Friday, 23 November 2012

Roadkill has its uses

Warning: this post contains images of an ex-bird so the squeamish may wish to proceed elsewhere.

Frances has been doing some research into the drawing of birds.  Her most recent work has been the study of "Capturing the Essence" by William T Cooper.  As shown in the linked bio, he has done a great deal of work, but I find his drawing used on the cover of Canberra Bird Notes to be one of the best bird portraits ever!
A difficulty with drawing birds is that they don't stay still long enough to be studied in detail.  Cooper describes how to overcome this by watching the birds and building up a mental picture which is sketched  when the bird nicks off.  (Many of his illustrations are accompanied by notes describing how the bird was studied - on bird table, dead after hitting window etc.)

Despite this good approach some "Serious Scientists" seem to still need to solve this with the use of shotguns, a process with which I have Serious Problems.  However when a corpse is found beside a road it seems like an opportunity too good to refuse.   This was the case recently when Frances so found a Tawny Frogmouth beside Sutton Road.  (About 20km in a straight line, so it is NOT one of our birds.)

Herewith a few images, beginning with an overall shot.  It took a little 'unravelling' to work out the geography (? necrography?) of the corpse but this image does show the contrast between the wing feathers and the body feathers.

 A close up of the wing showing the off-centre position of the rachis.  In closer study Frances noted in particular the different angles which the inner and outer vanes came off the rachis.
 A foot/talon.  Note the scaliness, which I assume assists in gaining traction on branches.
 I can't recall where these feathers were, but I like the pattern.
The specimen will now be passed to a wildlife artist friend to supplement the photographs she has taken of our family in various roosts.

Given the title of this post I must dip my lid to the use of roadkill in human diet.  The literature is summarised in a wikipedia article so all I will do here is to recall that when I read the original volume (I think while we were living in Canada) the author told stories about his grandmother:
  • who was a tad undiscrimating about the vintage of her offerings; thus 
  • they required her do give the make oand colour of the agent of destruction; but
  • still rejected skunk even though she said it was hit by a "green '75 Lincoln Continental with Illinois plates".

1 comment:

Denis Wilson said...

Ah, good to see another "road-kill" being used for educational purposes.
Incidentally, my brother once presented me with a fresh specimen, which allowed for a close-up shot of the open beak. The pale yellow colour to the roof of the beak surprised me.