Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First Day of Fall - 2009

This is what my valley looked like on the first day of Fall. Summer's snow is mostly gone, except on the peaks. Low clouds still shroud the tops, earlier in the day down to just a hundred feet or so above where I stood to take this picture. It felt like I could reach up and touch them...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Still got hummers?

So here it is, September 21st and I still see 3-4 hummingbirds at my two remaining feeders; especially first thing in the mornings. During the day, I am only apt to see a single bird at a time…it would be easy to miss them. I think now, all who visit are Rufus.

I hope you are all keeping fresh nectar available for these little migrants. You could make the difference between their making it home or not. Some of these birds fly thousands of miles and when they stop to refuel…they better find fuel! Here’s a lovely little link that also addresses that goose-thang! I think it’s a good idea to leave feeders up, with fresh nectar, for at least two weeks after you saw your last bird. Or, perhaps leave it up till it’s so cold the stuff won’t stay liquid.

By keeping a variety of bird foods available during the winter, you might get as lucky as Connie Kogler! Read her story here.


Yeah, last day of summer; check out the pics from my window...
Cold as these birds might have been; they were still fightin'! (there are two in that last shot)

Now, don't they look COLD?
Oh, and I snapped one on its favorite perch;
right above my little grape-tomatoes...only to find I'd missed it! [sigh]

PS: The next morning, as soon as it got light, the hummers were back lapping up the (warmed) nectar! They made it...yet another reason to have a few, dense, evergreens in the yard.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Republican Gomorrah

You know, after hearing the NPR interview of Max Blumenthal discussing his new book “Republican Gomorrah”, I realize I’ve never been so excited to read a new book; and I’m sorry if I bring such a volatile subject into my nature-blog…but I feel it must be said.

Yes, at first glance, one might think the book is set on demoralizing Christians…but listening to the interview, I know that is not the case. It seems though, to bring to light the fanatical ravings and machinations of a growing and dangerous (yes dangerous), fringe group intent on making their will the will of our nation. In my mind, this is parallel to the fanaticism of the Taliban and Al Qaeda-like ‘Muslims’ and their growing hold in the Far East.

I appreciate Christians for their faith and belief in the teachings of Christ…every bit as much as I appreciate Buddhists, Jews, Quakers, Catholics and Islamists.

Yes, Islamists. I know the Koran does not preach the murder and mayhem that the fanatical sects would have us believe, any more than the Bible preaches the imperial right of Christian men, or slavery, or the subjugation of women...or the murder and mayhem these sects teach.

It seems a shame to me though, that so many of the followers of Christianity seem to blindly follow the ones who speak the loudest; when did stupidity become a virtue? Intelligent people can be religious people…but fundamentalism organizes people who are crazy for God (whatever his name).

I’m pleased that so many are finally ‘seeing the light’ and coming to the realization that what has ruined the Republican Party is the very type of fringe we are fighting on the other side of the world. A wolf in sheep’s clothing? Just because a group calls itself ‘Christian’…does not mean it follows the teachings of Christ. I wish, instead of traveling to other countries to put down treacherous extremism, we’d spend more time and energy teaching our own people the dangers of following blindly.

Taliban and Al Qaeda are as far removed from the Muslim religion as are fringe right-wingers like the LaRouche Youth Movement, the Westboro Baptist Church, the KKK, People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, Children of God, Temple of Love, Heaven’s Gate and the Manson Family are removed from Christianity. Why do we have such trouble seeing that?

Has anybody else read the book yet? Is anybody else worried about how far these ‘Christian’ extremists’ have infiltrated the conservative party? It seems a shame that these days being ‘conservative’ is analogous with being fundamentalist. In the ruins of secularism is the stronghold of a widespread "invisible" network; populated by elite, politically ambitious fundamentalists. In the name of Christ their work will be done…if we let them.

Inspired by the work of psychologists Erich Fromm, who asserted that the fear of freedom propels anxiety-ridden people into authoritarian settings, Blumenthal explains in this compelling narrative how a culture of personal crisis has defined the radical right, transforming the nature of the Republican Party for the next generation and setting the stage for the future of American politics.

The book is said to show that many of the religious right movement's leading figures have more in common than just the power they command within conservative ranks. Their personal lives have been stained by crisis and scandal: depression, mental illness, extra-marital affairs, struggles with homosexual urges, heavy medication, addiction to pornography, serial domestic abuse, and even murder. It is no wonder that Sarah Palin, who’s ‘friend’ Thomas Muthree (popular Pentecostal self-proclaimed witch hunter) called upon Jesus to propel her into the governor’s mansion and to protect her from “the spirit of witchcraft” was chosen, by these Republicans, as one of our next leaders? Our past president, Dwight Eisenhower, a moderate republican who warned against exactly what is happening, would roll over in his grave.

And we would have these people as our leaders…or even just the leaders of the Republican Party? Why are we blindly following these Christian-wannabes and handing them such power? How can an intelligent people actually insist Obama is not an American…or that the Holocaust never happened or that there will be death panels in health care reform; and why do we let them spread their lies and disrupt our democratic meetings?

I highly recommend you listen to the Blumenthal interview I heard on ‘Fresh Air’. You can listen to the complete, 37 minute piece, here.

You can hear Blumenthal on The Young Turks here:

or watch his other YouTube video clips here.

Or just Google Max Blumenthal

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Starlings: Invasive Problem

The European, or common starling, Sturnus vulgarisis native to Eurasia is here as a result of just 100 birds turned loose in New York; part of a plan, to establish
in the New World, each bird Shakespeare mentioned
in his writings. From those few birds we have approxi-mately 200 million birds which compete with native birds in all manner of habitat, nets sites and
food sources.

Starlings’ droppings not only cause sanitation problems, but are corrosive to paint and plaster and are a growth medium for a fungus that causes human respiratory disease. The birds themselves carry diseases that may be transmitted to humans, as well. And, large flocks pose a hazard to planes; starlings are responsible for the most deadly bird strikes in aviation..

It is for this reason that, in New Jersey, Utah and other states, as many as 650,000 starlings were poisoned last year alone, an all-time record for Washington. The most popular lethal tactic is a poison called DRC-1339, which is often sprinkled on french fries, a favorite starling snack. Within a day or two, starlings keel over from organ failure.

By their very numbers they have a negative affect on biodiversity through the large quantities of insects, spiders, snails and worms, lizards and frogs while driving native birds from these resources. They compete aggressively with native birds which nest in cavities. I have seen them drive out local Lewis’s Woodpeckers from their own nests; often destroying eggs and killing nestlings.

These birds transmit disease to domestic animals by contaminating food and water sources with their droppings. They impact crop production by decimating plants of fruit, especially berries and grapes and eating seed from grain fields and by pulling new sprouts right out of the ground.

It is for the agricultural reasons that a much better tactic has been undertaken…at least in my mind. Several wineries (grape growers) have taken to including the employment of falconers. Their birds do what the birds do naturally; hunt other birds. And what easier prey then a few hundred thousand starlings? Falconry is an age-old method of hunting involving a bird’s natural ability to stalk, pursue and generally harass birds much in the same way a cat plays with a mouse.

Unlike other birds that usually hide in bushes when a predator shows up, starlings flock together, not unlike a school of fish. And should they come upon a vineyard and see the threat of a patrolling falcon…they will fly away to find another place to feed.

Generally, the falcons don’t even hurt the birds; they are hand-fed before they fly. I just love this solution! Not only are fewer native birds exposed to poison, but nobody can harass the hunters as being inhumane. Wonder about the farmers who cannot afford their own falconers? I remember working at one of the tallest buildings in Denver during the time several Peregrine Falcons were raised and released as a method of
pigeon control.

All this points to: please give our native species a
leg up! Help them out by keeping their habitat viable and unbroken. If it is broken up…create new places
for native species to thrive. It can be done, and
given half a chance perhaps they can withstand the invading species.

Stunning imagery on YouTube: Starlings and a single falcon...through I never saw the falcon, I noticed the damned starlings never landed!

Here's a shorter clip. You can see the falcon and also that these birds don't land either!