Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bird Feeders October 19, 2014




     I threw out some more un-shelled peanuts. Once again, a red-headed woodpecker stopped by. It flitted around the tree and left.

     I've also seen the long red-winged blackbird. He is without his grackle buddies who have all flown for the winter. I don't understand why he is not hanging with the rest of the red-wings along the creek by the wetlands in the neighborhood. At least he seems to be getting enough to eat. When he comes to the backyard, he is a ground feeder. He lands on the far branch of the mock cherry, looks around, and then flies down to the ground. On the ground, he moves around slowly, pecking at whatever leftovers are there. He never drinks from the various water sources in the yard nor does he ever stray more than ten feet from the tree.

     Those crazy titmice are still around. They continue to descend upon the cherry tree in small bunches. Now they are quieter than when the weather is warmer. They spend more time eating than flitting around. [A few weeks ago, it was the opposite.]

     Chickadees, blue jays, goldfinches, a  few red and purple finches, the mourning doves, and lots of house sparrows round out the list of the regulars. I'm waiting for the mixed flocks but so far not that.

    The weather is shifting. It is colder and the wind has kicked up. Canada geese have been flocking up and leaving. The kestrels continue to zoom around in great numbers overhead. Perhaps they are picking small songbirds from the air.

sapphoq n friends

Monday, October 13, 2014

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are





     As the cold and winds settle in, more and more Canada geese depart for warmer climes. The hummers have wisely gotten out of here already. The grackles have all departed and that makes me a bit sad. I've enjoyed them immensely this year. The red winged blackbird, friend to grackles, showed up the other day alone. I felt badly for him. Probably worse than he felt for himself. Birds can and do have bird friends as well as bird enemies. I am not anthropomorphizing here. Bernd Heinrich has observed something akin to friendship among the ravens. 

     Other animals, like people, can also demonstrate something that looks very much like prejudice to my human eyes. My dog has long hated shih tzu dogs, going so far as to attempt to attack one during an obedience class. [I quickly squashed her action]. Conversely, she has been delirious with happiness upon meeting a husky. She shares some common ancestry with the huskies. Something inside her recognizes similar and different I am sure.

     It was probably some kind of evolutionary imperative that caused animals to band together, first into exclusionary tribes and much later into mixed flocks. It is not the individual that is sacrosanct. It is the species that must thrive. Modern humans tend to flock with those who have similar characteristics. Is it one of the phobias that cause this? (Homophobia, xenophobia...). I think it is the comfort that goes with recognition. If we are the insiders, then we cannot be cast out.

     Saturday October 11, 2014 was National Coming Out Day. As a bisexual atheist, I have experienced coming out on a personal and a media level. When a photographer caught a shot of me and a [now ex-] lover smooching in front of City Hall, I was at first a bit leery. That picture did make the paper. Nothing much happened because of it in my personal life. By time I had a soundbite on the evening news, I was "used to" these sorts of momentary spotlights. I was at work when I and my soundbite were flashed on the screen. My co-workers saw it too. None of them commented. Work that evening was super quiet.

     I am troubled when I read a letter posted on the bulletin board of a local (moderate) church exhorting women to "vote the bible." Some survey, according to the letter, has demonstrated that christian women do not vote. A campaign has been announced. Christian women, vote the bible. Vote for your candidates of faith. Here comes another figurative bloodbath.

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     When a corporation can declare itself a person and then go on to legally insert itself into decisions that ought to be left between a woman and her physician-- decisions that are informed by her faith or lack of faith perhaps, along with her personal circumstances and her health status-- there is something wrong. Abortion is a terrible tragedy. Yet, I recognize the necessity. When a fetus is not viable, it is the height of cruelty to inflict an organization's religious stance on the pregnant woman. She has her own spiritual advisers, perhaps. Leave her alone. Politicians, stay out of her vagina.

     When politicians vote according to their sincerely-held religious beliefs, there is also something wrong. The laws that the churched celebrate can also be the laws that deny minorities their own vision of spirituality. The Jewish woman-- whose religious tenets dictate that the life of the fetus is not equally or more important than her own sacred life-- loses out. It is a catholic proposition that we are entirely responsible for what others do with our shared resources and medical technology. I do not understand this sort of communal guilt. But I recognize it as something that adults had tried to instill into me as a teen (and failed).

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     When students are mocked for not having a religion in a public school setting and no teacher or administrator steps in, something is wrong. To say nothing is complicity. To join in is horror. Yet this scenario has happened with all too much frequency. Read Hemant Mehta if you don't believe me. The rights of the majority ought not to stamp out those of minorities.

     Minorities are the other, the stranger, the outsider. We have to fight for our place by the fire. Because my niece and her lover have to fight for basic recognition, I am involved in the movement to change state laws that do not acknowledge that two women can fall in love and raise a family. It is the height of immorality that allows a hospital to deny an adult access to his or her same-gendered partner in a time of crisis. It is a sham that allows another to deny a rape victim the morning after pill. It is horrifying that any work site which accepts public funding should even dare to discriminate against potential hires who have a state of being.

     Corporations are not people. Corporations that accept any sort of public monies ought to remember that the tax dollars of the faithless are part of the financial windfall. At the very least, we ought to rise up and collectively shout, "Hey, you're not the boss of me." Self-determination is something that all civilians ought to be able to have. Because our lives trump your grand corporate feelings.

sapphoq n friends


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Bird Feeders and Woods, October 4, 2014




     I had a surprise visitor twice last week-- a red-headed woodpecker on two separate afternoons-- at the feeders. Quite a beautiful bird. The red head [no, I know it wasn't a pileated. We have them regularly] was startling as was the sleekness of the black upper body, the wing patches, and the white lower body. He or she gave a call both times and ate a bit of corn before disappearing. The other birds around [including the hairy couple] did not appear to respond to the brief presence of the medium sized woodpecker. We used to have more of them here as I remember. Or perhaps they got better at hiding. I'm not sure which.

     I threw more whole unshelled peanuts out with the predictable response of joy from bunches of blue jays in the neighborhood. The one younger that appeared to initially have a "too small misshapen" head originally has filled out to be a beauty. The blue coloring on the head and neck appear to be darker than the other jays still. The head now appears to be right-sized to me.

     Shelled peanuts enticed some tufted titmice to examine the bucket that I put them in. One was especially flapping around with vigor. Other birds and the two younger squirrels [who are now grown with beautiful bushy tails] and one of the chipmunks partook of that feast.

     The usual suspects continue to hang in the yard-- three mourning doves on a fence this morning, one in the tree yesterday, chickadees galore, goldfinches, house sparrows, hairys, downys, two rock doves [to my annoyance but I let them be], but no more grackles. Canada geese fly overhead frequently, splitting before the snow. And kestrels continue in large numbers. A couple of unidentified [as of yet] sparrows also came along. I hope they come back so I can determine what they are.

     On a recent woodswalk, the humidity was so high that some of the embedded stones were sweating. Also, I did see black bear marks on one tree in particular. My guess from the size of the marks is that the bear is big. I did not smell bear however so perhaps that particular bear was just lumbering through. We do have them across the river on a regular basis though, and close enough to smell at times. Bears smell musty to me, like a cheap rundown motel room that hasn't been cleaned up in ages.

     I was relieved to find that the idio well-meaning person who had been leaving birdseed on a fallen tree trunk in the woods has quit. It was the kind of seed that mourning doves would prefer. At any rate, it certainly isn't necessary or wise to leave such a thing out.

     We've had humidity and misty rain and the leaves are about halfway through. Folks here like to "predict" how the winter is going to be. The most accurate way is the height of the beaver lodges but I haven't been near those of late.

          sapphoq and old dog friend