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.
It's not about glass. It's about the roasting pan.
Ortolans are birds in the bunting family, found in northern Europe. In France they are regarded as a culinary delicacy, consumed head, bones, all in one mouthful. Hunting Ortolans, however has been illegal since 1999. Now, French chefs are asking for one weekend a year when they can legally serve Ortolans. Birders are protesting. Ortolans are trapped by poachers as the birds migrate from Europe to Africa. The birds,weighing less than an ounce, are prized for their fat. Captured, they are kept in darkness for three weeks, and sometimes blinded, according to a story in today’s “New York Times.” The birds are fattened on millet and grapes. When the bird has tripled its fat, it is “drowned with Armagnac, plucked, roasted, and served hot in its entirety.”
The decision on one legal weekend is pending.
I’ve been in touch by email with an architect in New York City, partner in a large firm there, who has an interest in the Vikings stadium under construction because she believes strongly in bird-safe buildings. She gave me links to web pages that contained information new to me, which doesn't mean it's new.
One of the links was to the Minneapolis daily business newspaper “Finance and Commerce.” In late April it carried an excellent article by Frank Jossi that answers a couple of my questions. I also received information from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.
I learned that 60 percent of the stadium roof will be made of a partly transparent building material known at ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a fluorine-based polymer). It comes in very thin sheets that will be used to form what you might call pillows, inflated by air pressure (but not subject to the puncture failure and collapse we saw at the old stadium).
Jossi explained that the stadium will have glass 20-feet-wide at the top of its exterior walls, just beneath the ETFE roof. And there is the 200-foot-wide wall of glass on the stadium’s west side that is causing concern among birders. Maybe the 20-foot surround is regarded as a problem, too; I’ve not heard it mentioned in particular. But it is glass, and it does reflect.
The figure commonly used for the amount of glass on the stadium’s exterior is 200,000 square feet. Actually, and this is the question the authority did answer, the amount is 180,000, not that that makes much difference.
There will be some pattern to the ETFE roofing material. It lets sunlight pass; that could cause a serious heat problem, a greenhouse effect. The material will contain two dot-matrix patterns, Jossi wrote, to block some sunlight and heat. Birders wish such patterns would be incorporated in the glass, to lessen reflection.
The refusal by the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority and the Minnesota Vikings to use bird-safe glass in the stadium now under construction drew an estimated 200 persons to a protest rally Saturday afternoon. Birders gathered across the street from the stadium site to hear speakers, and wave banners and signs. They want the stadium's huge signature "window" which will cover the end of the stadium facing downtown to be made of glass which does not reflect what is in front of it. Those reflections visually continue the natural world as birds see it, causing them to attempt to fly through. Most birds colliding with windows die. Below, author Laura Erickson from Duluth speaks to the crowd, which gathered in front of the construction site.
Here is a link to the complete National Audubon report on climate change and North American birds.
If nothing else, scroll to the end to see the photo of a young Common Loon on the mud in the recently drained pond where it was hatched.
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