#516 Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Friday, November 26th, 2010

I almost missed this one because the first few times I read the reports I translated it into the much more common species, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. But when I finally noticed that someone had really written “Fork-tailed Flycatcher” in the rare bird alert, I started to dash off a quick note to say, “Didn’t you mean Scissor-tailed Flycatcher?” Fortunately I Googled it first, and lo and behold there really is such a bird as a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and that is in fact what was showing up in Connecticut just over an hour away from Brooklyn! Whereas the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is common in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma and a regular vagrant across most of the continental United States, the Fork-tailed Flycatcher is normally found from Mexico south to Argentina. It is much less common around here than the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I.e. this is the first one I’ve even heard of, though apparently there’s about one report on the East Coast every year. The ABA rates the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher a 1 (easy to find in appropriate habitat and range) whereas the Fork-tailed Flycatcher is a 3 (rare birds annual in occurrence).

After cluing in that this bird really was something special and worth chasing, my first day off from work was Thanksgiving. The wife vetoed that though. However it was seen on Thanksgiving, by birders with less family obligations than me, so this morning I rented a pickup truck (the only Zipcar left in my neighborhood), drove across the Whitestone Bridge and up I-95 to Stamford, got off at Exit 9, drove down the street to to Cove Island Park, parked at the correct corner of the parking lot, walked over to where two other birders had a scope set up, and there it was:

Fork-tailed Flycatcher perched


Dragon Dictate 2.0 Crossgrade

Monday, November 8th, 2010

I’m dictating this using Dragon Dictate 2.0.1 for the Mac. This is a product a lot of people have been waiting for for a long time. Personally, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the only reason I’ve even booted Windows this year. My initial impressions of the Mac product are reasonably positive. However, it still doesn’t have feature parity with NaturallySpeaking on Windows. For instance, I notice that you can’t actually select text and then modify it with commands like “Cap That” and “compound that”.

I’ll have to experiment more but it does seem that Dragon for the Mac does not edit quite as well as NaturallySpeaking for Windows. It has definite problems finding words earlier in the sentence. It’s good enough for a first draft, but I’m not sure you could really publish something–even a basic letter–without going back over it with the keyboard. Still, it is faster than booting up Parallels just to dictate a letter. Given the limited editing functionality, NaturallySpeaking for Windows is still clearly the superior product. Anyone who depends on voice dictation as their only means of input will definitely want to use Windows and NaturallySpeaking. However, the Mac product is at least good enough for occasional use in conjunction with a keyboard.

Nuance is offering a $79.99 cross grade price for registered owners of NaturallySpeaking for Windows. For some reason they aren’t advertising this on their website. You have to write in and ask them. Upgrades are also available from earlier versions of MacDictate.

Not #516 Northern Loggerhead Shrike

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Northern Shrike has been on my target list for a little over a year. It’s not a common bird around New York City, but it does show up regularly in early winter; and when it does it often sticks around one spot for a week or more at a time. However I’ve never before made the effort to chase it, so it doesn’t qualify as a nemesis bird. Nonetheless it was a bit galling when Steve Nanz and the Brooklyn Bird Club found one last week at Jones Beach State Park on a trip I skipped to go to the PDN Photo Expo. Fortunately the bird hung around, probably feeding on Yellow-rumped Warblers and other small birds, and was still near the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center yesterday where Peter Dorosh, Mary Jo Eyster and myself relocated it yesterday:

Northern Shrike perched on fencepost