I was recently honored to be selected by the Invasive Species Weblog as the winner of its monthly "Your Punny Title Here" contest. True, there was an unusually limited candidate pool this month, the challenge put before us being fiendishly resistant to all attempts at linguistic levity. My entry, "Seedy Soldiers", was the best I could muster to headline a post about an internal Canadian Armed Forces memo highly critical of what it deemed inadequate measures currently in place to prevent unintentional introduction of invasive plant material on tank treads and ammo pallets returning from overseas deployment, and I challenge you to do better.
Along with the obvious accolades and bragging rights that accrue to me as this month's champion, my winnings included my choice of a range of weed-geek items and so I was pleased to find an envelope with my VT invasive aquatic plant prevention and Darwin's Posse bumper stickers in yesterday's mail. However, Jennifer Foreman Orth, the proprietor of the ISW and a friend of Walking the Berkshires, thoughtfully included a bonus. Having noted my recent post entitled "How I Came to Love Birds" and illustrated with ornithological stamps from my collection, she kindly sent on a wonderful selection of bird stamps from Africa, Latin America, The Caribbean, and Europe. I am deeply touched, and it affords the opportunity for an encore of sorts of feathered friends and philately.
I was particularly glad to have several of my old Namibian acquaintances on that country's stamps. The lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudata) with its gorgeous hues and looping flight, so often darted down from the trees by our little house on the edge of the Grootberg to catch insects near the ground. An older stamp, bearing the colonial name of Namibia in Afrikaans, displayed that splended strider of the savannah with thesix foot wingspan, the incomparable kori bustard (Arteotis kori).
And here was the red-buffalo weaver (Bubalornis niger), whose untidy nest of heavy sticks looks more like a squirrel's dray than the work of a weever high in the branches of the camelthorn trees, and also carmine bee-eaters (Merops nubicoides) as I so vividly remember them with their nesting holes in the clay.
It seemed fitting that Jenn included a stamp depicting cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis), as these are one of the very few birds with rapidly expanding populations to have naturalized in North America all on their own without human assistance. They were actually blown by Atlantic storms across the sea from Africa to the Caribean in sufficient numbers to prosper and multiply, although I am not aware that they have displaced native species to the degree that they would be considered truly invasive.
Then there is this marvelous tom turkey, shown of a stamp from Romania, of all places. I have a freind who raises heritage breeds of poultry, and he actually imports domesticated "wild" American turkeys from Europe, where they have been raised from stock originally procured during colonial times. The artist has depicted this specimen with a noble brow and imposing manner, so that one almost can see what Ben Franklin must have seen in this bird to motivate him to nominate it as our national symbol instead of the carrion-gorging bald eagle we ultimately adopted.
If Franklin had been born a Namibian patriot instead of an American one, he might well have championed the helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) as its national bird. The bird has seldom looked better than in this Christmas stamp issued late in 1997 when we were last in Namibia and it would have been far more appropriate for this arid land that the African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) that was incongruously chosened as an emblem of Namibia. Fish eagles are restricted to the few perrenial rivers in the extreme eastern tip of the country, whereas guineafowl are as thick as thieves along the roadways of the country, and if you should happen to whack a couple of them inadvertantly while driving through the bush, I can attest from personal experience that they can be field dressed and spit roasted to a turn on the handle of your car jack, a practical consideration nonetheless lost on the architects of Namibian nationalism.
My thanks once again to Jenn for her kindness.