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Bird Nest Architecture and Art; and mid-March Bird Sightings

mp Warming and Victor Romanyshyn

This blog is presented into two distinct parts:

  • A. Bird Architecture: The Coevolutionary Aesthetics of Bird and Man – an exhibition curated by mp Warming that includes Victor Romanyshyn’s and mp’s exquisite art

  • B. Mid-March Bird Sightings

A. Bird Architecture: The Coevolutionary Aesthetics of Bird and Man

Our Peaks Island artists - mp Warming (1) and Victor Romanyshyn (2) - present their elegant art at Yale University’s - The Institute Library (originally named The New Haven Young Men’s Institute – 1841). This oldest independent circulating library in CT was founded in 1826.

The library is nestled in a lively neighborhood, including its neighbor – Tattoos - for those interested in another art form based primarily on self-expression. An old style buzzer doorbell and intercom greet you at the door. Once identified as a ‘friendly’, the door opens and a steep tall staircase with all the creeks of antiquity looms ahead of you. At the top of the stair well appears a scrumpy old library with faded illumination, shelves of old books, and a talkative volunteer – Steve.

The exhibition is up, yet, another creaky staircase. A nice space opens up – tall ceilings, soft light, and thoughtful art.

The Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, Yale University, sponsors this exhibition. mp Warming has worked with several scientists and most importantly, with the distinguished Dr. Richard Prum, Curator of Ornithology at Yale’s Peabody Museum, to create this exhibition that interprets the coevolultionary aesthetics of bird and man using Bird Architecture as the central theme (3, 4):

This philosophical approach is visualized through drawings, photographs, and journal articles:

mp Warming

Victor Romanyshyn

Richard O. Prum

“Bird Architecture brings together art and science by highlighting a biotic aesthetic of birds. While the design of birds nest has been considered as a functional adaptation, in this exhibition nests are presented as an aesthetic experience.” (1) For example, “Warming chose to display Maine artist Victor Romanyshyn’s images in diptych arrangements. These parings feature his nature photograph of birds and their habitats, partnered with Romanyshyn’s still life images of his studio.” (1) As noted by my companion - Victor has a terrific eye for staging objects in his photographs.” (5)

Victor Romanyshyn

This graceful and thought-provoking exhibition shows how man and birds run in parallel – using art as a guide to follow our corresponding evolution. It is open until April 17. The Library Institute is located on 847 Chapel Street (Corner of Church and Chapel Streets), New Haven, CT next to the Tattoo store. Call ahead at 203 562 4045 to insure that the buzzer attendant is available. Parking places with meters are found along the streets. A colorful and rewarding experience – inside and out.

References and credits for Part 1

2. Victor Romanyshyn. Studio 203A, 61 Pleasant Street, Portland, ME. (

3. Prum, R.O. Leonardo and the Science of Bird Flight. Cat.12, Folio 7, VERSO. Pp. 111-117.

4. Prum, R.O. 2013. Coevolutionary aesthetics in human and biotic artworlds. Biol Philos. 28:811-832. Springer.

5. Sam Wainright, personal communication.

6. Photographs © Sam Wainright

B. Mid-March Bird Sightings

Michael (1) and Lisa (2) are scouring Peaks Island and her shores for new bird arrivals from their southerly wintering homes. A spectacular sighting by our devoted birders is two Northern Shovelers in Hadlock Cove, “taking a rest on their way to Alaska (3)”. It is a treat to see them here, even for a short time as they refuel before their arduous and long migration across the country.

Composite of All Plumages Northern Shoveler Photo: Richard Crossley; Wiki Commons (4)

The end of February Lisa spotts Northern Gannets offshore – near Green Island. These elegant seabirds are rarely seen except when windy conditions blow them close to shore, as they migrate North to their breeding grounds along coastal Canada (For example: Bird Rock @ Cape St. Mary, Newfoundland).

Clusters of gannets, greater than 100 of them, are sighted on March 29 a mile off Orient Point, Long Island (5). Keep your eyes open off the Backshore for these magnificent birds, as they move up the coast. Think big, all white birds with black wing tips – they are lean (3.4 pounds) but their wingspan (72”) is nearly as large as a Bald Eagle (80”; 10 pounds).

Michael describes the morning of March 15: “A ‘dirty’ morning as sailors would say; rain, 42 degrees, east wind coming in on Backshore, fog bank 100 yards out.” Even with poor weather conditions he finds many unusual birds, and here, in his own words he describes his day: “But!!!!!!! Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds are in the reeds and marshes between Battery Steele and Backshore. Boardwalk is a bit dicey; water is high; I got as far as Sam’s Sora’s spot and no further. (Sora) is not back yet. The Winter Wren on Brackett Avenue as well as the four Wood Ducks are a great treat. Six Canada Geese are just off City Point - unusual for me. No scoters, but the fog probably obscured them; they tend to be far out on the rolling surf off Backshore, or in Diamond Pass off Evergreen. No Red-Necked Grebes seen. Cardinals are beginning their territorial/mating songs. No Cedar Waxwings or House Finches but abundant starlings and House Sparrows are seen all over the island.”

Lisa sees the Bald Eagles in flight and on their nest on Great Diamond. Her last sighting includes one of the juvenile eagles flying with a parent. And, Michael shares with us a live webcam for Washington DC’s (U.S. National Arboretum) Bald Eagle Pair, named ‘Mr. President and the ‘First Lady’. Two chicks hatched on March 18 and March 20 and they appear as whitish-grey velvet puffs of down feathers – with black beaks and eyes. Their nest is located in a Tulip Poplar towering over Azalea bushes. The female is fastidious about her nest, continually cleaning by digging (perhaps pushing waste away from chicks) and rearranging soft twigs around the chicks. The chicks are well fed and extra fish parts are neatly lined-up in front of the attentive female. Using their tiny wings, as paddle-boards, the chicks are occasionally observed tussling with each other – sibling rivalry?

Michael’s three bird lists for March 15, 16, and 22 below, as submitted to eBird: * New Arrivals

# Species that soon will leave for their northern breeding grounds. We will miss them.

Mar 15, 2016 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM Comments: Cold rain, 42 degrees, east wind with high seas and fog bank off Backshore. 22 species

Canada Goose* 6 (Off City Point) Wood Duck* 4 (Flushed from marsh land behind Battery Steele) American Black Duck 5 Common Eider 8 Long-tailed Duck # 6 Bufflehead # 10 (Equal numbers male and female in Diamond Pass) Common Merganser # 2 (Near Peaks shore, Diamond Pass) Common Loon # 3 Ring-billed Gull # 2 (Centennial Beach) Herring Gull 18 Great Black-backed Gull 5 Mourning Dove 4 Blue Jay 15 American Crow 17 Black-capped Chickadee 6 Winter Wren* 1 (Bracket Avenue at cross roads before marsh lands; high in tree) European Starling 40 Song Sparrow 16 Northern Cardinal 10 (Very much in evidence; spring songs all over the island) Red-winged Blackbird* 9 American Goldfinch* 3 House Sparrow 50

Mar 16, 2016 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM Comments: Partly sunny, low fifties, east wind, high seas, falling tide 27 species American Black Duck 3 Northern Shoveler* 2 (Also seen by Lisa Lynch, same spot (Hadlock Cove) - seen close with 20x80 binoculars) Northern Pintail* 17 (Two separate pods of 9 and 8 off back shore; seen with 20x80's; 50 seen last week in n. MA coast) Common Eider 12 White-winged Scoter # 10 Black Scoter # 13 Long-tailed Duck # 2 Bufflehead # 8 Red-breasted Merganser # 7 Common Loon # 3 Red-necked Grebe # 1 Herring Gull 18 Great Black-backed Gull 5 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 7 Mourning Dove 1 Pileated Woodpecker 1 Blue Jay 7 American Crow 12 Fish Crow* 1 (Picking along shoreline, Spar Cove, with four AMCR luckily very near for comparison) Northern Mockingbird 1 (By TEIA parking lot; got to ten feet away; perhaps a dozen different songs; spectacular) Song Sparrow 20 Northern Cardinal 5 Red-winged Blackbird* 20 Rusty Blackbird* 3 Common Grackle* 3 American Goldfinch* 3 House Sparrow 40

Mar 22, 2016 9:00 AM - 11:15 AM Comments: Cold west wind, thirties, high tide; with Patty Wainright 21 species (+2 other taxa) Wood Duck* 2 American Black Duck 6 Common Eider 15 Black Scoter # 2 Long-tailed Duck # 2 Bufflehead # 4 Common Goldeneye # 4 Red-breasted Merganser # 20 Common Loon # 6 hawk sp. 1 Black Guillemot 1 Herring Gull 6 Mourning Dove 1 woodpecker sp. 1 Blue Jay 4 American Crow 12 Black-capped Chickadee 8 Tufted Titmouse 1 (Heard, not seen; by Battery Steele) European Starling 6 Song Sparrow 6 Northern Cardinal 15 Red-winged Blackbird* 15 House Sparrow 10

Other Information for Part B


1. Michael Lacombe – Bird Lists and narratives

2. Lisa Lynch – Bird sightings

3. Michelle Brown – Narrative

4. Northern Shoveler from The Crossley ID Guide Eastern Birds. Wikimedia Commons Ticket # 2013103010013314.

5. Sam Wainright and four US Coast Guard Cadets - Ornithology Class

By Patty Wainright

Reviewed by: Michelle Brown, Marty, and Michael LaCombe.

Thank you for your interest in the bird blog. If you have any questions or comments please contact Michelle:

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The objective of The Backshore Bird Blog is to share the wonder and diversity of bird species seen along the Peaks Island shore.

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