February 29, 2008

Tavasci Marsh

Some pictures from the hike I took this morning to Tavasci Marsh at Tuzigoot National Monument.

Green-winged and Cinnamon Teals

Cinammon Teal

Green-winged Teal


Common Moorhen and some teals

Gadwall and Pied-billed Grebe

And, two photos of what I think is a Swamp Sparrow (which, if that ID is correct, would be a lifer for me). What do you all think? Is it a Swamp Sparrow?

February 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Ok, I've got an excuse this time. The reason for subjecting you all to that last post for over a week was because I've been trying like mad to actually cough up one of my lungs. I'm starting to feel better now, though. Good enough, at least, to post a wordless wednesday picture a day early.

Slickrock Creek Wilderness (July, 1997)
North Carolina/Tennessee Border

February 16, 2008

After Pat's Birthday

I found this today on a friend's blog. I couldn't have said it better myself. Keep these thoughts in mind as we approach November's Presidential election. Please, for the sake of this country and the world, keep this in mind.

After Pat’s Birthday
Posted on Oct 19, 2006
By Kevin Tillman

[Editor’s note: Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, has written a powerful, must-read document.]

It is Pat's birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice... until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can't be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few "bad apples" in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It's interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don't be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that "somehow" was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat's birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,
Kevin Tillman

February 11, 2008


After giving Harvey a bath this afternoon I was out on our front sidewalk trying to coax a very uncooperative velvet ant into a good pose for a picture (those little buggers never sit still!). While I was crouched in the dead grass fighting with the macro feature on our camera I heard a sound like a model rocket wooshing over my head. I looked up in time to see a grey blur zooming toward our bird feeders. In a flurry of tiny feathers, the thirty juncos that had been gorging themselves on sunflower seeds vanished. On a stump in the midst of the abandoned feast sat a very disappointed Cooper's Hawk.

She gazed around the now empty yard checking for stragglers and found none. And with a shrug (I swear I heard a sigh), she leapt into the air to perch on a large cottonwood behind our house and compose herself. I had forgotten there was a camera in my hand.

After several frantic seconds trying to switch it off of the macro setting, I brought the camera to my eye and started shooting. I was just in time to see her take off and begin an elegant soaring flight directly overhead.

As I was taking these pictures I noticed she wasn't alone. Suddenly there were a pair of Cooper's Hawks soaring overhead. At that precise moment I somehow I managed to switch the camera back into macro mode, where it promptly got stuck. Another thirty seconds spent fighting with the lens meant that when I finally did get it focused on the sky again, the second hawk was gone. I had completely missed an opportunity to capture two soaring Cooper's Hawks together. Or so I thought, until I downloaded the pictures a few minutes later.

Just looking at these birds I wouldn't think the juncos stand a chance.

February 10, 2008

More Bluebirds

I went on a bird hike this morning here at the Well sponsored by Northern Arizona Audubon. I wasn't planning to, but Sonja needed to study for two exams she has this week, so I thought it might be less distracting if I wasn't in the house making noise. We didn't see much that we weren't expecting, although we did have a Bald Eagle fly over at one point. Here are a couple more Western Bluebird pictures. They're always cooperative and photogenic.

Even when they're barfing up berries.

We did get some great views of a Sora forgaging around the edge of the water below us. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't do very well taking pictures of Robin-sized birds from 150 yards away. You can sort of tell it's a Sora, at least. I set up the BirdCam along the water's edge this morning with the hopes of getting some video of some of the waterfowl, and particularly the Sora. But for some reason the motion sensor never went off. The only videos I got were of me breaking our tripod as I was getting it unstuck this evening when I went to go fetch it. I'll have to figure out what I did wrong and try again some other time.

February 08, 2008


I finally got around to getting a memory stick for my BirdCam from Wingscapes. Without a stick the cam can only record about five short videos. And that only takes about a half hour. But, with a 2 Gig memory card the BirdCam was able to capture almost 200 videos spanning the entire day today.

I focused it on the suet hanging from our platform feeder to see who would show up. Here's a collection of the best clips from today.

Ten points to anyone who can identify all of the birds in the video. An extra five points for anyone that can ID them to specific forms or subspecies (when applicable). I was really surprised by one of the birds it caught hanging off of the feeder. I totally didn't expect to see one of those doing that. It was very uncharacteristic of the species.

I spent most of the day working out at Tuzigoot National Monument today. That usually means getting a chance to find some birds I don't typically get to see over here on the east end of the Verde Valley. Namely the Verdins.

For some reason the autofocus decided to act all funky on me. So I switched to manual, but trying to find the focus point on a bird that refuses to sit still is a bit of a challenge. Which is why this picture isn't very sharp. Oh well...

February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

I followed my heart and voted for Obama.

Why? Take five short minutes and watch this video to find out:

Thanks to Sue and Chris for pointing out this video to me. Obama's is message of change and hope is one that I hope resonates with every American out there. This nation desperately needs it.

February 04, 2008

Decision Time: VOTE TOMORROW!

If you live in one of the Super Tuesday states, I just have one thing to say to you for tomorrow:


If you're still undecided, you can use the following websites to see where the various candidates stand on issues like health care, immigration, the environment and energy policy. Each of the following sites does a fairly good job of summarizing each candidate's position on an issue, giving you a chance to compare them side by side. Of course, they're all in soundbyte format, so if you're looking for depth you'll have to dig a bit deeper:

Unfortunately, neither of those sites cover another issue that everyone should care about, Nuclear proliferation and missile defense. For that, you'll have to go here:

The Bulletin Online: Candidate Positions on Nuclear Issues

It's too bad the national media is not reporting on the candidate's stands on abolishing Bush's dangerous re-establishment of the Reagan-era missile defense system, not to mention what their plans are for re-committing the U.S. to the dozens of nuclear nonproliferation and test-ban treaties that Bush so blatantly and illegally broke.

I'm actually torn right now with respect to who I will vote for tomorrow. My heart still says Obama, but the deeper I dig on issues like non-proliferation, immigration, energy and education, the more my head tells me I need to vote for Hillary.

One example is the awful "No Child Left Behind" Act. The only candidate who has pledged to abolish this embarassing piece of crap legislation is Hillary. Obama says he'll reform it, which to me isn't good enough. Of course, that's just one issue. And no intelligent, informed person would or should ever base their vote on a single issue.

I still have a lot of research to do tonight, but I don't think I'll make up my mind until I standing in the voting booth tomorrow.

Becoming a Fanboy

I wouldn't really consider myself much of a fanboy. I've never written any fan-fiction and I haven't even gone to any conventions (although now that we're so close to San Diego, I'm hoping to go to Comicon this August). But sometimes an event comes up that I just can't pass up. Last Saturday was one of those events. I learned that there was to be a launch party and book signing for the release of a new book in the "Wild Card" series. Now, I had never read, nor even heard of the Wild Card books until I learned about this signing. And the only reason I payed attention to the signing was because my favorite author was organizing the whole event.

The author in question is George R. R. Martin, creator of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series. He's been called "the American Tolkien", and for good reason. His books are fantastic. Anyway, his presence at this event was enough justification for me to drive the five hours one-way to Albuquerque to meet him (and get all of my "Ice and Fire" books signed). I also got to gorge myself on chile rellenos and sopapaillas at the best damn restaurant on the planet: Los Cuates.

It was well worth the trip. George is one of those rare authors who still seems to care about communicating with his fans. He's set up a blog and a website to keep all of us informed about his various projects and to give us a bit of an insight into who he is as a person. For instance, he's a self-proclaimed bleeding-heart liberal who despises Bush (how can you NOT love this guy?!?) and a huge Giants fan, so he is now giddy with excitement after last night's Superbowl. He even takes the time to personally reply to fan emails (which he has done for me twice now). Although, when I thanked him for that he did mention he is about 3000 emails behind at the moment.

So, I got to meet my favorite author, got all my books signed, and picked up a copy of "INSIDE STRAIGHT", the new book they were launching. I started reading it yesterday and can't seem to put it down. If you like the NBC series "Heroes", you'll love this book, particularly since the writers of Heroes seem to have stolen absolutely every story, plot and character idea directly from the 20-year old Wild Card series. But according to the seven authors present at the launch party, they're not bitter, nor are they planning any copyright infringement suits...yet.

I still don't consider myself a fanboy, but I think my ten-hour, 740 mile marathon drive on Saturday to get some books signed qualifies as the first step down that road.