Monthly Archives: February 2016

Some Good-natured Fun in The Auklet

The American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) has occasionally, at the time of its annual meeting,  published a short satirical parody of The Auk titled The Auklet. It’s done simply to lend a bit of levity to the otherwise dry proceedings. Joseph Grinnell described the number produced for the 1924 AOU meeting held, for the first time, in Pittsburgh, saying that it “holds up for good-natured ridicule various persons, institutions and ornithological movements, past and present…It is altogether impartial and…so far as known to the present writer, no one has ever taken offense at any thrust received.” The Pittsburgh meeting probably needed some good-natured fun: one attendee referred to the place as “a God-forsaken hole”; Witmer Stone was a little gentler, calling it “the Smoky City,” which seems like an understatement based on this photo from about that time:

The Smoky City - Copy

Stone came in for his share of ribbing in The Auklet, mostly about his supposed girl-watching on the Cape May beaches. A fellow ornithologist once kidded Stone with “Yes, you have been very remiss, watching these Cape May bathing beauties all summer and not telling us about them; almost as silent as George Ord and Alexander Wilson, and other former Cape May visitors.” Here are Stone and T.S. Palmer taking their licks in the 1926 Auklet:

Auklet TSP WS

Ten years later, Stone was still getting it about pretending to be engaged in ornithology on the Cape May beaches while actually training his binoculars on the “surf-birds” (“W. Pebble” is an obvious play on “W. Stone”):

IMG_2160ed

Maybe no one had “taken offense at any thrust received” when Grinnell wrote in 1924, but by the early 1930s some members who’d had their feathers ruffled by some thrusts wanted to discontinue The Auklet, and there were grumblings to that effect. Stone had no reservations about letting the effort expire, but mainly due to what he felt was a falling off in the quality of the humor. The Auklet has been seen sporadically since then, however, and it still makes infrequent appearances at the annual AOU meetings.