February 24, 2011
The Robins pulled back into town last night, but they haven’t yet restarted the staking-out process. They were fussing around like a bunch of old women this morning, but no songs yet. The noise came entirely from Cardinals, Grackles and Song Sparrows with some grouchy complaints from the local Mockingbird, and at one point an almost-familiar Blackbirdish-sounding, grinding “jee-ee-eet” call. I couldn’t track it down, but it didn’t sound like a Starling or a Redwing, and I don’t recall hearing a Cowbird (which there are no signs of right now, anyway) make that kind of noise before. It reminds me of something, but I’m so out of practice that I can’t put my finger on it. The snow is subliming off the top and melting off the bottom (at least where the sun gets through to some darker areas of the ground), so I expect it to be gone again by the beginning of next week, or sooner if we get any amount of rain.
Meanwhile, in the midwest, the last gasp of representative democracy is taking place with the demonstrations in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. I don’t see it succeeding, though. People just won’t see the train coming until it’s right on top of them, so I’m afraid we’re going to have to live through some nightmare years before some form of representative government is restored. We’ll still have the trappings of a Republic, even though the opposition will have essentially no real ability to influence anything (they barely have that now). A shame about Obama, though – there was a real feeling there for a while that we might have been lucky enough to get the man he said he was. I guess there was a reason he lined up so well with Lieberman before Holy Joe threw him under the bus. They’re both pretty conservative and feel that plain speech is somewhat impolite. Unlike Lieberman, though, Obama has principles other than “what’s in it for me?”; the sad thing is that he’s only now beginning to realize that it’s hard to compromise with people who define ‘compromise’ as ‘taking less than we want (for now)’.
February 23, 2011
Coming home last night, the Robins were flocking up and presumably getting ready to head out to greener pastures not covered by a couple inches of snow and ice. No surprise this morning to hear out the window lots of Song Sparrows, Cardinals and American Crows, along with a single MoDo and a Red-winged Blackbird(!), but not a single Robin where a few days ago, they were the loudest sound in the neighborhood. Reminded again about the oddity of not hearing any House Finches where we used to have as many of them as we had House Sparrows. I wonder if they got hammered by West Nile like the American Crows did? Something seems to have wiped them out, and unlike the American Crows, they haven’t (yet) come back. Come to think of it, House Wrens have pretty much disappeared from the neighborhood as well; we now have Carolina Wrens instead (which I personally prefer).
February 21, 2011
The results are in: melatonin is a useful tool to reset the sleep cycle, but not something to do for more than short stretches. Night 6, I woke up on my own, but got back to sleep fairly easily. Night 7, I had real trouble getting up in the morning, and after I took the 1mg pill on night 8, I quickly began to feel almost drugged – the last two nights I felt uncontrollably sleepy within a half-hour of taking the pill. Night 9 I had a pre-pill night; woke at 12:30 and could not get back to sleep for about an hour or so, and then the next day had periodic bouts of intense sleepiness throughout the day. That was it. I’m off for a while, and I’ll see how things sort out over the next few days. Needed coffee again this morning; a gray, cool March day, overslept and struggling a bit. The Sharp-shin was yelling in the back this morning, which was nice, since I hadn’t heard either of them all weekend. The Mourning Doves have been singing since late last week, and the Robins have divvied up the neighborhood already and are getting down to the brass tacks of nesting. I heard some White-throats in the fencerow Saturday morning, but they’re gone now, and this morning on the way in, a large, loose skein of what were either high swans or low Canadas sillhouetted against the grey overcast. Probably geese. There was some yard work done this weekend, and I was actually noticing that we have about twenty pounds of accumulated cobwebs up around the edges of the ceilings, so more evidence that it’s March, no matter what the calendar says. Spring cleaning isn’t a winter phenomenon.
February 15, 2011
Update, night 5: asleep at 10:30, awake at 4:30, back down at 6 for an hour of dozing. Not as tired as I would have expected. Dreams vivid as usual, not quite nightmares, but not happy fluffy-bunny ones either. Cold, windy early-March morning. Some crows and smaller birds (Starlings, a MoDo, a TV) playing in the wind, the rest hunkered down and grumbling. The little theridiid spiderlings I noticed earlier in the year have all vanished. Eaten? Starved? Time to put down some tanglefoot mousetrap pads and do some more sampling.
February 14, 2011
Melatonin update: night #4; 10:30 asleep, 5:30 awake; vivid dreams, but no nightmares; more “regret-mares”. Not too tired during the day so far, and less grogginess in the morning.
One nice thing about doing this now is that I’m awake in the morning to hear the bird activity. It seems last night the return of March set off everybody’s Spring alarms – this morning, the Robins were whooping it up all over the area, singing, calling, and generally making an enthusiastic racket. The Song Sparrows were singing for the first time, and the Grackles were finally back and beginning to make their presence felt. For some reason, the Cardinals, which had started singing a couple weeks back, were not in evidence, and neither were the Mourning Doves, which usually start about the same time as the Robins. No hawks yelling around the back, either. I don’t know whether to be worried or not, but it’s been a few days since I’ve heard any Hawk noises, or senn any hawk activity. I hope the neighborhood pigeon-fancier, whose stock has been feeding our local Sharp-shin pair, didn’t take matters into his own hands.
Oh, yes – a couple days back, the snow piles were only a tad smaller than a month ago, but as of this morning, not much left of even the biggest piles. I espect all to be gone by the middle of the week. Up in Philly yesterday, there was still a good bit of snow cover on the ground, but then pretty much all the snow went up around us this winter.
February 13, 2011
Melatonin’s interesting stuff. For me, it acts like a reset button for the sleep cycle when the insomnia gets too far out of hand and I can’t recover on the weekend. So far, 1mg does the trick and this third time is going about the same as the first two times I used it. The first night, I woke at midnight as usual and was up for about an hour and a half. Very groggy the next morning, though – more than normal, which is what I remember from melatonin before. Next night, after deep sleep and strong dreams, I woke at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Very tired at work, but that’s normal with the insomnia, so no loss. Third night (spent Friday as usual desperately exhausted), woke at 5:30 after very deep sleep and vivid dreams, up for an hour, then back to sleep for another 3 hours, so nine hours total, and almost rested. Saturday night, conked off at 11, woke at 1:30 very groggy from a most unpleasant and vivid nightmare, but was able to get settled and back to sleep after a half-hour and slept until 6:30. More vivid dreams, but woke normally and feel pretty rested. I think I’ll go the whole week to see if I can get the cycle better set this time; last time, the good effects only lasted a couple weeks before the old exhausting pattern returned.
February 7, 2011
I tend to measure the onset of Spring by when the Cardinals start to sing – which means that Spring arrived this year on Feb. 7. I was listening to the almost-unfamiliar calls of the White-throats in the fence-row outside my window (meaning that they are beginning to move around a little, since they weren’t here last week), when I realized there was a Cardinal tweet-tweet-tweet-ing a couple of houses down. Probably up in one of the big Silver Maples down the block; they’re the highest trees for a good distance. Listening to him reminded me how variable Cardinals’ songs are, but how instantly recognizable they are at the same time. That bright, clear whistle always says “Cardinal” whether the song is “bird-id-y, bird-id-y, bird-id-y, tup-tup-tup-tup-tup” or (like this one) alternately “tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet” and “Peer, peer, peer, peer”. It’s remarkable how variable the songs of different Cardinals can be in just a local area – I wonder if anybody has ever looked into it: whether Cardinals disperse far more than most songbirds from their natal area, or whether Cardinals are just a whole lot more plastic in their development of the final song. It’s funny how Spring comes in, too – outside it’s still frosty and breath-cloudy, but there’s a lot of noise that wasn’t there even this weekend – Robins, Goldfinches, House Sparows and various other sparrow-ish-sounding birds are chattering and chirping, a Blue Jay is belling and the Crows are sporadically yelling back and forth. Now that I think about it, it’s different this year – no Fish Crows to speak of, meaning that the American Crows have essentially reclaimed thir turf, and more interestingly, no House Finches. They’ve quietly disappeared from the area, which is kind of surprising. I can’t actually remember when I last saw a House Finch around here, or heard one, for that matter. They generally started singing in the middle or latter half of January, and were as common as House Sparrows just a decade ago. I wonder whether it’s just a local thing, or a more regional one.
Well, anyway, now that Spring is here, I better start thinking about chopping off my winter coat of hair and beard. Probably a good thing – I was looking a bit like a Neanderthal hobo version of Albert Einstein. There may still be some cold winds blowing down my neck, but it’s always easier to take when the Sun is bright again and the birds are singing.