Finished a six day birding trip to Texas and Florida, picked up five new birds, only four of which will eventually count toward my ABA Area list (a first time ever arrival to the U.S., Striped Sparrow, present in a thicket alongside the San Gabriel River northeast of Austin, breeds in central Mexico and historically has been very sedentary, so the Records Committee that reviews these finds will probably conclude that this bird is an escapee and was somehow released in the wild after being caged and brought into the country; but I went to see it anyway, just in case it was ‘approved’). But the other four should count: Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Common Crane, Key West Quail-Dove and a Smooth-billed Ani, which has been a bit of a nemesis bird for me, having dipped the three previous times I’ve tried to find it. Saw the ani on Snake Road west of Ft. Lauderdale. Above is a photo from Google Images, as well as a selfie taken (below) of assembled birders after seeing it, that includes a rock star in these circles - Neil Hayward (far left in the photo), who won the 2013 Big Year (http://accidentalbigyear2013.blogspot.com) with 747 species and 3 provisionals:
Lots of time to reflect on things during my travels, in no particular order:
Brian Williams - Brian became our go-to TV news guy after Tom Brokaw retired, but in the last few years I soured on his decision, as Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, to stick his head in the sand and deny the existence of man-made global warming (he asked Jim Cantore “What’s going on?” one too many times when increasingly their lead stories involved fires from drought, and more powerful hurricanes, and sounded like an idiot in the process). If you haven’t noticed, I’ve had it with false equivalence BSC stuff, particularly with people who supply me with the news. Furthermore, the fact that Brian clearly liked being in the spotlight on shows like Lettermen and Fallon only made me more uncomfortable. And then we got introduced to 'Vice’, and it became all to clear that we could do so much better with our time. Now, as more stuff starts to hit the fan, it’s become apparent that Mr. Williams has a serious psychological issue involving embellishment to such excess that he’s unquestionably lying. It’s not 'conflating’, it’s lying. Does he really have a piece of the helicopter than crashed during the bin Laden raid? Really? And consider he projected these mistruths in front of recording devices. In front of millions of people. I mean, how bad is that? Really, really damaging for a guy in his position. And wait, I bet there is still a lot more that hasn’t yet been reported. I just don’t see him coming back.
Car Traffic - In one of my books I wrote about how well we have perfected the art of rationalization, to include the absolute insane amount of time people spend in their cars commuting around major metropolitan areas and now simply traveling in busy travel corridors (http://jeffrusinow.com/btruth8). My experiences heading down to the Florida Keys and back was a real reminder of just how much automobile congestion on highways degrades our quality of life. It’s a mess, and how this changes in the next 25-50 years, I don’t have any idea. It’s one of the big, big problems out there with no solution. It’s times like those I am so happy to live in Wisconsin, even when it’s cold (OK, that’s my rationalization now coming out)!
David Carr - His passing should come as no surprise to anyone, should it? He’s appeared to be ailing for such a long time. The outpouring of testimonials to his impact on the discourse and to his incredible word smithing skills at The New York Times prompted me to dig in and learn more. Just finished watching the 2011 documentary on the NYT 'Page One’, which featured Carr. Wow, I don’t know how I missed this one. Highly recommended for people into business models (in this case, the newspaper industry crisis) and specifically how things work at the Grey Lady. Really, really good stuff.
More to come. I’ll close with a photo, again from Google Images, of a Common Crane, which I saw last Wednesday in the Panhandle of Texas near Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, hanging out with about 2,000 Lesser Sandhill Cranes (my photo is of them roosting at the shores of a lake). An Asian vagrant, this bird is really big when flying (7 ft. wingspan) with the other cranes: