Storm Petrel and the Owl of Athena

Storm Petrel and the Owl of Athena

LOUIS JOSEPH HALLE
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x13xf
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  • Book Info
    Storm Petrel and the Owl of Athena
    Book Description:

    The first part of this book describes a wide variety of seabirds from the author's personal observation and knowledge of their ways; the second offers reflective essays on the general theme of birds in their relation to man.

    Originally published in 1975.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6933-6
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-x)
    L.J.H.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. [Maps]
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. PART ONE: FROM ANOTHER WORLD
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-9)
      L.J.H.

      The birth of an interest in birds usually comes in late childhood and as a result of association with grownups who go in for the observation of local species. By contrast, my own interest was born when, already an undergraduate, I read in William Beebe’sArcturus Adventurean account of the Wandering Albatross. Having to know more about it immediately, I explored what other books had to offer, and so came upon W. B. Alexander’sBirds of the Ocean,which aroused my interest in seabirds generally. During those first weeks my observations were all pursued through the pages of books,...

    • I. FROM ANOTHER WORLD
      (pp. 11-19)

      The birds whose lives are the most remote from human knowledge are those that spend them far from land in the wastes of the ocean. Even when they come to land for breeding, as they must, it may be only at night, and then only to disappear into underground burrows or fissures of rock.

      Most of us know such birds, if at all, by seeing them from shipboard. If they are large birds that follow ships, we then have an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with them in these limited circumstances. But the birds I am about to treat of here,...

    • II. THE FULMAR FLYING FREE
      (pp. 21-39)

      If the Storm Petrel is the least conspicuous of the birds that nest in Shetland, its relative the Fulmar is the most conspicuous. One of the medium-sized members of the orderProcellariiformes,it is, loosely speaking, a small albatross—and that is what it looks like.

      Guides to bird-identification say that, superficially, it is like a gull. The word “superficially” should be emphasized, however, because it is quite unlike a gull to the eye of any practiced observer. As a flying machine, especially, it belongs to an altogether different category. It is a projectile rather than a parachute, adapted to...

    • III. OF GULLS AND MEN
      (pp. 41-51)

      In the evolution of life on earth there has been a gradual separation of forms descended from common ancestors, and it is convenient to indicate degree of separation by some system of categories, necessarily arbitrary, such as that of orders, families, genera, and species. These categories, however, do not exist in nature; they are the inventions of man. The existential reality, as it is actually found in nature, can be fitted to them easily in some cases, in others only by straining. For example, there is no difficulty in grouping the penguins as one distinct order; and, varied though the...

    • IV. BIRDS THAT ATTACK MEN
      (pp. 53-68)

      We commonly refer to “gulls and terns,” associating them in our minds as the two branches of a single group, which the taxonomists identify as the familyLaridae.What the genusLarusis to the gullsSternais to the terns. It includes the great preponderance of the species, which total some forty-five all over the world, and therefore presents itself to our minds as the typical genus.

      The typical terns, like the typical gulls, have features in common that make them easily identifiable in the field, and they also constitute a gamut of species that have developed to meet...

    • V. THE GREAT AUK, THE LITTLE AUK, AND MAN
      (pp. 69-79)

      Among the seabirds known to sailors from early times was a large flightless species that bred on desert islands in the North Atlantic. The members of this species did not look like birds at all since, in their companies along the shore, they stood upright like men, wearing black coats and displaying white shirt-fronts. They had what seemed more like flippers than wings, which they used as such when, entering the water, they submerged to swim in the depths like seals. The name by which the sailors came to identify them was “penguin.”

      When the sailors saw birds of the...

    • VI. SEAGOING SANDPIPERS AND SOME RELATIVES
      (pp. 81-92)

      Everyone who knows birds has a special place in his heart for the shorebirds. They represent the ultimate refinement of living forms, together with the ultimate intensity of life. In season, coastal beaches the world over are alive with them. Sometimes they cover the sand like a moving carpet—say of Sanderlings all running together on whirring feet that are surely activated by watchworks. Suddenly the carpet is lifted as by a puff of wind, transformed now into a swarm that moves like one being, that darts along the trough of the wave, that slips in between successive breakers, now...

    • VII. THE GANNET AND THE ANCIENT SHAG
      (pp. 93-103)

      There are many species of birds that, because they pass their lives in an environment of salt water, are properly called seabirds. Of the twenty-seven avian orders in the world, however, only two are composed exclusively of such species: the penguins (Sphenisciformes) and the albatross-petrel order (Procellariiformes). The orderPelecaniformesis also composed exclusively of water birds, but many of them are fresh-water sailors.

      ThePelecaniformesare distinguished from other birds in that all four toes are connected by webs, the hind one being pulled around for the purpose. They are also unique among seabirds in being altricial rather than...

    • VIII. BIRDS OF THE PAST AND BIRDS OF THE FUTURE
      (pp. 105-121)

      It is thought that loons, which are among the most primitive of birds, have been on earth a hundred million years. One might expect that over so much time their order would have proliferated in many directions, like other orders I have mentioned, producing a wide variety of families, genera, and species. Instead, all we have is one family containing one genus composed of four species. But what a distinctive order it is all the same, its four members so like one another and so unlike any other birds!

      Presumably the order originated in the high latitudes of the northern...

    • IX. EPILOGUE
      (pp. 122-136)

      When the first chapter ofGenesiswas written about the ninth century B. C., the men who set it down thought the universe hardly more extensive than the world they perceived directly with their senses. There was heaven above and earth below. Heaven contained the sun, the moon, and the stars, all of which had been created for no other purpose than to light the earth. Upon the earth there had been created categories and sub-categories of life: vegetable life, the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit after their kind; animal life, first that of the sea,...

  6. PART TWO: OF BIRDS AND BOUNDARIES
    • THE WATER RAIL
      (pp. 139-162)

      We have a Water Rail in our front yard.

      It comes out of the reeds after it has assured itself that no one is looking. Delicately. One foot forward and down. Then the other. Picks lightly at the mud, first here, then there, leaning forward. Twitches up its hind end repeatedly, a nervous habit, showing white beneath the tail in flashes. From a distance what appears is only an obscure body with flashes off and on—at what looks like the head end. (Tail is up, generally, real head down.) Perhaps it fools enemies that way. Jump at it, if...

    • THE MARSH TERNS
      (pp. 165-172)

      The majority of the world’s terns are seabirds of the seacoasts, belonging to the familiar genusSternaor closely similar genera. Distinguished from this majority by habit and habitat alike are the three species ofChlidonias,which we identify in the vernacular as “marsh terns.” They are the Black Tern, the Whitewinged Black Tern, and the Whiskered Tern. These three form a group so distinct that in French they are called, not by the word for tern (“sterne”), but by a generic name of their own. “guifettes.”

      The Black Tern, which is the only marsh tern found in the New...

    • SCENE: GENEVA; TIME: A MORNING IN JUNE
      (pp. 173-177)

      In geneva the laborer’s day begins at seven o’clock. Businessmen and shop-keepers are on the job by eight. The diplomatic world moves more ponderously: international conferences don’t get under way before ten.

      The Professor, whose mind bears the burden of the Higher Knowledge (plus, if the truth were known, some Middle High Nonsense as well), makes a nobler beginning. At five minutes to eight his wife has at last driven off from the front door, carrying the disorderly pack of children away with her to school. This is the quiet hour when he says his matins on the flute.

      At...

    • ALPINE CHOUGHS IN A VALLEY
      (pp. 179-182)

      The common Crow in America and the Carrion Crow, its European counterpart, have not given the crow family a reputation for either gracefulness or musical ability. Ravens and Jackdaws, by contrast, are adept on the wing, but we know from Aesop how the Raven made a fool of himself when, at the fox’s invitation, he opened his mouth to sing.

      The Alpine Chough is a small crow with a yellow bill and red legs. Its home, summer and winter, is among the rock faces, crags, and towers of the high Alps, where snow lies the year around. Here it nests...

    • THE CONCEPT OF SPECIES
      (pp. 183-188)

      The common belief used to be that species existed as such in nature, each having been formed as a distinct creation on that day when, according toGenesis,God created all the living creatures “according to their kinds.” Difficulties arose, however, when it came to listing them. Upon close examination it might transpire that the members of what one had regarded as a single species were not, in fact, uniform. Those that lived in the desert, perhaps, were paler than those that lived in the woods. Did this mean that they constituted two species rather than one, that God or...

    • THE REFUGEE SPECIES
      (pp. 189-200)

      The thesis of this article is that, in the rapidly de veloping circumstances of our age, the distinction between wild animals and those domestic to man is losing its sharpness if not disappearing altogether. This has its implications for the attitude that we human beings should properly take toward the other species, formerly wild and independent, which inhabit our planet alongside us.

      What are the rapidly developing circumstances to which I refer?

      For millions of years the earth was wild in the sense that it was the original, raw, natural earth, not fundamentally altered by any of the diverse species...

    • THE PARISH OF AMERICA
      (pp. 201-206)

      In his monograph on the birds of southern South America, Alexander Wetmore reported arriving in Buenos Aires in the year 1920 after a twenty-four-day journey from New York. In September 1947 I arrived in Buenos Aires after a two-day journey from Washington, D. C. This shrinkage of the earth in the course of a generation should enlarge our understanding of the birds that inhabit it, for we can now accompany them with a new ease across the old horizons. Gilbert White, had he lived in 1947, might have taken the western hemisphere for his parish, instead of Selborne. He would...

    • HUDSON’S PAMPAS TODAY
      (pp. 207-221)

      For most readers of bird literature, the pampas of Argentina have a sort of legendary existence. They are known as the subject of W. H. Hudson’s finest descriptive writing—the finest description, I would say, that has been lavished on any region and its birds. Hudson left South America, never to return, in 1874, and when he wrote about the pampas and the birds of the pampas in later years he wrote about what he thought had gone forever from the earth. The scene lived intact, he believed, only in his memory. Few phrases have been more nostalgic than the...

    • ON REREADING “GREEN MANSIONS”
      (pp. 222-227)

      Few books that have gained a place for themselves in English literature are so universally misunderstood and misinterpreted, it seems to me, as W. H. Hudson’sGreen Mansions.The custom is to label it a “fantasy,” which is to say that Hudson presented in it an unreal world of his own invention, like that in which Gulliver traveled or Alice’s Wonderland. Illustrators, overlooking the explicit statements and precise descriptions in the text, contribute drawings full of fantastically stylized trees, monkeys, snakes, and birds that disport in impressionistic or surrealistic limbos of the imagination. From many readings of the actual words,...

    • THE OWL OF ATHENA
      (pp. 229-247)

      The Acropolis of Athens, towering over the modern city, is flanked by two lesser hills. The Hill of the Areopagus is the site on which, in ancient times, a council of elders met to manage the affairs of the state (until Pericles abolished it as undemocratic). The Hill of the Pnyx is where the Assembly, comprising all the citizens of Athens, met to manage the affairs of the state in more democratic fashion. Near the summit of the Hill of the Pnyx (where today one sees the remains of a plaza enclosed by retaining walls) Meletus stood before the Assembly...

    • EPILOGUE: THE RELIGION OF SEDGE
      (pp. 248-256)

      I have been puzzled to know how I might approach the subject of religion in Sedge. The reader may grasp the difficulty when I note that Sedgian thought and language is incapable of making a clear distinction between religion and art. I take a chance of misleading when I use our English terms, but since I cannot escape their use I may say, with precaution, that in Sedge the artist, the musician, or the literary craftsman is, if not a priest, the nearest thing to one. (There are no priests in Sedge.)

      Sedgian art, in the first instance, is the...

  7. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 257-258)
  8. LIST OF SPECIES AND INDEX
    (pp. 259-268)