Project: NL and TW birds

I wanted a website that shows birds who appear in both the Netherlands and Taiwan, and whether I’ve seen them (link to project).1 I’m happy I had an idea and was able to execute the idea :D

Screenshot of project website

The lists

I used the Lijst van Nederlandse vogelsoorten from the Dutch Birding Association, and the 2023年臺灣鳥類名錄 from the Taiwan Wild Bird Federation to compile a list of birds that appeared in both countries. The data processing was done in Excel using =IF(ISERROR(MATCH(A1,$C$1:$C$714,0)),"",A1) to compare columns. This was done with both the English and scientific names, then fixing discrepancies between the two (e.g. English names differed on the apostrophes used, grey vs gray, apostrophes), deferring to the Dutch list.2

In hindsight, I could have used Avibase’s compare regions function. Although their list has a few more birds than mine (290 vs 281). Some of the birds on the Avibase list don’t appear on the lists I used3, some on my list don’t appear on the Avibase list.4

I wasn’t sure what to do with subspecies. Sometimes Taiwan and the Netherlands had the same subspecies (e.g. Tree pipit - Anthus trivialis trivialis), whereas sometimes there was no overlap (e.g. Eurasian whimbrel Numenius phaeopus - nl: N. p. phaeopus, N. p. islandicus - tw: N. p. variegatus, N. p. hudsonicus. Also while we’re here, N. p. hudsonicus has been split off into its own species and doesn’t even belong in this discussion!)

The Excel (which looks similar to this checklist version I made) was then converted to JSON using https://csvjson.com, so that each bird looked like this:

{
    "Dutch": "Grote Pieper",
    "English": "Richard’s Pipit",
    "Chinese": "大花鷚",
    "Scientific": "Anthus richardi",
    "Alternative name": "",
    "Alternative scientific name": "",
    "Notes": ""
}

Flickr API

The JSON was then populated with bird photo URLs from Flickr using its API search method. I was fiddling around with different license arguments, but ended up only grabbing photos under CC BY 2.0 license.

Not all birds returned a picture, and not all pictures returned were great, so some manual search and selection was done too.

The JavaScript

I’ve never used data from JSON to populate a page before. I found this Medium article useful. Note that Firefox threw an “Uncaught SyntaxError: import assertions are not currently supported” when I used import so I fetch()ed the JSON instead.

  1. I was inspired by Melanie Richards to make little web projects. 

  2. I don’t have strong taxonomy opinions, my decision was to choose a list and stick with it. Avibase mostly agrees with the Taiwan list so I’m not sure if my decision is the “correct” one. Given that taxonomy is unsettled, I feel okay with this decision, for now. Link to a Vogelberscherming blog post about the little owl. Link to Nick’s Bird Blog, where he reviews (changes in) taxonomy

  3. List of birds in Avibase and not on my list: Cackling goose, Greater flamingo, Ross’s gull, Caspian gull, Red-billed tropicbird, White stork, Striated heron, Lesser kestrel, House crow, Mistle thrush, Siberian stonechat, House sparrow. 

  4. List of birds on my list and not on the Avibase list: Eurasian teal, Common house martin, Black throated thrush. 

Eggs in a wolf peach basket

I’ve been watching recipes from this Taiwanese YouTube channel. There is often an elaborate preamble about the origin of particular ingredients and their etymology.

In this one (a recipe for egg in a tomato basket), he says that tomatoes used to be seen as poisonous! Small google lead to this Atlas Obscura article about it.

On that note, I really like Atlas Obscura’s font choices. Freight text and Platform(? not sure the exact sans serif they’re using, this one has a different ‘a’).

Kievits and spoonbills

Earthsea started it for me in 2019. I inhaled the first four books and came to the conclusion that I need to learn more names. I ought to know what I’m seeing and who is living around me.

Now I know more names, some in multiple languages, but there’s always more to learn. It feels like I’ve been living in my own bubble, unaware of others around me. But now I see (some of) them. “Who are you?” I ask. How is your day going? Was the winter hard?

I write in circles.

Today I saw birds I’ve never seen before and I want to share.

I first heard about kievits1 in a Taiwanese podcast about how kievits are good ambassador birds for non-toxic farming (無毒農業). I looked them up and was surprised to find that they are common here in the Netherlands. Thus were they added to my apparent “birds I want to see” list. Now I am someone who has such a list.

I looked them up on waarneming.nl recently, and there are sightings super close to me?! So today I sought them out. It was easier than expected. There they were! Interesting wing shape in flight. Funny little hair thing. Not a fan of crows.

On the way back, we came across a couple pairs of spoonbills!2 A placard stated they breed here every year. Practically my neighbours yet I’ve never seen them before. But now I have, and I’m happier for it.

  1. kievit (Nederlands) - northern lapwing (English) - 小辮鴴 (中文) - Vanellus vanellus 

  2. lepelaar (Nederlands) - Eurasian spoonbill (English) - 白琵鷺(中文) - Platalea leucorodia 

Fixed a button

I sewed a coat button that fell off back on using this YouTube video. It was harder than expected but turned out really good 😊

The books I read in 2023

  1. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  2. It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
  3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  4. Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff
  5. Get Agile! Scrum for UX, Design & Development by Pieter Jongerius
  6. Entangled Life: How fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures by Merlin Sheldrake
  7. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  8. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (reread)
  9. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (reread)
  10. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
  11. Gut : the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ by Giulia Enders

What about leather shoes that will last a really long time?

I think about occasions and dress codes. About appropriateness and expectations. About being told how I should think and how I should dress, given femininity and the state of the world.

It’s so difficult to move through; sticky and viscous and heavy. Responsibility and long term goals and being considerate and considering.

In this household we use the word ennui, in a childish way.

A website update

This is now a GitHub Pages Jekyll Markdown website. I don’t know all the implications of this, apart from the fact that whatever PHP I used was very convoluted. I thought about replicating the nav bar with liquid, but it felt hard and I began asking myself why I wanted to do it.

Oftentimes it’s the challenge.

I made my original website towards the end of 2021, as a challenge, and because an online portfolio felt appropriate at the time. Almost 2 years have passed since.

Some highlights:

I want a space that is all mine where I can archive and document things. Ideas, recipes, books I’ve read, bugs I’ve seen. I want people to stumble on this website because of a niche google search that happen to match the keywords on a particular post. I want this to be something I can send to close friends.

Book: Gathering Moss - Robin Wall Kimmerer

Wild Green Memes for Ecological Fiends is a Facebook group I’m a big fan of “with a focus on humorous wildlife and pro-conservation content.” A while back someone asked for book recommendations on #nonmemesunday, which was how I came across the moss book.

It is a gentle book about the power of tiny things, big things, and people. It made me curious and more observant of things up close.

A few chapters in, we went in search of a loupe. Eventually finding one in SoLow, a store that sold everything and nothing. It was a little before Halloween, so my memory of the experience is marked with periodic cackle from the skeleton greeting new customers.

It’s been really fun pausing and looking at moss during walks. Noticing different types of lichen on the same blop of fence. Making the discovery that random bits of moss on the stairs leading down to the bike storage is likely thrown there by jackdaws doing their morning foraging.

Two things:

p.83

I’m told that the Chinese character for catastrophe is the same as that which represents the word opportunity.

This is probably referring to 危機, see this wikipedia article<.

p.146

The indigestible fiber of mosses has been reported from a surprising location—the anal plug of hibernating bears. Apparently, just before entering the winter den, bears may eat a large quantity of moss, which so binds up their digestive system that it blocks defecation through long winter sleep.

Also known as fecal plug, the North American Bear Center has an article on it (they managed to snag bear.org :o). I also did some digging and found this book: Bears of the North: A Year Inside Their Worlds (links to bit about bears’ first spring poop).

Books I would like to read this year, may or may not be related to the moss book:

Documentation and paper trails

Hi, hello, hi.

Human memory is not great. Lots of little facts about my life slip through the cracks, unrecoverable. I can’t tell you what I ate for dinner 3 weeks ago, or what I was doing at specific times. This honestly scares me. That a year from now, all I’ll know about 2022 are vague visions of ghosts of Lilian past.

Record keeping makes me feel marginally better about the ephemeral-ness of experience,1 but the practice of record keeping, in a way that works for me, is something I’m still figuring out. For instance, I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for a few years, mostly to manage to-do lists and keep track of long term projects. Not so much for journalling, apart from moments when I am loaded with feeling (generally once a month, depending on the moon). Upon rewatching the How to Bullet Journal video recently, I realised I only ever used the tasks bullet “•”, and not the notes or events bullet (“–” and “o” respectively). Thus, as part of new-year-new-me,2 I’ll be rapid logging a wider scope of things.

Also part of new-year-new-me is figuring out what I want this website to be. Largely inspired by this walk/birding blog and the Backyard Nature website, I want a place to record events, ideas, and deepdives.

Some time was spent with regards to the structure of the blog. I like the idea of a whole year being on one html file, so that at the end of each year there’s some symbolic manual archiving. I quite like that posts can get lost over time and isn’t so easy to get to. Perhaps I’ll do some sort of manual threading and cross referencing, perhaps not! Perhaps there won’t be a single post after this one! Isn’t the future exciting!

List of post ideas:

  1. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed being the treasurer, to be tasked with keeping track of every financial transaction, so that future treasurers can look back and know what happened. 

  2. New-year-new-me isn’t really a “resolution” thing so much as “I’m changing all the time so everything I do this year is part of the new me” thing. I do sort of have a plan going into the new year of stuff I want to do though. 

Template blog post

Editted on 18/01/2022

This is a template blog post for figuring out how I want to structure the html of any given post.1

  1. Footnotes looks like this.