News

Kent Kanouse

Dr. Gordon Orians, BirdNote science advisor and blackbird expert, believes we should appreciate nature “simply because of its intrinsic wonder.” 

He says, “Often people would ask me, 'What good are blackbirds?’ and I would sometimes answer by saying, 'Well, what good is a symphony orchestra?' It turns us on, you know. For example, birds can navigate using the stars; they can navigate using the earth's magnetic field. So birds have this amazing ability . . . and look how exciting and wonderful they are.”  

Courtesy of Erik Wood

During the holidays, many of us may spend more time behind the wheel. And as we sit in traffic, it may be tempting to pick up the phone and send a quick text, but that message could cost you.

Malcolm Griffes / KPLU

The Food and Drug Administration FDA is proposing ending the lifetime ban on gay blood donors. But even if such is the case, there would still be restrictions. And that disappoints activists who’ve been pushing for change.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing has announced a deal with Kuwait Airways that could allay some concerns about its ability to sell enough of its current 777 wide-body jet. 

The Kuwaiti airline has finalized an order for ten 777-300ERs, the current version of Boeing's popular twin-engine, long-haul jet.

The 18th Annual KPLU Christmas Jam, 88.5 KPLU’s much-anticipated FREE holiday concert, features jazz vocalist Gail Pettis and her trio--Thursday, December 11, 2014 from noon to 1 p.m. at Lagerquist Hall in the Mary Baker Russell Music Center on the Pacific Lutheran University campus.  

vintage card

To celebrate the season, Nancy Rumbel, who composed and played the BirdNote theme music, performs "Carol of the Birds."

This version was arranged by Nancy herself, with the accompaniment of Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, a Red-winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, and Mourning Dove.

Nancy plays the ocarina, oboe, bell, and harmonium. You can visit her website at nancyrumbel.com. Happy Holidays from all of us at BirdNote!

George Wesley & Bonita Dannells / Flickr

A federal ruling has paved the way for adjunct and part-time faculty at Pacific Lutheran University to unionize. The decision also sets a new precedent that could affect religiously-affiliated colleges and universities across the nation, including Seattle University.

Tom Banse

 

A coalition in Oregon and the Democratic governor of Washington want to juice sales of electric cars by providing more state incentives.

But some critics say more taxpayer giveaways for those drivers are unnecessary.

M Glasgow / Flickr

 

Washington’s new voter-approved background check law appears to have prevented the sale of a rifle to a man with a warrant out for his arrest.

It could be the first time the new law was put to the test.

Matthew Studebaker

By December, an array of diving birds that nested at far northern latitudes are wintering on temperate waters across the continent.

If we could watch them under water, we'd see this Common Loon racing like a torpedo. A goldeneye dives under water and swims about 10 feet from the surface, while scoters get down to 30 feet in search of clams and mussels.

But if one bird stands out as the most beautiful diver, it has to be the Long-tailed duck. Propelling itself beneath the surface with its wings, it seems to fly through the water, sometimes to depths of more than 60 feet!

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Supporters of a sweeping plan to reduce K-12 class sizes in Washington public schools cheered its passage in November, hailing it as not only an opportunity for schools to hire badly-needed staff but also as a chance for the state to fix a broken revenue system.

Yet Initiative 1351 has landed with a thud in Olympia. The Senate's GOP leadership will attempt to garner the votes to suspend the class-size initiative. Top House Democrats say they can't cover its massive $2 billion price tag. And the budget Gov. Jay Inslee released Thursday only covers a portion of it.

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn warned last week this chilly reception won't satisfy Washington state Supreme Court justices, who've already held lawmakers in contempt over school funding.

Mark Kitaoka

Seattle actors Jessica Skerritt and Dane Stokinger have played opposite one another before. There was the time last year in Arizona, when they were in a production of “Xanadu, the Musical.” He played some roller-skating guy and she played some sort of Greek goddess.

They actually met in a production at Village Theater; he played Elvis and she his girlfriend. But for the first time, the two are playing what they are in real life: husband and wife.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

It’s been nearly two months since the deadly shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Five students died, including the 15-year-old gunman.

Since then, 68 families have turned to the state of Washington for financial help to deal with the tragedy. They've received $23,000 from Washington’s Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

An all-star sextet led by saxophonist and trumpeter Jay Thomas is featured in highlights from an Art of Jazz concert at The Seattle Art Museum on Jazz Northwest.  The group played jazz classics ranging from Miles Davis in the 50s to an original by Jay Thomas.  

BirdNote: Solstice Fires

Dec 21, 2014
Ken Christian

In The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer describes early Europeans building solstice fires at year's end to strengthen the sun.

Seeing the sun steadily weakening, steadily falling in its arc across the sky, they did what they could to restore it to health.

Birds and other creatures of the natural world respond to the length of winter days. Much of the rhythm and timing of birds' behavior, including migration and breeding, is determined by the length and intensity of the sun's light.  

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