Come Walk With Me

whosewoodsI started this blog in 2010: here’s my very first post from March 3rd.

Five years! In the internet’s split-second, ahistorical frenzy, that must be like half-a-hundred in dog-years. To celebrate, I will be taking a walk in Prospect Park and Green-Wood on Sunday, March 1st. You, my faithful readers, are invited to come along with me.

Traditionally, the 5th wedding anniversary was celebrated with wood. That makes a walk in the woods a natural!

Where: Grand Army Plaza entrance to Prospect Park, in front of the Stranahan statue.
When: 11 a.m.
What: Bring binoculars if you have them. If not, don’t sweat it. There may be some to share.
Wha: RSVP if you like in the comments.

The forecast could be better. Snow is predicted by early evening. We’ll be done before then.
owlpelletsAn owl pellet per year… full of things rich and strange.

Ending The Endless War

Last year was the the hottest year since modern record keeping began in 1880, capping all the other recent record-breakers. And it’s NOT going to get better. If you were born in 1985 or after, you’ve never experienced a year in which the global temperature has been below the 20th-century average.

And then there’s methane. Mother of Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (who isolated Franklin’s “flammable gas”)! Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. For the length of human civilization, most of the CH4 on the planet has been frozen and out of the way, no bother at all to, say, Sumerian seal carvers, Medieval shepherdesses, Arabic astronomers, Incan princesses, Nri-Igbo traders, Australian song-line cartographers, or even lardy Americans bellowing from their couches at corporate sportainments on their big, big screens. Most of the gas has been locked up in the permafrost and at the bottom of the polar oceans in the form known as methane hydrate. But now our warming-by-CO2 planet is unleashing the CH4, adding it to the blanketing layer of atmosphere-trapping heat. And it will be astonishingly bad for humanity.

I call it the methane bomb ~ not with fire, and certainly not with ice… but with a fart?

The Arctic Methane Emergency Group — contemplate that name for a moment — is calling for a re-freezing of the Arctic to prevent this eruption. I think we can safely say that that’s a non-starter now, and if it ever is a starter it will be too late. The feedback mechanisms we have set in motion are no longer a matter of turning things on and off, even if we could. We’re hit 400 ppm of CO2 (not so long ago, 350.org put where they wanted to draw the line in their name). Among other effects, the AMEG gets to the rub of what is often confusing about radical climate disruption when they note that the methane bomb’s effects will be “disruption of jet stream behaviour, with abrupt climate change leading to crop failures, rising food prices and conflict in the Northern Hemisphere.” Because it’s not the planet that’s ending, not for a long time yet, barring a meteor collision. What’s going to end is the world as we know it, the world as the last 10,000 years of humans have known it. Yes, rising waters, fiercer storms, greater flooding, harsher droughts, — and yes, more snow when, as happened off New England this winter, very warm ocean water (unusually warm ocean water, soon to be the norm, not so unusual), pumping more moisture into the atmosphere, meets cold air from the north — but the really terrifying and terrible changes will be the resulting political ones, the human ones. Considering that the world is already a chaos of conflicts, beset by refugees, terrorism, overweening authoritarianisms, and the rapid movement of disease, lighting a massive fire under current conditions must obviously make things infinitely worse. (Remember, we’ve seen weather-related economic migration already within the US itself; they were called “Okies” by the Californians who wanted to keep them out; I called one of them my mother.)

Rebecca Solnit, who is one of the essential writers of our time, has a short essay in the February Harper’s that is mandatory reading. (It is, however, subscriber only, but this is a necessary publication amidst so much corporate shit, so don’t tell me you aren’t subscribing already.) She writes of the war being waged against Earth; she dates it as a kind of continuation of the Second World War (I might argue it’s older, but certainly it became fiendishly modernized in the last half century with plastics, pesticides and nuclear power). A servant of the oil and gas industry, the carbon lobby suicide squad that for all intents and purposes currently owns a significant part of our country, is quoted here on the “endless war” against the Earth and all its Earthlings. But it’s not endless; it’s going to end, sooner or later. That time should be ours to decree. Later will be very much worse for today’s children and their children.

King Carbon is as wrapped up in our economy and lives, our entire civilization, as slavery once was. Capitalism, with its bottomless maw for finite resources, can’t be permanent, which is why it desperately wants to devour other worlds. What this means, though, is that, like slavery, these things can be ended. Thomas Jefferson, for all his blindness, rightly called the Missouri crisis the “fire bell in the night” that “awakened me and filled me with terror” for the firestorm to come. Jefferson heard it late in the game; it had been ringing already for two centuries before the fire came, always louder and louder. We have rather less time now to heed the screaming klaxon.

Ruddy, Ruddy

Oxyura jamaicensisMany ducks sport their breeding plumage over the winter, but the Ruddy Ducks don’t start turning until… about now. This male should have an astonishingly light, electric blue bill and much warmer cinnamon-brown plumage in a month or so.Oxyura jamaicensisA female. She won’t get all peacocky. Ruddy ducks often have their stiff tails raised as here and below.Oxyura jamaicensisA common pose, bill tucked under wing. Note that this one has some of those cinnamon feathers coming in. They don’t breed here, so we miss most of the big show.

Back and Front

b1b2

Raptor Wednesday

Buteo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensisWhat you don’t see here are the Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) that were buzzing this Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). I may have inadvertently flushed the hawk from some prey on the ground on the hill below me, since when it first landed it looked like it was stretching a piece of flesh between talon and beak. And then the Jays, who are ever vigilant in Green-Wood, were on the bird, making it do a little branch dancing. This hawk is still sporting its juvenile plumage; no red tail yet. Also, the cere, the soft skin at the base of bill, isn’t the yellow of a mature bird.

Delta, Detail

d1d2

Common Reed

Phragmites australisIt’s certainly photogenic, if nothing else. You don’t find much life in a patch of Phragmites, although Downy Woodpeckers and, as here, a Black-capped Chickadee in winter extremis, peck and poke among the dry stalks for evidence of invertebrates.Poecile atricapillus

The Diving Goose

Mergus merganserMost of Prospect Lake is frozen and snow covered, so an open patch on the southwestern end is absolutely swarming with Ring-billed gulls and assorted waterfowl, bathing, dabbling, diving close to the shore. There was even a turtle the other day, perhaps popping up to look for spring before retreating back down into the muck.Mergus merganserAmongst the divers, a few Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) have been present. Above is a male, below is a female. “Merganser” means diving goose, which is a misnomer; they are known as Goosanders in Eurasia (at least to English-speakers). Mergus merganserThe limited open water forced them closer to the shore than they might normally be, but I noticed they stuck to the far edge of the water, when they weren’t underneath it. Mergus merganserSometimes mergansers (we have three species: Hooded and Red-breasted are the other two) are known as sawbills for the teeth-like serrations on their bills, best seen on the picture of the female, which help them grip slippery fish prey. I assume the amazing hook at the tip here is also useful for snagging scaly meals.


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