Redpolls, siskins, United States winter birds


This video is called Arcaute Artistics: Common Redpoll.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

The Redpolls are Coming! The Redpolls are Coming! (And Siskins, Too)

About every other year, cold winter winds blow flurries of two boreal birds—Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls— down from Canada to scatter about the Lower 48 states.

This winter, it’s time for another irruption.

eBird data show that Common Redpolls are reaching the Chicago area in the Midwest and moving down past New Jersey along the Atlantic Coast. Birders are reporting Pine Siskins all the way down in Florida and Texas.

Read our story on the All About Birds blog about what drives this irruption, how to identify redpolls and siskins, and how you might attract them to your backyard bird feeder.

African American history and conservation


This music video from the USA is called Marvin GayeMercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) (Lyrics).

From The Nature Conservancy in the USA:

African Americans have a rich history in conservation that can be found everywhere from Motown to national parks.

Did you know that African American Buffalo Soldiers were some of the earliest defenders of our national parks? Or that the hit Motown song “Mercy, Mercy Me” was inspired by nature?

Take the quiz below to learn about African Americans who pioneered and advocated for conservation. Then see how today’s youth are following in their footsteps as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program. Get a millenial’s perspective on African Americans and the environment from LEAF alumna Cleo Doley, who is pursuing a concentration in environmental justice at the University of Vermont.

Interested in learning even more about conservation heroes? Check out these six facts about African American leaders who made an impact for the environment and watch a video [below] about a park ranger who is inspiring the next generation of African American conservationists.

This video is called Conservation and Black History Month.

Harper Lee’s second novel will be published


This video from the USA says about itself:

Northern Mockingbird singing and singing and singing and occasionally leaping up out of frame for a brief flight display. He does a lot of Great-tailed Grackle calls, some Cardinal and Cactus Wren. He does a bit of car alarm at 2:50, and he does an AMAZING “Mourning Dove taking off” imitation at 10:21. How many bird calls can you recognize him “mocking”?

The northern mockingbird is the bird in the title of Harper Lee‘s famous anti-racist novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

In this famous book, Harper Lee wrote:

Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.

They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.

That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

From Vox.com in the USA:

Harper Lee, author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ will publish her second novel in July

Updated by Kelsey McKinney on February 3, 2015, 10:46 a.m. ET

Harper Lee, the author of the 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird, announced on Tuesday that she will release a second novel this summer.

88-year-old Lee, who is notoriously private and does not give many interviews, has not been working on an entirely new novel. Instead, she will release a previously  unpublished work completed before To Kill a Mockingbird titled Go Set a WatchmanAccording to the AP, this is a novel that Lee started in the 1950s, set aside, and has since returned to and finished.

Lee said in a statement to her publisher Harper that the novel is a kind of prequel to Scout’s story, and that the manuscript had been previously misplaced.

“In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called `Go Set a Watchman,’ It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became `To Kill a Mockingbird‘) from the point of view of the young Scout.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

Go Set a Watchman will be released on July 14.

See also here.

HARPER LEE TO RELEASE ‘MOCKINGBIRD’ SEQUEL “Now, at age 88, Ms. Lee has revealed that she wrote another novel after all — a sequel of sorts to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ featuring an aging Atticus Finch and his grown daughter, Scout. On Tuesday, Ms. Lee’s publisher announced its plans to release that novel, recently rediscovered, which Ms. Lee completed in the mid-1950s, before she wrote ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’ The 304-page book, ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ takes place 20 years later in the same fictional town.” [NYT]

A sequel to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from Harper Lee will be released this summer: here.

Blues music and the African-American civil rights movement


This music video from the USA is called Leadbelly-The Bourgeois Blues.

This song by Leadbelly is about racism among financially well off people in the USA. The lyrics are here.

By Derek Bright:

Left turns on the blues highway

Saturday 31st January 2015

Take a road trip down the ‘blues highway’ from Chicago to New Orleans in the US and the connections between the history of the blues and African-Americans’ ongoing struggle for civil rights are inescapable, says DEREK BRIGHT in this extract from his new book

Highway 61 never strays far from the Mississippi River, its southbound route drilling down into the heart of the troubled past of the US, through towns inextricably linked with cotton and slavery, civil war and the African-American struggle for civil rights.

The aim of my journey for the book Highway 61: Crossroads on the Blues Highway was to explore the history of that country’s most important indigenous musical form, ever mindful of Francoise N Hamlin’s words that it is the “narratives beyond the blues that are the very stories that made the blues.” What the “blues traveller” finds are stories inseparable from the broader history of African-American struggle.

On the first day of that road trip I stood with photographer Richard Brown, gazing up at the head of a prize-winning steer carved into the gothic archway over the last surviving gate to what had once been Chicago’s Union Stock Yards. It was a reminder of the “killing floors” that feature in blues songs such as Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor, Skip James’s Hard Time Killing Floor Blues and Son House’s Dry Spell Blues.

By the 1920s, the stockyards, slaughter houses and packing houses employed half of the newly emerging black proletariat that had migrated to Chicago, escaping a Southern share-cropping economy organised along lines that the African-American sociologist Lewis Wade Jones described as something akin to feudal fiefdoms.

With the “great migration” came the music of the South, adapted to reflect the intense urgency of the city, music described by Langston Hughes in 1942 as “amplified to machine proportions — a musical version of electric welders plus a rolling mill.”

Yet, despite escaping Jim Crow laws, for African-Americans Chicago was a deeply segregated city and it was organisation at local level within the stockyard unions through the work of activists such as Young Communist League member Herbert Marsh that would unite black and white workers in common cause.

As an article in the African-American Chicago Defender newspaper reported in 1939: “Today the PWOC (Packinghouse Workers Organising Committee) planted the seed of unity in the stony soil of Packingtown. Negroes walk freely and in safety.

“Any public place which refused them service would be quickly put out of business by a boycott of the white union members. On the very streets where danger once lurked at every corner for Negroes, colored men stop for long chats about baseball with Polish and Irish workers.”

The Communist Party of the USA proved itself to be a significant unifying force amongst ethnic groups in the “black belt” and the “back of the yards,” infamous areas of poor housing where stockyard workers lived.

The CPUSA’s funding of legal defence for the Scottsboro Boys case in 1931 gained the trust of African-American workers, to the extent that the party was even defended in the pages of the Chicago Defender, which ran an article headlined: “Why We Can’t Hate Reds.”

That integration of black workers in the stockyard unions is reflected in songs such as Stockyard Blues (1947), where Floyd Jones sings: “I passed the stockyards y’know, the boys were still on the picket line” and in Hard Times, where he sings about union and company negotiations and delivers the line: “Slow production — we’ll give you four days a week.”

On our last day in Chicago, while searching for the grave of prolific blues composer Willie Dixon in Burr Oak’s African-American cemetery, we stumbled across the graves of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Bradley. Till’s mother shocked the conscience of a nation when she brought her son’s tortured and mutilated body to Chicago from Mississippi, insistent that it be put on public display, an act seen by many as a defining moment in the history of the civil rights movement.

Nearly 60 years later, “blues travellers” will still find numerous reminders of Till’s murder. Driving through Money, Leflore County, Mississippi, a mile or so from Robert Johnson’s grave, a Mississippi freedom trail marker next to the buckled shell of a dilapidated building cloaked in ivy caught my attention. Our search for Johnson’s grave brought us by chance to Bryant’s grocery store where, on a summer holiday in 1955, 14-year-old Till bought candy, whistled and called: “Bye honey” to the white woman storekeeper as he left.

Till’s act of teenage bravado transgressed the boundaries of acceptable behaviour imposed by whites on blacks in the South. Declassified letters from J Edgar Hoover to Dillon Anderson, special assistant to the president, show that within days of Till’s murder the FBI was briefing on the widespread publicity the CPUSA was giving to the Till case through the pages of the Daily Worker.

That the communities that bluesmen and women came from were the same communities that fought for change is reflected in the US left’s embrace of both black and white folk music.

While the Melody Maker of July 1937 is often cited as one of the few newspapers that referenced Johnson’s music in his own lifetime, what is less well-known is that the weekly Marxist magazine New Masses, closely allied with the CPUSA, carried coverage of Johnson’s music on a number of occasions while he was alive as early as March 1937.

And the news of Johnson’s death was announced to a wider public in the pages of New Masses, just a week before Johnson was due to be showcased before an integrated audience at Carnegie Hall in New York. That concert, From Spirituals to Swing, was funded by the CPUSA.

Highway 61: Crossroads on the Blues Highway by Derek Bright is published by the History Press at £14.99.

This page contains text & video examples of and comments about selected African American civil rights songs from the 1960s. “Civil rights songs” are also known as “freedom songs”.

Rare birds in the USA update


This December 2014 video, about male goosanders, is called Rare Birds of North America.

From the American Birding Association blog:

Rare Bird Alert: January 30, 2015

By Nate Swick

It was a slower week to be sure, but Texas takes its accustomed place as the center of the ABA rarity world with a couple of notable finds this week. the most accommodating of which is an ABA Code 4 Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, still being seen daily (if not regularly during the day) at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Hidalgo. It’s the first Gray-crowned Yellowthroat in the ABA Area in more than 8 years.

Elsewhere in the valley, a male Blue Bunting (4) was discovered, but not yet refound, at Laguna Atascosa NWR in Cameron.

In Oklahoma, a pair of Yellow-billed Loons, along with 2 Pacific Loons, were seen in Cherokee.

Colorado continues to live up to its reputation as the gull capital of the mountain west with a Glaucous-winged Gull in Arapahoe.

Arizona also had a Glaucous-winged Gull this week, one in Mohave is the state’s 8th. And a pair of Trumpeter Swans were found in Pima, particularly rare in the south of the state.

In Utah, the state’s 2nd record of Purple Finch, one of the darker Pacific coast population, has been visiting a feeder in Washington. In the same county, a Red-throated Loon was also noteworthy.

Another Black-headed Gull (3) was found in Oregon, this time in Clatsop. Assuming this is not the same bird found a couple weeks farther east, this would be the state’s 6th.

In Idaho, a Glaucous Gull in Canyon is a great find.

A Ferruginous Hawk in Gibson, Indiana, is likely the same bird returning for its third consecutive winter.

In New Hampshire, a photogenic Gyrfalcon was seen by many in Rockingham.

New York saw a spate of good birds this week, including a Barrow’s Goldeneye in Oswego, what may be the state’s 2nd in as many weeks Crested Caracara, photographed in Nassau, and a Western Tanager in Suffolk.

Trumpeter Swans continue to be more regular in the southeast as the interior population grows. One was in Prince Edward, Virginia, this week.

And in Florida, a nice Bullock’s Oriole was visiting a feeder in Osceola.