Wednesday, April 1, 2009

So, what’s #668?

I was behind the Yellow Cab yesterday for several blocks before I noticed that its number was 666. “Oh, no!” I thought; “I’m following the Taxi of the Beast!”. And the driver looked so normal, too. Well, relatively, anyway. He looked like one of my relatives.. http://instantrimshot.com/

Don’t stop me, I’m on a roll!

Posted by JohnR at 8:00 AM

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why didn’t the Borrowers eat cockroaches?

I keep forgetting to put stuff down and then of course, it vanishes into the aether. Let’s see; just now I noticed that the Chimney Swifts are back in town; last week we had an Osprey fly over a couple blocks down from the house, and then a Great Blue Heron added itself to the Yard List (fly-over addendum) on Saturday. Also Saturday I heard (while driving) either a Palm Warbler or a Junco (probably a late Junco, but it sounded awfully slow and wet; could be just the road noise effect, though). Spiders are out and about in the house here and there, the piss-ants are back all over the counters and I saw a cockroach out late saturday night. So the home wildlife preserve is back up and running. When I opened up the shed to get tools out for yard work the other day, I found that at some point during the winter something had killed a rabbit and dragged it in through the gap in the doors to dine at leisure. There’s a pretty acrid smell in the shed, so I’m guessing it was one of the neighborhood foxes. Either that or a particularly burly tomcat (it was a pretty big rabbit). I’m not in the market for a rabbit skeleton or for a rabbit-fur-tuft coat (size pixie) so I suppose I shall have to clear it out once my wife realizes it’s there.

Posted by JohnR at 12:09 PM 

Labels: birds, Spring

Monday, April 27, 2009

Calendar? We don’t need no stinkin’ calendar!

90 degree temperatures this weekend, and the oak trees in full flower, and it’s not even the end of April yet. When I was in college, this was characteristic of the middle of May. I wonder if the advance in oak flowering season has had any effect on warbler migration? I heard an Ovenbird(!) calling very early Sunday morning, but not even a Redstart yet otherwise. Other migrants of interest the past weekend include the return of House wrens (also on Sunday) and what sounded very like a Nighthawk on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, I couldn’t spot it through the trees in the backyard, but I did notice, in sillhouette against the light sky, a small spider building an early orb web. Again, when I was in college, April was the month for cribellates like Amaurobius under rocks and logs; the other outdoor spiders didn’t start showing up until May. You can’t be a naturalist and deny global warming; too much change has happened in my lifetime, and it’s all in one direction – hotter.

Posted by JohnR at 9:16 AM

Labels: birds, Spring, warming


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gone tomorrow

It came to me, as it does periodically (usually when I’m struggling with a particularly surly and recalcitrant sub-cloning project) that when I go, all this decades of accumulated knowledge and understanding will vanish as if it had never existed. Some will of course live on, in the garbled and scrambled form that I’ve been able to pound into my kids, and maybe a few other people along the way, but all those memories and bits of useful information? Pfft! You never think about these things when you’re young, of course, and it’s been happening this way to people for a while now (oh, a few millenia or so), but it somehow comes close to home when you start thinking about all the times you’ve missed by inches getting killed. The time a well-known naturalist was showing us kids how harmless a big Black Rat Snake was, for instance, and it bit him right in the nose. When he reflexively yanked it away, of course all those little recurved teeth ripped his nose up and I can still see the blood running down, and the shocked faces of the kids around me. Or the freezing cold day at Sachuest Point when a beam of sunlight came out of the grey sky and hit right on a little cluster of Harlequin Ducks bobbing in the surf, lighting them up like a neon sign. Or the time I was walking down a road in the country, a long way from anywhere, in the middle of the night, when I heard this strange cry off in the distance that to this day I have never figured out – it sounded like it was a bird circling up high, but the noise was like a wailing moan, rather low-pitched and quite unlike any bird I have ever heard. It went on for about 20 minutes before fading in the distance, and it was one of the creepiest things I’ve ever encountered. Or the time, after a long night of Haunted House programs at summer scout camp, when I was coming back through the woods in the dark alone, without a flashlight, and the masses of Katydids were yelling their rasping cry so loud around me that I couldn’t even hear my own footsteps. That was a long 15 minutes until I got up to where I could see lights again. Like everybody, I’ve got masses of these little Youtube videos stored away that will just vanish (maybe already are vanishing without me knowing). Tastes, sounds, smells, emotions, etc. Makes me want to go back and play Planescape:Torment over again. Every death in this world takes away some collection of understanding and knowledge that contains unique and irreplacable bits. How terrible that we just casually want to kill each other over what amounts to temporary fits of insanity or envy or as revenge for something that happened so long ago that our great-grandparents had forgotten exactly what it was all about. How sad.

Posted by JohnR at 10:09 AM 

Truckin’, like the Doo-dah Man..

The good thing about having a son in college up near Canada is that I get to drive a long, long way several times a year, then turn around and drive a long, long way back. This time I made it a 3-day weekend and took the family with me, which made it both more fun and more difficult at the same time. I’ve noticed before how the weather changes as you crest the mountains, and this time was more interesting than most – we make it over the top at about Scranton and come down the other side to go into Binghamton and points north, and the rain we’d been under since Baltimore petered out at that point and switched over to cool, sunny Spring weather. We had a very pleasant Saturday, and then heading back on Sunday, as we crossed the mountains again it started raining. I couldn’t believe that it had been going the whole time, but apparently it had. HAha. Well, on to sightings – a Raven in the Pennsylvania mountains and a Pileated Woodpecker crossing the road in New York were the nice birds; there were scads of Yellow Warblers, but virtually no other warblers the whole trip. I wonder – it’s only been 30 years since any weekend around this time would produce good numbers of 8-12 different species including Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Redstarts, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Parula, and a bunch of others. It’s been about 15 years since I did any serious birding, but could things have changed that dramatically? Other nice things include hearing Spring Peepers at night and seeing Green Frogs out in the daytime, lots of Trilliums in flower, along with Anemones and some sort of interesting Hawkweed-looking thing that I didn’t recognize at the edge of the woods. Not many insects apart from clouds of midges, but one nice little Pirata wolf spider at the motel. Ah, yes – one reason I like the motel we stay at up there is that it has a low roof out the back window of the row of rooms that has puffs of moss growing all over it – lots of ‘flowering’ Haircap, but also one that I don’t recognize that was ‘flowering’ – sort of a licheny-looking thing; dark olive with shiny dark stalks.
The nicest thing about travelling by car is that you get to explore a little and stop wherever something catches your fancy. This particularly applies to eateries, and we happened across a very nice little diner sort of place that had good, inexpensive food, nice, attentive waitresses and was a nice place to eat besides. It was like where I grew up – just a little place along the road where you pull into the gravel patch that acts as a parking lot. Made me homesick for a bit, but of course that “home” is long gone. It was very good to have the whole bunch of us together for a day, but then back down to the grind again. Well, I’ll be back to bring him home in a few weeks, but this time on my own on the way up. Just me, Heywood Banks, the Arrogant Worms and Led Zeppelin. And maybe JSBach and GFHandel – I haven’t run through the Johnny Passion in a while, and Messiah always makes the miles fly past.

Posted by JohnR at 8:47 AM 

Labels: birds, driving, nature

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