Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fowl shots

An Eleutheran jungle fowl is among the photographs at the driftless area flickr site.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Coot story

The next two posts or so will be part of a recap of the Eleuthera trip. What strikes me most from this visit is the amazing rusticity of the island. The inland areas, with their ancient mahogany trees (correct me, phylo police) and inpenetrable scrub, are as spectacular as the endless azure vistas of the shoreline areas. This was an incredibly successful birding trip. With even a minimal time investment, we could have seen a lot more. Note in the video above that the caribbean coot mention is incorrect--they can only still be found in small populations elsewhere in the West Indies.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eleuthera list

Birds seen on a visit to the island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas. This total (38 species) represents a one-week high:

laughing gull
royal tern
great blue heron
great egret
yellow-crowned night heron
american oystercatcher
american coot
common moorhen
least grebe
pied-billed grebe
american wigeon
blue-winged teal
ring-necked duck
white-crowned pigeon
eurasian collared dove
common ground dove
mourning dove
great lizard cuckoo
smooth-billed ani
bahama woodstar
belted kingfisher
northern mockingbird
white-eyed vireo
palm warbler
black-faced grassquit
greater antillean bullfinch
rock dove
lesser yellowlegs
black-necked stilt
magnificent frigatebird
song sparrow
green heron
indigo bunting
yellow-rumped warbler
ruddy turnstone

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ice update

We have been enjoying quite a thaw the past few days. There had been a typical spring gradient of temperatures ranging from the 50s to the 30s in our area. Then west winds came through and made everything mild. The temp right now is 46.2. The ice sheets in front of our house have receded a bit, but they are persisting in the shadows of our north-facing six-flat. I even saw a frigate (OK, it was really an evening cruise boat) plying the waters of Lake Michigan tonight. Ice packs linger in the harbors despite the warmth.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Glass window

The Bahamas are a series of low islands that skirt the shallow seas east and southeast of Florida. The archipelago is made up of huge carbonate deposits. One deposit is the island of Eleuthera, essentially a 110-mile spine of limestone that flanks the Great Bahama Bank. This is one of the few Web sites that covers the natural history of The Bahamas.

The driftless area connection, in addition to the sea level variations of the interglacials, is that we arrive in Eleuthera on Saturday.

O Carnivora

As penance for my Rodentia gaffe, I've written the following haiku:

O Carnivora!
Pinnipeds, canids, felids,
Diverse toothy order.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Raccoon attack

In the latest rodent-human interaction, Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt dislocated her shoulder fighting a raccoon. Jim Rome, humbly described on his Web site as "perhaps the most respected voice in the world of sports broadcasting," shared his admiration for the coach this way:

I don’t think Jim Calhoun is going to throw with a possum in his backyard. Or, ‘Coach K’ is going to get after a beaver!

The full take is here.

CORRECTION: Raccoons are in fact more closely related to weasels, cats, bear-dogs, pandas and seals than squirrels or rats. Raccoons are not rodents. All the more reason to be impressed with beating up a raccoon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hyper links

Thanks to correspondents for two stories, one that discusses the inspiration of birding, one that discusses the fact that most people don't even make it outside enough to see a rock dove.

Also, I have updated the list of links at left with two blogs. Driftless area mostly does not write about professional and college sports, but if it did, it might be a little like Deadspin. The sports blog includes funny features like Media Approval Ratings.

Uptown Update covers the minutiae of our North Side neighborhood. Only here can you read a post about the new Pollo Loco down the street that has like 25 comments.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cold beach

A visit to the lakefront this morning yielded 15 bird species and several photos that are now posted on flickr.

Counting crows

Here is a video from the Danville (Ill.) News-Gazette regarding the annual winter crow invasion there, as previously referenced on this blog. Anyone who's visited Vermilion County in winter months has seen huge flocks of crows. Hat tip: Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wintry micromanagement

Today our lakeshore microclimate was on display. I departed the Southwest Side to mostly cloudy skies. In the distance, Loop skyscrapers were engulfed in a snow shower as seen from I-55 near Kedzie. Flurries fell on the commute home along the lakefront. Winds right now are from the north-northeast and lake-effect snow drawn from Lake Michigan waters is grazing the Illinois shore of the lake. Using Weather Underground's new Wunder Map feature, I see that northwest suburban Arlington Heights, several miles inland, has overcast skies right now.

These little disturbances lead to peculiar circumstances. A couple weeks back, a radio report specifically mentioned that a snow squall was approaching Montrose Point. Sure enough there were a few flurries in the air here that morning but nowhere else in Chicago.

Microclimate, though, is a bankrupt term. Isn't everywhere a microclimate with its unique geographic and meteorologic features?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hello starling

In a reprehensible act of stupidity and ignorance, a pro golfer purposely killed a red-shouldered hawk.

In good news (I think), pollution helps birds sing better.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fickle melt

A serious thaw is under way--it's 55 degrees right now. The ice shelf in the middle of our alley has actually melted after persisting for about a month. Most of the snow, except for the biggest piles and the Lakeside-Clarendon Glacier, has melted. What a thaw this is. There are flash flood watches from here to Iroquois. It was 73 in Macomb, western Illinois, today. Still, it will be subfreezing again tomorrow.

Uptown icefall

The Lakeside-Clarendon Glacier.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Beautiful Ohio

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama campaigned this week in the curiously named Hanging Rock, Ohio. The name suggests the massive limestone overhangs that dominate southeastern Ohio. Sure enough, I looked up Hanging Rock and it is in southeastern Ohio along the Ohio River. It's about 20 miles from Huntington, W. Va.

This is a land of rugged Appalachian foothills that is riven by the Ohio River. This area was missed by the Wisconsinan glaciation and so retains a feel more like that of West Virginia than the rest of Ohio. The Wayne National Forest includes three units here with many recreation opportunities at places like Wildcat Hollow. Elevation changes between hollow floors and hilltops range from 200 to 400 feet. None of the hills tops 1,100 feet in southeastern Ohio. This is a great place to visit during any season.

Ice sheets

Today is the first day of meteorological spring, and the starlings and sparrows in the alley seem to be calling extra exuberantly. There is a bit of melting going on (current temp: 32.5) with a more sharp thaw coming tomorrow.

Some of the ice masses that line our streets and sidewalks have taken on a glacier-like quality. The foot-thick ice crust that rings the vacant building to our east is threatening to subsume the corner of West Lakeside Place and North Clarendon Avenue. It'll be interesting to see if the meltwaters (which should come by July) create any kames, drumlins or other formations.