didn’t mention the frog.

That was an oversight. So here’s the plan.

First, the frog would be freed.

Second, he would be given a large pile of small- and medium-sized rocks to throw at the boy.

Third, he would be given a hundred things his heart might desire, from the unlisted phone numbers of Charles Ray (sculptor) and Francois Pinault (collector), to his own private estate with tennis court and helipad in the Great Moss Swamp, to a date with every winner of the Miss Humanity of the Netherlands pageant.  And a huge party at the Waldorf-Astoria for freed dolphins, liberated dancing bears, wounded hedgehogs, rehabilitated slow lorises, and birds whose owners accidentally left their cages open.  He’ll also have his own smorgasbord with all the beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, and Purina Frog Chow he’ll ever want.  And a trampoline.  And a pony.

1x1.trans And speaking of animals

Lino spotted this gull because of his little identification anklet. Maybe he’s in the bird atlas by now, with a number if not a name.

While we’re on the subject of animals, here’s something you might find interesting.  More than 240 species of birds spend at least some, if not all, of their time in the Venetian lagoon and immediate vicinity.

An article in the Gazzettino announced this fact along with the notice of the publication of a new atlas of birds, the result of five years of data-gathering. For the record, the title is “Uccelli di laguna e di citta’ – L’atlante ornitologico del comune di Venezia 2006-2011,” written by Mauro Bon and Emanuele Stival, ornithologists of the Museum of Natural History, published by Marsilio.

Of these birds, 142 species come only for the winter, 115 come to nest, and about 60 are migrating. If you stop and read that over again, I think you’ll be respectfully amazed.  In fact, the lagoon is at a crucial point on a major north-south flyway, and is one of the largest lagoons left in Europe. It’s far from being just scenery.

Even though I’ve never seen them, I now have learned that there is a Hungarian royal seagull which arrives in the fall, and spends the winter in the Giardini Reali between the Piazza San Marco and the lagoon. And there is an extremely rare black-legged kittiwake that comes from England.

1x1.trans And speaking of animals

The Little Egret, which is abundant in the lagoon, doesn’t mind looking for a bite wherever the chances seem good, though they seem to be happier pecking through the shallows when the tide is low. There is a tree near the Vignole which at twilight in the summer is almost completely white with the egrets who’ve come to perch there for the night.

I was already interested in birds because rowing around the lagoon at all hours and in all seasons means that you see plenty of them.  For one thing, they’re everywhere.  For another, they’re generally easier to see than fish.

Some of the birds I’ve come to recognize are as much as part of Venice as canals and tourists. The svasso (grebe) and tuffetto (little grebe), only appear in the winter. The cormorants, mallards, seagulls, egrets and herons are here all year. I’ve already gone on too long about my passion for blackbirds (a few months per year), and I’ve never bothered to mention pigeons because there’s nothing worth saying about them.  They are the roaches of the avian world; they’ll be here pecking around and crooning after the last nuclear device explodes. I am prepared for hostile letters from pigeon-feeders.

There is one kingfisher who I watch for as we row behind the Vignole; all you can see is a flash of iridescent blue-green flitting through the trees and over the water. I wish he’d hold still somewhere just for a minute, but he’s not interested in being admired.

In the plush summer nights we almost always hear a solitary owl called a soleta (civetta in Italian), somewhere high in the trees in the Public Gardens.  He or she makes a soft one-tone hoot, repeated pensively at perfectly regular intervals.  It’s like a metronome, far away. It goes on for hours.  It’s very comforting.

1x1.trans And speaking of animals

A young Little Gull, photographed in Northumberland. Maybe he’s thinking about his Venetian vacation.

For two days not long ago we were startled to see a fluffy young gull we’d never seen before, standing on the fondamenta gazing out at the lagoon. Determined research revealed that it is a Little Gull. We haven’t seen it since.

And one magical winter day a trio of swans flew over us.  You hardly ever see the wild swans, but here were three, flying so low that I could see their long necks undulating slightly and hear a curious murmur from their throats.

Many of these birds depend on organisms and elements in the lagoon wetlands which exist because of, or are replenished by, acqua alta.  If so many people who never leave the city didn’t get so worked up about having to put on boots, the water could continue to provide for lots of creatures who like being here too.  Maybe your tourist or trinket-seller doesn’t care about the birds, but the birds probably don’t care about the Doge’s Palace and Harry’s Bar. Just saying.

1x1.trans And speaking of animals

A luscious look at acqua alta in the lagoon. A soaking marshy islet looks even better to a bird than it does to me.

1x1.trans And speaking of animals

This is the single grey heron I’ve seen here, always fishing between Sant’ Andrea and Sant’ Erasmo.

1x1.trans And speaking of animals

And of course the indefatigable seagulls. They look more attractive out here than plodding along the fondamentas ripping open plastic bags and strewing the garbage all around. Lino says nobody ever saw gulls in the canals, much less on the streets, when he was a boy. The same with cormorants, who we sometimes see fishing in our canal.

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Jan
09

The next small thing

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1x1.trans The next small thing

I love this bird. (Photo: w:User:SonNy cZ)

As I have undoubtedly mentioned at some point, there are many moments throughout the year which I await with all the focus of a hunter watching for the tiniest tracks of his prey. Or something like that.

This morning, to my astonishment, I heard the first blackbird of the year.  This is great news, because the few months in which blackbirds sing the sun up are a very big deal to me. Not because of the sun, because of the birds.

The freezingest days of January/February (which have yet to log in, though they’re apparently en route from Siberia) are known as the “giorni della merla” (days of the female blackbird), so considering the curiously mild weather, it does seem a bit early.

No matter.  I heard one distant cadenza this morning. It was brief, it was beautiful, and it was the first.  I’m happy.

Categories : Birds, Nature
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Mar
25

Blackbird concert

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A reader named Alberto recently responded to my lament about the silence of the blackbirds so far this spring (bulletin: I heard two yesterday evening — but the dawn is still voiceless). He said he was thinking of making a video of their concerts.

As it happens, I was so enthralled by the morning recitals last spring that I recorded loads of them. Here is a sample — which I have taken to listening to in the meantime, just so things will seem more normal.  Click here  11042001.

I wonder if playing this really loudly at 4:00 AM would encourage at least one to give it a try.  Or maybe they’re on strike.  If so, they’re the only creatures in the old bel paese, except me and Lino, that have never gone on strike at some point.  I suppose there’s something noteworthy about that.  I wonder if I should put “Never gone on strike” on my resume.

1x1.trans Blackbird concert

A male common blackbird (Turdus merula) on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain. (photo: Juan Emilio.) The bird obviously has a right to sojourn where he wishes, but hanging around other birds' islands isn't going to keep the operation going here in Venice.

1x1.trans Blackbird concert
Categories : Birds
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