Monday, March 22, 2010

Mayfly Central

A school whose entomology department creates something as nice as Mayfly Central certainly deserves to have its basketball team in the Sweet Sixteen.

A "flatheaded" or Heptageniidae mayfly, possibly in the genus Maccaffertium. Four Mile Creek, Butler County, Ohio. March 19, 2010.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Pied-billed Red-wattled Leaf-shrike Cuckoo

Paula McCartney has published a funny project involving photographs of store-bought decorative birds that she posed in natural settings. It's called Bird Watching and is done with a "straight face," as if the photos in the book document real species. There are field notes and fantastic species names for each bird, all done up in the archly classic style of a committed field naturalist's journal.

I've read through the brief material on the website for Bird Watching that McCartney provides to explain her project, and this statement struck me: "By controlling the brightly colored bird's position in the environment, I am creating a more idyllic scene than that which naturally exists, and creating a new environmental experience for the viewer and myself." Given the ability of photographers to Photoshop their bird and nature pictures, to remove twigs and branches, add or remove items, change the backgrounds, the lighting, the position of the sun, etc., it's curious to compare how an artist purposely manipulates a scene the way McCartney does with the purposeful manipulation of a scene after it's been captured on film, as many nature photographers do. What's the difference, besides the fact that McCartney's birds are fantastical fictions?

I'm not going to spend $800 on McCartney's book, but her idea is funny enough that I'd love to see a copy. Better yet, I'd love to place a copy on a display table at a meeting of ornithologists or serious birders or nature artists to see how they would react.