Science and Sarcasm
30 August 2005
More about the Trumpeter Swan reintroduction in Michigan

Wow. First it was the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, now it's the Trumpeter Swan...

My friend Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis has a very cool little post today pointing out that the Trumpeter Swan status and reintroduction in Michigan is a slightly controversial subject. She's included a link to a thorough analysis written by a couple of experts who feel that Trumpeter reintroduction projects are both unjustified and unwise. A second, pro-con article by these two gents also includes an argument for reintroduction by a representative from the Trumpeter Swan Society.

It's a fairly complicated topic, but after a quick read, it looks like there's plenty of evidence that Trumpeters probably don't need special considerations in Michigan, or perhaps anywhere in the Eastern US. Now I want to find out more about the MI DNR's justification for this program...

Thanks Nuthatch!

28 August 2005
Rogue River Fishing Report [28 August 2005]

B and I did manage to get in a little trout fishing last night. We headed to the upper Rogue River for the evening hatches and hoped to maybe entice the big brown that B hooked briefly on our last trip.

We arrived at about 7:00 and found that we had our favorite stretch to ourselves once again. After rigging up our rods, we waded across the river and hiked downstream aways to a spot we thought might have a good whitefly hatch at dusk. To begin, we both chose the Power Ant pattern; I used a tan one and B used a black one. B caught a couple of dinks, including one little perch of all things, and I got a couple of splashy refusals, but nothing more. I fished downstream around 'cedar waxwing' bend (I think I'll just call it 'waxwing bend' from now on. There are always a handful flycatching there...) I caught 2 little 6" browns and a tiny perch swinging a soft-hackle hare's ear nymph. What the heck are the perch doing in here?

Further downstream, there was a fair amount of surface feeding heating up. And some of the splashes looked a lot like they were created by fish larger than 6". I noticed a few hatching insects, the beginnings of the whiteflies among them. I switched to a whitefly emerger pattern and drifted it and swung it at various speeds over every riser I could reach, but they all ignored me. I switched to a white Wulff and drifted and swung that at various speeds past and over them all and they continued to ignore me. Hmmmm. Fine. I can take a hint. The whitefly hatch was well underway at this point, lots of them all around. The fish feeding was not frenzied, but there were plenty of fish to target. I targeted plenty but caught none.

I hopped up on the bank and hiked back up to Waxwing Bend where B was. She had caught a couple more dinks and later caught the biggest fish of the evening - a 10 1/2" brownie - on a muddler I think. We fished bigger wakers, muddlers, etc. well into the night. B did get one very impressive-sounding strike from her big bad brown, but didn't hook him. I did no better than a couple more splashy refusals. I still don't know how to fish the dang whitefly hatch.

Mosquito Rating: 1, on a scale of 0 to 10
Number of flies lost: 0(!)
Number of flies on my patch at the end of the night: 9
Wildlife sightings: Great Blue Heron, one mallard female, cedar waxwings
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Next question...
Save of the night: B recovered her biggest flybox after dropping it in the river

27 August 2005
Rainy birthday

Birthday lootOur plans for a paddle/fishing trip on a favorite trout stream sorta fell through today. It's been rainy all morning and thunderstorms are predicted for this afternoon. We'd been looking forward to escaping another hellish work week with our friend Speytrout, but it wasn't meant to be. We'll get an abbreviated evening fishing outing in tonight though - hopefully the whiteflies will comply.

B gave me a great birthday present - a half-dozen of her famous Power Ants (tan and black) and some flyfishing doodads. I needed some replacement nippers badly. This supplements a new/used spey rod gifted earlier this summer. I haven't exercised it properly yet.

Happy birthday to nephew Christopher today too. Is he 7 now? His family and Anne's are getting together today I think. Hopefully they have better picnic weather than we do here...


Thanks for all the birthday cards and phone calls. I really have great friends and family. I even got a phone call from Kati in China - too bad I wasn't home - she had to leave a message. This way I can play the recording over and over...

And Christopher is 8!

24 August 2005
MI DNR wants help with Trumpeter Swan census

Trumpeter Swan from MN DNRDuring August and September 2005, the Michigan Department of Natual Resources would like to hear about Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) sightings to help with a broad, North American trumpeter swan census.

Trumpeters are protected in Michigan as a 'threatened species' - a large improvement from being considered extinct back in 1885. Efforts have been underway since the late 1980s and early 1990s to reintoduce and restore the native species' population size and distribution in Michigan (and elsewhere) through the North American Restoration Plan. The program first attempted to cross-foster trumpeter eggs with mute swans, but this resulted in very low success rates and this approach was quickly abandoned. In the next phase, egg collection from confined pairs, artificial cygnet hatching, rearing and release proved much more successful. Birds were initially released at Seney Wildlife Refuge in the upper penninsula, at the Rifle River Recreation area near Rose City and at the Kellogg Biological Station Bird Sanctuary in Hickory Corners. In 1992, the first natural reproduction in 100 years was recorded with these released Trumpeters. Birds have naturally dispersed from these initial loci, but the highest concentrations are still found eastern UP, and in the northeast and southwestern Lower Peninsula with smaller populations scattered across the state. The population is now around 650 birds statewide.

So keep you eyes open for these large, beautiful birds. It is important to record your observations accurately, because Trumpeter Swans can easily be confused with Mute Swans, which are also found throughout Michigan but are not being counted. There are a couple of important differentiating features for these two species:

  • Bill and head: Trumpeters have a black bill with a red line on the upper edge of the lower bill and the head is wedge-shaped. Mute swans have a bright orange bill and a distinctive black knob on the forehead.

  • Neck shape: Trumpeter swan necks are kinked at the base and often form a ‘C’ curve. Mute swans tend to hold their necks in an ‘S’ curve with their bills pointing down.

  • Voice/Call: Trumpeter swans have a loud, resonant, trumpet-like call. Mutes are generally silent but can issue a variety of grunts, snorts and whistles.
  • From left to rignt: Mute, Trumpeter and Tundra Swan headsSwan Identification from Trumpeter Swan Society

    MI DNR request that you should report your sightings according to the location of your observation as follows:

  • Southern LP: Joe Johnson, MSU Kellogg Bird Sanctuary (269-671-2511);
  • Northeast LP: Elaine Carlson, DNR (989-826-3211 x 7030);
  • Northwest LP: Ruthann French, DNR (231-775-9727);
  • Eastern UP: Kristie Sitar, DNR (906-293-5024);
  • Western UP: Alisa Bartos, USDA Forest Service (906-265-5139 x 33) and Brian Bogaczyk, USDA Forest Service (906-932-1330 x 509).
  • People submitting reports should be prepared to provide the specific location and date of observation. Information on single swans, pairs, pairs with young, and flocks with three or more swans will be useful. Only observations made during late summer 2005 should be reported.

    For more information on Trumpeter Swans, visit the Kellogg Biological Station website here or here.

    From Gary Hart of all people...

    In a Washington Post column (via AmericaBlog):

    History will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world, diverting Guard and reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War, accumulating staggering deficits, misdirecting revenue from education to rebuilding Iraqi buildings we've blown up, and weakening America's national security.

    But what will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on?... In their leaders, the American people look for strength, determination and self-confidence, but they also look for courage, wisdom, judgment and, in times of moral crisis, the willingness to say: "I was wrong."

    To stay silent during such a crisis, and particularly to harbor the thought that the administration's misfortune is the Democrats' fortune, is cowardly....

    The real defeatists today are not those protesting the war. The real defeatists are those in power and their silent supporters in the opposition party who are reduced to repeating "Stay the course" even when the course, whatever it now is, is light years away from the one originally undertaken. The truth is we're way off course.

    I'd say he nailed it. Bravo Gary.

    UPDATE: Digby has a really great evaluation of Hart's op-ed piece within the larger context of the post-Vietnam War Democratic Party history. Go read.

    PZ is on fire

    PZ Myers reduces a Deepak Chopra essay on 'intelligent design' to the 'word salad' that it is.

    Deepak has really allowed us to look behind the curtain here; he has revealed that he has no clue about science, medicine, biology, logic, or any other concept related to his post. He basically argues that, since he can't imagine how something so complex as evolutionary selection works, it's not possible. To think that this guy is a doctor?!? Wow. Does he understand how the liver works? The knee joint? Maybe that's why he's so attached to the 'soul' and the 'spirit'. He can't be wrong.

    PZ in 2008...

    23 August 2005
    Ooooh, this is precious...

    Today's Tom Toles:
    Tom Toles 8/23/2005

    21 August 2005
    Shiawassee River Fishing Report [August 20 2005]

    Whitefly hatch on the Shiawassee summer '04B and I decided to reward ourselves for a day of house- and yardwork with an evening of smallmouth bass fishing on the Shiawassee River nearby. We were especially looking forward to the whitefly (Ephoron leukon) hatch, which has been absolutely spectacular on this river in the past. These pictures were taken last year, near the end of August. That night, the whitefly hatch was amazing; they filled the air over the river for some time. When it really got going, there was no way to compete. Our flies were quickly outnumbered and the probability that a hungry fish would strike our flies, instead of the thousands of naturals on the water, diminished to almost zero.

    Is that I see ... is that what I think it is?!?Last night however, we did not enjoy quite this level of hatching bugs. There was a reasonably good hatch with some actively feeding fish, but nothing like the density pictured. The river is clear and quite low, which is normal for this time of year, but it's currently even below its typical flows. Early in the evening, we fished streamers and big, leggy surface flies with only minimal success. At about dusk, there was a brief grey drake (Siphlonurus) hatch, but without much in the way of surface feeding to go with it.

    Whiteflies started appearing just after dark settled in. We appreciated the full moon and clear skies; wading was easier and we didn't really need headlamps except for tying on flies until well after 9:00. We were surprised at the low frequency of surface feeding in response to the whiteflies. There was not the level of activity that we're accustomed to observing on this river. We tied on some whitefly patterns - I chose a white Wulff, B chose a new white ant pattern she invented this week. Her white ant is basically a Power Ant, but tied with a white body and wing and a light hackle. I had no luck with my white wulff until it became soggy and I started fishing it on a very slow and gentle swing, keeping tension at all times. After I switched to this tactic, I detected very subtle takes on at least every other cast. I started catching a lot of smallies and the occasional rock bass. I never caught a bass larger than 11", but I caught lots without moving up- or downstream. B enjoyed moderate success with her ant, but not quite what I achieved with the Wulff.

    The fish I caught were extremely subtle taking my fly. I was surprised at this. In fact, I focused so intently on feeling them, that I was afraid I'd mistake my own pulse in my fingers for strikes. The subsurface and subtle nature of the strikes makes me think that there was probably a whole lot of feeding going on, it just wasn't breaking the surface like we expected based on previous outings.

    Preliminary experimental conclusions: Swing the whitefly, don't dead drift
    Number of leech encounters: 0! Yay!
    Wildlife sightings: A few flycatchers, a bittern, lots of dragon- and damselflies
    Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
    Enjoyment grade for the day: B+

    20 August 2005
    An extremely bloggity day

    Wow, what a busy week for this blog. This burst of activity culminated today with an all time high rate of visitor traffic and blog rankings. Lots of incoming traffic has come from this week's issue of I and the Bird hosted by Milkriverblog and from various discussions on creationism vs science at Pharyngula, the wonderful biology/evolution blog by PZ Myers. Today, (deep breath, flutter flutter) Avedon Carol, of The Sideshow linked here. In the same post, she also linked to a Molly Ivins essay. Guh! Avedon is a smart blogger and one of my favorites. It's an honor that she's graced this page with her mouseclick...

    Rankingwise, FWIW, I've peaked as a 'Slithering Reptile' and at #27 on the Fatbirder. These ranking results are very dynamic and will undoubtedly return to their resting levels quickly, which are significantly less boast-worthy than today's standings. Nonetheless, I feel very honored.

    Welcome. And thanks - to my regular friends and to the bloggerati - for visiting.

    19 August 2005
    ASA-CSSA-SSSA Executive Committees Opposes President Bush's Support of Intelligent Design in Position Statement

    Tri Societies logoThe American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America have jointly proclaimed stern disagreement with GW Tush's recent endorsement of teaching creationism (or 'intelligent design' if you prefer the sanitized label) in public schools as an alternative to evolution. They distributed the following press release via email to all members earlier this week. I belong to 2 of the 3 groups, so I received a bulletin in my inbox.

    Here's the entire content of their press release distributed to members this week:

    In Support of Teaching Evolution

    Position Statement by the Executive Committees of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, adopted August 11, 2005

    Intelligent design is not a scientific discipline and should not be taught as part of the K-12 science curriculum. Intelligent design has neither the substantial research base, nor the testable hypotheses as a scientific discipline. There are at least 70 resolutions from a broad array of scientific societies and institutions that are united on this matter. As early as 2002, the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) unanimously passed a resolution critical of teaching intelligent design in public schools.

    The intelligent design/creationist movement has adopted the lamentable strategy of asking our science teachers to "teach the controversy" in science curriculums, as if there were a significant debate among biologists about whether evolution underpins the abundant complexity of the biological world. We believe there is no such controversy.

    The fundamental tenet of evolution - descent with modification - is accepted by the vast majority of biologists. The current debates within the research community deal with the patterns and processes of evolution, not whether the evolutionary principles presented by Darwin in 1859 hold true. These debates are similar to those surrounding the relativistic nature of gravitational waves. No one doubts the existence of gravity just because we are still learning how it works; evolution is on an equally strong footing.

    The discussion of life's spirituality is most appropriate for philosophy or religion classes. It is a mistake to conclude that reluctance to incorporate spiritual questions in science classes runs counter to the cherished principle that vigorous challenge is vital to the scientific method.

    In all scientific fields, including evolutionary biology, challenge has always been essential and welcomed. Scientific challenge succeeds if it is methodical and findings are verified to the satisfaction of the scientific community. This has not happened with creationism either with or without its new label "intelligent design." President Bush, by suggesting that we use intelligent design as a scientific counterpoint to the teaching of evolutionary biology, is unwittingly undermining the scientific method at its core. This is most unfortunate in an era when U.S. students are already lagging behind their international peers in science education.

    This Position Statement is an expression of the official position taken by the 2005 Executive Committees of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America on the issue of evolution. This statement serves to summarize the scientific aspects of this issue and serves as official viewpoint of the 2005 ASA-CSSA-SSSA Executive Committees that can be shared with others.

    I think they did a right smart job of stating the sane and reasonable stance of most of the scientific community on this issue - hitting all the salient points: ID is not scientific viewpoint, there is no 'controversy', spirituality should be taught in spirituality class not biology class, and a little Tush slam for dessert. And they produced this document fairly quickly for an organization of this size and type. I'm not aware of other scientific societies publishing similar position statements already, though I'd bet there've been a few.

    UPDATE: Apparently Frist has added to this steaming heap of IDiocy today about it at Pharyngula. Maybe it's a good thing he's a senator and not practicing medicine somewhere...

    18 August 2005
    I and the Bird #4 is ready for take-off

    I and the BirdTony of Milkriverblog hosts the current installment of the I and the Bird carnival. He's done a great job assembling bird-related stories submitted by amateur, avid or professional bird-sorts.

    Today's edition is presented in a clickable picture format and features my 'Marsh of the Sparrows' post in addition to a story of a birding trip to Montezuma NWR in NY, near where I grew up; a story about a red-tail hawk vs. a squirrel, and a story of learning bird names in Ojibway.

    Go, read for yourself...

    17 August 2005
    Vassar Clements died today

    Vassar Clement's fiddle headstockWhat a loss. He was a great fiddle player who could adapt his talents to so many different styles, collaborators and in-between genres. He didn't have huge individual recognition, but he played so well with everyone who is anyone in acoustic, bluegrass, hillbilly jazz music - Bill Monroe, Jerry Garcia, Merle Travis, Mark O'Connor, Bela Fleck, Stephane Grapelli and John Hartford to name a few.

    I think my favorite example of his style and capabilities is his version of 'House of the Rising Sun' with Mike Auldridge and with Mark O'Connor. Here's a sample.

    Rest in peace.

    15 August 2005
    Lakehouseapalooza 2005

    B and I spent a 3-day weekend with 4 of my 6 siblings, their spouses and kids at a really nice vacation house on a nice big lake in southern Wisconsin - graciously shared by some family members. Two families couldn't make it, dang it. We've gotten together here for 4 consecutive years now I think - at least some subset of the 7 of us. It's no small feat assembling here. We live in Santa Barbara, Chicago, France, Hartford CT, Providence RI and Michigan.

    At the lakehouse, we have a great time fishing, swimming, boating and just hanging out. I've realized our family is very good at 'just hanging out', to the dismay of some who've married in. We can hang around the kitchen or living room, elbow-to-elbow, chit-chatting and joking around for days at a time. We don't need to go off to events or shopping or movies or anything when we get together. I guess growing up in a household of 9 with one bathroom trains you to get by with minimal personal space.

    B and I drove to the lakehouse on Friday. The traffic through Gary and Chicago was pretty slow at times - there are lots of major construction projects underway as usual. Dylan was great in the back of the car - sleeping and self-entertaining for 7 hours. We arrived to a house full of cool-ass people. Everyone else had been there for most of the week. I'm very jealous that they were able to spend so much time together. I know it would have been a lot of fun to spend the week. We got a quick fishing report from Michael and Chien. They'd been having fun catching bass and bluegills off the dock all week. Now, Chien is an avid and skilled fisherman, but I think his little boy Michael could fish him under the table. That boy has stamina. He has even learned to slightly exaggerate the size of the fish he caught.

    My sister Maureen is our family chef - formally trained and everything. She whipped up some barbecued chicken, grilled summer squash, potatoes and rice for dinner. She also saved some icebox cake from earlier in the week for B and I. Icebox cake is a family favorite - Mom made it for us as kids. It's a refrigerated dessert made by layering chocolate pudding with graham crackers in a rectangular cake pan. It's really good and Maureen's version is even better than the original because she uses a top notch chocolate pudding recipe. She remembered to share her pudding and barbecue sauce recipes with us this time. Thanks Mo!

    We sat around until pretty late on Friday night, shooting the breeze and enjoying ourselves. Maureen, Jan and Anne made tie-dyed shirts for all the women and children - even one for little 4-month old Rose. They rightly guessed that most of the men wouldn't be caught dead in one, so they saved themselves the trouble. We ended the evening with a newly-invented game of 'Admit Your Sins' using a Catholic confession-preparation pamphlet provided by our dear mother - she did not know that we'd make it into a game. B also announced her new status as an officially ordained minister in a rather casual Church of some kind. She immediately absolved all our admitted sins. Thanks B! Eventually, we went off to bed. I'm not sure how everyone fit into the house during sleeping hours. This is a 4 bedroom house and we squeezed in 10 adults and 6 children. Where the heck did everyone sleep? I don't think anyone stayed on the couches or on the porch. B and I brought cots and sleeping bags and camped out in the basement with Dylan. There must've been a pile of kids sleeping like cats somewhere.

    Saturday, like Friday, was quite overcast and cool. We were able to get for some swimming, fishing and paddling anyway. A light misty drizzle was not enough to drive the boys in from the pontoon boat - even little Laurence stayed comfortable and entertained. B and Patrick got in a good long swim. Patrick is an adventurous swimmer for such a young man. And he's a good dog-walker. In the early evening, a really big, smart bass sat on the lake bottom at the dock, teasing Michael, Nick and Chien. He ignored everything they dipped in front of him. Mike B eventually got him to bite a plastic worm bounced on his nose, but the fish was careful to avoid the hook and was never in real danger of being caught. I supposed that's how he got to be so big. He did provide some entertaining stories.

    Maureen made her famous marinated, grilled flank steak for dinner on Saturday, along with heavenly mashed potatoes, grilled summer squash and cukes-under-vinegar (all brought from my garden). Chien made some of his magical fried rice. For dessert, we celebrated sister Anne's and Chien's 40th birthdays with another famous Maureen delicacy - her chocolate cheesecake. She makes this regularly for many people in her life now. We all request it endlessly. Poor Maureen. It's a marvelously rich, but not too chocolatey balance. The cake part is normal unadulterated cheesecake, the crust is crushed oreo cookies and the top of the cake is covered with a semi-sweet chocolate sauce. I think I speak for our whole family, and all Maureen's friends, when I say that this is the perfect cheesecake. Welcome to 40-year-old status Anne and Chien; it's nice to have some company finally! Edie provided after-dinner entertainment with her shortened, but repeatedly repeated rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She's such a little cutie. We stayed up late watching a Little Rascals DVD. Wow, I haven't seen those old episodes in a long time - it is amazing what your brain remembers sub-consciously - the episodes were very familiar even though I couldn't name most of the characters or describe the plot from the outset.

    We said some goodbyes on Saturday night - Bill, Jan and Laurence would be leaving before dawn to catch 2 different planes to NY and MD. Anne, Chien, Michael and Nick left a bit later to catch a flight back home to CT. Joe, Mary and Edie had a later flight back to CA, but planned to make another visit in WI on the way to the airport. We helped Maureen and Mike clean the house a little, then we packed up our gear, said more sad goodbyes and headed out on the drive home.

    We made it back home a lot quicker than our trip out on Friday. Dylan was again very good in the car for so long, but he really appreciated a good run-around when we got home. We had a great time with everyone and we're all grateful to the Butler family for sharing their wonderful vacation house and all it's amenities. The nieces and nephews are so much fun and I'm glad to have the chance to hang out with them every once in awhile - even when they're teething. I wish everyone could have such a cool family...

    P.S. Only some of these pics are mine; others I stole from Anne...

    We've got clearwings too.

    Hummingbird Clearwing MothWell, we've apparently got Hummingbird Clearwing Moths [Hemaris thysbe] around our house too. Those petunias attract a lot of insects. I recently caught a Striped Morning Sphinx moth at the very same pot of purple petunias on the back porch. This guy showed up during daylight hours - mid-morning last Friday.

    Here and here are a couple of much better pictures.

    Scientists blogging about science blogging...

    A good, interesting and hot discussion of the contributions, effects, advantages, etc. of scientific blogging is occupying the scientific blogger community right now. I want to add my thoughts too, when I have more time. For some good posts on this subject, visit Crooked Timber, Pharyngula, Uncertain Principles, Living the Scientific Life, and In the Pipeline.

    10 August 2005
    The Unbearable Lightness of Posting

    Rotation Experiment @ MRF - potatoes, green beans, cornManure seeding

    Wow. What a week already. We've been packing a lot of fieldwork into a short amount of time since late last week. I've had little time for things like blogging. Though I have thought of a few more topics I'd like to blog about... We've been busy with tillage, manure-seeding, planter and fertilizer spreader calibrations, cover crop planting - all in the 90o heat and 90% humidity. I've come home very late, very sweaty, very dirty and smelling of pig shit this week. I think I've sacrificed a perfectly good pair of shoes to the stuff. Now, I'm not afraid of a little manure, I grew up in it. But I draw the line just before monogastric manure. It is strong, permeating stuff.

    B and I are looking forward to taking Friday off; we'll be spending a long weekend with my cool-ass siblings on a very nice lake in Wisconsin - Lakehouseapalooza 2005. I think this will be the 4th year for our annual 'siblings-only' family reunion. Four of my 6 sibs, from Santa Barbara, France, Hartford, and Chicago are already there with their spouses and kids. It's going to be great fun. We've got a couple of 40th birthdays to celebrate, we haven't seen 'the Frenchies' since last Thanksgiving, and the little kids are always a blast.

    Tangled Bank #34

    The Tangled BankTangled Bank #34 is presented at Creek Running North today. CRN is one of my favorite blogs lately. Chris' writing is wonderfully complete - smart, engaging, witty and human. He has done another great job with TB #34. Thanks Chris!

    07 August 2005
    Marsh of the Sparrows

    Maple River MarshB and I took a drive to the Maple River State Game Area on Sunday night to do a little birding and to allow Dylan, our new dog, an outing in a new and exciting place. We arrived at about 7:30PM to find the parking area empty - it's not a particularly popular time of year for visitors. Spring and fall are busy times with migrating birds and waterfowl - birdwatchers and hunters are equally common. Since we were not sharing the area with anyone, we let Dylan enjoy his time off-leash. He stayed on the paths and didn't get too far ahead, so we weren't worried about him disturbing wildlife too far in front of us.

    As we hiked along the dikes, we saw a pair of green herons and a pair of American bitterns keeping their distance just in front of us. We began to get the feeling that no one had hiked back into the area this day. We appeared to be the first intruders in some time as the birds were closer to the paths, not as concerned about keeping a safe-distance. A few kingbirds were flycatching over the waterways. The best birding is often enjoyed at the far end of the managed wetland, on one of the largest (about 1/4 square mile) artificially-flooded ponds. Sure enough, as we approached, a small band of Sandhill cranes let us know we were making them nervous somewhere on the other side of the reeds. Their voices are so piercing, I usually find it difficult to guess how far away they are - they always sound close. They were wading on a small sand spit out in the pond in the company of geese and herons. When we emerged from the reeds that had been concealing our presence, a group of white Great Blue Herons took off and flew away to a big tree on the furthest side of the pond. The blue Great Blues weren't offended enough to flee. The white and blue morphs definitely functioned as two separate groups.

    There were a lot more bird species present than we expected to find. A quick scan with the binoculars and we found a small flock of 12 or so Cinnamon Teals, a few Mallards, a pair of Mute Swans with 6 adolescent young, lots and lots of Great Blue Herons and a few other waterfowl we couldn't identify. Cormorants came in and landed and a single Osprey flew over while we stood watching. Swallows of various persuasions were catching dinner over the big ponds and the spillways in between.

    We watched for a half-hour or so and started our hike back toward the car. The sandhill cranes were happy to see us go; they'd been honking at us the whole time. On our walk back, we spotted an American Goldfinch that confused us for a couple of minutes. His black cap was shaped more like the black mask of a yellowthroat. We went back and forth on his ID for awhile. Ultimately, we decided he was far too yellow and his beak was too big to be a yellowthroat.

    We were quite satisfied with our quick evening bird outing. We saw some common birds and some less common ones. I think I'd have had more species to list if I was able to focus more closely and look for small birds in the nearby brush and trees instead of being so overly-fascinated with the big species like herons and cranes. I suspect there were a few warblers and sparrows that I walked right past...I need more practice.

  • Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
  • Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias - dark and white morphs
  • Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  • Double-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
  • Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  • American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  • Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  • Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus
  • Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  • Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
  • Canada Geese, Branta canadensis
  • American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis
  • Red-winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  • Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
  • Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor

  • ADDENDUM: This post was included in I and the Bird #4 hosted at milkriverblog (8/18/05).

    06 August 2005
    Shiawassee River Fishing Report [August 6 2005]

    Shiawassee River near HendersonWe paddled and fished a 6 or 7 mile stretch of the Shiawassee River on Saturday. B and I dusted off the kayaks for their first outing of the summer. It's August, and they've not touched water yet - how embarassing. Our friends Barb and Vic joined us with their canoe. We've floated this stretch several times before - it includes some really nice smallmouth bass water - shady banks, weedy bends, shallow riffles followed by deeper water with big, underwater boulders.

    Recent rains have kept the water level in the Shi quite a bit higher than average for this time of year, but average is very very low. Currently it's running at 200 ft3/min, down from a peak of 500 within the last week. The 75-year average flow is about 90 ft3/min for early August. Historically, we've avoided floating this river during August because it's usually an exercise in frustration, we end up paddling through flat, plant-choked water and dragging our boats over gravel stretch after gravel stretch far too shallow to paddle. Saturday, we only needed to portage over gravel a couple of times. It is interesting though, to see the unconcealed shape and slope of even this low-gradient river bottom.

    Shiawassee whitefliesWe put in just before noon and reached our take out at about 8:30PM. B and I took along 6-weight fly rods while Barb and Vic used spinning gear. Flyfishing while paddling a kayak downriver is almost impossible. Spin fishing while floating downstream is a bit more feasible. We stopped and waded along good-looking water to fish, pushing our boats onto the bank or into some brush. We ended up stopping together or leap-frogging each other through 'fishy' water. B found quite a few fish down near the bottom, using beadhead streamers on a sink-tip. She had the best luck with white or yellow patterns. She even had a brief tug-of-war with a carp. I only caught 2 smallies on the day. I don't think I was getting down far enough generally. Barb caught the fish of the day, on a plastic 'sluggo' - a 16-17" smallmouth bass. I didn't get to see him, but my 3 friends said he was a beautiful specimen - gorgeous and sleek greenish-bronze color, healthy and without blemish or sign of trauma. I wish we got a picture of that one.

    We arrived at our take-out tired and sore but satisfied with our choice of river recreation for the day. We also noticed that the whiteflies are obviously hatching already. Spinners and duns were caught in every web and eddy we passed.

    Number of leech encounters: 0! oops, make that 1
    Wildlife sightings: blue and green herons, wood ducks, kingfishers, sandpipers, a beaver
    Did I get to use a spey rod?: A spey rod out of a kayak? Right.
    Enjoyment grade for the day: A

    Garden haul

    Garden haulMore goodies from the garden last night - including our first watermelon and tomatillo.

    Hunting around in the garden with B and Dylan was a pleasant end to a very aggravating Friday. My workday was filled with equipment malfunctions, bad people scheduling, backward progress and frustration. We accomplished much much less than planned. It helped wash it away to come home and dink around in the garden.

    I grilled some squash, and whipped up Grandma O's creamed potatoes with a little twist - horseradish...mmmmmm.

    04 August 2005
    I and the Bird #3 is ready for perusal...

    I and the Bird
    B and B is hosting the third chapter in the still-new-smelling I and the Bird carnival. Here's the current list of bird stories. Among other great stores, this installment includes:

  • a series of photos of a red-tailed hawk acquiring a road-side lunch,
  • a story with photos chronicling the childhood of a nest of Costa's hummingbirds, and
  • a story about One Wing, a bald eagle survivor of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.

  • You will not be disappointed.

    A palette of damselflies and dragonflies

    Ontario Wanderer has posted a cool set of damselfly and dragonfly photos. He caught, photographed and identified this batch of 8 insects.

    He's also got lots more pics of flora and fauna.

    03 August 2005
    It's what's for dinner

    Garden take, 2 August 2005

    I'm showing a picture of last night's harvest rather than presenting a picture of the garden itself for a selfish reason. The garden, though big and lush and bountiful, has a lot of weeds that are also big, lush and bountiful - grasses mostly. Hot, humid weather and long, tiring workdays have contributed to my recent garden neglect. Last night I caught up with the harvesting side of my neglect. I removed a few enormous zucchini and yellow squash and a bunch of overgrown pickles to the compost pile. You've got to be a good detective to find the cukes in the tangle of vines and weeds right now. Some melons are big enough to be obvious; exposed, despite the vine and weed camoflage. I hadn't missed any tomatoes, they're just starting to ripen. The bell peppers are maturing at a nice, even rate that we can keep up with if we eat a couple every night or two. B weeded the onions and shallots again so they look great. I've got 2 rows of potatoes that are going down and a third that has quite a bit of life left. A bag or two of Yukon Golds and Reds are heading to a family gathering in Wisconsin next weekend.

    I dug a bag of spuds and took them, squash and cukes to one of our garden-less neighbors. I like that even our single-household garden ends up being a 'community' garden sometimes.

    02 August 2005
    It's time to throw down

    At Pharyngula:

    George W. Bush has endorsed Intelligent Design creationism's plan to corrupt education.

    Here's what the debate is about.

    Scientists have established the fact of evolution with thousands of lines of evidence and the work of hundreds of thousands of researchers. This idea is based on material evidence and repeated experiment, extensively documented in the scientific literature.

    This evidence flatly contradicts literal religious accounts. Religious conservatives have mounted a long running social and political campaign to get their falsified dogma treated as the truth, despite the absence of any material or logical support for their position.

    This debate is not about assessing the evidence, but about getting faith-based bullshit taught as science.

    Is there absolutely no audience any longer for the 'separation of church and state' argument? I gotta look up that phone number for Canada again.

    I think the reason that many of us get so incensed with this, the latest Bushie information/science/facts-slight, is because it is SO INCREDIBLY illogical. A Bushie hallmark. Intelligent Design, or creationism, is not science, it is not a 'type' of science' it is not a scientific argument. It's the OPPOSITE of science. Arguing evolution versus 'intelligent design' theory is like trying to argue that you're not a racist. It's a setup. Like responding to the "so when did you stop beating your wife?" question. So far, there is no good answer because it's the question, the comparison, that is problematic. We need to keep pointing this out.


    The always-witty Wonkette weighs in.

    Just beautiful...

    Whoa ScottyI want to direct you to this beautiful rant on the driftglass blog. He really lets 'er rip on the lying, thieving Bushies. It's very long and very shrill and very profane, but totally worth it. Check out some of his other rants too.

    Thanks to Stephanie, filling in at Creek Running North, for the recommendation.

    Ivory-billed woodpecker hubub calms down

    Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis has the inside scoop on a sudden 'cooling off' of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker controversy. The scientists challenging the sightings finally heard some audio evidence provided by the Cornell ornithologists and they've withdrawn their paper asserting that the sightings were misidentified.

    GirlScientist has more.

    01 August 2005
    Striped Morning Sphinx Moth

    It's a little unlikely, I know, but last night the dharma bum posted pictures of a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth he caught feeding on his petunias. His pictures are quite good. We also were visted by a similar creature last night at about midnight. Ours was a White-Lined Sphinx, or Striped Morning Sphinx, moth (Hyles lineata). We also caught ours sampling our purple petunias on the back porch.

    Striped Morning Sphinx Moth

    Striped Morning Sphinx Moth

    We've seen these hummingbird/hawk/sphinx moths quite a few times since we moved to our current 5-acre semi-rural home. They seem to be a big fan of petunias. The first time I saw one, I was torn between wanting to touch it and wanting to run away screaming. They are strange critters to see for the first time. They are apparently quite impressive in their caterpillar phase too.


    Striped Morning Sphinx Moth

    He's back tonight, and B was ready for a better photo. Purple petunias are apparently irresistible.

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