Sunday, April 24, 2011

about naming

Clearly, what we have here is a “failure to communicate.” Ernie’s email of Saturday indicates he still does not understand my objection to the names assigned. I fully appreciate the “benefits” of giving names to the chicks. I had no qualms with naming Buzz and Ruby (although Buzz has much more color and eyes like rubies than does his mate). The names of the chicks were determined fairly late in the process last year, and Ernie and John lucked out. “Lucy” clearly was a female, Larry likely a male, and Lucky was non-gender based and appropriate. He (or she) was lucky to survive.

The names selected this year were selected without any reference to the gender or nature of the birds, for purely personal motives. The birds were disregarded. Many wildlife-observation reporting organizations do not name young of the year for a variety of good reasons. Some do. Both side often have a “religious fervor” in their desire to name/not name wild animals. I don’t object to providing appropriate names. I “gave” my daughter a whale named “Salt” about thirty years ago. Salt turned out to be a female (not known when she was named) and to bear a number of calves and return to Massachusetts Bay for decades. We donated to whale research and followed Salt by newsletter and real-life trips hoping to see her. She didn’t answer to the name of Salt. It had no meaning for her. Only for people following her. She could have been named Pepper, or Puck. If she had been named Ernie, it would be a bit more difficult to explain or even tolerate. (Ernie gave birth to a 200 lb calf this spring...Ernie was nursing her calf....)

Some weeks ago I wrote Hildy and Ernie suggesting a naming protocol, hoping to avoid exactly what has occurred, which benefits no one. I didn’t suggest any names. Let the group do that. I Just recommended that the naming be done to a protocol.

First, if chicks exist and are going to be named, the names should not be gender specific, because you do not know the gender for some time. Ernie & John lucked out last year in that the gender appeared to be correctly correlated with the names they arbitrarily established (though you could not be absolutely sure about Larry), and Lucky was gender-neutral. But to give them gender-specific names before the gender is established does not seem particularly wise. E.g., what if “George” turns out to be a honking big female like Lucy. “Did you see George? She flew to Whole Foods with no trouble?”

Second, anyone arbitrarily naming chicks after people in the group can cause some resentment, and justifiably in my opinion. Also, who has the right or authority to grant an “honorific” name. Giving a chick a gender neutral name without any any connection to living persons in the group is more respectful of everyone in the group.

Third, it can cause considerable confusion. “I saw Hildy yesterday. She flew over to Neville Manor and ate a squirrel.”

And finally, what if the chick does not survive? “Ernie flew off the ledge this morning and was killed on Fresh Pond Parkway.” Not only will there be confusion, but there will be substantial negative “hangover,” for everyone, including the person “honored” by the naming. For example, if “Ernie” dies, choking on a squirrel bone in the nest, every mention of Ernie, whether of Ernie or the late hawk, will conjure up sad thoughts of the dead chick. Who would want that to happen?

There is one other issue. Don’t use diminutives. Don’t make them into toys, into house pets. Don’t name them like toy poodles or tea cup dogs. Everyone can name their own pet whatever name they want. These hawks are not your pets.

There is no no desire to call these birds C1, C2, etc., for as long as I follow them. I do that only because at first I want to track who is first hatched, second, etc., and without using the names the group has assigned. I You can ascribe non-gender specific names at any time. (Doesn’t that sound reasonable?) It seems to me gender-specific names should be assigned only when you know the gender. (Doesn’t that sound reasonable?) You know that for certain only by taking a blood sample, or by waiting until they are two years old or older and and seen copulating. Neither of those are very practical. (Gender is guessed according to size when banding chicks, if no blood/tissue samples are taken.) I won’t use G1, H1, and Y1 EXACTLY because that is using the names I object to. I don’t want to offer other personal names for the hawks in any post I would do because that would only cause confusion and perhaps ill-feelings.

I like and respect Ernie, Hildy and everyone in the group to much do that. I don’t want to cause any ill feeling. Therefore, my not posting is the simplest and quickest solution. I want everyone to appreciate something that is very beautiful and, though common, not commonly seen. It reveals something special in our world. It has me driving to Fresh Pond Mall every day after not going there much at all for 20 years. It opens up new worlds to people. Look at the people who have been going bird watching at Fresh Pond for the first time, or now discovered the joys of birding Mt. Auburn through John. Forty years ago my wife and I were hiking in the Middlesex Fells for exercise. We heard this bird call. To be sure we didn’t miss him, the bird repeated the call, note for note, every time. But we couldn’t see the XC$%#@&%. We bought a pair of binoculars, and a Golden Guide to birds. We finally saw the culprit, a Brown Thrasher, and our lives changed forever. Buzz, Ruby and the kids are doing that for more people than that Brown Thrasher could ever comprehend.

I have nothing to add to the naming discussion. Hopefully, now everyone will understand my objection to the names, even if they don’t agree with me. Anyone is free to respond to my statements online or offline. I am fine for you to have the last word. Preferably offline, to me directly, if at all, so the list can go back to reporting on and analyzing the adventures of a new family of hawks. A new generation is growing up before our eyes.



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