Human members of the metal band Hatebeak spoke to Vice about the secret behind their unique sound — a 21-year-old African Grey named Waldo. Here is a part of the Q&A with band member Blake Harrison:
What is it like collaborating with a bird? Are there animal-specific challenges? You know, there’s the old Hollywood trope: “Never work with kids and never work with animals.” It can be a little bit of a pain at times. Most of it is getting Waldo to relax. The mimicry is a form of play for him. So, to get him to do anything, he’s got to feel comfortable. And then he kind of spouts out whatever. But he likes to bite your ear when he’s on your shoulder sometimes. He likes to whistle the Andy Griffith theme song. A lot. And obviously that’s cool, but it’s not something I can use on a metal record. There are challenges, but I’ve been in tons of bands, and lead singers typically tend to have pretty big egos. I know because I sang for a band myself. So I would say it’s not much different than working with a [human] lead singer because there are still challenges.
Do you put Waldo in a vocal-recording booth? Yeah, kind of. We don’t go to a studio to record this stuff—we do it in Mark’s band room or a spare room. We have set up a microphone in front of him, like a studio setting, but it’s not really a vocal booth. With modern recording technology, it’s a lot easier to get stuff done than it used to be. So it’s not like we have to put him in there with a bottle of Jack Daniels and whatever else, like—
A pair of tiny headphones? Right, no headphones, no pop-screen. That’s a funny image, but we don’t really have to do that.
Discovery Communications recently celebrated its annual “Discover Your Impact Day” with a volunteer event in conjunction with the Friends of the Los Angeles River. After spending the day at the river collecting trash and completing biodiversity surveys, the 80 volunteers got to work building nesting boxes to bring bluebirds and other native species back to their river habitat. The 74 birdhouses completed at the end of the day were donated to the Audubon Center at Debs Park, where Audubon staff will distribute them through Audubon’s school programs.
In yet another sign of the devastating impact of the drought on California waterfowl populations, a new report from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife shows that breeding waterfowl populations in California are down 30 percent from last year. While this decline is being driven by a number of species, breeding mallards show the largest decline, falling 28 percent from last year, and 42 percent from 2013.
“While these numbers are startling, they are not surprising given the impact of the drought on waterfowl habitat in California,” said Audubon California Executive Director Brigid McCormack. “Our birds are a tremendous natural legacy, and these numbers are of great concern.”
As if we needed more evidence of the drought putting California birds at risk, the Los Angeles Times takes a look at how falling water levels at Mono Lake are putting the massive nesting population of California Gulls at risk. Scary stuff. (photo of California Gull at Mono Lake by S. Rae)
With the images of dead and injured birds from the recent oil spill at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara fresh in our minds, Audubon California is stepping up its support of new legislation which will close the last remaining loopholes allowing offshore oil drilling in California waters. Senate Bill 788, authored by State Senator Mike McGuire, was approved by the State Senate a couple weeks ago, and is now moving through the State Assembly.
Legislation that would require a coordinated response from state agencies to the changes brought about by global warming passed a key committee in the State Senate. Assembly Bill 1482, which will require the Natural Resources Agency and the Strategic Growth Council to oversee and coordinate state agency and department actions to adapt to climate change impacts, was approved by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee today. The bill is authored by Assembly Member Richard Gordon and co-sponsored by Audubon California.
The bill now moves on to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.
As you probably know by now, we at Audubon love our bird-related street art. So when we saw these amazing pigeon murals by Dutch artist Stefan Thelen (aka Super A), we just had to share. There are more here.
When balls of tar started washing up in Manhattan Beach just days after the 105,000 gallon oil spill a hundred miles to the north in Santa Barbara, people were quick to associate the two incidents. But officials balked, saying that it was unlikely that the Santa Barbara oil was landing so far south. But now there’s conclusive evidence that the oil is the same. Not that we needed more proof that oil spills are always a little worse than you think they are.
Our friends at the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society have joined with the Sierra Club to file a lawsuit to halt a controversial solar energy project in Panoche Valley. The parties contend that the projects Environmental Impact Report was vastly insufficient.
Black Oystercatcher nesting season has begun in California, and a network of Audubon and agency observers are again tracking the success of breeding birds from Mendocino to Morro Bay. All told, over 90 people in nine counties visit one or more nest sites at least once a week to check the status of oystercatcher nests. The information gathered by these dedicated observers since 2012 is providing vital insight into the status of these charismatic, beloved rocky intertidal shorebirds in California. Participants in Monterey County are featured today in this article in the Monterey County Weekly (Photo and video by Ron LeValley)
The Black Oystercatcher is unique in both appearance and life history. Of the six rocky intertidal obligate shorebirds, it is the only species residing here year-round. Oystercatchers range from Baja to the Aleutian Islands, making their living among wave-swept mussel beds by sneaking up behind limpets and prying them off the rocks, and hunting for snails, mussels and other invertebrates. In our state, they mainly nest on islets and offshore rocks of the California Coastal National Monument (CCNM). Oystercatchers prefer nesting sites on rocks that are separated from the mainland, laying one to three eggs from May to June depending on latitude. They aggressively defend their territories from intruders including other oystercatchers.
Black Oystercatchers are a US Fish and Wildlife Service Focal Species due to their small global population size of under 20,000 individuals as well as vulnerability to threats such as sea level rise, increased storm events, oil spills and disturbance. Until recently, very little was known of its population size and distribution in California. In 2011, Audubon California coordinated the first targeted statewide survey for the species, showing far higher abundances than had been thought, as well as areas of very high densities.
Now, biologists and citizen scientists such as Jodi Isaacs of California State Parks, Diane Hichwa of Madrone Audubon, Joleen Ossello of Mendocino Coast Audubon, Hugo Ceja for the California Coastal National Monument, and Meg Marriott of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are coordinating volunteers to track nest success toward the goal of a five-year data set that will shed light on the trajectory of the species in California as ocean climate changes. Mendocino Coast Audubon has gone further by producing outreach materials on oystercatchers reaching thousands of coastal residents and visitors, and educating coastal users to reduce disturbance to nests during the breeding season. Collectively, the Audubon network is helping understand , conserve and enjoy this wonderful and uncommon shorebird.
Bird-killing solar plant Ivanpah is producing only 40% of the energy NRG Energy Inc. promised. From a MarketWatch article:
The sprawling facility uses “power towers”–huge pillars surrounded by more than 170,000 mirrors, each bigger than a king-size bed–to capture the sun’s rays and create steam. That steam is used to generate electricity. Built by BrightSource Energy Inc. and operated by NRG Energy Inc., Ivanpah has been advertised as more reliable than a traditional solar panel farm, in part, because it more closely resembles conventional power plants that burn coal or natural gas…
One big miscalculation was that the power plant requires far more steam to run smoothly and efficiently than originally thought, according to a document filed with the California Energy Commission. Instead of ramping up the plant each day before sunrise by burning one hour’s worth of natural gas to generate steam, Ivanpah needs more than four times that much help from fossil fuels to get plant humming every morning. Another unexpected problem: not enough sun. Weather predictions for the area underestimated the amount of cloud cover that has blanketed Ivanpah since it went into service in 2013.
Audubon California is working to prevent the construction of solar facilities that use similar “power towers.” This news is more evidence that this type of construction isn’t worth its impact on birds and wildlife.