Imagining the Past

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Anthropologists weren’t immune to misleading lines of thought, either. Learn more about the Piltdown Man, the so-called missing link, and these guys here and here.  Image credit: Bodies of evidence: John Cooke’s 1915 painting of the Piltdown men  photographed by Nils Jorgensen/Rex Features.

I grew up on Land of the Lost, a cheesy kids show in the 1970s in which cavemen were chased by dinosaurs and well, something called sleestaks. OK, so they never purported to be accurate, but as a kid, you want to believe anything that is adventurous and fun.

Scientists have also been quick to pull the trigger on their ideas about life in the past. These days, scientists are still trying to get it right when it comes to depicting fossil creatures. The process will never end.

Observing Resource Partitioning

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Crown Shyness. Image Credit: Dag Peak/NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

OK, enough advocacy. Back to the science. I once wrote about resource partitioning in aerial insectivores, a guild that nighthawks belong to that includes swallows, swifts and bats. Having a hard time picturing it? Check out crown shyness. To each his own niche.

Imposter or Subversive?

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Me in South Dakota, by Anna Magruder

I will admit that I have been an unconventional scientist. I changed careers midway through life, I spent much of my adulthood out of the scientific community, and I often asked what is the conservation angle on any scientific study presented in our weekly seminars in grad school. This happens a lot to people in grad school, regardless of their background. It’s called the Imposter Syndrome. What I have learned, though, is sometimes what makes you unique can make you stand apart in a field of candidates when applying for jobs. My background in writing and making art set me apart from the other students applying my internship (which eventually turned permanent) in biology. And that is what I tell other students at career fairs. Keep being you. It might make all the difference. And you might add a new element to in your new workplace’s chemistry. Rachel Carson was unique in her job. Her writing skills and her desire to expose the world to the hidden underwater marine life from a fish’s perspective and not an angler, set her apart and made her a Gentle Subversive.

More Birding Techniques for the Lazy

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See how glorious I am as a birder? Nope. I caught this young red-tailed hawk with a crew at a workshop. Definitely a lazy approach.

Someday I would like to write a book entitled The Lazy Birder dedicated to how little I care about keeping a list, memorizing calls, and some birders’ disregard for recording invasive species in citizen science (because it contributes little to the aforementioned list). For now, I will continue to catalog the resources that helps people like me ID birds like this waterfowl guide, this guide to sparrows, and this guide to raptors.

Orphaned Nighthawks

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Fierce? Yes. Easy to care for? No.

What happens to nighthawk chicks and injured adults? A lot of times, sadly, there is no one to care for them. Feeding an animal that is used to eating nothing but live and squirming insects is not easy, as rehabber Laura Erickson has noted in her blog (that I have reference in my Other Resources page).

But others have done it, including Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Check out this link to meet foster father Sherman and this link to see a success story.