Podilymbus podiceps

Podilymbus podicepsWhen I first spotted this Pied-bill Grebe in the Valley Water, it was amidst a flotilla of Canada Geese.Podilymbus podicepsA week later it was the sole bird on the water.Podilymbus podicepsYou can see why it’s sticking around.

Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor is a real piece of work: ignorant, power-mad, and conspiratorially deranged. I wrote about how the National Security Advisor position has evolved over the years; it’s now vital, especially for an impulsive ignoramus like Trump. But the man he picked couldn’t be worse. Flynn was so incompetent a general he was fired. Since then he’s taken to publicizing his nasty bigotry and evil-minded stupidity on the right-wing yahoo circuit. As such, he has helped spread the lunatic fringe nonsense that a pizza parlor in Washington, DC is the location of a Hillary Clinton-run child sex slave operation. An unbalanced person (i.e., a Trump voter) who believed this absurdity went to the business (which has been beset by similar lunatics) this past weekend to “rescue” the fictional child sex slaves, actually firing his gun inside the place. Flynn is a dangerous fool who inspires psychopaths. Which is I guess why Trump wants him for the job…

Raptor Wednesday

img_1283I didn’t have to leave the house for these, although of course they’re all too far away. Here’s an American Kestrel perched an avenue away. This is the same antenna that has hosted Red-tailed Hawk, Merlin, and crows (could be American or Fish in these parts); usually it’s festooned with Starlings. Same day, earlier, spotted what was presumably this Kestrel and another at same time. Not so long later, a Peregrine was on patrol near that favored perch atop St. Michael’s.img_1288Also the same day. And closer still, barely, on the back end of the Curious Motel. The long tell-tale tail is barely visible through the railing.img_1290Cooper’s Hawk. When this bird was in the air, the local Rock Doves swirled around it in a purposeful confusion. That’s a tell: whenever I see a flurry of pigeons, I look for a raptor. I’ve spotted Cooper’s the last three mornings out my windows.

In other raptor news: on Saturday, an adult Bald Eagle flew overhead while I was in Green-Wood. This was only the second time I’ve seen a Bald above Brooklyn (as opposed to over the harbor, the Hudson, & Staten Island). Half an hour before that, a Peregrine had passed overhead, fairly low: I thought it might try for the Pied-billed Grebe, but that bird was not leaving the water. A week previously, I saw a Red-shouldered Hawk wheel over the park next door, a first from my windows.


“To date, Trump has picked an Attorney General who doesn’t believe in the Voting Rights Act; a Secretary of Heath and Human Services who doesn’t believe in government-provided health insurance; a Treasury Secretary who wants to “strip back” the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to prevent another bank meltdown; a Secretary of Education who’s against public schools; and, now, a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who doesn’t believe in the Fair Housing Act. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t think the Senate should confirm people who are on record as being against the laws they have a constitutional duty to implement.” – Robert Reich

One Way, or Another

img_1521Northern Mockingbird defending its territory.

Trump’s choice to dismember the Department of Education and feed off its corpse is another of these cultish, right-wing, plutocratic nutbags this country produces far too many of, but of course even most Democrats have been fine with undermining public education. Yet privatization of education, as other public goods, only serves to enrich plutocrats and increase social inequality; it manifestly fails at “ejucating Amurca’s children.” Diane Ravitch, who began her career thinking “school choice” was reasonable — before she realized it was the way white Southerners weaseled out of de-segregation — is now one of our most trenchant critics of the corruptions of privatization.

Ardea herodias

Ardea herodiasGreat Blue Heron.Ardea herodiasThis bird had been hanging out in Green-Wood deep into the autumn. It had got quite used to passersby, in fact several people were concerned about its condition because it was “just standing there.” I last saw it 11/25, when I took these pictures; I haven’t seen it the last two weekends. Perhaps the bird fled after hearing about Trump’s EPA pick, a professional science-denier who, curiously, looks like another dead fish of an ideologue, James G. Watt. He was Reagan’s wrecker at Interior.

Book Gifts

There’s nothing quite like a book. Erasmus had his priorities right: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” Alas, it’s now impossible to send the old boy a gift of a book, but I think you and yours might appreciate the following as long as you don’t use Amazon, a nasty business even before its disgusting boss realized he could work with Trump.

9781250070975Dave Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the UK, explores the disappearance of bumblebees in Britain and his efforts to reintroduce the extirpated Short-haired BB, which by an irony of colonial history survived in New Zealand. Ah, but you’ll be saying to yourself, what about evolution, the 160 plus generations since that introduction to NZ? There’s a lot here on humblebees in general (dumbledore, by the way, is an old Britishism for BBs).
9780393239973_198Richard Mabey spins many a tale about the long relationship between humans and plants. This is an episodic botanical history with a lot of stories within; I was particularly taken with his early chapters on trees.5f4d1356a146d43f98766f2719f182feDid you know that Henry David Thoreau’s extensive natural history notes have been used to document the much earlier blooming times for plants now in Concord. You can explore Thoreau’s plant observations yourself in Geoff Wisner‘s distillation of Thoreau’s voluminous journals. The illustrations by Barry Moser nicely complement the extracts. (Geoff’s Thoreau’s Animals is due in March.)unknownIn the last few years, you’ve probably been reading about the microbiomes all around us, in us and of us, and how they have helped to make us, and all animals, what we are. Ed Yong puts it all between covers. The definition of human has changed in our lifetime. How amazing is that? I for one celebrate it.

Next Sunday: some more books.

And check out the rest of my book notices in these pages of blog. A good book never goes out of style.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also suggest the very relevant again 1984 by George Orwell. Orwell’s most interesting contribution was his take on how language is corrupted and co-opted by authority. From Reagan’s “facts are stupid things” to Trump spokesmodels saying there are no such things as facts, through the lying machine of advertising and corporate bullshit, truth has taken an enormous beating in our time. That has been done for a purpose, and it has very much succeeded for far too many Americans. Note also Steve Tesich’s first use of “post-truth” 25 years ago. It’s up to us to save language and with it ourselves.


leafAlways look to the connections, or, as Deep Throat said, follow the money. Trump’s antics as the ultimate reality TV star front the worst of the worst. More info on the tools of the corporate disinformation system larding his regime.



Ugliness: the sexual predator of a would-be king’s appointment of the financial predators Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin for the top economic jobs in the country bodes more bad news for a developing cabinet/wrecking crew of billionaires, goons, incompetents, and thieves. I expect my Senators, Gillibrand and Schumer, to do everything in their power to prevent stop these trolls, but I have little confidence they will.


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