Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ghosts of Gone Birds

A little off topic but a cool thing to know about ...

Doing a little PR for a good cause here.  I am fascinated by island endemics, island biogeography, extinct birds, and wildlife art.  A few years ago I came across a project that encompassed all four
things ....

The Ghost of Gone Birds project reached out to artists and asked them to paint images of extinct species (obviously many were island endemics) to raise awareness around bird extinction, etc.  It's very much a UK thing but should probably be much more widely known.  The fact that they included some of my favorite (non-bird) artists prompted a few unexpected purchases ... six of which now hang in various rooms.  If you aren't aware of it, definitely worth checking out ...

There's also a book by Ralph Steadman for purchase Ralph Steadman: Ghosts of Gone Boids which might get someone inspired (or just gather dust on a coffee table).

Great cause though ... felt I needed to give it a plug ....

Ralph Steadman - counter-culture icon with his painting of the extinct Guadalupe
Caracara - just bought it, haven't hung it yet.
Just got this image as a birthday gift - the extinct, giant, flightless, St. Helena Hoopoe - yes, there once was a giant flightless, hoopoe (as late as the 1500's when European's and their cat and rat pals arrived on St. Helena).

The prey in it's mouth is the (almost certainly extinct - last seen in 1967, despite searches in the 70's and 80's) St. Helena Giant Earwig.  Some still hope that this critter still exists somewhere although obviously the chances are dimming with each year that passes.

St. Helena, being so isolated once had a great selection of endemic species, including perhaps 2 rails, a pigeon, a pterodroma, the hoopoe, and a Sand-Plover (which is still hanging on).

There were also apparently once an amazing diversity of plant species (some apparently being slowly managed back from the brink) on an island now dominated by invasive weeds.

Let's hope that the Giant Earwig is clinging on somewhere.

Dodo - this image hangs over the couch in my New York City Apartment.
Palla's Cormorant - another very cool image of a bird we somehow lost.

Discovered by George Steller in 1741 who said that "they weighed 12-14 pounds, so that a single bird was sufficient for three starving men" Though cormorants are notoriously bad-tasting, Steller said that this bird tasted delicious, particularly when it was cooked in the way of the native Kamtchadals, who encased the whole bird in clay and buried it and baked it in heated pits (Source: Wikipedia).  So you can guess what happened to them, and the last birds were seen in 1850. 

A contemporary of such other cool lost species as Steller's Sea-Cow (how cool would it be now to have giant sea-cows hanging around your favorite Alaska birding spots).

This picture hangs over the pool table in East Hampton (along with Audubon's Labrador Duck), although perhaps, given their culinary-driven demise, I should move them to the kitchen ....

Anyway, great cause, hope I got someone interested in checking it out ... fighting for these unique scraps of evolution is absolutely worth it ... you fight battles to win wars.  Don't let the demise of a single unique form go unchallenged ....