Monthly Archives: November 2010

Birds in Yiddish! (Foygl nemen oyf Yidish!)

Dear Bird Lovers and Yiddish Aficionados of the World! There is no longer any need to wait for the stunning volume that has it all: hundreds of European and American bird names, their Latin equivalents and a Yiddish translation! Don’t tell me you haven’t stayed up past midnight wondering how your (or my, for that matter) East European ancestors would have referred to my all-time favorite spark bird, the bird that started my descent (ascent?) into the world of ornithological paraphernalia, the Red Winged Blackbird.

You’ll be happy to know that there is no longer reason to lose sleep over this longstanding question! My (your, our) ancestors would have called this gem of a Red Winged Blackbird (Agelaius pheoniceus) a Royt-gefliglt shvartsfoygl! Obviously. Doesn’t it look like a royt-gefliglt shvartsfoygl?

Thanks to Hirsh Perloff and Whitechapel Presentations (London) for publishing such a handsome, one-of-a-kind, essential companion for any Yiddish-speaking birder! This book couldn’t have come at a more appropriate moment. This really does make me believe in karma. Who knew that my love of Yiddish and birds would dawn at approximately the same same time? In any event, 2010 is a big year for me: I saw my first warblers, my first bald eagle up-close, started my bird blog, learned to point my binoculars at something other than tree bark and pine cones (though I’m not a pro quite yet), got more use out of my Tilley Hat than ever before, and figured out how to say all of that in Yiddish!

Do let me know if you need any bird names translated into my favorite East European idiom — I now am the proud owner of more information about birds in Yiddish than you ever imagined existed. The book also features a few essential pictures and diagrams, complete with translations:

Enjoy! And feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need a translation or two, when suffering from insomnia. I am always happy to oblige. (And thanks to my fabulous Yiddish teacher, Gloria, for providing me with the book in the first place.)

Me and a Chickadee

I think I’ve already divulged the sad fact that I’m not exactly an animal person. Actually, I’m ever so slightly afraid of most animals. You never know when a dog might decide to bite your ankle and sink its incisors into your flesh. This hasn’t ever happened to me, but, as my mother warned me as a child, you never know! Cats never really did it for me either. They have both sharp teeth and claws. I’ll admit that I’ve always been partial to turtles and bunnies, but not to the point of actually touching them. I’m a bunny-admirer-from-afar kind of person.

So Bird-Loving Readers, you would have been shocked to see me hand-feeding a chickadee a few days ago!

There we were, the slightly hyper Poecile atricapillus and I, standing in the middle of Whitby, enjoying one another’s company. Of course, it helped that I had sunflower seeds and peanuts resting in the palm of my hand. (OK, full disclosure: the chickadee ate out of my MITTEN. I haven’t gotten as far as touching a bird yet. But the mitten was a huge step, believe me!) He nibbled at a few sunflower seeds, turned around to look at me, and off he went. He might have even smiled! Perhaps thanked me for my kindness.

I might have even seduced another chickadee into my little green-polar-fleece-clad-hand if I hadn’t, out of sheer hunger and, I admit, slight fear, devoured the remainder of the trail mix…

In other chickadee-unrelated news, I discovered, thanks to Pickle Me This, the great website of writer/illustrator Patricia Storms who evidently shares my love of the avian world and introduced me to a fabulous artist, Ellen Sereda, who paints absolutely stunning birds! Aren’t inter-blog connections amazing? I’ll leave you with Ellen’s Great Horned Owl, which should whet your appetite for discovering more of her art work!


Just to let all of you know, I’m about to take the plunge. It’s 99.9% decided. I’ve been mulling it over for a few months now, deciding whether it’s worth telling The World about and have finally come to the conclusion that this is News I should be proud to share.

I’m going to buy myself a new pair of binoculars! If you never thought I’d come this far, you’re not alone. I too never thought my bird THING would last this long! You see, bird watching isn’t really something I had imagined would be in my future. It’s not like I imagined I’d go see a fortune teller and she’d tell me WOW! YOU WILL BIRD WATCH! Beware. There is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it from happening.

The thing is, and I’ll be honest here, bird watching makes me happy. I have no idea why. I couldn’t tell you why watching a Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) roll around in the leaves (in Whitby, of all places!) is more than enough reward for three hours of basically standing still and a 6:30 am Saturday wake-up call.

What made this fox sparrow so completely awesomely gratifying was that I saw it rolling around in the leaves in the company of another, smaller, more ordinary looking sparrow and a junco and a couple chickadees! It was a total bird party out there somewhere in the middle of the woods in Whitby! I had never noticed how much fatter the Fox Sparrow is than all the others, but then again, maybe he’s bulking up for winter, who knows how bird metabolism really works.

And we saw numerous downy woodpeckers, which I can now almost certainly identify, doing their interminable tree-pounding routine, and I wondered, as I always do, every time I see a woodpecker in action, how it is that they never get a headache. Nature really IS awesome. By real birding standards, the day was nothing to brag about, but as far as I’m concerned, any time I can catch a woodpecker marking his territory is almost as good as eating bread pudding, fresh from the oven.

Of course, I now have this terrible feeling that I’m going to become one of these people who talks about binoculars and lenses and scopes and will alienate all of my friends and family in the process. I promise to keep the whole binocular shopping/evaluating/comparing/strategizing to a bare minimum here. But really, this is HUGE! I’m officially committing myself to birds for the next while. The somewhat birder may well one day become a bona fide birdwatcher. (of course, I’d have to know how to identify more then 7 birds, but who’s counting…)

I think Joey Slinger (formerly of Toronto Star fame) summed up binocular shopping perfectly:

In choosing binoculars, there is a simple rule to guide you: expensive ones are better. It is this way with everything else in life. Why should it be any different here? (Down and Dirty Birding)

So…. I’ll let you know what I end up with!

Birds and Fish

I think I’m addicted to note cards. I buy them the way some people buy shoes. Well, actually, I buy shoes too, so perhaps that’s not the greatest analogy. But seriously, note cards are pretty high on my list of frivolous purchases that I can’t seem to live without. I recently acquired fabulous bird cards by Jeffrey Fisher. How could you possibly resist this woodpecker? (You’ll be happy to know that I don’t just hoard note cards; I’m also addicted to sending them.)

He also has wrens, owls, cuckoos and rooks in his collection of cards. Various websites call Jeffrey Fisher’s books and paintings “imminently giftable.” Now there’s a nice new word to add to my vocabulary!

Yesterday, just as I had promised myself that I wouldn’t indulge in any more note card sprees until December (one can never have enough note cards during Christmas/Hannukah/New Year’s marathon card writing season), I came upon this pack of irresistible FISH cards at one of my favorite bookstores. I love the bookstore for the books on its remainder shelves/tables. I love that I walk in not really wanting anything in particular, and usually walk out with “exactly what I was looking for” and the day turns into the happiest day of my week, and I ride the subway home utterly content. Yesterday, it turned out I was looking for Nabokov’s Pnin and James Prosek’s FISH cards! I was sold on the cards when I read the back of the box and learned that Prosek is known as the “Audubon of the Fishing World.” How could I possibly resist now?

Here it is in all it’s glory: the Brook Trout. In spite of Prosek’s stellar illustrations, I don’t see myself becoming a fisher-woman any time soon. But the cards really did make my day. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no greater joy than sending (or receiving!) a card. I love the format and the flexibility of the note card — you can make the card be long enough to express something of substance (should that be your goal) by filling the entire card, or, should you only have a couple quick things to say, you can simply write on one half of the card and leave the other blank. Either way, the recipient of your card is pretty much guaranteed to be touched. A small miracle of an invention, the note card.