Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What in the world is a "Woggin"??

Whalers wrote about woggins all the time.

Great Auks, drawn by John James Audubon in Birds of America.
Great Auks, drawn by John James Audubon in Birds of America. University of Pittsburgh/Public Domain
On December 20, 1792, the whaling ship Asia was making its way through the Desolation Islands, in the Indian Ocean, when the crew decided to stop for lunch. According to the log keeper, the meal was a great success: “At 1 PM Sent our Boat on Shore After Some refreshments,” he wrote. “She returned with A Plenty of Woggins we Cooked Some for Supper.”
Right about now, you may be feeling peckish. But you may also be wondering: What in the world is a woggin?
New species are discovered all the time. Unknown old species—extinct ones, found as fossils and then plugged into our historical understanding of the world—turn up a lot, too. But every once in a while, all we have to go on is a word. New or old, known or unknown, no one knew what a woggin was until Judith Lund, whaling historian, decided to find out.
A New England whaling ship.
A New England whaling ship. Library of Congress/LC-USZC2-1759
Like all professionals, 18th-century whalers had their share of strange jargon. A “blanket” was a massive sheet of blubber. “Gurry” was the sludge of oil and guts that covered the deck after a kill, and a “gooney” was an albatross. Modern-day whaling historians depend on their knowledge of these terms to decode ship’s logs—vital for understanding the sailors’ day-to-day experiences, as well as gleaning overall trends. Being elbow-deep in whaleman slang is just part of the job.
So when Lund ran into a word she didn’t know, it caught her eye. Lund was at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, trying to dig up some data on oil harvest rates. “I was reading a logbook and charging along beautifully,” she says, “when I came across the fact that whalemen on that voyage were eating woggins and swile.”

Lund had heard of swile—it’s whaler slang for “seals”— but woggins were new. She asked the museum librarian, who didn’t know either. “The woggin was a mystery to both of us,” she says. So Lund did what any curious person would—started emailing everyone she could think of, asking if they had ever heard of it.
A woodcut illustration of whalers in the 1500s, surrounded by all sorts of strange creatures.
A woodcut illustration of whalers in the 1500s, surrounded by all sorts of strange creatures. Cosmographie Universelle/Public Domain
One of these people was Paul O’Pecko, the Vice President of Collections and Research at Mystic Seaport. “You know how once somebody mentions something to you, the piece of information seems to jump off the page when you are not even looking?” he asks. This quickly happened with woggins. As soon as Lund’s network was alerted, more mentions from ship’s logs began flooding in. A Sag Harbor vessel sailing in 1806 “kild one woglin at 10 am.” New Bedford sailors from 1838 describe “wogings in vast numbers & noisy with their shril sharp shreaking or howling in the dead hours of the night.” In a 1798 diary entry, Christopher Almy of New Bedford writes of “one sort the whalemen call woggins,” which have stubby wings. When they move over the rocks, he says, they “look like small boys a walking.”
When Lund’s inquiry hit O’Pecko’s desk, something splashed out of his memory, too. Years before, in his own research, he had come across the story of Jack Woggin, a beloved ship’s pet. He dug up the account from an 1832 whaling magazine, and sent it along. “A person looking overboard saw a Penguin (Genus aptenodytes), commonly called by the sailors a ‘woggin,’” writes the author, explaining how Jack got on board. Here, finally, was the smoking gun: a woggin is a penguin. 
A whole flock of penguins on Elephant Island, in Antarctica.
A whole flock of penguins on Elephant Island, in Antarctica. Liam Quinn/CC BY-SA 2.0
But the mystery was only half solved. Penguins, as we understand them, live in the Southern Hemisphere. And yet sailors in the north were also getting in on the action, reporting that they had “caught 10 wogens” or “saw wargins.” “Whalemen were noticing them before they went far enough south to see true penguins,” says Lund.
At this point, it was Storrs Olson’s turn to snap into focus. Olson, an ornithologist with the Smithsonian Institution, had been added to the email chain early on, but the mystery hadn’t gripped him. “It was something sailors ate, and they would eat almost anything,” he says. “I did not pay a lot of attention at first.”
But when it became clear that woggins were in the north, too, an intriguing suspect loomed: what if they were great auks? Also flightless, with large, hooked beaks and white eyespots, great auks went extinct sometime in the mid-1800s, hunted to death for their oily meat and fluffy down. (Arctic sailors also burned them for warmth, as there was often no wood where they were exploring.) As such, we know very little about them, and they have achieved near-mythical status among ornithologists, who grasp at every scrap of evidence about how they lived. 
Abraham Russell's schoolboy navigation notebook, illustrated with a woggin.
Abraham Russell’s schoolboy navigation notebook, illustrated with a woggin. Courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum
Michael Dyer, another librarian from New Bedford, had found another major clue: the notebook of a schoolboy named Abraham Russell, decorated with a careful sketch of a “Sea Waggin found on the banks of Newfound Land.” The drawing looked as though it had been traced from a particular illustration of a great auk found in a popular navigational guide. Further finds reinforced this theory, and finally, the group of detectives nailed it down: A southern woggin is a penguin. A northern woggin was a great auk.
Lund and Olson released their first woggin exposé in 2007, in Archives of Natural History. A follow-up was published this month. (The new paper is a true rollercoaster—early on in the list of woggin cameos, an explorer from 1860 reports that the birds “excited my wonder and attention.” Mere lines later, sealers from 1869 are showing off “a bag full of woggins’ hearts, which we can roast on sticks, and who doubts that we shall make a heart-y supper?”)
Charles Green, a cook on Shackleton's ship "Endurance," preparing a penguin for supper.
Charles Green, a cook on Shackleton’s ship “Endurance,” preparing a penguin for supper. Frank Hurley/Public Domain
“Our paper was received with considerable interest by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of American Regional English,” it points out, suggesting that woggins may soon officially march into the historical lexicon.
Until then, Olson is using the woggins to learn more about great auks—he has already expanded their probable springtime range down to the coast of North Carolina, based on a sighting from 1762. And Lund keeps the word in her back pocket, a new species of diverting vocabulary. “I run across it occasionally, and it’s amusing and interesting” she says. “The woggins live again.”

Now you know!

Today's funny :o)

H/T to wild river!!   :o)

Still chilly....

.... I think the thermometer is just frozen at that temperature.....

The sun reflecting on the snow - looks like diamonds!

 Smoke coming out of the chimney - we can probably stop burning wood in May.

 It keeps the house warm, but I am soooo tired of all the dust it makes!

 Too bad they aren't "real" diamonds!  LOL!

Have no idea what they are pecking at - even the blades of grass are frozen:

 A little bird nest in the bushes:

 Chicken foots:

Not very exciting in Coopville lately.....


Monday, January 16, 2017


.........The Last U.S. Cavalry Horse

H/T to Barb ( for the idea! Stop by her wonderful blog and get your smiles on!

Chief, The Last U.S. Cavalry Horse

Chief, the last U.S. Army cavalry horse, was foaled in 1932. The Army purchased him in 1940 from a Nebraska rancher, at Ft. Robinson, NE. He arrived at his cavalry post, Ft. Riley, KS. on 3 April 1941, assigned to the 10th Cavalry and later the 9th Cavalry. In June 1942, Chief was transferred to the Cavalry School (also at Ft.Riley) where he rose to the rank of Advanced Cavalry Charger. Chief remained at the school after his 1949 semi-retirement until his 1958 full retirement.
During the 1950s and early 1960s the number of retired cavalry horses declined until only Chief was left. For years, Chief enjoyed his retirement days in a corral at the Ft. Riley Riding Club. Each year, Chief entertained hundreds of visitors, a living repreentative of the more than 6,000 horses who were kept on post at Ft. Riley during WW II, as well as all Army horses. Finally, on 24 May 1968, Chief died, to join the millions of faithful cavalry horses who served and died before him. A military funeral with full honors was held, attended by the Commanding General of the U.S. Army.
Chief is buried at Ft. Riley, at the foot of the Old Trooper Monument (modeled after the Cavalry soldier drawing "Old Bill" by Fredric Remington.) Chief is buried upright, encased in a marble vault, ready to ride again.


Today's funny :o)

A really big H/T to BW!



Had some.....

.... snow Saturday night:

 Lots of critter tracks to follow:



He came  right up to the coop by the nesting box hatch:

 Damn deer:

Bunnies! :

 The gang:


 Charlie's tracks - you can see where his spurs make lines in the snow!


Saturday, January 14, 2017

At the Hop!

Lenny Dell and the Dimensions

Over the Rainbow

Ohhhhh yeaaa
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Way up high.
There's a land that I've heard of,
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Skies are blue.
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
Someday I wish upon a star, (someday I wish upon a star)
Where the clouds are far far far behind me
(And wake up where the clouds are far behind me)
All my troubles melt like lemon drops.
Way above the chimney tops, (way above the chimney tops)
That is where you will find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Bluebirds fly.
If birds can fly over over the rainbow,
Then why, then why can't I
(Bids fly high, why can't I)
Ohh wahy ohhh why ohhh why ohhh
(If birds fly high, why can't I)
If every little bluebirds fly (if every bird fly)
Over the rainbow,
Somebody tell me why, somebody tell me
(If bids fly high, why can't I)
Why can't I.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Night Steam

For the love of steam.

You are really going to enjoy this one!

For more info and lots of photographs and a tour of the museum, please visit:


Today's funny :o)

A big H/T to Terry!  :o)

And we wonder why the power goes out...

Finally warmed up.....

 ..... a bit. Hardly any snow left, but we now have a lot of MUD.

Charlie taps on the glass patio door now when he wants to get my attention - I just can't help not laughing at how serious he is about his stupid Cheerios! He only comes up on the deck when he knows I am in the house. And if I don't give him anything, he'll leave me a treat!

Just a pretty sunset from last night:


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A REALLY odd bird!

The Shoebill:

Shoebill Facts


Although given to nesting in remote spots, the shoebill is one of the most distinctive birds of African wetlands. Its mighty bill is a specialized weapon for hunting in the water.


In northeastern Africa, the shoebill frequents the Sudd, a 52,000-sq. mile swamp. The bird is most often seen in flooded regions where the deep, sluggish waters carry large quantities of fish toward the great lakes of Victoria and Tanganyika.
In Uganda, the shoebill is found on marshy lake margins thick with reeds, papyrus and grasses. The bird uses this vegetation for nesting material and to conceal its vast shadow from the fish below. It is often most numerous in areas where the water has a low oxygen level — lungfish, a favorite food, then must surface more often, making the shoebill’s foraging a lot easier
The shoebill is found in marshes and swamps.
 Waterbird The shoebill is found in marshes and swamps.
• The shoebill follows the sitatunga, an aquatic antelope; it stirs up lungfish, the bird’s favorite food, as it walks.
• The shoebill shares with the storks the habit of defecating on its legs on hot days. This creates cooling by evaporation.

Food & hunting

Fish dominate the shoebill’s diet; it also hunts frogs, lizards, turtles and snakes, as well as the odd waterbird or young crocodile.
Feeding starts by late morning. Shoebills may fish near each other, but do not hunt communally. Their method is spectacular but often unsuccessful, obliging the bird to move a few yards and try again.


The IUCN (World Conservation Union) has declared the shoebill a species of special concern because of its restricted range in Africa and poorly understood biology. The population is thought to be about 11,000, with roughly half occurring in the Sudd.This region is being drained, along with other wetlands, to create land for crop production. Cattle farmers are burning marshes, using the land for their stock. Fishermen disturb the bird during its breeding season, and juveniles are illegally collected for zoos.


The shoebill adapts its breeding behavior to suit the movements of floodwaters. By mating in the dry season, the shoebill ensures its young a supply of lungfish, which are trapped in dwindling pools.
The shoebill lays two or three chalky-white eggs on a bulky mound of aquatic plants trampled on floating marshy vegetation. The breeding pair continually adds fresh plant material to the nest, which may become so heavy that it sinks slowly into the marsh. Although breeding pairs may nest close to one another they never form a social colony.
The parents dutifully tend their silvery-gray, downy hatchlings, supplying them with prechewed fish and dousing them with billfulls of cooling water on hot days. The chicks learn to handle fish and eat them head first. Each juvenile leaves the nest at 13 weeks, but still cannot fly and relies on its parents for another few weeks. Normally only one juvenile fledges from each brood.
Job share
Both parents incubate the eggs and rear the young.

fitting the bill

When the shoebill hunts, it uses various tactics: periods spent standing motionless alternate with a stealthy stalk.
The bird attacks a catfish in a stand of reeds, toppling forward as it thrusts out its bill.
The messy hunter skillfully empties water and plant matter from its bill while keeping a firm grip on the prize.
After a successful strike, the shoebill takes a drink and then moves to another undisturbed site.


The shoebill has a solitary, sedentary nature. Even breeding pairs seldom feed alongside each other; each one’s territory may extend a few miles.
The shoebill is sometimes forced by droughts to seek new food sources. This heavy bird is, however, a reluctant flier because it depends on thermals (warm air currents) on which to soar: In flight it-draws its neck back, pelican-style, to bring the mighty bill closer to the body’s center of gravity. Usually quiet, the bird defends its nest with vigor, clapping its bill loudly and even leaping onto the back of an intruding shoebill.



With stiltlike legs and splayed feet, the shoebill can wade in shallow water, or stand on floating vegetation, ready to strike with its extraordinary bill.

Creature comparisons

At 20″ long, the hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) is dwarfed by the shoebill. It has pale-brown plumage, and the back of its head sports a crest that gives rise to its name, an Afrikaans word meaning “hammerhead.” Like-the shoebill, the hamerkop is a waterbird. Its slender bill enables it to trap a varied diet from frogs to fish and small invertebrates.The hamerkop’s bill has a tiny hook at the tip of the upper mandible, helping it pick up smaller victims and rinse them in water before eating. Although much smaller than the shoebill, the hamerkop builds one of the world’s largest nests, creating a structure with an average depth of 5′ and weighing up to 100 times more than the bird. Hamerkop
Weight 11-13 lbs.
Length Up to 4′
Wingspan 6.5′
Sexual Maturity 3-4 years
Breeding .. Season October-June
Number of Eggs 1-3,
usually 2
Incubation Period 30 days
Fledging Period 95-105 days
Breeding Interval 1 year
Typical Diet Fish, frogs, water snakes, turtles
Lifespan Up to 35
years in captivity


• The shoebill is the sole member of its genus, ‘ Balaeniceps, and the only species in its family, the Balaenicipitidae. Although DNA analysis shows it to be related to pelicans, it has been thought to be most closely related to storks and herons. With its long legs and neck, it resembles a bulky stork but, unlike storks or herons, it seldom perches in trees, and nests on the ground.’


Today's funny :o)

Bitter cold!

It has been sooo cold here!

 Monday morning:

 The sun did NOT warm up anything.....

 Charlie and Betty would have walked inside....

 A pretty sunrise on Tuesday also:

 But still damn cold!

 Weatherman said it will get warmer sometime today (Wednesday) after the snow and sleet melts.....

Monday, January 9, 2017

Toys from the past

Ever wonder what Great Grandma and Grandpa played with?
popular toys in history
A tea party circa 1913. (Courtesy of William Creswell)
Toys haven’t always been a part of childhood. It was only during the Victorian era that families began viewing play time as central to a child’s development. Paired with industrialization, that meant the invention of many new and exciting toys, with some more enduringly popular than others. The Sears-Roebuck catalogs archived on offer a glimpse at what kept your grandparents and great-grandparents entertained.
1860s: War Toys
Toy drums
A Sears-Roebuck Catalog from 1901.
The Civil War excited the imagination of children across the country, which the nascent toy industry exploited. Manufacturers marketed colorful Zouave regiment uniforms, dolls, and toy muskets. Hearing stories of young drummer boys leading troops into battle, kids clamored for toy drums and bugles. The instruments stayed popular well into the 20th century.
1870s: Zoetrope Reel
Zoetrope Reel
An 1899 image of a zoetrope reel. (Courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images)
If your family had this optical toy in the nursery, you were a very popular kid. Patented by Milton Bradley in 1867, the machine created the illusion of movement by spinning still drawings inside a drum. The zoetrope was the first hint that children would one day become addicted to animation.
1880s: Magic Lantern

A catalog listing from 1905.
Though they had been around for many years, magic lanterns really caught on as a Victorian parlor amusement in the 1880s. Hand-painted slides in wood frames slipped into a machine and could be projected onto a blank wall. Toward the end of the 19th century, manufacturers began marketing the lanterns to children. Slide shows could be entertaining or educational, as a tool to teach geography and history. Children also liked giving presentations themselves.
1890s: Dolls

1900 catalog.
Sears-Roebuck catalogs at the turn of the century are filled with dolls, doll costumes, tiny furniture, plush strollers — even doll hammocks. According to an 1895 article in the New York Times, dolls were the staple of the toy trade, with consumers spending $2 million on them annually! (That’s about $55 million today.) They were primarily made in Germany and sold at low cost by street vendors. The article notes that girls preferred blond dolls to brunettes and liked them in fancy clothes.
1900s: Teddy Bears

1907 catalog.
In 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt went hunting, wanting to see a bear. But when his friends caught one and tied it up, Roosevelt declined to shoot it, believing it unsportsmanlike. The bear was later killed anyway, but word of his merciful gesture got out and was made into a cartoon that showed Roosevelt with the bear. After hearing the story, two immigrants in Brooklyn made a stuffed bear and displayed it in their store window. Suddenly, everyone wanted one and a craze began. The Sears-Roebuck catalogs of the time hawked many varieties of teddy bears, including ones of imported plush that made a noise when squeezed. “These bears are the most sensible and serviceable toys ever put before the public,” read a 1907 catalog. “Not a fad or campaign article, but something which has come to stay on merit alone.”
1910s: Electric Trains

1911 catalog.
American manufacturers began incorporating electricity into toys at the beginning of the 20th century. This fueled the country’s growing toy industry, which was also aided by the decline of German industries during World War I. Classic German trains were run by winding up a box. New American sets had a third rail, battery, and a switch. As the Sears-Roebuck catalog put it, that equaled “more fun to the dollar than any mechanical toy ever sold.”
1920s: Chemistry Sets

1920 catalog.
With an increasing emphasis on child development, educational toys grew popular in the 1920s. The A.C. Gilbert Company was a pioneer in the field, introducing its chemistry set in 1923. Containing alcohol, chemicals, copper plates, and glassware, the kits were intended to — literally — spark boys’ interest in a chemistry career. There were instructions for magic tricks and, OK, some toxins like sodium cyanide. Sure, there was a risk of explosions, but that was part of the fun.
1930s: Buck Rogers Rocket Pistol

1934 catalog.

Introduced in 1934, the Buck Rogers pistol was the first ray gun ever made. It was modeled on the one carried by a popular radio and comic book character Buck Rogers, a World War I vet who is exposed to radioactive gas and spends 500 years in suspended animation. He wakes as a superhero with a futuristic weapon. Making a pleasing zapping sound, the gun came out in several versions over the decades and was often sold alongside other Buck paraphernalia, like an outfit, helmet, or holster.
1940s: Slinky
The famous Slinky. (Courtesy of Roger McLassus)
Richard James invented the Slinky by accident in 1943. A mechanical engineer, James knocked a new sensitive spring from a shelf and noticed that it seemed to walk instead of fall. It became a hit two Christmases later when he demonstrated it in a Philadelphia department store. Millions of Slinkys later, it’s still a popular toy.
—Rebecca Dalzell