Archive for November, 2020

A few mornings ago, I was sitting at our kitchen table eating breakfast with my family. As we eat and talked, I looked out through the sliding glass door toward the bird feeders we have hanging out there. This time of year, our feeders get some pretty good activity. As I watched, the usual House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrows (a lot of them this winter), and Mourning Doves were poking around eating sunflower seeds.

But then something amazing happened! A bird hooped up to the top of the wall that defines one side of our yard. This bird was new. This bird was slightly smaller than the White-crowned Sparrows (which are themselves slightly smaller than the Golden-crowned Sparrows). This bird had a clear, white triangular patch at its throat. This bird was a White-throated Sparrow!

Photos - White-throated Sparrow - Zonotrichia albicollis - Birds of the  World
A tan morph White-throated Sparrow like the one I that visited my yard (Photo credit: Birds of the World).

White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia ablicollis) are a mostly eastern species. A spattering spend their winters on the west coast, but not many and finding one is always a real treat. This is the first White-throated Sparrow I have ever seen in our yard making the 75th bird species to be added to the yard list!

This species has a bunch traits that make it a bit odd and very interesting. One is the there are two different color morphs, one with white stripes on the head, and other has tan stripes. A related oddity is how these color morphs (which are genetically determined) are maintained in the population. Males of both morph prefer females that have white stripes, but females of both morphs prefer males with tan stripes. A final oddity is that White-throated Sparrows sometimes breed with Dark-eyed Juncos! The two species are not particularly closely related, nor do they look or sound alike. I have never seen one of these hybrids, but I really want to.

Like I said, a really odd and interesting bird, my favorite member of the genus, and a very exciting visitor!

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What follows is a series of interactions between myself and a publishing company called Best Version Media (BVM) that I found to be unsettling and distasteful. It has resulted in me withdrawing my contributions to BVM publications. This story gets a little long, so I will be posting it in several parts. Here is part 1.

In the spring of 2017 I began writing articles about birds for a small community magazine in Berkeley, CA, where I grew up. This magazine is published monthly, was successful, and grew. The team organizing it decided to launch two additional monthly magazines serving other communities in the east bay, and my articles have appeared in all three. Then in 2019, a different team of individuals launched a similar monthly community magazine in West Sacramento, CA, where I now live, and I started writing bird focused material for this magazine as well.

All four of these magazines are distributed by a larger company called Best Version Media (BVM).

According to their website Best Version Media: “distributes millions of community publications every year to local neighborhoods across the U.S. and Canada. We’re bringing people together, one community at a time, by tailoring our publications to the areas we serve.

Our community publications feature local families and highlight neighborhood news, events, sports and much more. By combining key elements of social media with the print media industry, BVM has experienced unparalleled growth since our company’s founding in 2007.

We proudly connect thousands of small businesses to local residents by providing business owners with a highly effective and powerful advertising platform. We’re one of the fastest-growing companies in the print media industry because we successfully target hyperlocal areas like no one else can.

Overall, I like the idea of these magazines. I like a non-screen based mechanism for bringing people together. I like the idea of a platform that tells people about their neighbors and what is going on in their area.

The articles I created for these monthly magazines were about all things birds. I wrote about bird identification, behavior, ecology, conservation, and other related topics. Birding is one of my big passions, and sharing knowledge and enjoyment of birds is another.

In response to the protests for racial equality that began earlier this year, I wrote and submitted an article on racism, racism in the birding community, and in the lack of representation and diversity in the naming of birds. The article will appear as part 2, so stay tuned.

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