“My dad had an expression,” Joe Biden is famously fond of saying “ ‘Joey, don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.’ ’’ Today, Biden showed why he is the clear choice to be reelected our President next year. Last night, in a secret train trip to Ukraine, Biden arrived in Kyiv and amid the blaring sounds of an air raid siren, walked its streets with Ukranian President Zelensky. It was quite the diplomatic coup and it happened on President’s Day.
Meanwhile, the former guy is scheduled to visit this week the train wreak in Ohio that he helped to create with all of his deregulations. Causing all of his sycophants to chorus that Biden chose to go to Ukraine before going to Ohio. This is a weak comparison at best, but I guess that this is their best argument. Can you ever imagine Cadet Bone-Spur ever risking what Biden has?
As we near the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, I will leave you with some words from President Biden. Leadership has an innate beauty to behold. Please, let us never ever return to the craven cowardness that preceded it.
Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us. He was just plain wrong. One year later, here we stand together – united with the people of Ukraine.
January is Eagle Day season around here. It used to be just one day once a year, but then everyone and their brother got into the act. Now it is a season. This being the first weekend after New Year’s, it doubles as the season’s kickoff. We headed up to the Riverlands to look for some of the 34,000 eagles that annually descend upon us. I am not sure that I believe that figure, but it is what one eagle tourism booster claimed on TV last night. We went to Riverlands where their tote board claimed 42 birds for the day. We saw about six. Anne was still not sure that the number 42 was derived from counting the same six eagles seven times or not. It being Eagle Day, the Audubon Center at the Riverlands was crowded. Their lot was full, and we had to park on the shoulder of the road. There were lots of activities for kids and spotter scopes were setup all around. Even so, the birds had chosen to roost in trees on the far side of the slough, reducing them to small spots, even using the scopes, some with white accents and others that were all brown.
After the Audubon Center, we tried to checkout Mel Price lock and dam, but access to it was closed because of construction. In fact, all North County remains heavily under the sway of orange cone season. We even had to detour around some of it. It is January and all good road construction workers should be off the road by now. Across the slough, on Ellis Island, we got a little closer to the birds and I got this action shot. Out of frame another eagle had caught a fish. Then two more eagles approached with intensions of stealing that fish. This eagle began calling out and bouncing up and down, trying to shoo the newcomers away. Afterwards, we headed across the river to checkout Alton’s eagle day activities. They had a rescued eagle that was posing for photos and by the time we arrived empty food trucks. I was then able to coax Anne into eating a late lunch at Taco Bell. On the way home, it began to graupel (soft hail).
Yesterday, we went to Forest Park for our walk. It was a gorgeous day, both warm and sunny. In contrast today is both cold and rainy and it is supposed to snow. What a difference a day makes. The park was crowded, especially for a Monday. I guess a lot of other people had seen the forecast too and decided to get outside while the getting was good. We didn’t walk all that much. Didn’t really need to, because I had done some yard work in the morning and Anne had done a bunch of housework. We parked near the boathouse so that we could look for owlets. On the way out we didn’t see any and there weren’t any other birders around to helpfully point them out for us. Anne started counting species sightings, eventually get to seventeen. We made it to the far side of the Dear Lake circle. Like I said, we didn’t walk that far, even if it did take us all afternoon. In a swampy section near Deer Lake is where we saw the sandpiper and the snapping turtle. We also met a woman there, also a birder, who we spoke with. Her bird species count for the day was up to thirty-seven and she was trying to get to forty. Don’t we feel like pikers? Returning to the car, we met two other birders who were also hunting for the owlets. We never did find them, but we did find Charles, the patriarch of the Great Horned owl family. With his sighting that means we have individually seen the entire owl family now. Which is a good thing, because the trees have pretty much leafed out, making owlet sighting much more difficult than it was before.
We had a very windy winding walk in Forest Park. As is her wont, Anne counted bird species. She strives for ten and this time she got thirteen. Most notable among them being a mature Bald eagle and a kestrel. As its archaic name implies, the kestrel was doing a fair amount of wind hovering, while the eagle just soared along on the breeze. It was difficult photographing the willow in the wind. According to wiki the Babylon willow originally hails from China, before being distributed along the Silk road. It is a variety of Weeping willow. I thought that it had an interesting blossom, although handling it did cause my eyes to tear.
Lewis and Clark, Tom and Huck, Anne and I, we have all roamed along its banks. It is the Mighty Miss, the fabled Old Man River, the Mother of Waters. We’ve now lived along its banks for most of our lives. We rarely see it though. Days pass. Then, fifty degrees arrived today and we had to bust out of our own little house on the prairie. Four hours in the sun! Anne has the sunburn to show for it. Dan, unbeknownst to him, in a series of t-shirt posts, shared with us a shirt that read, “Birdwatching Goes Both Ways.” At the time, we were preparing to head to the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Before this blog, I would have never guessed that birdwatching would become an advocation for me. But this blog’s thirst for ever more photos drove me to that. What began as an avocation for me, has became a passion for Anne. “Oh look, a squirrel!”, has long been eclipsed by, “Mark, did you see that bird?”
I was surprised that the slough was almost completely iced over. It’s been cold, but I didn’t think that it had been that cold. The main channel, with its current was still clear, but all of the little ponds were also covered. The ice pushed the birds away from us. Either just sitting on the ice or keeping their diminishing ice-free holes open by swimming, they clustered together by the hundreds. There were swans, pelicans, geese and ducks of many different varieties. There were also gulls, thousands of gulls. It was fun to get out and enjoy the sun and the relative warmth that it brought. Sitting inside day-after-day had gotten old.