Birdwatching Goes Both Ways

Clark Bridge Over the Mississippi

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.

MAGAts

Million MAGAts March – House Fly Variety

OK, Mister President, just pull the lever. There you go. Orange-Orange-Lemon. Oh, you were so close there. You really could have won your whole reelection roulette. Maybe, if you had tried a little harder. Do you have another quarter? It’s like the slots at one of your casinos, everyone’s a winner, except you. How could you the House manage to go bankrupt twice, running a casino? I guess that the odds were against you. This begs the question of how could you lose your reelection? You really are the biggest loser. Yesterday, when your phone call was leaked and we all heard you doing your mafia crime bossing shticks, I had to wonder how many other phone calls have you made like this. I mean even with your rudimentary grasp of reality, you had to realize that only flipping Georgia would not do the whole job for you. Where are the rest of the tapes?

The above photo of fly larvae is courtesy of the zoo. Can you image going to college, getting your degree in zoology and then landing your dream job at the Saint Louis Zoo. Then on your first day on the job, you learn that instead of giraffes, zebras or lions, you will be raising maggots?

I like to drink my coffee as I have always carried my heart, black and bitter. A new scientific study found that people who take their coffee black are more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits though. And people ahead of them in line at Starbucks, who order a quad-shot, non-fat, vanilla soy, extra foam, light whip with caramel drizzle are more likely to be their victims.

Anne watched Elizabeth is Missing on PBS last night and wrote this paragraph. Glenda Jackson plays the role of Maude, who suffers from dementia, and is a handful for her family and friends. Maude’s portrayal by Ms. Jackson was stunning. It was hard for me (Anne) to watch, since there were many similarities between Maude and my mother. Although, I must say that Maude was both more mobile and more advanced in her dementia than my mom. The movie revolves around two mysteries that Maude is trying to figure out with the help of assorted notes and scraps of paper. One is her friend Elizabeth, who goes missing in the present. The other is her older sister, who went missing when Maude was a teen-ager. Since they are mysteries, I won’t reveal any more. When the movie was over, PBS did their usual discussion of how the show was made. An interviewer asked Ms. Jackson, “was it fun getting back on the set after 25 years?” “FUN? Are you kidding me? It is work, just as it always has been!” The look she gave the interviewer was priceless. Now, do I want to read the book?

 

2021

Cabin Fire

We celebrated the arrival of the new year, by sitting on our couch, how 2020. We watch two new, year-end comedy specials, Death to 2020 (Netflix) and Yearly Departed (Amazon). Both shows made light of what an awful year that we have had and they each had their moments. Following them, Anne finished up The Queen’s Gambit, with its final checkmate coinciding nicely with the stroke of midnight. Then like clockwork, the usual gunfire erupted outside. 

An ice storm moved in overnight. In the dark, I thought that I had heard the sound of a tree limb cracking (It could have been the crack of a gunshot.), but looking out the windows this morning, nothing seems to be amiss. I’m certainly not ready to venture out there, to further investigate, even to fetch the paper. Precipitation is supposed to turn to rain this afternoon, followed by snow and then followed by rain again. It is a good day for a fire, even just a virtual one.

This morning, our stimulus checks were deposited. That is the good news that we received from the Federal government. Yesterday, Anne got the bad news by way of an email from the postal service. They unilaterally closed her complaint about the still as yet undelivered package to Dave and Maren. The USPS said that there are many other people who are also waiting for mail to be delivered, waiting quietly and patiently. So, if you too could just sit down and shut up that would really help us. We’ll deliver your package as soon as we are able. Thank you very much. Anne was not at all pleased with this response to her now closed service request and then staring up at the ceiling, imagining packages shuttling back and forth upon it, she plots her next move in her chess match with the Feds.

Sending Out Happy Thoughts

As we bid good bye to 2020—don’t let the door hit you on the way out! We look forward to it leaving. After its departure, we also look forward to happier times ahead in the year to come. As you can see, I’ve been having a bit of fun. Although Photoshop was involved, the main engine of creation was a new phone app called Motion Leap by Light Tricks. In true marketing fashion these two two-word names are really each one word, smashed together, but my spell checker likes it better when they are written out the long way. I downloaded the app for free, which comes with a limited set of features, but you can purchase more, if you so choose. To use it, you start with a photo. The app calls this type of visual effect dispersion. These effects conjure thoughts of losing one’s mind. As in, I have half a mind to give you a piece of my mind, but then I wouldn’t have anything left. But I prefer to skip the whole dementia themed track and take the higher road and think happy thoughts. Why worry? Be happy! I have no idea why Anne’s photo is all bouncy. I imagine that I had inadvertently triggered some in-app feature, but it could just be her naturally buoyant personality. I’ll leave it for you to decide on your own.


Yesterday, we did a variation on our neighborhood walk. As per usual, we crossed Clayton Road, but instead of heading east towards Forest Park, we headed northwest to downtown Clayton here in Saint Louis. Home of the county seat, it looks and functions like a second downtown. It is home to banks, banks and more banks and as such is always a ghost town on a Sunday afternoon, even in non-pandemic times. In the middle of a pandemic, it made for the perfect venue to get out and about and remain socially distant. It was warmer than the day before, but the sky was mostly gray and there was a bit of a breeze, making it feel cooler, as it whistled among the downtown skyscrapers.

As we wandered among the silver towers that adorn Clayton’s downtown, Anne clued me into a controversy going on about us. The CEO of Centene, a health insurance company, after having just completed another one of its sterling colored office towers, has recently announced that his company would hold-off on building a third one, due to the crime problem in Saint Louis. Say, what? We were walking past their newest completed building, Centene Tower C, at the time. In general, crime in Saint Louis is a problem, but not so much in Clayton. I think that this CEO was casting aspersions to cover up his own colossal business decisions. I’m sure that a global pandemic, and its resulting repercussions pale in effect to crime in Saint Louis. The fact that this same pandemic has spawned a work from home revolution, could that be of more import? No, it’s crime, definitely crime in Clayton that is the problem. 

A Walk in the Park

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, George Seurat, 1884

Jugglers on hover boards, couples and tweens, these are a few of things that I have seen. We heard dogs bark and birds sing and children feeling sad. I simply remember to think that my life is a walk in the park and then I don’t feel so bad. So many stories, all on display, on a sunny, if not Sunday, afternoon in the park.

The day was breathless and I had brought the drone along with the intent to fly it, even in Forest Park, where regulations and park rangers (sometimes) prohibit this. These so called Regs are listed on the Forest Park Forever website, a charity dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of the park. Even though it is only a nonprofit, I’m sure that it has the full force of the law behind it, except when it doesn’t. Other prohibited activities include running electric scooters on the bike paths. Yeah, right! No swimming in the park. Yeah, Yeah. And no hanging hammocks from the trees in the park. I have seen all these other rules routinely violated, so why not drone flying? Don’t even get me started on cycling laws.

We spent an inordinate amount of time searching for Charles, the Great Horned owl. By now a venerable bird, he is still kicking and a Facebook friend who still tracks him had recently posted pics. His habit is to find a single tree every year, always an evergreen and roost there routinely day-after-day. We never did find Charles, but we did find two Great Blue Herons, who roosted in its vicinity and had chosen to hang with a known predator, rather than the throng of humans who had invaded the park below. At times the park felt as packed as Seurat’s painting. That was Saturday, today Sunday looks to be even finer, but I’ll schedule this to post, before we go out today. So, stay tuned for more to come.