Fly by Night
|December 19, 2012|
Bird migration at Eddystone Lighthouse, by Charles Samuel Keene
From American Scientist:
Migration likely brings to mind the familiar sight of geese flying overhead in their iconic V formation, honking stridently as they fly toward their faraway goal. But the migration of many birds is a rarely observed phenomenon. Most passerine birds, a group that includes songbirds and groups taxonomically related to them, migrate at night. Nocturnal migration has fascinated scientists and bird enthusiasts for a long time. What are the advantages for birds that migrate at night? How do they do it? When do they sleep? The answers to these questions are as yet incomplete. And often answers only beget more questions. Nevertheless, technological advances have facilitated a recent surge in migration research. A recurring theme of this work is that biological clocks are intimately involved in controlling nocturnal migration.
How do we know birds migrate at night? For a long time, people have observed that flocks of birds change location between evening and the following morning. Since around 1880, ornithologists have used lunar observation—watching birds fly past the moon—to document nocturnal flights. A tally of nocturnal flight calls was published in 1899, although this technique did not flourish until the 1950s, when advances in sound recording made it more practical. During the early days of radar technology in the 1940s, “phantom signals” were discovered to be migrating birds. Radar has since become a widely used tool for monitoring bird migrations. Many of these classic methods are still used, with some modern improvements. For example, with the aid of special microphones and automated sound detection software, ornithologists recently reported in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology that pine siskins (Spinus pinus) undergo an irregular, nomadic type of nocturnal migration. Nocturnal migration may be more widespread than previously thought.
Nocturnal migratory activity is also studied in the laboratory. In captivity, night-migrating birds display stereotypic migratory behaviors during the night known as Zugunruhe, meaning “migratory restlessness.” Birds exhibiting Zugunruhe flap their wings rapidly as if about to take off from the perch. The term was coined by German bird fanciers who caught and kept wild birds; they noticed that at night, during certain times of year, their birds’ migratory proclivities resulted in damage to their feathers. This wing-whirring behavior can be clearly distinguished from captive birds’ daytime behaviors, such as hopping or feeding. Zugunruhe occurs during the dark period only. Because Zugunruhe behavior is maintained in the laboratory, biologists have been able to study diverse subjects related to migration, including biological clocks, navigation, metabolism and sleep.
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
10 Things the NSA Has Seen Me Do
One winter in my early twenties myself and some good friends — a merging of art, music and literary ladies of New York, full-grown girls aspiring to be women — got together, had a lovely dinner, some wine and delightful chat. Then we decided to spend an hour practicing “Teach Me How To Dougie”. NSA — can you teach me how to Dougie? You know why? “Because all my bitches love me.”
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