Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This Birding Life Episode 20: iBird

A screen-shot from the iBird app on my iPhone.

Episode 20 of my podcast, This Birding Life, is now available for free downloading at Podcast Central on the Bird Watcher's Digest website and in the Games & Hobbies and Literature categories in the Podcast section of the iTunes store.

This episode is an interview with Mitchell Waite, the creator of several database-driven websites for bird identification, and the new and very popular iPhone application called iBird. Mitch tells about his early career as a writer and publisher of computer books and how this set the stage for merging his fascination with technology and love of birds into several neat product ideas.
Mitchell Waite and two of his iBird app logos.


In our next episode (TBL episode 21), we'll be in The Philippines, talking with a woman who is working to save two critically endangered endemic birds on the island of Cebu.

Thanks for listening to This Birding Life! More than 3,000 TBL episode files are downloaded each month—just from the BWD web servers, not counting those downloaded from iTunes. We're proud to be making interesting "ear candy" for bird watchers! And I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions about the podcasts.


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Thursday, April 09, 2009

This Birding Life: Episode 19!

The opening spread of the "True Nature" column from the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Bird Watcher's Digest.

The latest episode of my podcast, This Birding Life, is now available for your downloading or streaming pleasure in Podcast Central on the Bird Watcher's Digest website.

This one, Episode 19: Love & Death Among the Cranes, is a bit controversial.

When Julie Zickefoose wrote about the hunting of sandhill cranes in her "True Nature" column for BWD last December, the column generated a LOT of reader feedback. Some people were pleased—others were, well, angry—in fact, the column set records for the amount of letters, e-mails, and comments it generated.

I invite you to listen to Julie reading her column in this new episode of This Birding Life. And I encourage you to come back here to comment about the subject of the podcast.

As always, the podcast is available for free and in two formats: MP3 (audio only) and M4a (enhanced audio with images). You can download it from Podcast Central or from Apple's iTunes store, in the podcast section.


This Birding Life's page in the iTunes Store Podcast section.


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Saturday, December 13, 2008

This Birding Life: New Episode!


Episode #18 of my podcast, This Birding Life, is now available for your listening and viewing pleasure. The new episode is titled "Phoebe and the Young Birder's Guide." As with most episodes of TBL, this one comes in both enhanced audio M4a format (with images) and in regular MP3 (audio only) format. You can listen/watch on your computer, on your MP3 player, iPod, iPhone, or anything else that plays digital files. This does not include that new Close N'Play record player that Santa is bringing you in a few days.

In this latest episode, I interview Phoebe Thompson, age 12, my primary co-author (with her 20 or so classmates) on The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. Phoebe and I talk about how the book came to be, about the perception of bird watchers among her peers, and about her life in a family of birders. I happen to think Phoebe did a great job in the interview, but then again, I might be biased since Phoebe is also my daughter.

Phoebe digs birds.


I'm hoping listeners will forgive this bit of nepotism. And I'm also hoping that all of us bird people will do what we can to "pay it forward" by sharing the world of birds with a young person. I've written before about Nature Deficit Disorder here in Bill of the Birds. It's a very real concern. Why not ask an interested youngster along on your next field trip, Christmas Bird Count, or to a bird club meeting? We all need to contribute to get kids interested in some aspect of the natural world. I happen to think that birds are the very best way to accomplish this.



For young birders surfing the Web, the newly redesigned "Young Birders" section of the Bird Watcher's Digest website has some great content, a bird quiz, tips for better bird watching, and more. The section also includes information about the new booklet we've just created Bird Watching For Kids! I'll write more about this booklet in a future post here at BOTB.

Special thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company for their sponsorship of This Birding Life.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Foremost Naturalist

Roger Tory Peterson was an avid photographer for his entire life.

Roger Tory Peterson’s life was never the same again after the publication of his Field Guide to Eastern Birds in 1934. He might have known this when the first printing of the guide sold out in less than a month.

Soon after the publication of the guide, Peterson was hired by The Audubon Society to assist with publications and outreach. His bird watching pamphlets for the Junior Audubon Club were instrumental in increasing membership from 100,000 to 400,000.

Nearly every project Peterson became involved in seemed to benefit from his Midas touch. His columns in Bird Lore magazine (predecessor to Audubon) and illustrated articles in Life Magazine helped establish a national audience of bird watchers.

During his service in World War II he put his field guide talents to use creating plane-spotting manuals. He also worked with Rachel Carson (eventual author of Silent Spring) during the war, studying the effects of DDT on birds and animals.

Peterson's nature films were among the most popular in the traveling Audubon Film Series.


This was a Renaissance man. Roger Peterson made nature films. He helped to form conservation organizations and supported conservation causes large and small. He mentored young naturalists and artists. And he traveled the world looking at birds and nature with fellow bird watchers and naturalists.


Along the way he received every major natural history award, dozens of honorary degrees, and The Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received in 1980, from President Jimmy Carter.

Some of the titles in the Peterson Field Guide series.

Over the decades, the Peterson field guide series was expanded to include other subjects, eventually comprising more than 45 titles.


With his own painting of a pair of peregrine falcons.

He also wrote and edited numerous other bird and nature books. One of them was the first bird book I ever owned, The Time-Life book Birds. Man I loved that book! I pored over the illustrations (done by RTP and other famous illustrators) and nearly memorized the text.

My first Peterson book.

Inside the front cover of the book is written, in my mom's handwriting: "For Billy Thompson, Christmas 1969."
The inscription inside the book, written by my mom. The book was a gift from my grandmother Margaret Thompson.


Just 16 years after receiving that book for Christmas, I would meet Roger Peterson in person at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. And a few years later, in 1988, I would work directly with him as he wrote a regular column for a relatively new magazine called Bird Watcher's Digest.

His lifetime of teaching people, directly and indirectly, about birds and nature, and his continuous desire for more knowledge earned Roger Tory Peterson the unofficial title of "the foremost naturalist in the world.

For a video overview of the life of Roger Tory Peterson, please follow this link to the Peterson Field Guides site. Click on "Biography."


Hard at work in his Old Lyme, Connecticut studio. RTP worked until the day he died in 1996.

You may also be interested in reading the two recent biographies of Roger Tory Peterson:

Roger Tory Peterson: A Biography by Douglas Carlson
and
Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Elizabeth Rosenthal


The new episode of my podcast This Birding Life features a reading of Dr. Peterson's essay "Capsized by a Rogue Wave" from "All Things Reconsidered" the book of RTP's columns from Bird Watcher's Digest.

Tomorrow: Happy Birthday and the New Guide.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

This Birding Life #13


There's a new episode of my podcast, This Birding Life, available for download from Podcast Central on the Bird Watcher's Digest website. This episode is a conversation with Donald Kroodsma, bird song expert and author of the best-selling book The Singing Life of Birds.


This Birding Life and Podcast Central are sponsored by the good folks at Houghton Mifflin.

We offer most TBL episodes in two formats: MP3 (audio only) and M4a (enhanced with images and some interactive links). Either format can be enjoyed on your computer. The MP3 version can be played on any MP3 player (iPod or similar devices), but you'll need a video-ready iPod or media player to watch the enhanced M4a version.

Podcasts are a relatively new medium and we're constantly learning about how to create, improve, and distribute them. We welcome your feedback on our episodes of This Birding Life. Please feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, or ideas here in Bill of the Birds. Or you can e-mail me via the Bird Watcher's Digest website.

I've been recording new TBL audio files during my travels this past year, so watch for more episodes in the near future. We're going to try to maintain a once a month schedule for TBL, if possible.

Don't forget you can also subscribe to This Birding Life both at Podcast Central and on the iTunes website (search for "This Birding Life" under the Podcasts category.)

I hope you enjoy this new episode.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

This Birding Life, Episode 12

Bullfrog tadpoles.

Messing around with nature can really screw up the balance in an otherwise stable ecosystem. Take Fergus the bullfrog for example. When he was first released into a small backyard pond, he was a cute little tadpole just living his life. Two years later he was a voracious predator.

Fergus the bullfrog, looking hungry.


Intrigued?

Then you might want to listen to the new episode of my podcast This Birding Life available from Podcast Central on the Bird Watcher's Digest website. This episode is called "Paradise Lost" and features Julie Zickefoose reading from her best-selling book Letters From Eden.

Episodes of TBL are also available from the iTunes Store. Just click on 'podcasts' and search for This Birding Life.

This Birding Life is sponsored by Houghton Mifflin and hosted on the Web by Bird Watcher's Digest.

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