Friday, February 22, 2008

History on the birdbrain

Today there was a boreal chickadee being very resourceful at our suet feeders. A new one to mark of in the bird book!

Boreal Chickadee

I also learned that Thomas McCulloch, first principal of Dalhousie College and Nova Scotian intellectual of the first half of the nineteenth century (his old house is a museum in Pictou) is mentioned a number of times by name in John James Audubon's Birds of America. McCulloch ("M'Culloch" in Audubon's book) was not merely a collector of dead stuffed birds (he apparently started Nova Scotia's first Audubon mounted bird collection), but he was also Audubon's Nova Scotia informant and "young friend"! Along with some juicy tidbits about the foraging habits of the Black Cap Titmouse (our black capped chickadees), McCulloch's ornithological observations also made their way into the sections on pine grosbeaks, the "little night owl" (which based on the coloured plate, I would guess is a barred owl), cedar waxwings, and the Least Peewee Flycatcher.

Did their common interests bring them into a friendship of letters, or did they meet on one of Audubon's expeditions to Atlantic Canada? That is a question I would love to answer.

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