Showing posts from March, 2024

This week in birds - #585

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : My 'Christmas Cheer' dwarf azalea is in bloom. Obviously, its calendar or its name is a bit off. The plant was a gift to me on the death of my mother twenty-three years ago this month and I treasure it. *~*~*~* The swallowtail butterflies are beginning to make their appearance so it must truly be spring. *~*~*~* Are you ready for the solar eclipse on April 8 ? Plants and animals, unlike you, might not be able to anticipate the eclipse but they will respond as Nature disposes them to. *~*~*~* Climate change is increasing the chances of glacial lake floods in the Andes. *~*~*~* What are the signs that spring is truly here to stay? *~*~*~* Should orcas be split into two distinct species ? *~*~*~* Punxsutawney Phil and Phyllis have welcomed two baby groundhogs to the family. *~*~*~* How do birds manage to remember where they have stored food? It turns out they create a kind of memory barcode to guide them. *~*~*

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah: A review

This story is set in East Africa in the early 20th century and follows the lives of three people - Ilyas, Afiya, and Hamza. Ilyas and Afiya are brother and sister and Hamza is in love with Afiya. Ilyas was stolen from his family when he was just a child. He was stolen by German colonial troops and was forced to fight in their war against his own people. After years of fighting in their wars, when he is finally able to return home, he finds his family gone. His parents are no longer in their home and his sister has been given away. Hamza, on the other hand, was sold into the war. He grew up under the tutelage and protection of the German officer who "owned" him. He would become an "Askari" soldier (local soldiers who served in the German Colonial Army). Both Hamza and Ilyas fought voluntarily for the Germans but they seemed to have little understanding of the political implications of the conflict.  Abdulrazak Gurnah was the 2021 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literat

Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler: A review

Here's another Bryant and May mystery. They are always fun reads and Ten Second Staircase does not disappoint. (Although, having now finished reading the book, I still have no idea where that title came from or what it means.)  In this one, Bryant's and May's unit, the Peculiar Crimes Unit of the London Police, is just about to be disbanded as part of a departmental reorganization. But where will that leave our two octogenarian detectives who have no desire to retire? In order to forestall that imminent closure, the detectives need to solve a couple of cases, one old and one new, both of which have their basis in the historic London mythology of classic crime.  To aid in their investigations, this time around their unit has a new addition, May's granddaughter, April. And, of course, she has her own set of peculiarities in that she is agoraphobic. The modern-day mystery here involves a series of second-tier celebrities being killed in very elaborate ways. A witness to o

Poetry Sunday: To Daffodils by Robert Herrick

What flower is more emblematic of spring than the daffodil? Poet Robert Herrick certainly found it to be so. And like the daffodil, our "spring," too, is all too brief.  To Daffodils by Robert Herrick Fair Daffodils, we weep to see You haste away so soon; As yet the early-rising sun Has not attain'd his noon. Stay, stay, Until the hasting day Has run But to the even-song; And, having pray'd together, we Will go with you along. We have short time to stay, as you, We have as short a spring; As quick a growth to meet decay, As you, or anything. We die As your hours do, and dry Away, Like to the summer's rain; Or as the pearls of morning's dew, Ne'er to be found again. Note : This poem always brings to mind one of my favorite songs by Ian and Sylvia back in the day. (Yes, I am that old!)  

This week in birds - #584

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A Killdeer views the world from atop a fallen log. *~*~*~* The headline said that scientists are divided regarding the climate crisis and I'm thinking, "When were scientists ever NOT divided and how is that the headline?" *~*~*~* There's no division over the fact that last year was the hottest year on record . *~*~*~* Our plant hardiness zones are changing . *~*~*~* The fossilized remains of the earliest known forest have been found.  *~*~*~* And in news of human fossils, a site in Ethiopia has revealed the oldest known arrowheads . They are from 74,000 years ago.  *~*~*~* In the state of Washington, a woman on a biking trip was attacked by a cougar . Fortunately, her friends were able to rescue her from the cat's jaws. *~*~*~* In Slovakia, it is bears that have been attacking people. Five people have been injured in attacks this week. *~*~*~* The Philippine Eagle is an endangered species with

Poetry Sunday: St. Patrick's Day: With an Irish Shamrock by Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all who celebrate it...and even those who don't! And here's a poem for you from almost a hundred years ago in honor of this day. St. Patrick's Day: With an Irish Shamrock by Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna From the region of zephyrs, the Emerald isle, The land of thy birth, in my freshness I come, To waken this long-cherished morn with a smile,      And breathe o’er thy spirit the whispers of home. O welcome the stranger from Erin’s green sod;   I sprang where the bones of thy fathers repose, I grew where thy free step in infancy trod,   Ere the world threw around thee its wiles and its woes.          But sprightlier themes          Enliven the dreams, My dew-dropping leaflets unfold to impart:          To loftiest emotion          Of patriot devotion, I wake the full chord of an Irishman’s heart. The rose is expanding her petals of pride,      And points to the laurels o’erarching her tree; And the hardy Bur-thistle stands rooted beside,     

This week in birds - #583

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : An American Goldfinch has a snack of crape myrtle seeds. *~*~*~* You are not imagining it; winters are getting warmer . It's true of the oceans as well where the Great Barrier Reef has suffered a fatal heat wave . *~*~*~* Humans share many characteristics with whales. It turns out that one of the things we share is menopause. *~*~*~* For the first time in its documented history, Toronto has a pair of Bald Eagles nesting there. *~*~*~* Size dimorphism of the sexes is a common trait of mammals but it isn't always the males that are bigger. *~*~*~* Plant hardiness zones are changing as the climate changes. *~*~*~* When England's famed "Sycamore Gap" tree was chopped down by vandals, scientists sprung into action to try to ensure that the tree would have a second life. *~*~*~* The Biden administration has issued a draft proposal to provide protections for the imperiled  Greater Sage Grouse . *~*~

Poetry Sunday: A March Glee by John Burroughs

The birds are definitely sensing the coming of spring. I see them busily searching out nesting sites and nesting materials. I hear them staking out their territories with song. The bluebirds are checking out the nesting box and I hope it will soon be occupied. Yes, spring is surely coming; "her couriers fill the air."  A March Glee by John Burroughs I hear the wild geese honking From out the misty night,— A sound of moving armies On-sweeping in their might; The river ice is drifting Beneath their northward flight. I hear the bluebird plaintive From out the morning sky, Or see his wings a-twinkle That with the azure vie; No other bird more welcome, No more prophetic cry. I hear the sparrow's ditty Anear my study door; A simple song of gladness That winter days are o'er My heart is singing with him, I love him more and more. I hear the starling fluting His liquid "O-ka-lee;" I hear the downy drumming, His vernal reveillé; From out the maple orchard The nuthatc

This week in birds - #582

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  A male Belted Kingfisher enjoying a sunny day by the creek. *~*~*~* Texas has been scorched by the largest recorded wildfire in its history. It almost certainly will not be the last .  *~*~*~* Last month was the hottest February on record , thanks largely to global warming. Not only was the month record-setting but it was the ninth straight record-setting month. *~*~*~* And there's more to come.  El Niño is likely to supercharge global heating and deliver record-breaking temperatures from the Amazon to Alaska in 2024. *~*~*~* The last living member of Edmund Hillary's Mount Everest team says the once pristine mountain is now too crowded and dirty . *~*~*~* Gray whales became extinct in the Atlantic Ocean two centuries ago but now they are back , likely thanks to climate change. *~*~*~* Was the mosasaur the world's nastiest prehistoric reptile ? *~*~*~* Sadly, Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-owl that escaped fro

Poetry Sunday: Spring and All by William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams was an American poet who lived from 1883 until 1963. He was a practicing physician. That's how he made his living. But poetry was his second job and his joy. Here is one of his poems. Spring and All by William Carlos Williams By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines— Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches— They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind— Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined— It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf But now the stark dignity of en


My apologies to "This week in birds" readers. No post this week. I hope to get back to my regular schedule next week. Thank you for your patience.