Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Sad anniversary -- video of what was lost

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: September 1, 2014 - 9:34 AM

One hundred years ago today the last Passenger Pigeon died on the bottom of her zoo cage, the billions of her kind that once flew here gone years and decades before. Here is a short animation of what a flock of pigeons might have looked like 160 or 170 years ago. It was posted to BirdChat by Barry K. McKay. 


Audubon has made a difference

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: August 29, 2014 - 6:10 AM

Bird-friendly glass in the new Vikings’ stadium? Audubon Minnesota and Audubon’s national office have been working very hard to get that done. They are unlikely to win this battle, but they certainly have raised national awareness of the war on needless bird death.

They have put the issue on the map. Give them credit. 

The Vikings gave this effort wings even though team officials have said not a word. You can’t challenge a National Football League team without making news. The glass effort was reported in The New York Times,  Washington Post, USA Today, on CBS national news, on sports channels, in magazines serving the glass, construction, and architectural communities, and in local media.

A campaign to specifically address dangers posed to birds by the reflections found in ordinary window glass would not have earned as much national news coverage.

The issue, as you must know by now, is that ordinary window glass reflects the outside environment. Birds fly toward the reflections, hit the glass, and die in large numbers. There is a glass that contains a visible pattern, fritted glass, that is supposed to alert birds to the glass, and prevent collisions. This is the glass that Audubon wants for the stadium.

The Audubon Minnesota team Wednesday delivered to the office of Gov. Mark Dayton the names of 73,000 people supporting the effort. Audubon collected names via its local and national web sites. 

There had been no word from the governor on his thoughts about this.

Matt Anderson, executive director of Audubon Minnesota, said Thursday he still sees a narrow window of opportunity even now, after the stadium glass reportedly has been ordered.

Regardless, Audubon has done more for the bird/glass issue in the past few weeks than has been accomplished in years of trying to make people widely aware of the problem. 

A book on the history of feeding birds

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird books Updated: August 28, 2014 - 9:33 AM

Carrol Henderson has a new book close to publication. Henderson is superintendent of non-game wildlife for the Minnesota Department of Conservation. He also is one of Minnesota's most prolific authors of books about birds, often supporting his text with excellent photographs.


The new book is entitled “Feeding Wild Birds in America.” It's a history of the pastime that involves so many of us. The book will be published next spring by Texas A & M University Press.


Henderson’s co-authors are Paul J. Baicich, Maryland writer and avitourism consultant, and Margaret A. Barker, former coordinator of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch, and author of a book on bird feeding.


The book was originally conceived and commissioned by the Wild Bird Centers of America to be a short narrative describing this curiously widespread pastime. 


The authors discovered that bird feeding is much more a part of our culture than anyone guessed. Thus, a book.


The story begins in the late 19th century. It moves decade-by-decade through historical context, discussing into traditions, innovations, and business concerns. The authors write that this simple practice has been a social cause, a trendy curiosity, an agricultural obligation, a serious hobby, a billion-dollar industry, a basis for scientific study, and, as most of us know it, pure entertainment. 


Better photo of fritted glass

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: August 27, 2014 - 3:46 PM

The fritted glass photo posted a few days ago showed, as I explained, an extreme example of fritting. Fritting is imposition on window glass of a visible pattern. That photo was taken at the Minneapolis Public Library, downtown branch. Fritting there is decorative. Below are photos of fritted glass intended to allow vision while making the window obvious from the outside. The idea in the current discussion is to let birds see windows so they don't try to fly through a reflection. In this case, the fritting consists of small white circles covering the glass at equal and small intervals. This fritting is closer to that which would be used in the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium, in the extremely long chance that the team agreed to use such glass. Added expense is always mentioned as a reason the team has expressed no interest in using fritted glass. A bigger reason, I believe, is that the glass has been ordered; production is underway. To replace that glass now certainly would impact the stadium construction schedule. I doubt if team owners and the sports facility authority would accept that delay. The first photo shows the glass from the inside looking out. The second photo is the reverse.

Below, the two panels of glass upper left have the fritted pattern.

Fritted glass, example

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: August 25, 2014 - 11:11 PM

This is an example of fritted glass as used in windows at the downtown branch of the Minneapolis Public Library. The pane on the right contains the elements which make the glass visible, and/or the interior of the building less visible. Light does pass through this glass. The pane on the left is normal window glass, showing the reflection common in certain situations. Birders have requested the Minnesota Vikings to use fritted glass in the stadium under construction in an effort to lessen collisions by birds with exterior stadium glass, some 200,000 square feet of it. The photo is of the only fritted glass I could locate locally, with modest effort. I don't know the degree to which this example contains the fritting material -- high degree, medium, or low. It does, however, show how fritting can appear. It certainly shows why birds would be less likely to collide with the pane on the right versus the pane on the left, and, if vision through the glass is desired, it shows why fritting, at least to this extent, might not be chosen.


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