Monday, March 9, 2009
I don’t know why people would do this for public consumption. Using this as a sort of ejournal is OK, but feeling a pressure to entertain is something I would not want to add to the mix. Anyway, driving in this morning, I heard some radio ad that included the phrase “you don’t deserve this..” and I got to thinking: that is absolutely true in my life, axcept it works in my favor at least as often as it works against me. Why is it, I wonder, that our first instinct is to feel wronged or cheated? What purpose does that, or could that, serve? Why not have our first instinct be to feel appreciative for the good ways that things have worked out?
Friday, March 20, 2009
Well, Spring has really been here since the Grackles arrived back in February, but the final nail in the coffin of winter happened yesterday with the advent of migrating Cormorants. About lunchtime I happened to catch sight of what looked like a big group of smallish, silent, fairly drunk Canada Geese working their way more or less northwards over the rooftops, and realized immediately that the Double-crested Cormorants were back in town. It’s fun to watch them form up in a reasonable V with much effort and make it about 20 feet before they dissolve into a confused mass like a bunch of drunk relatives trying to decide where to go shopping first in a very big mall. After scattering in a bunch of different directions at once, they reluctantly form up again behind a leader, but seem quickly to realize that he’s taking them in a direction most of them don’t want to go (or else they just can’t handle the pressure of formation flying). They’re very entertaining birds, as long as you don’t have the misfortune to be under them at any time.
Posted by JohnR at 12:05 PM
Friday, March 27, 2009
Well I had the first snake of the year yesterday, and the first ever in the backyard. I was moving a border block at the edge of the garden which had fallen over, and uncovered the little guy. It was a cool dampish day, so I picked him up and warmed him a little – oddly enough it felt in some strange way like holding a baby; this small, helpless living thing in my hands. When he was warm enough to start poking at the fingers, I put him down next to a crawlspace he could shelter in and off he went. I’m not too surprised; Brown Snakes are the standard city snake, after all, but after 15 years in the house I was starting to feel a bit pessimistic. Now I can start hoping for Garters! It was a good day, too, as the local urban Red-tail was up across the street when I left, and watching him I noticed 2 Sharp-shins circling above him; probably our local pair. Between him and the neighborhood foxes it’s no wonder our resident rabbits are looking a bit leaner and jumpier. Good for them, I think. The Juncos and White-throated Sparrows are gone, of course, and the Grackles and Redwings should be moving on soon. I haven’t heard a Kinglet in days, so it’s only a matter of a week or so before the first swallows and Kingbirds roll in, and the early warblers.
Posted by JohnR at 5:22 PM
On my way downtown to work this morning, I groggily noticed that the flock of seagulls I had vaguely glanced at didn’t look quite right. When I had a couple seconds at a traffic light, I peered more closely at them and noticed that they were, in fact, Turkey Vultures. Having leisure to count them, I made it 18 TVs in all. It’s the heavy, ponderous flaps that usually tip me off to TVs in flight; they seem, like Gt Blue Herons, to be only just able to keep themselves in the air because of deep exhaustion. Interestingly, not a BV in the bunch, although most flocks around here have a couple or three nearby or right in the group, with their tight, nervous little flaps and the white roundel at the end of the wing. From a distance, I usually notice the stubby, ‘cocked-forwards’ look of the wings before almost anything else. I don’t know if this was a bunch returning home after moving a little south for the winter, or whether TVs generally flock up like Crows in the winter and then disperse somewhat to their preferred breeding and feeding areas in March. Either way it was a fitting start to a cold, bustery, overcast March Monday.
Posted by JohnR at 9:18 AM
I don’t usually worry much about the labels, but it just hit me that I’m not taking them seriously enough. Back in my previous job, when it was possible to get out to the shore for winter sea-duck watching, I used to particularly enjoy hitting the coastline of Mass. and Rhode Island where you could get a range of nice ducks – the easy ones like Harlequins and Common Eiders and the tougher ones like the Three Scoters. All too often it would be a cold, but sunny day and the shimmer off the ocean made it really tough to get any kind of decent look at the small rafts of scoters and tell them apart – sometimes you could get a nice clear view of color patches and tell your Surf from your Black or White-winged, but generally it was a sort of black blur that popped into view randomly as the waves rose and fell. If it was just me, I didn’t worry so much, but if I was leading a group I felt like it was part of my job to ID them if I could, and I always felt bad if I just had to put them down as scoter sp. It’s hard to resist the temptation to do a “best-guess” ID. Still, now that I have a job that doesn’t involve sea-ducking, I kind of miss even the less succesful parts; I have plenty of lack of success anyway, and it takes place at a lab bench rather than at the shore on a beautiful winter day.
Posted by JohnR at 9:28 AM
Monday, March 30, 2009
What a change; this morning, grim, gray overcast and cold, with a large herd of vultures escorting me in to work, and then midafternoon windy, cool, clear blue skies and a Peregrine playing around over the buildings keeping the local Starlings and Bridge Falcons on their metaphorical toes. That’s what I’m talking about!, to quote Maury (Jerry). One a completely unrelated tack, part of the warm pleasure of watching Zoolander was seeing Ben and his famous mom and dad get to work together like that. His lovely wife, too, but she’s just married to him; she didn’t have to raise him. For them to be able to work together with such apparent warmth was delightful to watch. Also, the catchphrases – those guys have given us some wonderful pop culture catchphrases in their various movies now; almost as many as Ghostbuster, Airplane and Princess Bride.
Posted by JohnR at 1:31 PM