Strange Woodpecker Reported in Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Last night I got an e-mail from Rob Jett alerting me to a belated report from William Murdoch, a west coast birder, of a possible Eurasian Green Woodpecker in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, just across the street from me. Local reaction was skeptical to say the least, for several reasons:

  1. The reporter only saw it with the naked eye. He did not have binoculars or a camera.
  2. There are no previous reports of this species in North America, ever.
  3. The bird is apparently not a long distance migrant, even in its normal range. Consequently it seems very unlikely that it could have made the trip across the Atlantic, even ship assisted.
  4. If it is present, it’s likely an escapee from a zoo aviary or private collection. Hmm, I should check if the Prospect Park Zoo has lost a woodpecker recently.
  5. It could be mistaken for a Lewis’s Woodpecker. That would still be a great sighting, but at least it’s not a state record. That species has shown up in New York four times previously, the closest record being in Westchester.

To top matters off, we didn’t get the report until eight days after the sighting on November 12th, so the first anybody could look for it was this morning. Thus I would conservatively rate the odds of finding this bird at about 1 in 100,000 (maybe slightly better if you allow for possible escapees); but it would be a really spectacular find if it were there, and it was a nice day anyway, so this morning at 7:00 A.M. I headed out to scan the edges of the garden and see what I could see.

Root Directories in Recent Windows

Monday, November 20th, 2006

While reviewing an upcoming article of mine, a friend mentioned that some of his students are having trouble creating root directories in Windows; for example a directory such as C:\project. This certainly isn’t the case on any Windows system I own, but they’re all running Windows 2000.

Has anyone heard of anything like this? Do recent versions of XP or Vista require that all user created files be placed in C:\Documents and Settings\Username or some such? Can anyone confirm or deny this? Maybe it depends on whether or not you’re running as Administrator?

Brooklyn Coastal Trip

Monday, November 20th, 2006

It’s sometimes easy to forget that New York is a coastal city, but it is; and yesterday Peter Dorosh led the Brooklyn Bird Club on an excursion to three of our local coastal sites.

We started the day at Calvert Vaux Park (nee Dreier-Offerman Park), one of the most underbirded sites in the borough. This park is nestled between Coney Island and the Verazzano Narrows Bridge on Gravesend Bay where Coney Island Creek enters. It’s mostly built on rock excavated during the construction of the Verazzano Narrows Bridge. It’s small, about 70 acres, but very productive, especially in Fall. We arrived their about 7:30 and spent 3 and a half hours there racking up almost 60 species, including two new ones for my Kings County list: Northern Pintail and Eastern Bluebird. That last one is particularly hard to find in the city limits. I’ve only seen it once before in New York City, and that was on Staten Island. Pintails are rare here everywhere except Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

View from Calvert Vaux Park with Brant

Anti-American Yahoos

Friday, November 17th, 2006

The town council of Pahrump, Nevada trampled all over the American flag this week and spit on the graves of everyone who ever fought to defend freedom of speech, voting 3-2 to ban flying any foreign flag above the U.S. flag or alone.

I hereby declare the three idiots who voted for this measure to be un-American and unpatriotic. I’m grateful I don’t live there, but if I did I think I’d be ordering a Mexican flag about now.

Mexican Flag

Compiling Javac

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

I downloaded the javac sources and gave them a whirl with ant on my PowerBook. No success. They wouldn’t compile. I’m not sure whether this is because I’m using a Mac or because I’m using Java 5, and they want Java 6. There seem to be several missing or incompatible classes.

Interfaces vs. Classes

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Apparently XOM and JDOM aren’t the only projects to consider interfaces to be more trouble than they’re worth. I just noticed that JAXB 2.0 now uses singles classes for its generated files rather than separate interfaces and implementation classes like version 1.0 did. Given that these are generated code that should not be directly modified or extended by the programmer, this seems an obvious choice.