Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bjorn again

Ole Einar Bjorndahlen is an incredible biathlete, but is “Bjorndahlen” simply the verb form of former great Bjorn Daehle?....The United States winning all those medals in Nordic combined is about the equivalent of Team USA winning the soccer World Cup. Amazing….Yes, the Winter Olympics now have too many sports. They are being X-Games-ified. At least we’re spared ski ballet…Lindsey Vonn has won just two career medals to Julia Mancuso’s three, yet has received so much more hype…Riding in a bobsled (or “bobsleigh” as it’s officially called) is scary enough, but careening in a bobsleigh upside down is beyond terrifying…If snow isn’t really a requirement to host a Winter Games, let’s bring them to Chicago. Maybe mountains don’t have to be a requirement either….I never thought I’d say this, but Cris Collinsworth has become a favorite sports announcer. Great voice, blunt, smart. I miss Jim Lampley at these Games, though.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Effective lake

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned lake effect snow squall. There's a thick band of snow blowing in off Lake Michigan right now, moving northeast to southwest. We only get one or two of these a season here on the west side of Lake Michigan (unlike our fortunate counterparts on the other side of the lake). Everything outside is shrouded in white right now, and an inch or two can pile up in a matter of minutes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lake walk

I started today by walking directly to Lake Michigan, near where Lawrence Avenue meets the northern extremity of Montrose Beach. I think it’s safe to say the weather was raw—cold and damp with some fog. The shoreline in this area is a concrete revetment with an iron breakwall. It’s nondescript but offers a sort of emptiness that’s pleasing on a winter day. There were big ice formations along the beach but the water was mostly ice-free. There were actually a fair number of people around—walking their dogs, jogging and biking.

I saw a handful of female common goldeneyes along the breakwall. A group of about a dozen flew over from the west and then north and out of sight. There’s a point where the shoreline bends west, on the latitude of Foster Avenue. There’s a small concrete pier there with a light tower. There I found more common goldeneyes—male and female—and a few lesser scaup. At least I think they were lesser scaup, but it’s always hard to identify them from greater scaup. There were at least two mature males, immature two males and two females. They were plunging under the water and surfacing with morsels of something (mollusks?).

I’ve seen goldeneyes do a few display maneuvers this winter, and indeed one male was doing something like a torpedo race along the surface of the water. It would stick its neck out, chin to the water, and paddle forward before plunging. Usually I see them throw their heads back, bill pointed to the sky. I continued the walk west and circled back south along Marine Drive.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Attack weather

Since I last posted, I paid a visit to the "best location in the nation," the city named by Forbes as having the worst winter weather in the country. As if to confirm Forbes' list, it snowed each of the days we were in Cleveland.

The other reason for this post is an incredible set of photos from right here in the Prairie State. In a "Wild America" sort of montage, a golden eagle attacked a white-tailed deer at Nachusa Grasslands, about 90 miles west of here. Amazing!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tectonic tonic

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The alarm had just gone off, and I was lying awake at 3:59 a.m. when I felt a rumbling that rattled our whole building. It felt unusual so I had the thought that it might be an earthquake. Then I remembered that we were to have a lot of snow overnight and so I figured it was a snowplow going down the street. I was hoping it was an earthquake because I slept right through our last quake in 2008.

Sure enough, I heard on the radio that it was an earthquake, and it was centered near Gilberts, Ill., west of Chicago. It registered only 3.9 on the Richter scale. Most of the seismic activity around here is located about 300 miles south of Chicago, so it was unusual to have an epicenter in Chicagoland. A quick, unscientific check of fault maps doesn't seem to show even a little one near Gilberts (between the Wisconsin Arch and the "Des Plaines" item on the fault map).

The Haiti earthquake had just reminded me of the New Madrid (pronounced MA-drid) seismic zone along the Mississippi River. We have earthquake insurance on our building, for example, and it's because of New Madrid that we do--and justifiably so. A massive temblor struck the area in 1812 and rang church bells as far away as Boston and changed the course of the Mississippi River. The fault, the Reelfoot Rift, was formed on Rodinia, a supercontinent that encompassed the Earth's entire landmass 750 million years ago (note for future fantasy basketball team names: Rodinia Globetrotters).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super day

Highlights from the past two mornings of birding included lots of goldeneyes, mergansers, buffleheads and redheads.

Check out the patternless area for a live blog of Super Bowl XLIV, beginning at about 5 p.m. Central time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Woodchuck holiday

It was an eventful Groundhog Day. The excitement started a few days ago when the Tribune printed a story that drew attention to Groundhog Day opposition--the holiday cruelly interrupts groundhog hibernation. Then this morning came and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter (the guy in the video looks a lot like the guy from the movie "Groundhog Day," played by Bill Murray's brother). In the Poconos, a Phil impostor--and there are a lot of phony G-hog Day celebrations--was to be yanked from its burrow only to be discovered in permanent hibernation.

The New York Times posted an appreciation of the movie "Groundhog Day," which was fun. I forgot how perfect it was that Phil Connors was a local weatherman who hated the holiday--the biggest weather holiday of the year. Phil? Kind of like the groundhog.

Lastly, a tribute to Primus' "Groundhog Day."

Poured me out a bowl-a corn chex.
Closest thing I could find to apple pie.
Lingerin’ taste of toothpaste
Made the milk go down a bit funny.
But you know, them chex they do satisfy.