Supersonic Man

January 24, 2012

Palo Alto Baylands

Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 6:10 pm

I visited people in Menlo Park yesterday (CA, not NJ) and then briefly managed to look at the Palo Alto Baylands — a nature preserve of bay marshlands.  I was only there a few minutes but almost immediately saw two species I’d never photographed before, or in one case ever gotten a good look at before, to wit, the Northern Shoveler, which was present in large numbers.


January 17, 2012

curlew with crab, snow goose, meadowlark

Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 8:50 pm

Went to the Hayward Dump, I mean Hayward Regional Shoreline today.  This is a fake-ass wetland that isn’t the least bit convincing as a natural habitat, but still manages to attract a fair number of birds.  But most of them were so shy I couldn’t get anywhere near them.  One nice exception was this long-billed curlew, seen here attempting to eat a crab which it had no means to either swallow or dismember.


January 11, 2012

nutty turkey

Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 10:53 pm

Nuttall’s woodpecker in the neighborhood today.

And check out this handsome tom turkey. (more…)

January 4, 2012

birds of DC

Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 10:05 am

Oh, I forgot to post the birds I saw in Washington DC.

What, you were in our nation’s capitol?  Yes, my brother lives there, or rather in a Maryland suburb, and he hosted Christmas this year for me and our parents.  Supersonic Woman was going to go, but got sick and had to stay home.  There’s a whole story I could tell about how he’s starting a new self-employment business…

Anyway, while there I rather hoped to see some common birds that are not common here.  Like black-capped chickadees instead of chestnut-backed chickadees, or cardinals instead of scrub jays.  But because it’s winter (though as yet mild and without snow), there were hardly any birds.  About the only one in the yard that was new to me because of different location was the Blue Jay.  (We commonly call our local jays “bluejays”, but they’re actually western scrub-jays and steller’s jays.)

There were three of them.  Later we went to an arboretum on the Anacostia River.  My mom saw a cardinal there but I didn’t.  We saw downy woodpeckers, cedar waxwings, a red-bellied woodpecker:

…and a pair of bald eagles.

big birds

Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 2:31 am

All within five minutes, early this evening:  first, a hawk went right over our heads carrying a small rat or something.

Then a great blue heron flew by.  Usually they fly with their necks folded up, but this one decided to unfold it for a little while.

Then we go around a corner, and look who’s sitting in the top of a pine tree.

UPDATE: That’s a Cooper’s hawk.  Here’s another shot.

January 3, 2012

European vs Indian state names

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 11:40 am

Some states have names of purely European derivation, such as New Hampshire or Georgia.  Others have names of native origin, such as Massachusetts or Hawaii.  Which category has more states in it?  Turns out, this question is not all that easy to answer.

First, let’s list the states whose names have definite unambiguous European origins.

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia

That’s 21 names. Now, the ones with names of definite native origin:

North Dakota
South Dakota

That’s 24 names.  This list is ahead… but it doesn’t have a clear majority.  To settle the question, we have to look at the five remaining states.

New Mexico

Turns out, all of these five are debatable.  What about the name Indiana?  It’s from a term used in European languages, but the term refers to the native people.  How do you count it?  That’s a philosophical question.

What about New Mexico?  The name “México” is of native origin, but the state is named after a country which had a European-derived language and culture by the time the name was picked.  Do you count it as native?

Arizona.  The origin of the name is said to be a Spanish corruption of an Aztec word.  Should you count that as native?  But others say it’s a Spanish corruption of an O’odham name, still others say it comes from Basque, and finally, it might just be short for “árida zona”, meaning dry zone, though you’d expect the adjective in that phrase to be placed after the noun.  So the fact is, no one actually knows whether the name is native or not.

The case of Oregon is even worse.  The name came into use long before there was a United States of America, among people who knew almost nothing about the area, and nobody knows where it came from at all.  There are various theories but they’re basically all guessing and hoping.

Idaho may be the one case where a land speculator just went and made a name up.  He at first claimed it was a Shoshone name, then that he just invented to sound Indianish, but then later someone argued that he got it from the Comanche term for “enemy”, because that’s how they saw the people who lived in that direction.  Again, no one actually knows.

So the odds are that there are probably more state names of native origin than of European or colonial origin, since if you count only two of these five as native that gives them the majority… but we can’t say for certain.

What we probably can do is link the cases of Indiana and New Mexico, since whatever principle you use to decide one of them will tend to place the other on the opposite side.  If you count New Mexico as native then Indiana looks colonial.  So that would make the balance 25 to 22 for the native side, giving them at least a tie, and they have the majority if any one of the three unknowns is actually native.  But it still isn’t settled.

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