Malkolm is cycling on! He is now cycling from Alaska to Washington DC, and then continuing on to the UN Climate Change conference in Cancun in December.
It all started with Bird Year, Malkolm and his parents' year-long, fossil-fuel-free journey in search of birds. Cycling a total of 13,133 miles (21,144 km), they identified 548 different bird species and raised more than $25,000 for bird conservation. Bird Year turned them into confirmed cyclists and taught them that climate change was more serious than they had thought.
In 2009, Malkolm biked from Whitehorse to Ottawa as a part of Pedal for the Planet: the project called for the Canadian Government to become a leader in the struggle to come to grips with climate change. The Harper Government did not even meet with the young cyclists.
Malkolm is now 18 and just finished high school. On August 24, he dipped his foot in the Pacific Ocean in Skagway, Alaska. Then headed up and over the White Pass to the Alaska Highway on his journey to Washington and on to Cancun.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Distinguishing Difficult Flycatchers (Wendy)

We cycled into New Mexico yesterday. We’ve now travelled 5000 miles and Malkolm has identified 357 birds.
For the last couple of weeks we enjoyed Arizona’s “sky islands”(mountains that rise high above the desert plain). I knew these would be refuges for pines, firs and ferns. What I didn’t expect were maples. The creeks are lined with glowing orange and red trees. If you couldn’t see the crags rising behind, you’d think you were in New England.
We hiked up Miller Canyon with Tony Battiste, Joe Woodley and Rick Romea, all local hot birders. Tony took up birding later in life, but he certainly knows his way around a pair of binoculars. When we showed him our slide show, he named each bird immediately. I was impressed. In Miller Canyon, Malkolm wanted to find some flycatchers. There is a group of 11 flycatcher species – Empidomax flycatchers – that I think look identical. Malkolm wanted to find two of them. I was happy to be a fly on the wall in this identification process.
Tony: “Another empid.”
Malkolm: “It could be a Western type.” (He meant Cordilleran or Pacific-slope Flycatcher – they are impossible to differentiate if they aren’t singing.)
Joe: “It could be a Dusky.”
Rick: “I thought I saw the teardrop shaped eye ring. But the bill is too narrow for a Western. And the bill wasn’t yellow on the bottom.” Rick opened the bird guide and showed me drawings that differentiate the appearance of flycatchers’ bills when viewed from below.
The bird flew away. Joe pulled out his bird I-Pod and connected it to a compact speaker. He played the song of Cordilleran flycatcher. The bird ignored it. Then he broadcast the Dusky Flycatcher’s song. Suddenly, the flycatcher flew in and landed above us.
Tony: “It’s in the sun! Get a picture!”
Malkolm snapped a couple of photos. Digital photography has important strengths when you are using it for bird identification. Malkolm zoomed in on specific bird parts.
Rick: “Yeah. Look at the short primary projections. And I saw the eye ring really well. It’s not pinched at the back. I agree it’s a Dusky. This is the best part of birding, putting individual clues together to come up with an ID. ”
Joe: “The most convincing thing was the way it reacted when I played the Dusky tape.”
It was like listening to fluent French speakers. I could understand what they were saying, but I could never say it myself.


Kirst said...

Malkolm, you rocked on As it Happens. However, I noticed Carol Off said "You must have great parents" - I'm sure I heard that wrong, what she must have meant was..."you must have great SISTERS."

takhini said...

Congratulations on the 5,000 mile mark, and the impressive bird count.