Monday, April 21, 2008

A Visit from Ted Floyd

One of the greatest aspects of working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the near-constant flow of esteemed visitors that pass through. I've been fortunate enough to be in meetings with top ornithologists and birders; not necessarily (but including) the most recognizable scientists (some formally trained, others not), but all with obscenely inquisitive minds, horrifically deep intellect, and near-illegal tenacity. In addition, the Lab hosts Monday Night Seminars, a long-running series of presentations that range from the rigorously scientific to free flowing poetry, also entertainingly presented by deep thinkers.

When calls went out for suggested speakers I nominated a friend I met while developing eBird, whom I've stayed in touch with ever since, Ted Floyd. Since 2002 we've run into each other at various meetings, American Birding Association conventions, and even stood outside at 4:30 AM on a cool Colorado fall morning listening to nocturnal migrants. If you've interacted with Ted, either live at birding festivals, workshops, or conferences, or indirectly through his writing (primarily for Birding, the ABA's flagship publication, which he edits) I'm sure you'll agree that he is one of the most interesting people to engage with: you never know where the conversation will lead.

Ted suggested a talk that he had been ruminating on, which seemed perfect for the typical Monday Night Seminar audience. A combination of birding, birds, evolution, science, and philosophy entitled, "Charles Darwin, Roger Tory Peterson, and the future of birding."

The abstract read,
The year 2009 will mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Roger Tory Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds and the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, arguably the two most important books in the history of birding. This seminar will identify a major conflict between Peterson's and Darwin's worldviews, then look at how tension between Peterson and Darwin was largely avoided in the 20th century, and finally examine how tension between Peterson and Darwin is inevitable in the early 21st century--with significant consequences for how we appreciate and understand birds and nature.
You can watch Ted's talk online (it runs about 45-50 minutes, if memory serves) along with other presenters from the Monday Night Seminar Series. If you do watch/listen, please comment - I'd love to hear your thoughts!


N8 said...


Met some folks from your neck of the woods in Hatteras this week.

Brian Sullivan was lead spotter on the pelagic I was on and he brought along Ted Lintz (sp. ?.)

We had a good day, I'm sure they'll have some stories when they get back.

noflickster said...

Hey n8 - first, outside of the birds they pointed out, don't believe anything they told you!

Very cool they were on the boat, I'm completely jealous. Brian and Tim (Lenz) are phenomenal birders, as I'm sure you discovered. I'm sure I'll hear stories, but I am looking forward to your account, wherein you relate how you schooled them on aging gulls and jaegers.

Good birding,

N8 said...

Duh, Tim not Ted, I knew that, don't know why I typed it...

I unfortunately didn't make the connection till we were nearly back at the dock and I started talking to Tim, we were the only youngish folks out there.

I wish I'd been more talkative, the seas were super-choppy and I was fighting the urge to keep from getting soaked and keep from getting sick, ultimately failing at both.

Some great birds out there though. I certainly appreciated Brian's expertise when it comes to storm-petrels, it took me some time to get a handle on them. Definitely one of those groups where the sum is greater then the parts.

No luck on jaegers, we only saw two. Both Poms, both adults.

noflickster said...

Wow, sounds like rough seas! My only NC pelagic was around Memorial Day about 10 years ago - the sea was like glass. Talk about being spoiled. The water was so calm we probably could have used a scope!

From personal experience I can say the only thing better than spending a day birding with them would have been to then hang out over a beer or three after the trip. It's a good way to discover all the hopefully-coming-soon goodies in eBird. Brian is no longer based in Ithaca so it doesn't happen as frequently as I'd like. Hopefully you'll have other chances on future trips!

Regardless of your NC Big Year, any lifers out there? I s'pose I have to wait for the post. The suspense!
- Mike

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