Monday, November 23, 2009

"I pity the fool!" Mr. T and World of Warcraft.

You may have seen the infamous Mr. T from the "A Team" do the Night Elf Mohawk commercial for World of Warcraft last year. It's a 30 second clip where Mr. T proclaims he is a mighty "Night Elf Mohawk" and hollers "Shut up fool!" when the director tells him there's no such thing as a Night Elf Mohawk. William Shatner, Ozzy Osborne and Verne Troyer (Mini Me) also did commericals for World of Warcraft.

Mr. T has crossed the TV threshold into video game land. World of Warcraft is promoting the ingame Night Elf Mohawk grenades.

Are you intrigued? Would you like to know how to get your very own Night Elf Mohawk grenades? Here are the 3 easy steps to get your very own grenade.

Step One
You can easily find Mr. T (aka Night Elf Mohawk) standing outside the starter zone in Elwynn Forest.

Step Two
Simply talk to Night Elf Mohawk and listen to his story.

Step Three
Voila! Night Elf Mohawk will give you a stack of 5 Mohawk grenades you can throw at other players.

Soon everyone (well 5 people anyways) will be running around looking like Mr. T and pitying the fools who don't sport the same awesome Mohawk.

Doesn't this make you want to run out and buy the game? ;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sometimes there's a wildlife adventure in your backyard.

It has been an overcast day here and I let the semi-darkness lull me to sleep this afternoon in the Family Room. When I woke up my black-and-white cat Samantha was chittering with an unusual intensity at something outside the sliding glass doors. I got up in time to see a Cooper's Hawk perched atop my bird feeders. The thought to grab my camera occurred when the nap induced fog lifted from my brain. But as with all things in wildlife, only the fast are rewarded and the slowest are denied. I was too slow and I missed my opportunity. The Hawk lifted and was gone.

The Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is a medium sized bird of prey in the Accipiter family. They inhabit woodlands, parks and even urban areas. Their food of choice is other birds, preferably those that are dove-sized. Their smaller size and wing shape allow them to zip through trees and shrubs to pursue their prey. Once they capture their prey, this Hawk will squeeze it to death, rather than biting to kill, as Falcons often do.

About 30 minutes later I passed through the Family Room and found the Cooper's Hawk in the neighbor's tree in the yard directly behind us. She (I'm calling the Hawk a "She" based on the size. Females raptors are generally bigger than their male counterparts. Of course size is difficult to determine when you cannot compare two of the same birds together side by side) was perched among a handful of Cardinals standing guard.

I was surprised the smaller birds were so close to the Hawk, but reasoned she could not easily reach any of these birds just out of talon's reach. I was also surprised that the activity at my bird feeders resumed, despite the Hawk's presence. But when it's cold and you need to consume as much food as possible to survive, you take your chances. I decided to sit and watch the Hawk. For awhile, she perched comfortably, unmoving and uninterested in her surroundings. But then she began to perk up, looking up at the sentinel Cardinals, surveying the yard before her and then looking back at my feeders.

When the Hawk shifted to face my feeders, some of the birds in my backyard scattered and the Goldfinch still at the finch feeder barely had enough time to escape with his life by the time Cooper's Hawk launched from the tree.

It has been my experience that most people tend to believe the exciting wildlife drama happens outside of suburbia and I was once one of those believers. You may not always witness the excitement of a Cooper's Hawk hunting for food at a bird feeder, but if you pay careful attention to your surroundings, you can see the predator-prey food cycle at work. You may find a Praying Mantis sitting on a flower stalk, waiting to ambush the unsuspecting bee, or find a Harvestman with a dying butterfly in its grasp (True story! I watched this!).

I experience mixed feelings each time I have an encounter with a Cooper's Hawk. The presence of this raptor is usually the demise for some poor songbird, but I can't help but admire their beauty and adaptations for hunting. She was a beautiful bird and I'm grateful she livened up my afternoon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Holy crap. Has it really been 2 months since I've last posted an entry? Wow.

Well, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've been following my favorite blogs and have even thought about posting but I've been a bit...preoccupied.

The Bird Sanctuary is hosting the Inland Bird Banding Association conference this year and yours truly is presenting a paper. As most of you know, I have spent the last 2 summers studying the songbird populations on a piece of restored prairie(Entries here and here and here). I narrowed my focus (because there are a few things I'm studying) on the nest boxes on the prairie and whether or not prescribed burns affect the predation rate on the nest boxes. Eurasian Tree Sparrows were the birds predominantly using the boxes

I began writing the paper in August, right around the time I stopped blogging as a matter of fact. Academic pursuits bring out the worst of my neurotic tendencies. The paper started easily enough. I breezed through the introduction and procedure portions of the paper but the difficulties began with the results section. I had to review and interpret 2 years worth of data: numbers of eggs that hatched, chicks that survived to leave the nest box, predation numbers. So...many...numbers. The panic began to trickle in but it was quelled with a call to Shark Girl (who is now in Grad school I might add :) )

"There's so many fricking numbers!" I exclaimed during our first of at least 3 calls

"Indeed. A lot to interpret." She agreed.

I know that first call lasted at least 3 hours. I'm not exaggerating. But we did get a lot done.

The hill of difficulty progressively got steeper over the weeks, as did my level of anxiety. What was I going to do with all of these percentages? How did I make sense of and organize the numbers? The words "T-test" began to float around and I panicked. T-test? I didn't even remember how to do a T-test. Then my self esteem tanked. What kind of field biologist was I that I couldn't do a T-test, much less think of running one? What the hell was I doing? I felt like an impostor. I had no business preparing a presentation! Danno's dad came to my rescue that time and helped me break down my numbers into a more manageable size. He also walked me through some simple calculations that could be performed on Excel. Heck, he almost made it look like fun!

An odd combination of excitement, panic and low self esteem formed and filtered into my thoughts, sleep and stomach. I often fell asleep only to wake up with thoughts about the numbers, what they meant and wondering how to put them all together. Eating resulted in heartburn and looking at my data on Excel only drove the panic.

It wasn't long before Beetle Guru and Shark Girl became my Sparrow Champions. They listened to my thoughts and ideas on the paper, critiqued my paper and researched potential stastitical tests that could be run on my data. They also offered a great deal of emotional support. They became common recipients to the "I can't do this I give up" panic, (received either through email or texting before the subsequent phone call) They told me I was doing Graduate level work without the help of a professor or a university.

I LOVE field biology but the math really does turn the anxiety up for me. Honestly, it's the main reason I won't touch graduate school with a 10 foot pole. I'm not sure I could pass any population statistics or other class devoted to interpreting ecology-oriented numbers. It amazes me the number of people (like Beetle Guru and Shark Girl) who believe that I can accomplish the feat of Grad School.

After 2 agonizing months, the paper is finished and the presentation is ready. I'm happy it's finished and I'm already wiggling in anticpation of beginning my work again in the spring. It's funny how the paper took a life of its own and how much I learned in the process. I learned a different way or two how to interpret data, improved my scientific writing skills and discovered there are a few causes that need to be ruled out in terms of predation for next summer. But the biggest thing I learned is that it's ok to seek help and obtaining that help doesn't mean I'm no less intelligent

My next goal is to secure funding for next year's research. I still need to write another report for the mistnetting and bird census results. Put your seat belts on ladies and gentlemen. We may be in for a bumpy ride.