Thursday, January 31, 2013

Big Wind

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Last night a huge storm of rain and strong winds swept over New England. The wind roared all night long, making an eerie sort of music in and around the trees, fences, building edges, and wires that form the instrument of our yard.

When we took a look around this morning, we saw that a gate and a portion of fencing was down, a screen had been blown off one of the windows, and numerous small branches had been knocked down.

We were alarmed and sorry to see that a large limb had come off our “owl tree,” the old oak that has sheltered a grey phase Screech Owl for the past few months.

Here’s a photo of the tree taken several weeks ago. See the little owl peeking out?


Here is the little owl snug as a bug, in a photo taken earlier this month:


And here is the tree this morning (cell phone photo taken through a wet window):


The limb above the owl’s roosting hole has been sheared off. It’s lying in the stream at the moment.


We haven’t seen the owl yet today, and are hoping that it survived the storm and the blow to its tree.

The “roof” of the owl’s hole seems to be intact, so perhaps the bird can continue to roost there.

I expect that the little owl has fared well hunting around our bird feeders, where mice come out at night to feast on the spilled birdseed.

****************

Update, February 1 (the next day): The little owl is out there this morning, snuggled into his usual spot. :-D

That makes me feel a little better, considering what is going on just down the street this morning:

http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-golden-avenue.html

 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

“And in Last Week’s Gun News...”

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Joe Nocera’s column in yesterday’s New York Times is blunt. Stark. Frightening. Necessary.

Read it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/opinion/nocera-and-in-last-weeks-gun-news.html?hp

Predictably, some of the commenters point out that some of these reports come from certain ethnic or socioeconomic strata.

My commentary:

Regardless of the socioeconomic status, motivation, ethnicity, geographic location, age, gender, etc., etc., of those who perpetrate gun violence, there is one overriding factor about why all that gun violence is possible at all -- our country is flooded with firearms, and access to guns and ammo is easy and cheap. Anyone with a credit card and an internet connection can get cases of ammo delivered to their front door:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2013/01/loaded-special-delivery.html

The NRA is not a gun owners’ advocacy organization, despite its claims and posturing. Rather, it is a powerful lobbyist for gun manufacturers. The NRA has a huge financial stake in this game, and will continue to push for unfettered access to guns, and will continue to advocate for the provision of millions -- millions! -- of armed guards, who will, of course have to be provided with guns manufactured by the NRA’s members. More guns, more money -- that is, literally, their bottom line.

Until we repeal the Second Amendment, make most gun ownership illegal, conduct a buy-back to remove the millions of guns from our society, and enforce these provisions rigorously, we will continue to see an endless, and probably increasing, stream of news stories such as those cited in Mr. Nocera’s column.

More on the sheer numbers of guns and why we need to get rid of them:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2013/01/isnt-it-obvious-what-causes-gun.html

And more on the ready availability of large amounts of unsecured ammunition:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2013/01/loaded-special-delivery.html



Monday, January 28, 2013

Nature has its own aesthetic

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As a birder and one who loves the beauty and elegance of all birds, and indeed the beauty of our natural world, I acknowledge that what I am about to write is biased.

Still.

This morning during my breakfast reading, I reviewed a post to a popular science-based blog that included a photo of an immature gull. The blog author described the bird as “ugly.”

I question characterizing this bird, or any animal, as “ugly.”

It seems that we have a sad propensity to label and mock anything that is a little awkward, not fully developed, not fully mature, not elegant, a little gawky...

The bird in the photo was immature gull; when it attains its adult plumage (a process that takes three or four years, depending on species), it will be “beautiful.” But for a young bird, that mottled plumage, which mimics the variegated colors of rock and sand, is the right sort of “beauty” to protect it against predators. Surely we can find beauty in the elegant economy of camouflage?

I admit to being sensitive to all this. The sensitivity stems in large part from my anger and despair about the steady destruction of habitat in my corner of the world, as I’ve written here:

http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Habitat

People can cavalierly destroy habitat because they don’t think of it as habitat. They are not aware that hundreds or thousands of animals and birds live right in their yards and neighborhoods. They simply don't see the animals and birds that live around them, or if they do, they only have interest in animals that they perceive as attractive, or interesting in a gawkerish sort of way (generally large predators). No one cares about the “ugly” insects, “plain” birds, etc., etc.

A few weeks ago a raccoon died in our back yard. We left it there to see what would happen, what animals might make use of it, etc. We were delighted that two Turkey Vultures found the raccoon and feasted on it; crows and Blue Jays came the next day for the small pickings. (I have photos and will post about it eventually.) There’s not much of it left, a month after its demise, and many animals are better off for our leaving it to a natural process. Isn’t that a good thing?

I suppose that most people would think I was crazy to leave the dead raccoon in the yard, and even crazier to welcome the vultures, which are, in most people’s minds, “ugly,” “disgusting,” “evil,” and “icky” because they eat carrion. That’s all nonsense, of course. Vultures are interesting and useful animals, and without them, our world would indeed be more “icky.”

My concern is that when we assign human values of beauty, utility, and appropriateness to non-human species, we devalue them, and we make little of ourselves. When we close our minds to perceiving, appreciating, and protecting creatures that do not conform to our aesthetics, we make little of our world, and then it becomes all to easy to destroy, bit by bit. We do not see. We do not care to even look..

When we edge toward dismissiveness of certain living things, devaluing them because they don't conform to human aesthetics, or dietary tastes, etc., then we also devalue the diversity of life on this earth. To me, that’s an ugly attitude, and very sad.


Nature is just enough; but men and women must comprehend and accept her suggestions.
— Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825 - 1921)

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
— Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), Parts of Animals

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.
— E. B. White (1899 - 1985)

In wildness is the preservation of the world.
— Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

What nature delivers to us is never stale. Because what nature creates has eternity in it.
— Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904 - 1991)

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
— John Muir (1838 - 1914), The Yosemite, 1912

 


Sunday, January 27, 2013

“The Secrets of the Universal”

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Every rose that is sweet-scented within,
That rose is telling of the secrets of the Universal.

— Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, 1207-1273), a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.
  Thank you, Steve and Lisa, for these roses, which tell of the secrets of the Universe.



   

 

 
  
 


From Mozart on his birthday

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“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”


―Wolfgang Amadé Mozart (January 27, 1756-December 5, 1791)





Saturday, January 26, 2013

Woodpeckers

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Of all the bird families, I particularly enjoy woodpeckers, along with raptors and waterfowl (ducks and geese). Their colorful patterns and interesting behavior are fascinating and provide endless enjoyment. We are lucky that six of the seven woodpecker species that are seen in our region are resident in and around our yard.

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest. Very confiding, these little birds will wait patiently on nearby branches while we refill the suet feeders. Once in a while I stand very quietly next to the feeder, and the downies come in to feed, just two or three feet away from my face. The male has a small red chevron on the back of his head; you can just glimpse it here:

Downy woodpecker. Stubby bill and proportionately small head.

Downy woodpecker. Note the plain red patch on the nape.

One of my favorite photos.

The Hairy Woodpecker looks much like the Downy, but the larger Hairy is easily distinguished by its size and by its more robust proportions, particularly the large bill. The Hairy is a cautious and wary bird, flying off at the slightest disturbance.

Male hairy woodpecker. Notice the large head and bill.

Like the male Downy, the male Hairy has a red chevron on the nape, but it bisected by a thin black line:
 
Male Hairy woodpecker. A thin black vertical line bisects the red patch.
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is one of those birds with a seemingly-absurd name. True, there is a slight wash of salmon-rose on the lower belly, but that’s really only visible when the bird is in hand, or if it’s positioned fortuitously. D and I call this the “Scarlet-naped Woodpecker.”

Male Red-bellied Woodpecker. Brilliant scarlet nape.
The female Red-bellied has a scarlet nape, too, though the crown of her head is dove-grey.

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker. Scarlet nape and dove-grey crown.

Northern Flickers are among the most elegant birds in our region. Unlike other woodpeckers, they often feed on the ground when there is no snow cover, looking for ants, a favorite food. They also enjoy fruit, such as poison ivy berries, bittersweet, etc. They will come to suet feeders when they can’t find other food. This is a female; a male would have a black moustache mark on the cheek. I occasionally see her in the bitterswet vines over the hedgerow.

Female Northern Flicker
We see Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at the feeders when the weather is very cold. Like flickers, they enjoy a varied diet, and I’ve also seen them eating berries from the poison ivy and bittersweet vines in our yard. To my eyes, this is an exceptionally beautiful bird, with its gold-spangled plumage and deep red accents. All these photos show a male Sapsucker; we've only had a female visit once, a few years ago.





Though Pileated Woodpeckers live on the wooded hill behind our house, we rarely see them. On occasion we hear their loud calls ringing through the woods. I was surprised and delighted last fall when a pair came through our yard and, one at a time, stopped briefly on our “suet tree.” None of them sampled the suet. I was able to get a few quick photos of the male of the pair.

Female Pileated Woodpecker
I would never expect to see the seventh woodpecker species, the Red-headed Woodpecker, in our yard. They prefer a more open habitat. I've seen them in Kansas and Nebraska, but never in Connecticut.

All images © Quodlibet 2012-2013. All rights reserved. Photos digibinned via IPhone4.

“Compare the solitary soul to a swan”

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Mute Swan at Fannie Stebbins Wildlife Refuge,
Longmeadow, Mass.
Image © Quodlibet All rights reserved.

Some moralist or mythological poet
Compares the solitary soul to a swan;
I am satisfied with that,
Satisfied if a troubled mirror show it,
Before that brief gleam of its life be gone,
An image of its state;
The wings half spread for flight,
The breast thrust out in pride
Whether to play, or to ride
Those winds that clamour of approaching night.

—W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), from “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Salmon Chowder


It’s been a long while since I’ve shared any recipes.

Here’s what I made for dinner tonight: Salmon Chowder.


It was delicious and very easy to make, using ingredients that were on hand. The salmon must be cooked first, so this is an ideal use for leftover salmon, as long as it does not have any seasoning other than salt or pepper.

It took less than an hour from start to finish, with about 15-20 minutes total prep time. (This is my own variation on a recipe that originally appeared in Taste of Home magazine.) It’s good leftover.

Here’s what I started with:



I meant to take photos all the way through the process, but I forgot. (Another sleepless night. Bad for brain function.) Here’s the recipe:

1. Have ready about 2 cups cooked salmon, bones and skin removed, and cut into bite-sized pieces. (You can cook it while the vegetables are simmering.)

2. In a large saucepan or small Dutch oven, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add a little olive oil for flavor, if you like (a teaspoon or less).

3. Add 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, ¾ cup diced celery (cut it small), and ¾ cup diced carrots (cut them small, ½ inch or less).

4. Sauté over medium-low heat just until the vegetables are soft; do not let them brown at all.

5. Partway through the cooking period, add 1 clove minced garlic. (The garlic I had on hand was very mild, so I used two cloves. The garlic should be very much in the background in this recipe.)

6. Add about 2 cups well-flavored chicken broth; use enough to just cover the vegetables.

7. Add 1.5 cups diced raw potatoes. (I used Yukon Gold, my favorite.) Don’t peel them unless you must. Cut them into ¾” dice.

8. Cover the pan and simmer the vegetables over medium heat until they are tender, 20-40 minutes, depending on how small the pieces are.

9. If you have not done so already, cook the salmon; remove the skin and bones, and cut it into bite-sized pieces.

10. When the vegetables are done, stir in 1 cup frozen peas which have been thawed in a bit of chicken broth (a few minutes in the microwave will do it.)

11. Add the salmon, 1 can (15 oz.) creamed corn, and up to 2 cups heavy cream or half and half.

12. Salt and pepper to taste.

13. Heat the soup through, using a low heat. Do not let it boil. Adjust seasonings.

14. Garnish with minced parsley or minced dill, to taste.

Here are more photos of the finished soup:






Notes:

The original recipe from Taste of Home magazinecalled for minced green pepper; I can’t eat pepper, and I dislike the taste of it anyway, so I substituted frozen peas. And I think peas are a better complement to the creamy base, the leeks, and the salmon.

I substitued leeks for the onions called for in the original recipe. I have made this recipe using onions, and it was good, but the delicate leek seem more compatible with this mild recipe.

The recipe also called for shredded carrot, but I used diced carrot instead; I prefer the texture of diced carrots.

I also used fresh dill instead of dried, and added a garniture of fresh minced parsley.

Canned salmon may be substituted for fresh; remove all the bones and skin before using.


All my recipes may be viewed here:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20All

They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:

Breads http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Breads
Desserts http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Desserts
Fruits http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Fruits
Main Dishes http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Main%20Dishes
Meats http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Meats
Soups and Stews http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Soups
Vegetables http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Vegetables

“Words should be withheld from ... birds”

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In my reading and research work that went along with preparing program notes for a choral concert, I got better acquainted with British poet W.H. Auden (1907-1973). Here are my favorite things – birds, music, and words – all wrapped up in one amazing revelation:

Their Lonely Betters
W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds.

A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
To say which pairs, if any, should get mated.

Not one of them was capable of lying,
There was not one which knew that it was dying
Or could have with a rhythm or a rhyme
Assumed responsibility for time.

Let them leave language to their lonely betters
Who count some days and long for certain letters;
We, too, make noises when we laugh or weep:
Words are for those with promises to keep.

“Their Lonely Betters” (1950) from Collected Poems by British poet W. H. Auden (1907-1973)

Owl song: “Forlorn but melodious”

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I was up rather late last night working on board business and other matters… Around 2:30am I heard a screech owl call, just once. It’s an odd sound, this owl song: a long, descending wail or whinny.

I assume that the bird I heard last night was the little grey screech owl that has taken up residence in one of our big oak trees, as I wrote about here:

http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2013/01/hidden-in-plain-sight.html

Here’s another, more recent photo from last week:


(The little owl is out there right now as I write, grey and still, part of the tree, almost invisible to those who do not look, who cannot see.)

The owl’s song reminded me of this passage from Thoreau’s Walden:
For sounds in winter nights, and often in winter days, I heard the forlorn but melodious note of a hooting owl indefinitely far; such a sound as the frozen earth would yield if struck with a suitable plectrum, the very lingua vernacular of Walden Wood, and quite familiar to me at last, though I never saw the bird while it was making it.
And this, also from Walden:
When other birds are still, the screech owls take up the strain, like mourning women their ancient u-lu-lu. Their dismal scream is truly Ben Jonsonian. Wise midnight bags! It is no honest and blunt tu-whit tu- who of the poets, but, without jesting, a most solemn graveyard ditty, the mutual consolations of suicide lovers remembering the pangs and the delights of supernal love in the infernal groves. Yet I love to hear their wailing, their doleful responses, trilled along the woodside; reminding me sometimes of music and singing birds; as if it were the dark and tearful side of music, the regrets and sighs that would fain be sung. They are the spirits, the low spirits and melancholy forebodings, of fallen souls that once in human shape night-walked the earth and did the deeds of darkness, now expiating their sins with their wailing hymns or threnodies in the scenery of their transgressions. They give me a new sense of the variety and capacity of that nature which is our common dwelling. Oh-o-o-o-o that I never had been bor-r-r-r-n! sighs one on this side of the pond, and circles with the restlessness of despair to some new perch on the gray oaks. Then- that I never had been bor-r-r-r-n! echoes another on the farther side with tremulous sincerity, and- bor-r-r-r-n! comes faintly from far in the Lincoln woods.
And this, also from Walden:
I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting for men. It is a sound admirably suited to swamps and twilight woods which no day illustrates, suggesting a vast and undeveloped nature which men have not recognized. They represent the stark twilight and unsatisfied thoughts which all have. All day the sun has shone on the surface of some savage swamp, where the single spruce stands hung with usnea lichens, and small hawks circulate above, and the chickadee lisps amid the evergreens, and the partridge and rabbit skulk beneath; but now a more dismal arid fitting day dawns, and a different race of creatures awakes to express the meaning of Nature there.

— Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), American philosopher, author, and naturalist.

Many raptors (hawks, eagles, owls) are beginning their courtship at this time of year. Listen at night to see if you can hear the owls' love songs. Listen during the day to the love songs of our hawks, and watch their courtship dances, as I did recently:

http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2013/02/really-you-must-look-up.html

“Without rudder or compass”

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OF THE MISTAKES MADE BY THOSE WHO PRACTISE WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE.

Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going. Practice must always be founded on sound theory...

From the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Page 19 of 1565
http://interconnected.org/home/more/davinci/19.html

“Who Keeps a Record of the Fairer Sunsets”?

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Sunset over the Meadows, January 21, 2013
  “There are meteorologists, but who keeps a record of the fairer sunsets? While men are recording the direction of the wind, they neglect to record the beauty of the sunset or the rainbow.”
From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, June 28, 1852.



Baby, It’s Cold Outside

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It's been very cold here for the past few days, with temperatures in the twenties during the day, and dropping to single digits at night.

This sort of weather really brings the birds to the feeders. We see increased activity from the “regulars” – the chickadees, cardinals, white-throated and tree sparrows, juncos, and the like – but the cold temperatures also bring in birds we don’t see as often.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw from the kitchen window today. In the close-up shots, you can tell it’s cold by the way these birds are all puffed up in their down coats.

American Tree Sparrow

Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker and Red-breasted Nuthatch


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


Northern Cardinal

And his lady

Thursday, January 24, 2013

“Good judgment is born of clear understanding”

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In writing about perspective in visual art, Leonardo also offers sound advice for living:
These rules are of use only in correcting the figures; since every man makes some mistakes in his first compositions and he who knows them not, cannot amend them. But you, knowing your errors, will correct your works and where you find mistakes amend them, and remember never to fall into them again. But if you try to apply these rules in composition you will never make an end, and will produce confusion in your works.

These rules will enable you to have a free and sound judgment; since good judgment is born of clear understanding, and a clear understanding comes of reasons derived from sound rules, and sound rules are the issue of sound experience—the common mother of all the sciences and arts. Hence, bearing in mind the precepts of my rules, you will be able, merely by your amended judgment, to criticise and recognise every thing that is out of proportion in a work, whether in the perspective or in the figures or any thing else.
—From the Notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci (1542-1519), “On the necessity of theoretical knowledge.”



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“They have concealed their tangled grievances”


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Here the oak and silver-breasted birches
Stand in their sweet familiarity
While underground, as in a black mirror,
They have concealed their tangled grievances,
Identical to the branching calm above
But there ensnared, each with the others hold
On what gives life to which is brutal enough.
Still, in the air, none tries to keep company
Or change its fortune. They seem to lean
On the light, unconcerned with what the world
Makes of their decencies, and will not show
A jealous purchase on their length of days.
To never having been loved as they wanted
Or deserved, to anyones sudden infatuation
Gouged into their sides, to all they are forced
To shelter and to hide, they have resigned themselves.

“Resignation” by J.D. McClatchy, American poet and literary critic (b. 1945), from Mercury Dressing: Poems. © Knopf, 2011.



“Disregarded Shadows”

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Night doesn’t fall,
but rather, all the disregarded shadows of a day
flock like blackbirds, and suddenly rise.

—Stuart Dybek (b.1942), American poet and fiction writer

  Crows in the back meadow at dusk, December 2012

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

“A lifetime is not enough”

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“Music is enough for a lifetime,
but a lifetime is not enough for music.”

—Sergei Rachmaninov, Russian composer (1873-1943)



Monday, January 21, 2013

“The Wilderness of Stars”

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On this day (January 21) in 1853, Henry David Thoreau wrote in his Journal:
I pine for a new world in the heavens as well as on earth, and though it is some consolation to hear of the wilderness of stars and systems invisible to the naked eye, yet the sky does not make that impression of variety and wildness that even the forest does, as it ought. It makes an impression, rather, of simplicity and unchangeableness, as of eternal laws; this being the same constellation which the shepherds saw, and obedient still to the same law. It does not affect me as that unhandselled [sic] wilderness which the forest is. I seem to see it pierced with visual rays from a thousand observatories. It is more the domain of science than of poetry. But it's the stars as not known to science that I would know, the stars which the lonely traveler knows.

The Chaldean shepherds saw not the same stars which I see, and if I am elevated in the least toward the heavens, I do not accept their classification of them. I am not to be distracted by their names which they have imposed. The sun which I know is not Apollo, nor is the evening star Venus. The heavens should be as new, at least, as the world is new. This classification of the stars is old and musty; it is as if a mildew had taken place in the heavens, as if the stars so closely packed had heated and moulded there. If they appear fixed, it is because that hitherto men have been thus necessitated to see them. I see not merely old but new testaments of the skies. Do not I stand as near the stars as the Chaldean shepherds? The heavens commonly look as dry and meager as our astronomers are,—mere troops, as the latter are catalogues, of stars. The Milky Way yields no milk.
How interesting to compare Thoreau’s observations about the sky with similar thoughts from Carl Sagan:

http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2013/01/elegant-precision.html

=================================

I had been hoping that I would be posting original essays each day, particularly on some musical topics of current interest.  I have dozens of recipes (with photos) to share, and many book reports! But life has come at me fast and furious (quickly and furiously) in the past ten days or so, and I have no choice but to deal with the challenges that have come my way. My main goal at the moment is to stave off chaos and maintain some sort of order. I keep expecting my life to calm down, and I keep hoping for time to think and write and create. Someday soon. In the mean time, I rely on words from earlier diarists and others whose writings I admire, and I'll draw on my own photos and some favorite images.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Four-Falcon Day

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I had to drive to Hadley, Massachusetts today. As always, I “bird” while driving, and in the first part of my trip, I was rewarded with countless Red-tailed Hawks, and, near Holyoke, a Merlin, right where I had seen one during December.

When I reached my destination, I found myself with about a half hour on my hands, so I immediately went to see what birds I could find in this bird-rich area.

My route took me right to Moody Bridge Road in Hadley. From the portion of the road that lies east of South Maple Street, I watched a Peregrine Falcon hunting leisurely over the fields to the south (see photo, which I snapped a few minutes later). My all-time favorite bird. Who could ask for more?

Looking south from Moody Bridge Road

Well! After a few minutes, a gorgeous dark-phase Rough-legged Hawk flew into my field of view, and I watched both birds for another few minutes, delightedly. This was the first time I’d seen a dark-phase Rough-leg, and the contrast of black body and white wing linings was just beautiful. I couldn’t believe my luck! Who could ask for more?!

I lowered my binocs to take another look around, in case I was missing anything, and was stunned and even more delighted to see a Gyrfalcon (presumably the same one that I saw on January 2, and which has been reported numerous times in the past month) flying parallel to and south of Moody Bridge Road, heading west. I watched it for a good two minutes, against the backdrop of the dark hills. I had gotten a good look at it in the Honeypot on January 2, and I believe this was the same bird.  Here are some pictures of that bird (not my photos):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidbbernstein/8339322185/

This was a very large falcon, bigger than the Red-tailed Hawk that was also in the field, making for a good comparison. Pearly grey, broad wings with pointed tips. It was much bigger than the Peregrine that was also present! Unmistakably a Gyrfalcon.

I passed through the Honeypot on the way home. On the way there, I saw another (?) Peregrine, a Northern Harrier, and an American Kestrel. In the Honeypot itself, I watched another spiffy male Kestrel hunting, and I spotted another darkish Rough-legged Hawk atop a utility pole in front of the transfer station.

This was my first-ever (and probably my only-ever) four-falcon day! Kestrels, Merlin, Peregrine(s), Gyrfalcon.  A rare event for any birder, and a standout event for this patch birder who generally does not venture far afield.

“Elegant Precision”

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In every culture, the sky and the religious impulse are intertwined. I lie back in an open field and the sky surrounds me. I’m overpowered by its scale. It’s so vast and so far away that my own insignificance becomes palpable. But I don’t feel rejected by the sky. I’m part of it, tiny, to be sure, but everything is tiny compared to that overwhelming immensity. And when I concentrate on the stars, the planets, and their motions, I have an irresistible sense of machinery, clockwork, elegant precision working on a scale that, however lofty our aspirations, dwarfs and humbles us.
—Carl Sagan (1934-1996), American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, and author, The Pale Blue Dot (1994)

  The little bit of sky over our yard is a source of constant delight throughout the year:





 








All photos © Quodlibet Peregrine. All rights reserved.