Sunday Afternoon Open Thread

“Hi! My name is Roseate Spoonbill, and I’ll be foraging for minnows, crawdads and bugs in your pond today.”

“I’ll just be over here sweeping my weird bill from side to side. Don’t mind me!”


Saw this lovely critter yesterday in a suburban pond. There are tons of spoonbills around here, but I’ve never seen one with such a dark pink bar before.

Open thread!

Tweet, tweet, tweet

First, the bird kind. It’s windy as heck here today, and this little palm warbler (I think) was clinging to a swaying bamboo stalk about 35 feet up, surveying the scene:

This was right after sunrise today. A little while later, same bamboo stand, a blue jay occupied a high perch and considered breakfast options, settling on the bird feeder once the pink monkey with the camera vacated the scene:

Of course, as soon as I turned the camera off and replaced the lens cap, a squadron of Sandhill cranes flew overhead. They fly overhead every morning and evening, like they’re clocking in at the golf course down the road for a day’s bug patrol work. I’ll get a photo of them on the wing one day.

In other yard news, one of the white squirrels (I’m now convinced there are at least two) has lost most of its fur from the midsection up. I hope it’s just a temporary embarrassment and the fur returns. Its appetite seems unaffected. But it looks like a rat wearing white MC Hammer pants now and so is unintentionally comical. Poor thing!

Last and certainly least, the fraudulent orange fart cloud finally addressed the record-breaking stock market plunge that occurred earlier this week. (Was that really this week, not 10 fresh hells ago? I had to check. Yes!) Guess what — someone not named Donald Trump is to blame!

He really has no idea how any of this shit works.

Open thread!

Sunday Morning Wildlife Chat: Life (or at Least Finches) Will Endure

Quick garden-related note: I’ve already been, shall we say, less than totally successful at cutting back on the number of mail-order tomatoes I put on hold during the dark winter days (and it hasn’t even been much of a winter here north of Boston, just yet). Mostly because of the dozen plants I impulse-ordered during that big Burpee sale, which cost practically nothing if I didn’t pay attention to the time & effort they’ll take to nuture during the growing season. On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about experimenting with putting a few plants in a new location (along the chain-link back fence — severe northern exposure, but taking down our covered porch and the neighbors’ loss of some trees have increased the light levels considerably) and these ‘bargains’ should be good candidates…

What’s going on with your garden / renovation projects, this week?

Many thanks to commentor Tenar Arha for this most fascinating Atlantic link — “Urban Bird Feeders Are Changing the Course of Evolution”:

To my knowledge, no one has ever been killed by a plummeting bird feeder. Still, when you live on the 25th floor of a Manhattan high-rise, you can’t hang one outside the window and risk knocking off a pedestrian below…

… I missed a connection to the wild. Seeking a remedy, I discovered a small Maine company called Coveside Conservation Products, which makes a unique “Panoramic in-House Window Bird Feeder.” A semicircular mahogany platform enclosed with plexiglass, the feeder fits into an open window and juts inward, providing a front-row view of birds bold enough to enter. No part of the contraption dangles outside, presumably rendering it safe for urban use.

In reply to my enthusiastic query, however, Coveside’s owner, Jim Turpin, was less than a salesman. “Frankly, I’m not overly optimistic about attracting birds to feed in a high-rise setting,” he wrote, explaining that most species search for food at specific heights. He pointed me to the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where someone had inquired about luring birds to a 17th-floor balcony. The answer—that attractive foliage can help, but don’t hold your breath—wasn’t promising, considering I don’t have a balcony and scarcely overlook a tree.

Nevertheless, I ordered the feeder, filled it with birdseed, and installed it in my window, where it interrupted the soundproofing, so I found myself working amid a cacophony of sirens and jackhammering. Two hundred and fifty feet above ground—the height of the tallest giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada—the wind howls more often than not. Despite my best efforts to insulate the edges of the wobbly wooden feeder, freezing January air whistled through the apartment, slamming shut any door left ajar…

Then, one morning in March, as I brewed coffee in the kitchen, Jeff strode into the office and sprang back out again, announcing he’d seen a flash of red. I joined him, and we peered around the door until the startled visitor worked up the courage to return. A cherry gum ball of a head poked up from the ledge and cocked to one side, uttering an inquisitive chirp and inspecting the room from behind plexiglass. Once satisfied that all was clear, a sparrow-size creature with a blushing breast and triangular beak hopped into the feeder. I recognized it immediately as a house finch…

Native to western North America, house finches weren’t introduced to the East Coast until 1939, when a Brooklyn pet shop released a small number that had been illegally trapped in California. Over the next 50 years, these plucky pioneers established a firm footing, spreading across the continent until they reunited with their western cousins on the Great Plains. Today the finches inhabit perhaps the widest ecological range of any living bird, having emigrated from their ancestral deserts all the way to the edges of the subarctic taiga, adapting to suburbs and cities alike…

According to experts, feeding birds is probably the most common way in which people interact with wild animals today. More than 50 million Americans engage in the practice, collectively undertaking an unwitting experiment on a vast scale. Is what we’re doing good or bad for birds? Recently, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology sought to answer this question, analyzing nearly three decades’ worth of data from a winter-long survey called Project FeederWatch. Preliminary results suggest the species visiting our feeders the most are faring exceptionally well in an age when one-third of the continent’s birds need urgent conservation. Still, what are the consequences of skewing the odds in favor of the small subset of species inclined to eat at feeders? What about when the bird we’re aiding is invasive, like our house finch?…

TGIF Open Thread

Check out this gorgeous bird:

As valued commenter Baud said of my miraculous white squirrel, now that’s a critter Trump would let into the country!

Got any big plans for the weekend? It’s Gasparilla Pirate Fest time in the Tampa Bay area, which, now that I’m An Old, means I will not be going into town because I don’t want to deal with drunken strangers lurching into my path. Used to be such fun!

Since this blog seems to attract folks with offbeat hobbies/interests, I wonder: any fountain pen aficiondos here? I ask because I’m expecting a restored fountain pen to be returned to me shortly, and I don’t know what sort of ink to buy for it. I know nothing about fountain pens.

I mentioned the pen in question in comments here ages ago. About five or six years back, I had a dream that I was writing a letter with a fountain pen, which is weird because I didn’t own one, had never used one and wasn’t particularly interested in them. The next day, my mom gave me an old fountain pen that had belonged to my great-grandmother. Just a weird coincidence!

Well, the old pen wasn’t in operating condition, and I couldn’t find anyone local to restore it. Online, I learned that it was a 1940s-era model — not super-valuable, but not worthless either.

I was worried about sending the pen off for restoration because it has sentimental value to me, but I finally broke down and did it, and it’s on its way home, fully restored, so I’m told. I am weirdly excited about using it!

Anyhoo, open thread!

For the Birds (Open Thread)

I was going to post some stuff about the Trump admin putting a Koch Industries hack in charge of weakening environmental protections for birds so that energy companies can kill our feathered friends with impunity while pursuing profits. But why bother? Everything the Trump admin is doing is evil and must be opposed. There — covered it all in a dozen words!

Other than that, I got nothin.’ Open thread!

Monday Afternoon Open Thread

Here’s a local osprey surveying a pond from a platform built by the power company. The power company builds these things so ospreys won’t nest on the light poles and screw up power transmission.

Looks like I’ll be taking a short road trip later today to go see my grandmother. She’s almost 100 and has pneumonia, poor old bird. The prognosis is not good, but she may surprise us yet.

Anyhoo, keep an old lady in your thoughts, if you would. Open thread!

Thursday Afternoon Open Thread

It was super foggy this morning — the foghorns in the bay woke me up at OMFG o’clock. Again. But shortly after dawn, I got this foggy photo of a starling (maybe) perched high in one of our bamboos:

If you think the Tbogg unit-curious thread below about the Topic That Shall Not Be Named is bad, you should see Twitter! But I’m glad I did check it out because of this lesson in persistence in the face of absurd adversity, courtesy of Patti LaBelle:

Lord, what a catastrophuck! This apparently happened in 1996, and I’m furious that I didn’t know about it for 21 years. Ms. LaBelle was a professional throughout — an inspiration, really. Open thread!