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The offbeat side of the news

May-o Day! Mayo-o Day!

It will be a relatively brief flash – just 15 minutes of the bright red and deep green of County Mayo projected onto the surging curtain of water at Niagara Falls – but it has Ireland buzzing.

From 10 to 10:15 p.m. May 2, the falls will be illuminated in the colors of County Mayo, which are seen on every farmhouse, utility pole, clothesline, shop front and street corner in the large, scenic western county when the county’s GAA football teams are playing.

“They’ve gone nuts about it in Ireland,” said Padraic Walsh, a native of Kiltimagh, Mayo, who moved to Buffalo six years ago and serves as chair of the Irish Network Buffalo and club secretary with the Buffalo Fenians GAA club.

The falls will be illuminated for Mayo on the first ever Mayo Day, which organizers in the Mayo County Council suggested be marked around the world, where some 9.3 million people claim Mayo roots.

Spearheading the local event as Mayo Day “has been a big hit so far,” said Walsh, a second-year law student at the University at Buffalo. It’s being held on “the first Saturday in May-o,” he said, laughing.

“We’re trying to put Buffalo back on the international stage and connect Niagara Falls and Buffalo,” Walsh said. “People who are coming on vacation and want to say Niagara Falls should stop in Buffalo, too.”

Drawn together

Newly minted Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Zyglis received high praise from the editorial cartoonist he succeeded at The Buffalo News.

Tom Toles, who now pens satirical drawings at the Washington Post, won the coveted award while working at The News in 1990, 25 years before Zyglis won his.

“I love Adam; he’s just the greatest guy,” Toles said. “I think Adam, as a cartoonist, has three qualities that make for great cartoons. He has a distinct visual style, consistently drives home his point clearly and avoids the temptation to indulge in cheap empty gags, which is rife in the business.”

Zyglis sipped champagne to celebrate winning the award Monday.

Toles took a more unconventional approach after his win.

“When I won the Pulitzer, I rode my unicycle around the perimeter of the newsroom,” he recalled. “I had learned to ride a unicycle and I happened to have one, and there aren’t a lot of occasions to use them. This seemed like it might be a good one.”

Graphics staffer Jack Weibel remembers that day.

“Tom came out of the office and rode around the newsroom. It was fun to watch, and everyone cheered. Tom was a very quiet guy, and it was a departure from his usual demeanor.”

It’s ‘Canada,’ silly goose

A few readers of this column called foul on our use of “Canadian” in reference to some water fowl that briefly turned a section of the Youngmann Highway into their own private landing strip during an early-morning commute last week.

The misidentifed bird species is properly called the “Canada” goose, or Branta canadensis, if you really want to be ornithologically correct about it.

Still, we can’t duck the fact that these waddling creatures are not, in fact, Canadian by name. Though it got us to thinking, why not?

After all, nobody refers to the American bald eagle as the “America” bald eagle, or the English sparrow as an “England” sparrow.

Turns out there is a final arbiter on common names and scientific classifications for bird species, according to Gerry Rising, a professor emeritus at the University at Buffalo.

Rising, the longtime author of the weekly “Nature Watch” column in The Buffalo News, said the 131-year-old American Ornithologists’ Union is it, but sometimes, quite arbitrarily, changes its collective mind on such things.

“The Baltimore oriole was changed to the Northern Oriole and then changed back,” Rising said.

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Anne Neville and Mark Sommer.