A Vacation Like No Other

Back in the 1980s, one of my graduate students and I split the cost of an Ontario Lottery ticket. We knew that the chances of winning were vanishingly small (p<0.000001) but the jackpot had risen to $24 million—real money in those days. It was a cheap and fun investment that could really help my research …

Bird Paper Two

A few months ago (10 December 2018), I wrote about the first paper ever published about birds (here)—a description of a hummingbird from Barbados, published by the botanist Nehemiah Grew in May 1693. This publication was in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, and did not appear until 28 years after scientific publishing began, in 1665. …

Ornitholojests

Most of the ornithologists that I know have a great sense of humour. My old friend and mentor, James L. Baillie often took me birding when I was a teenager and his typical response when I could not identify a big, distant bird was “You know the crow?”. At first, he was almost always right …

Not Just a Bird in a Cage

CELEBRATING THE HISTORY OF WOMEN IN ORNITHOLOGY This month—March 2019—is Women’s History Month in the USA, Australia, and the UK [1]. As President Jimmy Carter said in 1980: “Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed” [2]. For a few years now, I have been compiling information on the history of …

Elizabeth Gould and the Heads of Australian Birds

John Gould’s A Synopsis of the Birds of Australia, and the Adjacent Islands strikes me as the oddest of the superbly illustrated 19th-century bird books. Published by subscription that began in 1837, it was illustrated by his wife, Elizabeth, but only shows in colour the head of each species [1], unlike any of the other …

The Invisible Women

At next year’s annual AOS conference in Anchorage, Alaska, the role of women in ornithology will be one of the highlighted themes. This is an important initiative for several reasons, and will be the focus of several posts here in the coming months. Most ornithologists are familiar with the names and accomplishments of Margaret Morse …

But Is It Art?

Big cities—maybe surprisingly—are good places to live if you are interested in natural history. While country folk have nature on their doorstep, city folk have to work a little harder to find woodland and wildlife. The advantage to city life, though, is that there are lots of like-minded people nearby and the resources for nature …