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LONG--hawks, handsaws, birding, Durham spring singers
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- Subject: LONG--hawks, handsaws, birding, Durham spring singers
- From: "Patrick Coin" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2003 19:27:52 -0500
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Warning: long, meandering post, written by a middle-aged guy with too much
education and way too many obscure interests. To keep things "Carolina
Bird-relevant", I have some notes on spring birds here in Durham after the
musings on language.
1-re: hawks and handsaws
> Danny Swicegood:
> "I am but mad north-northwest: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk
> from a handsaw." From Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii.
> A "hawk" was a tool of a plasterer, and a handsaw obvious.
>it's from Shakespeare's Hamlet (YUUUCK! you're dredging up
>wretched high school memories!!), and my quick research indicates
>'handsaw' is another term for 'heron' in that day and time -- the quote
>referring to being able to identify a hawk from a heron in flight.
>WHAT DO I WIN???? : - )
Perhaps this is a linguistic coincidence, but probably not... I think there
is yet another double-meaning embedded in that quote. "Hawk" in some
dialects of English means "cold north wind." (I have read that, and heard it
used that way right here in North Carolina.) Probably "hawk" had that other
meaning as well in Shakespeare's time, since Hamlet is referring to the wind
being southerly, and the whole quote is about mixing up things that are
opposite--the heron was often the prey of the hawk in falconry, the
plasterer's hawk is used to seal things up, the handsaw to split them apart.
It would be interesting to find out why heron's were called handsaws. (Wild
speculation: herons have a comb-like structure on one claw, used for
preening--resembles a saw?)
(A note even more in the linguistic mode: I spent a few minutes looking up
those terms for groups of birds in the Oxford English Dictionary on Friday.
Great fun! Some have a literary history, others appear to have been coined
recently, probably by Lipton in his 1968 book. I'll try to post a summary of
my findings at a later date.)
2-re: birding vs. birdwatching:
>True. Another part of the story was the growth and influence of the
>Birding Association in the 80's.
>They promoted the term "birder" as a better alternative
>to "birdwatcher". I believe the 80's was the period where the shift took
Yes, as one who was a "birdwatcher" starting about age 5 (in 1964 or so), I
can say that I didn't hear the term "birder" until perhaps 1979 or 1980,
when "birding" with friends in college in California.
I can't resist adding that "birding" as a term for hunting birds goes way
back. Since everybody's been doing Shakespeare...
The Merry Wives of Windsor--Act 3, scene 5:
MISTRESS QUICKLY (to Falstaff)
Well, she laments, sir, for it, that it would yearn your heart to see it.
Her husband goes this morning a-birding; she desires you once more to come
to her between eight and nine: I must carry her word quickly: she'll make
you amends, I warrant you.
A great quote for birding widows, I think.
3-re Carolina birding
In spring birding/phenology notes: Here in Durham, NC, the warmer weather in
the previous week has caused Thrashers and Cardinals to be singing like
crazy, now somewhat abated. Various woodpeckers also started drumming in
earnest last week. Carolina Wrens are unstoppable, and are singing outside
my office right now on a cold, windy, dusk. Chorus Frogs in my back yard
ditch had stopped singing so much in the warm weather of last week, but are
singing again with the cool, cloudy weather. They really seem to like the
cold. Spring peepers and American Toads had really gotten going a few days
ago, and were riotous last night (Friday, 3/14) . I also heard Pickerel and
Southern Leopard Frogs yesterday, just as it started to cool down after a
Plants are way behind this, I think. I usually see a lot of redbuds by
mid-March, but have only seen one or two blooming, and those in yards. I
have seen only a few domestic pears (Malus, I think) blooming in the woods,
and no shadbush (Amelanchier).