Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mixed Feeding Flock #5

Wherein we share bits of important news and views about the environment and birds...

* In the better late than never category (hey, it's still June, at least on the East Coast of the USA!), here is the June issue of the Birding Community E-Bulletin, chock full of cool stuff like a Greater Sand-Plover seen in Florida; designation of the Chesapeake bay as a "National Treasure" and the potential addition of two species, Horned Grebe and Whip-poor-will, to Canada's list of at-risk species.

* On the subject of at-risk species, the BBC reports that a 30-year study of woodland birds has found catastrophic declines in many species. The Nightingale, which inspired odes from Britain's greatest poets, has declined by 95 percent, virtually vanishing from Britain's woodlands.

* In happier news, the American Bird Conservancy reports that a new effort, undertaken in cooperation with the Colombian organization ProAves, has established a reserve for Niceforo's Wren, one of the world's most endangered species, with less than 25 breeding pairs known to exist. We LIKE the A.B.C.

* Closer to home, and in today's mediocre picture category, Warren arrived back from Iran and discovered that summer had indeed arrived. He went hiking at Cedarville State Forest and, along with seeing and hearing many breeding warbler species, found a few damselflies:

W and L are off this weekend to do our first three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail, doing a bit of New York and finishing off New Jersey!! Somewhere along the way, we will cross the 1/4 mark of doing the whole trail! WOW! More info on BC and the AT here. And the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a really cool new interactive map on their website....

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I B Bloggin' Again on BC

Lisa has been keeping Birdcouple.com going (there could never be any question about Birdcouple itself keeping going), while Warren has been galavanting around the world. Well, to be more precise, Warren was in Iran for 10 days covering the election, which turned into quite another story ... but that's another story.

And then it took W about a week to recover, thanks to MORE work on Iran, jetlag, some Persian flu bug, etc, etc. So, mea culpa.

But Birdcouple is definitely a blog made for 2, and while June has been a bit of a wash out, here we go again!!!

Here are a few birds from Golestan Palace in Tehran, which was the seat of power during Iran's Qajar dynasty. These beautiful paintings look like doves for sure, but what species, I couldn't say.

Golestan actually has a very eco-friendly building, 200 years before its time, that is an architectural wind-catcher, designed to catch the wind and use it for natural cooling... Cool!

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Empaled Stork Solves Mystery...

This is the Pfeilstorch or the Arrow-Stork which can be found, stuffed, in the Zoological Collection of the University of Rostock.
The Arrow-Stork was discovered in northern Germany, alive and fairly well, in 1822.
The only problem was that it had an 80 cm long spear stuck in its neck.
A spear whose origin was Central Africa.
The discovery of the Arrow-Stork solved the mystery of where birds go each fall. Prior to finding the bird (who had somehow survived the entire migration in an impaled state) birdwatchers speculated that birds turned into mice or hibernated each winter - perhaps at the bottom of the sea.
This Pfeilstorche and the 25 other recorded pfeilstorches were the first proof that birds migrate long distances and don't nap away the winter months.
Thanks to Paul for sending us some Friday cool stuff.
Happy weekend!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Celebrating the Pollinators...

Yes, Cute Husband and I will take any opportunity to party!
And, this week we are in the midst of celebrating Pollinator Week!

There are about 200,000 species of pollinators which include hummingbirds, bats, beetles, bees, ants, butterflies, moths and even wasps.

Without the work of these creatures that transfer pollen grains and ensure fertilization we would have a serious lack of blueberries, melons, peaches, vanilla and almonds.

And if that isn't scary enough, pollinators are also necessary for the healthy production of coffee and chocolate.

The chocolate part really scares me.
The pollinator of chocolate is but a tee tiny fly that is no bigger than a pinhead. So say Hooray! to the next little bee or ant or fly you see!
The best way to bring pollination right into your own habitat is by planting continuous blooming nectar laden plants and avoiding pesticide use.

Perhaps I can talk Cute Husband into celebrating the week with a little chocolate... and wine....

Friday, June 19, 2009

No New Year Birds from Iran....

Cute Husband returned on Wednesday from covering the election in Iran.

His work (said his proud wife) can be found here:

Apparently he was a little busy and didn't get a chance to add anything to the BirdCouple year bird list....

Sigh. So good to have him home...

Birding tomorrow morning, Love?

Friday, June 12, 2009

3 Hours of Birding. Not One Bird.

Yes. You got that right.

Three solid hours of birding with Dan Haas of Nervous Birds fame and not one dang bird.

Dan helped me do a Nightjar Survey coordinated by the Center of Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary because Cute Husband is off doing important journalism and because I am afraid of wandering around in dark potentially sketchy places alone.

So, we started at moonrise and stopped 10 times along a route strewn with strip malls and parking lots. Two of the stops had some habitat potential for Chuck-will's widow and Whip-poor-will and various other stops looked good for Common Nighthawk.

We heard nothing.

Not one squeak, tweet, hoot, peet.

For 3 hours.

So, after a disappointing run, we decided to make for the "sure" spots for Chucks, Whips and Owls (it is now 11:30 PM).

We heard nothing.

It was so quiet I remember wishing for a strange mammal to cross our paths just for a little excitement.

So, I drop off Dan and get home at 12:45AM and hop into bed when I hear this tiny squeaking and wings beating all over the LoveNest bedroom.

Hi Mr. Bat.

I tried everything.

I opened windows and doors.
I turned off and on lights.
I tried to speak bat to politely ask him to return to the wild.

It was actually oddly beautiful to watch him fly about and occasionally dive bomb me.

It was also somewhat unnerving.

I decided to find the crab net (which is a typical tool in the house of any Annapolitan) and see if I could help him without injuring him.

When I returned from the garage, there was no sign of him.

Perhaps he decided to roost in between the stones of the fireplace:

Perhaps he was resting behind a curtain:

Could he be hanging out behind this cute picture of Cute Husband?

Or maybe....

Can someone please explain to me why this crazy stuff happens only when manly Cute Husband is away?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Most Romantic Place on Earth...

Ok, Paris is nice too!

But nothing beats an old fashioned swamp in the spring!
Birds singing over territories.
Frogs calling from the trees and croaking from the wetland.
Bugs of all diversity eating or being eaten.

Yes, there is nothing like a romantic date in a swamp, preferably right after a soaking rain...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

While the Cute Cat is Away...

The girls played!Ok, not exactly girls gone wild...

My gal pal, Patty (who is missing her guy too) and I played bee inspectors to see if everything was blissful in the backyard bee garden. It was Patty's initiation into all things bee and I could just tell she was pretty excited about the cool outfit she got to sport while checking out the gals.

I could also tell she was super intrigued by the nifty tools that are made especially for bee keeping!Yes, yes, beekeeping has super boss clothes and accessories, but the bees are what it is all about.

I'm opening up the Artemis hive above.

And, I'm feeling a little sorry for her shabby paint job and her condemned building look now that I see it up on the computer screen.

Artemis, make it through the winter and new digs for you next year!

This is a frame from Artemis.

Notice the disturbed look on my face.

This is girls gone wild or at least honey comb gone wild...
I either read somewhere or someone told me in bee club that if you put a short frame (such as the one above), you can reduce the pesky mites that bees get by removing the drone comb in the spring, as that is where mites like to hang out.
Um, that didn't really work to my expectation.

It was actually super sad because Queen Artemis laid eggs below the short frame which were in the larvae stage and were violently ripped off when I took the hive apart.

I really hate hurting my bees.

The trouble with beekeeping is that honey bees are not native to North America. They are susceptible to a range of diseases and mites. On top of that, tiny creatures of all sort love to find a weak hive and nest in their honey and wax and ruin the whole production.

There are a variety of pesticides and medications that can be applied to bee hives.

I won't do it.

I only use natural stuff, like powered sugar, to fight off bee hive invaders. And, I try every idea that I can learn about to manage the hives so that the bees are less susceptible to disease or pests.

Unfortunately, I fail often in my quest for a genetically strong hive that can fight naturally against all things bad for bees.
Ugh! It is so hard caring so much for a bunch of insects!

I'm not quite sure if Patty is up life as a beekeeper..... One or two rogue bees from the Hera hive chased her around the yard....

But, she sure looks swell in the outfit!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Congratulations, Adam Strobel & Class of '09!!!

Three generations of Strobels: Papa Carl, Adam and Warren.

Mitch was having a good time, too.

Meanwhile, Warren's headed back to Iran this weekend to report on that country's June 12 presidential elections. Maybe some birds will be seen, too.

He'll miss everyone, especially....


Monday, June 1, 2009

Birdcouple in the news (Sort of)

We're breaking our usual rule about not mixing business and pleasure, let alone Birdcouple.com and politics, God Forbid, to post Sunday's op-ed by NY Times columnist Frank Rich, since it mentions a certain Maryland birder, namely BC's uglier half.

Enjoy, and then (we promise) back to the birds:

Who Is To Blame For The Next Attack?

New York Times illustration: Barry Blitt

AFTER watching the farce surrounding Dick Cheney’s coming-out party this month, you have to wonder: Which will reach Washington first, change or the terrorists? If change doesn’t arrive soon, terrorists may well rush in where the capital’s fools now tread.

The Beltway antics that greeted the great Cheney-Obama torture debate were an unsettling return to the post-9/11 dynamic that landed America in Iraq. Once again Cheney and his cohort were using lies and fear to try to gain political advantage — this time to rewrite history and escape accountability for the failed Bush presidency rather than to drum up a new war. Once again Democrats in Congress were cowed. And once again too much of the so-called liberal news media parroted the right’s scare tactics, putting America’s real security interests at risk by failing to challenge any Washington politician carrying a big stick.

Cheney’s “no middle ground” speech on torture at the American Enterprise Institute arrived with the kind of orchestrated media campaign that he, his boss and Karl Rove patented in the good old days. It was bookended by a pair of Republican attack ads on the Web that crosscut President Obama’s planned closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center with apocalyptic imagery — graphic video of the burning twin towers in one ad, a roar of nuclear holocaust (borrowed from the L.B.J. “daisy” ad of 1964) in the other.

The speech itself, with 20 mentions of 9/11, struck the same cynical note as the ads, as if the G.O.P. was almost rooting for a terrorist attack on Obama’s watch. “No one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do,” Cheney said as a disingenuous disclaimer before going on to charge that Obama’s “half measures” were leaving Americans “half exposed.” The new president, he said, is unraveling “the very policies that kept our people safe since 9/11.” In other words, when the next attack comes, it will be all Obama’s fault. A new ad shouting “We told you so!” awaits only the updated video.

The Republicans at least have an excuse for pushing this poison. They are desperate. The trio of Pillsbury doughboys now leading the party — Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Cheney — have variously cemented the G.O.P.’s brand as a whites-only men’s club by revoking Colin Powell’s membership and smearing the first Latina Supreme Court nominee as a “reverse racist.” Republicans in Congress have no plausible economic, health care or energy policies to counter Obama’s. The only card left to play is 9/11.

Yet even before Cheney spoke, Congressional Democrats were quaking in fear, purporting with straight faces that the transfer of detainees to “supermax” American prisons constituted a serious security threat. Many of the same senators who signed on to the Iraq war resolution in the fall of 2002 joined the 90-to-6 majority that put a hold on Obama’s Gitmo closure plans.
The déjà vu in the news media was more chilling. Rather than vet the substance of Cheney’s fulmination, talking heads instead hyped the split-screen “dueling speeches” gimmick of the back-to-back Obama-Cheney scheduling. Time magazine’s political Web site Photoshopped Cheney and Obama’s faces atop prize fighters’ bodies.

Most of the punditocracy scored the fight on a curve, setting up a false equivalence between the men’s ideas. Cheney’s pugnacious certitude edged out Obama’s law-professor nuance. “On policy grounds, you’ve got a real legitimate fight here,” David Gregory insisted on “Meet the Press” as he regurgitated the former vice president’s argument (“You can’t compromise on these matters”) and questioned whether the president could “really bring” his brand of pragmatism “to the issue of the war on terror.”

One New York Daily News columnist summed up Cheney’s supposed TKO this way: “The key to Cheney’s powerful performance: facts, facts, facts.” But the facts, as usual, were wrong.

At the McClatchy newspapers’ Washington bureau, the reporters Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel detailed 10 whoppers. With selective quotations, Cheney falsified the views of the director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, on the supposed intelligence value of waterboarding. Equally bogus was Cheney’s boast that his administration had “moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and their sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks.” In truth, the Bush administration had lost Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, not least because it started diverting huge assets to Iraq before accomplishing the mission of vanquishing Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. That decision makes us less safe to this very minute.

You can find a link to the complete Landay-Strobel accounting of Cheney’s errors in the online version of this column. The failure of much of the press to match their effort has a troubling historical antecedent. These are the same two journalists who, reporting for what was then Knight Ridder, uncovered much of the deceit in the Bush-Cheney case for the Iraq war in the crucial weeks before Congress gave the invasion the green light.

On Sept. 6, 2002, Landay and Strobel reported that there was no known new intelligence indicating that “the Iraqis have made significant advances in their nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs.” It was two days later that The Times ran its now notorious front-page account of Saddam Hussein’s “quest for thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes.” In the months that followed, as the Bush White House kept beating the drum for Saddam’s imminent mushroom clouds to little challenge from most news organizations, Landay and Strobel reported on the “lack of hard evidence” of Iraqi weapons and the infighting among intelligence agencies. Their scoops were largely ignored by the big papers and networks as America hurtled toward fiasco.

Another reporter who was ahead of the pack in unmasking Bush-Cheney propaganda is the author Ron Suskind. In his 2006 book on the American intelligence matrix, “The One Percent Doctrine,” Suskind wrote about a fully operational and potentially catastrophic post-9/11 Qaeda assault on America that actually was aborted in the Bush years: a hydrogen cyanide attack planned for the New York City subways. It was halted 45 days before zero hour — but not because we stopped it. Al-Zawahri had called it off.

When Bush and Cheney learned of the cancellation later on from conventional intelligence, they were baffled as to why. The answer: Al-Zawahri had decided that a rush-hour New York subway attack was not enough of an encore to top 9/11. Al Qaeda’s “special event” strategy, Suskind wrote, requires the creation of “an upward arc of rising and terrible expectation” that is “multiplied by time passing.” The event that fits that bill after 9/11 must involve some kind of nuclear weapon.

“What are the lessons of this period?” Suskind asked when we spoke last week. “If you draw the wrong lessons, you end up embracing the wrong answers.” They are certainly not the lessons cited by Cheney. Waterboarding hasn’t and isn’t going to save us from anything. The ticking time-bomb debate rekindled by Cheney’s speech may be entertaining on “24” or cable-news food fights, but is a detour from the actual perils before the country. “What we’re dealing with is a patient foe who thinks in decades while we tend to think more in news cycles,” Suskind said. “We have to try to wrestle this fear-based debate into something resembling a reality-based discussion.”

The reality is that while the Bush administration was bogged down in Iraq and being played by Pervez Musharraf, the likelihood of Qaeda gaining access to nuclear weapons in a Taliban-saturated Pakistan was increasing by the day. We know that in the month before 9/11, bin Laden and al-Zawahri met with the Pakistani nuclear scientist Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. That was the real link between 9/11 and nuclear terror that the Bush administration let metastasize while it squandered American resources on a fictional link between 9/11 and a “nuclear” Saddam.

And where are we now? On the eve of Obama’s inauguration, David Sanger reported in The Times that military and nuclear experts agree that if “a real-life crisis” breaks out in Pakistan “it is unlikely that anyone would be able to assure an American president, with confidence, that he knew where all of Pakistan’s weapons were — or that none were in the hands of Islamic extremists.”

Pakistan is the time bomb. But with a push from Cheney, abetted by too many Democrats and too many compliant journalists, we have been distracted into drawing the wrong lessons, embracing the wrong answers. We are even wasting time worrying that detainees might escape from tomb-sized concrete cells in Colorado.

What we need to be doing instead, as Suskind put it, is to “build the thing we don’t have — human intelligence. We need people who are cooperating with us, who step up and help, and who won’t turn away when they see things happening. Hearts and minds — which we’ve botched — must be corrected and corrected quickly. That’s what wins the battle, not going medieval.” It’s not for nothing, after all, that Powell, Gen. David Petraeus and Robert Gates, the secretary of defense — among other military minds — agree with Obama, not Cheney, about torture and Gitmo.

The harrowing truth remains unchanged from what it was before Cheney emerged from his bunker to set Washington atwitter. The Bush administration did not make us safer either before or after 9/11. Obama is not making us less safe. If there’s another terrorist attack, it will be because the mess the Bush administration ignored in Pakistan and Afghanistan spun beyond anyone’s control well before Americans could throw the bums out.