Common Buzzard

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Buzzard - On patrol by Ann and Chris
Via Flickr:
I’ve never liked the name ‘Buzzard’ for these large gliding raptors As elegant as they are powerful somehow the term 'Buzzard’ doesn’t convey what a superb species this is. Soaring high above our countryside you have to wonder who came up with 'let’s call that bird a buzzard!’ Zero out of ten for imagination whoever you were For me they are something outstanding and special., and when you get as close to one as this., you really get to appreciate that fact

My haul from the UK Vulture Culture meet! I honestly did not realise how many new things I came home with! 

Gannet & Juv Lesser black backed gull from @specios , a Coyote skull from @vultureculturecoyote , Coral & a smol Crab from @mydeadthingsdiary , Male Common Buzzard Skull, Tawny Owl foot, Herring Gull skull & Kestrel foot (gifts for my friend @pitfallfox) , Great Black backed Gull Skull & his feet, Adult & Baby Hedgehog all from the lovely @prettydeadstuff

Thank you all again!! I had a fantastic time, one of the best meets I have been to.

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The birds didn’t want to cooperate with me today. The Tree sparrows stayed in the trees, the Common buzzard flew way too high up in the sky and the Yellowhammer just gave me a suspicious look before it hastened away to somewhere else, far away from photographers (and buzzards).

Let's talk about the code talkers real quick

The last of the World War II Navajo Code Talkers passed away today, and I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t seen more about them on Tumblr, especially among the linguistics crowd, so I'ma remedy that a bit, y'all.

The Navajo Code Talkers are best known for their operations in the Pacific Theater, where they developed a code based on the Navajo language that the Japanese were never able to crack.  Fewer than thirty men basically became the US military’s own version of the Enigma machine, and it’s likely that without them, key battles in the Pacific would have gone very differently, and the US would never have taken Iwo Jima, for instance.

The Navajo Code Talkers are the best known, but not the only ones.  In fact, the first code talkers were Choctaw and actually began operations during World War I, after a commanding officer overheard two Choctaw soldiers conversing in their native language and decided to train them to use it as code.

During World War II, the Marine Corps recruited men from a number of Native American tribes, including CherokeeChoctawNavajoLakota, MeskwakiComanche, Seminole, and also from among (not Native American) Basque speakers.  Navajo in particular was recommended to be useful due to its typological features (tones, complex inflectional system) and its unintelligibility even to speakers of related languages (Navajo is related to Apache languages and distantly to Athabaskan languages of Northern Canada, having been isolated from them for many centuries).  At the time, only about 30 non-Navajos spoke Navajo, and the language had no writing system.

How did the code work?  On the surface, it’s a simple cipher.  Words are spelled out in a manner similar to the military alphabet: A becomes “ant,” B becomes “bear,” C becomes “cat,” etc.  But these words are then translated into Navajo, so A becomes “wóláchííʼ,” B becomes “shash,” C becomes “mósí” and so on.  If your name is Tom, in Navajo code, that becomes “turkey-owl-mouse,” or “tązhii-néʼéshjaaʼ-naʼastsʼǫǫsí.”  If anyone intercepted the transmission, it would appear to just be meaningless sounds, or, even if you knew Navajo, a meaningless sequence of words.

The complete cipher can be found here.

To make things more difficult, they included shorthand for common jargon.  "Buzzard" (jeeshóóʼ) was a bomber and “Iron Fish” (béésh łóóʼ) was a submarine.  "Potato" was a hand grenade, and “turtle” was a tank.  Running shoes were “gofasters” and pens were “ink sticks” (all in Navajo, of course).  Other code talk languages used similar systems.  For Comanche code talkers, Adolf Hitler was “crazy white man”!

Even though the Japanese captured a Navajo soldier, they still couldn’t crack the code because the solder wasn’t a code talker, and the code talkers kept the cipher completely internal to their group.  It’s thought the Japanese might have been able to if they had exploited his knowledge of the language more effectively, given the simplicity of the cipher, but by the end of the war, they had never cracked the spoken code.

Navajo speakers did eventually settle on a standard orthography after the war.  The code talkers from all language groups received no recognition until the program was declassified in 1968.