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March 2020

More about Bond and the Bahama Nuthatch

Bahama Huthatch Hayes_7607-1200-(2)(2)
A new post on the Academy of Natural Sciences blog provides an in-depth look at the Bahama Nuthatch, discovered by the real James Bond in 1931.

The Academy's Carolyn Belardo writes:

The slow death spiral started with pine logging, then tourist developments, followed by the explosion of cats,starlings and house sparrows. Scientists believe climate change and a series of weather catastrophes in the last few decades have finally finished it off.

Bahama nuthatch ansp skin
The Bahama nuthatch collected in 1931, now in the Academy’s Ornithology Collection. For size perspective, the red label attached to the specimen measures ¾ inch wide and 3 inches long. Photo by Matt Halley/ANS, starlings and house sparrows. Scientists believe climate change and a series of weather catastrophes in the last few decades have finally finished it off.

The Bahama Nuthatch, a tiny, critically endangered bird found only on Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas, was down to the single digits before last year’s hurricane that devastated parts of the popular Caribbean vacation destination.

Academy Ornithology Collection Manager Nate Rice and much of the ornithology community believe Sitta pusilla insularis is now extinct.

The post includes a photo of the bird that Bond collected for science.

You can read the Academy's post here.

You can read the post I wrote about Bond for the Academy blog here.

You can read my blog post about the Bahama Nuthatch here. (It talks about how Bond bummed a ride on a rum runner to get to the settlement where he found the nuthatch.)

A big thank you (again) to Professor William K. Hayes for the use of his recent photo of a Bahama Nuthatch, taken jsut before the species was thought to go extinct.

Below is the page from the 1936 edition of "Birds of the West Indies" that describes the nuthatch. Note the last sentence.

Bond Bahama Nuthtach 1936 BOTWI

 


The 'Real James Bond' Board Game

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One of the themes of "The Real James Bond" is the similarities between spies and naturalists.

As one chapter points out, at least seven of Bond's contemporaries worked for the Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA) or U.S. Army intelligence during World War II.

So I was curious when an old 007 board game came up for sale on Etsy. I bit, and I bought.

Although the game was no longer playable, I found it striking how many of the settings in the game worked well for spying on birds as well as secret agents.

Here are the locales:

1. Sewer.

2. Fishing boat. (Perfect.)

3. Garage.

4. Deserted mine. (Canary?)

5. Mountain cabin. (Absolutely.)

6. Cemetery ('nuff said.)

7. Casino.

8. Warehouse. (Pigeons, house sparrows, barn owls.)

9. There is no No.9. Perhaps that's the biggest mystery of all.

10. Factory.

11. Subway station.

12. Back alley.

Five out of 11 -- not bad.

IMG_4783


A List of What Bond Collected for Science

Bond bee hummingbird label DSCN9807
The best resource for learning more about all the birds, fish, insects and eggs that James Bond collected for science can be found on the VertNet website here.

The list is extensive but not exhaustive. It provides a when and where for Bond's scientific contributions -- as well as where they are located today.

Each has become something of a time capsule available to researchers. I explain why in my new book.

The label above is from a Bee Hummingbird -- smallest bird in the world -- that Bond collected on Cuba's Isle of Pines in 1931.

The island is seventh-largest in the West Indies. Fidel Castro, who was imprisoned on the island in the arly 1950s,  changed its name to the Isle of Youth in the late 1970s when he built an ill-fated school there.

According to The Guardian newspaper:

"In 1978, Fidel Castro turned the island into a grand communist university for students from around the world.

"Today those young pupils are long gone and many of the buildings lie abandoned amid the seemingly limitless forests of pine, mango and citrus, or have been converted into community housing.

"This sense of abandonment extends beyond the erstwhile university project, though."

 


A Real James Bond Bibliography

James Bond ANSP Archives Coll. 457
During my research, I met Gerhard Aubrecht, a researcher from Austria who was compiling a bibliography of all of James Bond's writings.

The bibliography is now available free online.

Here's the abstract:

James Bond (1900–1989), an ornithologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP), authored 150 publications dealing with the ornithology of the West Indies and the Americas....

Between 1927 and 1977 he scientifically described 63 bird taxa, the types of which are located at ANSP and United States National Museum of Natural History (USNM).

All his publications and type specimens are listed in this first James Bond bibliography.

You can read it (and possibly download) it here. (Thanks, Gerhard!)


Assessing the Impact of Bond's Bird Research

1941 JB at academy file 027
For a chapter in the book on James Bond's legacy, I wanted to gauge how influential his ornithological writings were.

I came across "James Bond and citations to his books,"  a 2004 paper by Dr. Grant Lewison that was very helpful -- as was Dr. Lewison himself.

He assessed the impact of the various editions of Bond’s Birds of the West Indies using bibliometrics, a statistical analysis of books, articles and scientific papers.

As D5r. Lewison pointed out, it’s difficult to assess the value of a book on birds because its readership and citations depend to a large extent on its geographical coverage -- a field guide to the birds of North America, for instance, will have a larger impact than one about the Caribbean. 

Factoring in those variables, Lewiston concluded that “Birds of the West Indies has proven to be of enduring scientific interest and to have established its author as an ornithologist of distinction.”

The paper is not available to the public online, but if you email him here, he will be happy to send you a .pdf of the paper. (Thanks, Grant!)

Tomorrow: Where to view an ornithological bibliography of James Bond.

(Above photo courtesy the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.)

 


Upcoming Talks, Updated

Jwright cuban tody
My upcoming book talks are in flux as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

I will update the list as the situation changes, but my sense is that many events will be placed on hold. 

Here's the current schedule (though postponement is always a possibility):

Friday, April 3, 7 p.m.: Ridgewood Public Library, 125 N Maple Ave.

Saturday, April 4, 10 a.m.:  Scotch Plains, Wild Birds Unlimited, 2520 Highway 22 East.

Saturday, April 11, 2 p.m.: Philadelphia, Free Library Parkway Central Branch, 1901 Vine Street.

Tuesday, April 14, 7 p.m.: Haverford Township (Pa.) Free Library, 1601 Darby Road

Friday, April 24, 1:15 p.m.:  Felician College, Lodi, Obal Hall, 262 S Main St.

Thursday, April 30, 7 p.m.: Lee Memorial Library, Allendale,  500 W. Crescent Ave.

Sunday, May 3, 10:15 a.m.: Endangered Species Day, Bergen County Audubon Society, Richard W. DeKorte Park, Lyndhurst.

Wednesday, May 13, 7 p.m.: Oakland Garden Club, Oakland Senior Center, 20 Lawlor Drive.

Friday, May 29, Cape May Spring Festival, still evolving.

Wednesday, May 27, 5:30 p.m.: Northeast Harbor (Maine) Library, 1 Joy Road.

Thursday, May 28: Southwest Harbor (Maine), Wendell Gilley Museum, 4 Herrick Road.

Friday, May 29: Southwest Harbor, Maine, Wendell Gilley Museum (in conjunction with Acadia Birding Festival). 4 Herrick Road.

Thursday, June 11, Real Macaw Parrot Club, Fair Lawn.

Tuesday, Aug. 4, 1:30 p.m.: North Haledon Public Library, 129 Overlook Avenue.

Thursday, Sept. 17: Philadelphia: Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Wednesday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.: Montclair Birding Club, the Union Congregational Church, 176 Cooper Ave., Upper Montclair.

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021:  Manhattan, Linnean Society of New York, American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West. 


Ian Fleming's Family Crest

CBC BotWI Fleming interview
While researching the book, I tried to find out what happened to the copies of "Birds of the West Indies" that Ian Fleming used in Jamaica.

I know that Fleming had at least two -- a 1936 first edition that James and Mary BoIan Fleming Bookplatend saw when they visited Fleming at Goldeneye, and a 1960/61 edition featured in a TV interview with Fleming (above).

I checked with Indiana University's Lilly Library, which has a collection of Fleming's rare books. Alas, none by James Bond.

They did share Ian Fleming's family crest -- which were used for his rare book collection, all housed in custom boxes.

Those boxes were emblazoned with the Clan Fleming crest, and their motto: "Let the Deed Shaw."  

Further research showed that the motto was the result of this skirmish:

"The Comyns were one of the most powerful families in Scotland and the chief supporters of Edward I of England in Scotland during the early stages of the Wars of Independence.

"Robert the Bruce met John Comyn, head of the family, at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries in 1306. The two argued, and Bruce stabbed and killed Comyn. Robert Fleming was one of two companions to Bruce that day, and a staunch supporter of him.

"To provide proof that Comyn was dead, Fleming cut off his head in order to 'let the deed shaw,' a Fleming family motto ever since."

You can see where Ian Fleming got his flare for the dramatic. It was clearly in his blood.

Dumfries, by the way, is 14 miles from my ancestral Johnston home in Haugh of Urr.

Part of the enjoyment in writing the book was discovering (and then sharing) tidbits like this.

(Thanks, Lilly Library!)


My Book Talks Beyond New Jersey

9-1 Bond opening door bond00003(1)
In addition to my many book talks in New Jersey, including an appearance at Wild Birds Unlimited in Paramus on Saturday, my scheduled speaking dates are:

Saturday, April 11, 2 p.m.: Philadelphia: Free Library Parkway Central Branch, 1901 Vine Street.

Tuesday, April 14, 7 p.m.: Haverford Township (Pa.) Free Library, 1601 Darby Road

Wednesday, May 27, 5:30 p.m.: Northeast Harbor (Maine) Library, 1 Joy Road.

Thursday, May 28: Southwest Harbor (Maine), Wendell Gilley Museum, 4 Herrick Road.

Friday, May 29: Southwest Harbor, Maine, Wendell Gilley Museum (in conjunction with Acadia Birding Festival). 4 Herrick Road.

Thursday, Sept. 17: Philadelphia: Delaware Valley Ornithological Club, Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021:  Manhattan, Linnean Society of New York, American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West. 


A Pileated Make an Appearance

_MG_9641I hadn't seen a Pileated Woodpecker all year. Now -- thanks to some friends -- I saw one twice in one day.

This one was next to my backyard. Whenever I see one, I think that it's the closest I'll ever come to seeing an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

The real James Bond admired them so much that he put one on the back cover of the 1947 edition of "The Birds of the West Indies" (below left), even if the chances of seeing one were remote at best. Earl Poole did the illustration.

If you'd like to learn how to pronounce "Pileated," read this.