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a sense of wonder
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25th-Sep-2008 12:28 pm - land of 10c/min internet and death
My "adventures" this summer have taken me (too) many places. Right now I'm in downtown Duluth and noticing that we're undergoing an apparent plague of giant water bugs. Or fallout from their migration. Do they migrate? I don't know and I don't have the resources to look it up at the place I must call home for now. But they're lying scattered around on the pavement under the tall buildings much like the dead and dying songbirds are, confused by city lights or structures or...? The first one I saw, I thought "cockroach", but, no, clearly a water bug, such as I used to see in ponds when I still went to ponds in earlier, healthier times. The next three I thought "what the hell is going on around here?" And so on. Avian casualties and near-casualties have changed over from early September's vireos, Lincoln's sparrows, flycatchers, and Vermivora warblers, mostly Nashvilles but some Tennessees too, to mainly Palm and Yellow-rumped warblers and White-throated Sparrows now. Duluth is a small city with a 10-block downtown. What's the damage where you live?

Can't linger; have yet another hot date at Government Services. Ask me about the rest of my life some other time. If the gods of borderline-sufficient internet access love me at all, I might have dialup back later today. Party like it's 1997.
16th-May-2008 09:52 am - breerrr times 200
Grocery-store walk early this morning; we ran out of soymilk for our tea. Horrors. I'd sorted out one White-crowned Sparrow singing its triple-then-duple song. (Slightly disgusting but very memorable is Bob Janssen's book's description of the song as "I gotta go wee-wee now". I always hear it as just that now, in six-eight, with a dotted quarter as 'I' and then eighth-note-triplets for 'gotta-go', finishing on undotted quarters for each syllable of 'wee wee now'). Then saw and heard Blue Jays, giving their weird springtime quiet "oink" sound, and blending in with that were suddenly many, many oink-sounds, only a bit "off", reedier than the Blue Jays', and at last it clicked in my head and I started scanning frantically all around: Bonaparte's Gull! Yep: a flock of about 200 of them, flying and calling far, far above, black heads and white outer primaries flashing against the pale-blue and cirrus sky.

Wasn't expecting to add Bonaparte's Gull to my year list from a sidewalk in the middle of town. I love spring.
7th-Apr-2008 10:07 pm - compact fluorescents and hungry cats
Over goes the lamp on the nightstand, shade clattering onto the floor. Crack goes the bulb. Breaking on/into the radiator.

Heck of a wakeup call.

My energy and brainpower have been swinging lower the past couple days. And up 'til now I've been lucky enough not to have to know what to do with a broken compact fluorescent bulb. Subconscious memory offered cues--open window, get broken bits out of there ASAP, but sputtered out re: actually ventilating the room before removing broken bits, and immediately sealing all the bulb-related trash away. But now in the after-panic I'm becoming well acquainted with Brandy Bridges' story. And Steve Milloy's ickiness.

The cats lost one of their favorite napping blankets, since bulb shards fell directly onto it. The Chris got her only birding of the day out of the experience--Dark-eyed Juncos' sweet trill-songs came in the opened windows. (It is darling how they will even sing in the very act of cracking seed in their bills.)

When Evil Fluffy Tortoiseshells Break Your Compact Fluorescent Bulb:

Before Clean-up: Ventilate the Room

1. Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
2. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
3. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

4. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
5. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
6. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.
7. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

4. Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
5. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
6. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
7. Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

8. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.
9. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
10. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Ventilate the Room During and After Vacuuming

11. The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
12. Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

It would be awfully nice, especially for average people forgetful people eejits like me, if the bulb itself had some flashy warning or at least the Poison Control center number printed on it. Something like the Mr. Yuck stickers I grew up with, maybe. Little diagram of a broken bulb with a number to call and something indicating that special cleanup measures need to be taken.
I'm currently well enough to run some errands on my own, huzzah. Walking 10 blocks and getting the bus, anyhow; I'm not back on the bike again quite yet. I'd be loading my photos even now, but priorities are priorities: one small Felis silvestris catus var. "Evil Fluffy Tortoiseshell" has finished its lunch and commandeered my lap for napping surface. We may be in the middle of switching the resident cats to more raw diet, which will be interesting, considering that all the humans here have been vegetarians for 10+ years, and have quite forgotten how to deal safely with raw meat. Nor been to a butcher's counter lately. And the kitchen here is tiny, such that two humans in it at the same time means collisions happen. We don't exactly have an excess of available surface for preparing meat, nor storing it. Anyone want to donate a small chest freezer and an extra kitchen?

The walk in the snow was silent and beautiful; Oregon Creek is partly open and flowing with the first meltwater now. I'd hoped to encounter an early robin or grackle or Purple Finch or something, but no such luck on a day like this, gray, socked-in, snowing. Soon enough. Sad to say, I discovered that my veterinarian, who has gotten something to the tune of $600-1000.00 per year out of us, lives not in one of the lovely old mansions in the neighborhood, but in a horrible three-story monstrosity of the gentrification school. What does one do with all that space? Me, I'd have all the walls smothered in bookcases or maps, my music studio, bike workroom, a cat-quarantine/guest room or two, maybe the enclosed porch as a wintertime "greenhouse" for plants. Overwhelmingly it seems that whenever one can see inside one of these... things... they haven't even got anything on the walls. Just monster $6000.00 digital televisions, some fake art maybe, ugly overstuffed pomo furniture, so much money spent on so much NOTHING. What do they do? What do they love?

Geez. Blame the cat for the rant? She's now awake and taking a bath, to the relief of my readers. One last thing, I'll recommend to you her cousins in Britain, who need some consideration, though their website isn't quite done yet:

Click here to visit the Scottish Wildcat Association website
+Merlin, this time for certain. I heard the female's "get your butt over here" call and saw one bird, probably the male, fly over. I've only heard the "get your butt over here" call from perched females. I'm sure it's called exactly that in all the literature. :)

Household inhabitants: what is this? I've never seen one of these spiders in a web or indeed using any silk at all, unless you count the ballooning babies. Which one memorable spring hatched out in my room and ballooned all over my head and shoulders while I was working at my computer. Do I have nightmares of spiders, you ask? Oh yes, I do now.

Cut for arachnophobesCollapse )
14th-Mar-2008 10:52 am - knotpicking
here today
On a scale of 1 to "do you have a life?", how petty and bitter am I for nitpicking Henry Armistead's article in the March/April issue of Bird Watcher's Digest? I mean, for having read it over and noticing and caring that he misspelled or typoed population roselaari as "rooselaari", and claimed 5 populations known of Red Knot, excluding piersmai, and perhaps overstates certainty of roselaari's making a kitty-corner overland migration across North America from Alaska to the Caribbean rather than following coastlines as some documented roselaari and other known populations do?

(Can you say, "general-interest publication"? Get a grip, Chris.)

(but Armistead's a bander and was regional editor for North American Birds and has done a hundred other birdy jobs while I'm just a citizen schlub, for crying out loud.)

(but he's human and humans make mistakes and you've sure made more than your fair share of them and nobody knows everything. Shut up already.)

Anyway. Disappeared again, there, and I can only be glad that more with-it people than I got the Horseshoe Crab harvest moratorium passed in Assembly in the meantime. Fingers crossed for the Senate on the 17th. We may or may not manage to save the crabs and rufa knots regardless; only time can tell.

(From NJ Audubon for the link-shy--

February 29, 2008 -- Great news! Just yesterday, the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 5-0 forwarded the Horseshoe Crab harvest moratorium for vote by the full Assembly. The Committee members include Assemblymen Doug Fisher, Nelson Albano, John Amadeo, Marcia Karrow, and L. Harvey Smith. Special thanks to Assemblymen John McKeon and Doug Fisher are merited!

March 10, 2008 -- The horseshoe crab moratorium legislation (S1331) was passed out of the Senate Environment Committee yesterday by a vote of 6-0. The legislation is scheduled for a full Assembly vote this Thursday, and we expect the bill to be posted for a full Senate vote on Monday, March 17. While anything is possible, passage of the bill seems likely.

March 13, 2008 -- The horseshoe crab moratorium legislation passed overwhelmingly tonight (70-6) in the Assembly. The Senate will consider the bill this Monday, March 17. Our initial dialogue with Senators and Senate staff indicate that things look positive for Monday.)
1st-Mar-2008 02:55 pm - March!
Some of our parsley is green. I mean from last year. The stuff the Black Swallowtail caterpillars were eating. The pots were placed in the garage when the freezes hit last fall, and apparently enough sun and warmth has made its way in to keep some of the plants half-alive. My fascination with living in a possible Black-Old World (P. m. hudsonianus and maybe dodi, I think) swallowtail intergrade zone has led me to want to grow all kinds of things in hopes of attracting Old World, or seeing if Black will use the same plants too. Heart-leaf Alexanders might not be too difficult, but the dragonwort, coltsfoot, and scotch-lovage sorts of things... seem unlikely to succeed in pots, if we can even get ahold of them. Parsley, at least, is cheap and readily available and pot-friendly, and then I can stress over any Black that may choose to lay eggs on our potted herbs again. Compared to the monarch caterpillars I've raised, swallowtails seem so fragile and disaster-prone. I never lost a monarch during molt, of the scores of individuals I've watched over, but 2 of 6 swallowtails died that way, getting stuck in their own old skin. Poor things.

ETA: Nothing?

And of birds I have seen only species nineteen. +House finch at the feeder in mid-February. Still no positive falcon ID beyond the genus, and no Mallard, etc. And there are people at the far end of town, Fond du Lac, the neighborhood about to lose its busline in a few years more, I predict, as it's lost its post office--seeing a couple of Belted Kingfishers at the open water of the St. Louis. Not I. So it goes. Spring will come here, it'll just take a little longer.
16th-Feb-2008 11:49 am - misc
Would you believe 18 bird species now? The last three thanks to leaving the house on Thursday, and the lake ice that was good enough to clear off near Fitger's. Common Goldeneye seem to come close to shore on winter evenings, if there's water open for them, and they did not fail me on the 14th. How are the zebra and quagga mussels tonight? Invasive but tasty.

I expected any other waterfowl seen to be Mallard, since a few hundred seem to try to overwinter at the creek/stormwater flow at Corner of the Lake. The bend of Newfound Beach/veterans' memorials blocks the view of CotL from Fitger's, and I didn't see any Mallards, not for lack of scanning, but I did see both Common and Red-breasted Mergansers mingling for a fish dinner. The drake Commons were all pretty in peach-suffused courting plumage, though the hens didn't care. There are fish that need catching.

For those tallying up and wondering why this only accounts for 17 species, and future-me wondering why I counted wrong or failed to mention #15--that was Falco species, seen back in January. Either a Peregrine or, I more strongly suspect, a Merlin, was harassing pigeons downhill from the apartment, but by the time the commotion registered in my brain the falcon was too far out for size comparison and backlit to boot. Didn't hear any calls and the thing never came back where I could see it, so, until such time as I can pin an ID on any falcons, #15 is genus-only.

In very local developments, Lefty the albino-tertialed chickadee is still paying us visits, and providing me the only insight I have into the social order of our winter BCCH flocks since the rest of 'em remain stubbornly un-banded and w/o other individually identifying characteristics that a lunky human observer could make out.

Other birders, probably logging approximately 5x as many species on their year lists, may be attending the first Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival. I wonder if any of the Great Grays will show for them now that the pressure's on. Awaiting reports.

And on the slightly-more-domesticated critter front: anyone who's ever had a pet sneak out the door, mourned the disappearance of Burma-Shave signs, or had any appreciation whatsoever for LOLcats, I refer you to friend-of-friend ratatosk's submission to recently lost-and-found beastie. Brill. :)
here today
Gone, by the year 2011? Okay, I haven't seen this program myself and can't vouch for anything about it, but I still think everyone who gets PBS should watch Crash: A Tale of Two Species next Sunday. February 10.

The last good information I received on Calidris canutus rufa, the subspecies of Red Knot in question, was from a knot researcher in 2005. At that time, extinction or near-extinction of the rufa subspecies of Red Knot, which migrates along the east coast of North America and winters in southern South America, was predicted to occur by around 2010.

Wintering-ground censuses have dropped from 51,000 birds counted in 2000, to 30,000 in 2004, to 17,000 in 2006. Reports from migratory stopovers in Delaware Bay and nesting grounds in the Canadian arctic have shown the numbers going down the tube in the same extremely alarming way.

Anyone with a faster connection than mine ought to visit the US Fish and Wildlife knot web page with links to some more recent data, from 2006 and 2007. (And if you do, corrections/updates on my numbers here are most welcome, and please spread the word everywhere anyway.) Is rufa even listed as Endangered yet, or is the government still dragging on that? Too much longer and they won't have to bother themselves about it, of course. I've never been able to watch the western Atlantic May shorebird migrations in person, but I very much hope that we're somehow able to stop these cataclysmic declines (did I mention that Sanderling and Turnstone populations have gone much the same way in recent decades?) in the crabs' and birds' numbers so that this isn't the end of yet another set of vital interrelationships in American history.

About once or twice each year a slightly-lost Knot--or more frequent, somewhat less-lost small flock of Sanderling--shows up here, in my near-backyard in the middle of North America, far from the main migration paths of these species. I feel honored and amazed each time I'm lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for our lives to intersect.

"What if I had never seen this before?

What if I knew I would never see it again?"
24th-Jan-2008 02:17 am - year list 2008
As it stands, a monument to my illness much of the year so far. Read 'n' weep, or rejoice that at least our landlord lets us have birdfeeders in the yard.

1. Rock Pigeon (argh) because I dearly hoped that #1 would be
2. White-throated Sparrow, one of a very few individuals that remain this far north in winter, and this one usually showed as one of the first feeder visitors each day, 1/2 hour before dawn. Not today.
3. Red-breasted Nuthatch
4. Black-capped Chickadee
5. American Crow
6. White-breasted Nuthatch
7. Downy Woodpecker
8. Blue Jay
9. House Sparrow
10. Herring Gull
11. Dark-eyed Junco (another quite uncommon bird here in winter, not as rare as WTSP, but some days you couldn't find one on your own if your life depended on it. Or just if you're me.)
12. European Starling
13. Northern Cardinal (just the female; wonder where the male's been at?)
14. Northern Shrike--surprised me by flying past the window just as I glanced out it on January 22nd.

14 species in 23 days. I am not thinking about the years when I was healthier and got out to find 30 or more species for the month, just walking, biking if health and the particular January allowed it, and taking the bus. To make matters more painful still for me, this year (and also last winter '06-'07) while I've been so ill there have been irruptions of Gray Jays (not usually seen right in town here), Boreal Chickadees (ditto), and Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers. Three-toed even made a Duluth Christmas Bird Count first, in someone's yard up by UMD.

For now, I seem to be feeling okay. Let's hope it stays so--I really ought to land Hairy Woodpecker and Common Raven and, oh, Mallard and Common Goldeneye by the 31st, if I can just get to where they are. Maybe run into some Bohemian Waxwing, American Robin, Pine Grosbeak or any other finches--geez, not even House Finch yet--Townsend's Solitaire, Glaucous Gull or something else if I'm in the right place at the right time. Apparently there are a couple of Merlins around, one being seen just a couple blocks from here, and near where I got to watch a pair raise four young back in 1998. When I didn't have a camera, of course. Luck, life, birding.
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