Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This Mundane Tyranny of Mediocrity

Grasshopper Sparrow. Redmond Lakes, ND.

Congratulations, Bourbon, Bastards and Birds community, for making it through another season with me. As with much of the North Dakotan birdlife, my urge to migrate is quite strong. The Willets and godwits (marbled variety) that harassed me so much earlier in the summer have mostly left for the West Coast already, and their migration path appeals to me....so I will be triumphantly rejoining them in California by the end of the month. With less than a week left and plover work completely wrapped up, its time to sit back, try to eat all the food I have left, dip into the the beer cache, sip on some whiskey and contemplate . 

Who am I kidding? With most field jobs, I generally just want to get the hell out by the time I'm done. All of the contemplating I'll be doing consists of devious plotting for the upcoming months.

Lesser Yellowlegs. Des Lacs NWR, ND.

Now that the Grey-hooded Gull has moved along, The Birdosphere has been pretty quiet lately. People have been sticking to the the tried and true ground of going birding, taking some pictures, and writing about it. Everyone seems to be excited that shorebirds are on their way south, and that the infamous "summer doldrums" are quickly giving away to fall migration, which many consider the most crippling time of year in terms of finding vagrants. No bird scandals to speak of really, aside from low level discussions on Common Gallinule vs. Common Moorhen, both regarding how to tell the two apart and the names themselves. Personally, I think we New Worlders lucked out getting the Gallinule...it's just such a birder's name. 

North Dakota, people, North Dakota. And a bunch of ducks that cant fly.
Of course, The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive and I have taken a brave nomenclatic (thats not a word is it? whatevs.) stand against the word "common". What does that mean? We here at BB&B are completely against any bird having the word "common" in their name. Its degrading and misleading, and about as interesting as what you flush down the toilet after your first cup of coffee in the morning. If the American Ornithologists Union had any sort of taste or tact, they would immediately strike down the adjective "common" from every North American bird...it is useless for birders and bad PR for the birds themselves.

For example...take the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. They are one of the most nondescript birds on the continent. Who thinks its a good idea to rename them "Common Flycatcher?" They certainly can be common in some areas. So lets do it!

No. That is a damn poor idea. I would not hesitate to bet that birders want to see this obscure bird that much more, simply because of the strange and ridiculous name.

A wee Northern Harrier. Not yet a finely-tuned killing machine. Still mostly just good at looking innocent and slightly concerned. Lostwood NWR, ND.

Most of the birds pictured today have decent, semi-accurate names. Grasshopper Sparrows do indeed sound like insects, and spend most of their lives in grasslands. Lesser Yellowlegs are the smaller of the two yellowlegs...a boring name, but an accurate description. Piping Plovers do pipe, and the name invokes their innate cuteness as well. Ruddy Ducks are ruddy colored ducks, Northern Harriers do occur in the north and they do harry. Cedar Waxwings.....well the cedar part is bullshit but it is a nice sounding tree (wait...is it because it's cedar colored???? Ahhh!!!!!!!). Anyways. Let's call that a 5/6 on names.

Now imagine all these birds with "Common" in their name. Disgusting, isn't it? "Common Sparrow"? My god, that is obscene.

So that seems to be where we are ending up today. Write your local AOU representative and give them a piece of your mind. Together we can bring an end to this mundane tyranny of mediocrity!!!!

Juvenile Piping Plovers. Redmond Lakes, ND.

Ruddy Duck with...ducklets. Near Redmond Lakes, ND.

Cedar Waxwing. Lostwood NWR, ND.


  1. Wow is that your last North Dakota post? Cra-zy. I agree that it's dumb for "common" to be part of any bird name. Boo. I'll start renaming. Electric Raven. Fancy Eider. Unhooded Merganser. Yes?

  2. @Jen I can definitely stand behind a Fancy Eider!

    @Robin Thanks! I suppose its not an angle we get to see very often.

  3. Glad to see that you're still completely nuts, and that North Dakota has not (through some weird kind of reverse psychology) rendered you more normal. Good stuff. BTW I agree with you on the name "Common" anything -- it's a total copout, like the namers ran out of imagination.

  4. As I anticipated before I got here, living in ND for 3 months has kind of left me in an unstable tailspin of sorts. Normalcy....its just so....common! No thanks.