Saturday, October 20, 2018

Poetry Sunday: Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

Was there any subject that William Shakespeare never addressed poetically? Well, there probably is, but his appetite for topics was pretty omnivorous. That is certainly true when it came to anything in Nature.

And here he addresses the season of autumn and the seasons of his own life. Who but Shakespeare would think to describe the naked or almost naked boughs of trees in autumn as "bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang" and compare the season to "That time of year thou mayst in me behold"? There's a reason why he was the one and only Shakespeare!

Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold

by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Friday, October 19, 2018

This week in birds - #325

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:



Savannah Sparrow photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of southeast Texas. 

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The devastating red tide that continues to affect Florida's coast is now having an impact on the fall migration of birds. Shorebirds like Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, and Red Knots are turning up sick because of it.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued its outlook for the winterBecause of a likely El Niño, which is the episodic warming of the eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean, NOAA is predicting above average amounts of precipitation along the southern tier of the United States, creeping up the East Coast through the Mid-Atlantic. This could mean heavier snowfalls, depending on the strength of the El Niño system.

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How do scientists know that human activity is affecting the global climate? Here's a short review of some of the information that makes them so certain.

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And here's a bit of irony for you: It seems that Hurricane Florence has finally convinced at least some Republicans in North Carolina that global warming and its effects on the climate and weather events is actually a thing!

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The quaking aspen forest that covers 106 acres of Fishlake National Forest in Richfield, Utah, is made up of a single clone and is the most massive organism on Earth. It has existed for thousands of years and even has a unique name: Pando from the Latin word for "I spread." But now the continuing existence of this unique forest is being threatened by overgrazing by herds of hungry animals and human encroachment.

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Climate change affects many systems in Nature and one of those is the balance between winter ticks and their hosts, the moose. Climate change has been delaying snow's arrival, allowing the ticks to multiply to unheard of numbers. One dead moose calf was found with around 100,000 of the creatures on it. The calf died of anemia caused by the parasites. The ticks may cause deaths directly or may make the animals so unhealthy that they are unable to fight off disease or survive difficult weather conditions.

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And although these ticks may be thriving at the moment, a number of long-term studies have documented dramatic declines in invertebrate populations around the world. Insect populations are in crisis and this has a domino effect on the birds, amphibians, and reptiles that feed upon them.

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Vandalism in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has increased since the current administration has reduced the size of it.

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Tahane, a 16-year-old wolf that was a resident at Seacrest Wolf Preserve in Florida, escaped from his enclosure when the fence was damaged during Hurricane Michael last week. The Preserve has issued an urgent plea for residents in the area to be aware of the animal and to please not shoot it. They are hoping to recover him.

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How do you solve a problem like a giant lagoon of pig feces? This is a major problem in places like North Carolina where large pig farms exist, especially when a hurricane dumps a lot of water and spreads the toxic feces all over the landscape.

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Architects of high rise buildings with a lot of glass are becoming more aware of the problem of bird collisions with their buildings that result in massive numbers of deaths each year. Although advances have been made, almost a billion birds are killed in these collisions in the United States every year.

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The deadly fungus called white nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in the eastern U.S. and Canada. Now the plague appears to be moving farther west and scientists are trying to get ahead of it to prevent further spread. 

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The current administration is moving to restrict the release of information about its decisions on endangered species. The move comes as wildlife advocates and scientists accuse the government of attempting to weaken protections for wildlife, including wolves, grizzly bears and sage grouse, while boosting domestic energy production and mining in crucial animal habitat.
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Strict managing of hunting of rare species of birds can help those species become more common once again. 
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Many species in the satyrine group of butterflies - which includes such well-known species as Monarchs, Emperors, and Admirals - have swollen veins at the base of their wings that serve as a kind of "ear" that is sensitive to low frequency sounds.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

IQ by Joe Ide: A review

I recently read a review of Joe Ide's (pronounced ee-day) just published new entry in this series and was intrigued by it. I wanted to read it, but the reviewer cautioned me that I really needed to start with the first book and read them in the order published. Rats!

Well, the good news is that I don't have to go back to 1984 and read thirty books in order to get to the one I actually wanted to read. No, the first book, IQ, was published just two years ago and the latest one is the third in the series. It seemed doable. And that's how I came to be introduced to Isaiah Quintabe - IQ.

Isaiah is an African-American man from one of Los Angeles' toughest neighborhoods. He lost both of his parents when he was quite young and he was raised by an older brother, Marcus, whom he idolized. 

Marcus was a jack-of-all-trades and a young man of great integrity and a high moral standard and he set about teaching all of that to his younger brother. Isaiah was a prodigy, possessed of a remarkable intelligence and reasoning ability, and Marcus devoted himself to making sure that his brother had a chance to get the best education and a chance to succeed in life.

The future was full of promise for both brothers. Then, when Isaiah was sixteen, they were out walking and Marcus started to cross a street when he was mowed down by a hit and run driver. He died on the pavement in front of Isaiah's shocked eyes.

So, at sixteen, Isaiah had to figure out how to make it on his own. It took some time but he arrived at a strategy which involved quitting school, taking multiple low-paying jobs, and taking in a roommate to help pay the rent.

That roommate is Dobson, who makes his living dealing drugs, but at least he keeps the drugs far separate from his living space and he turns out to be a neat housekeeper and a pretty good cook! Things are looking up.

When money gets tight for Isaiah, he and Dobson turn to a career in burglary which eventually goes all wrong and entails long term consequences and obligations for both their lives.

The part of the novel I've just described takes place in 2005. The action of the novel switches back and forth between 2005 and 2013. By the later date, Isaiah has recognized his calling in life which is to be a sort of latter-day Sherlock Holmes, helping people by solving their mysteries for them. In payment, he receives whatever his client can afford, often payment in kind with services or goods.

But finally he needs a good paying job because he needs some money to meet one of those obligations I mentioned. Dobson introduces him to a rapper who is being threatened and believes his estranged wife is behind it. He wants an investigator to prove it and he's willing to pay big bucks for the work.

Isaiah agrees to take the job which leads him into conflict with some real lowlifes, not to mention a giant and vicious pit bull and a lunatic professional hit man. The case gets more and more complicated the further he gets into it and he wonders if he'll ever be able to solve it. More urgently, will he come out of it alive?

Joe Ide has created an appealing character in Isaiah and has given him an interesting and complicated backstory. Moreover, he's a character who seems to have room for growth and, even more importantly, an ability to grow. I think he may be able spin a lengthy and successful series from those ingredients.

As for the plot of this one, well, it kept my interest, although I felt it drag a bit at times. But not a bad first effort. I think it's worth three-and-a-half stars but, generous soul that I am, I'll give it four.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars    

Monday, October 15, 2018

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - October 2018

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and welcome to my zone 9a garden here in Southeast Texas. Maybe you'll already visited our host blog, May Dreams Gardens, and seen some of the wonderful gardens that are participating this month.

Bloom Day here brought us temperatures in the high 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time since spring. Maybe our long, hot summer is truly over. Or perhaps it will return tomorrow for such is our changeable weather.

But what's blooming, you say? Well, here are some of my October flowers. 


 Duranta erecta, aka golden dewdrop.

 October means chrysanthemums, of course.

 And more chrysanthemums.

Hamelia patens, aka Mexican firebush or hummingbird bush, is at its best in October.

 And so is the coral vine.

'Pinball' gomphrena hasn't paused in its blooming since early summer.

Porterweed, the weird little flowers of which are greatly loved by butterflies and bees.

 Yellow cestrum.

Crossvine blooms profusely in the spring but it sends out a few blossoms in fall just to remind us it's there.

 'Julia Child' rose.

Mexican sunflower, Tithonia 'Torch', is at its best at this time of year. This type does not attain the gigantic size of the older varieties.

 The daisy-like blossoms of wedelia.

 Autumn sage living up to its name.

The pentas are almost finished for the year but still send out a few flowers for the butterflies.

 Pink Knockout rose.


The milkweed blooms on but there have been few Monarchs and no Queens that I have seen visiting and none of their caterpillars found.

 Sweet-smelling butterfly ginger.

The blooms of blue plumbago seem to get bluer as the season advances.

Lantana is seldom without its butterfly accompaniment. Here it is a Long-tailed Skipper.

No blooms on the rue but here's a butterfly in the making - a Black Swallowtail caterpillar.

And speaking of metamorphosis, several weeks ago, my goldfish pond was teeming with tadpoles. Now the backyard teems with small frogs and toads. These little frogs have not moved far from their nursery. They sit on lilypads in the pond.

The new salvia 'Wendy's Wish' has been a real winner for me in the garden this year.

 And the old cannas never fail me.

 'Belinda's Dream' rose.

My purple coneflowers have been a major disappointment this year but some of the plants still send out a few flowers.

 Marigold.
 Jatropha - just beginning a new cycle of bloom.

The limbs of my little Satsuma orange tree are dragging the ground in places as the fruits get heavier and heavier. A few of the fruits are just beginning to show the slightest hint of orange. 

 Angelonia.

And last but hardly least, if it is October, it must be Cape honeysuckle bloom time. My plant is just beginning to show these flame-colored flowers. The migrating hummingbirds are very grateful.

Thank you for visiting. I look forward to visiting your garden to see what's in bloom for you this month.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Poetry Sunday: October by Robert Frost

We've been having very mild and pleasant weather over the past week. It's almost as if fall is actually here.

October is, in fact, right near the top of my favorite months list. It is generally a time of mild days and relatively cool nights. The temperature actually got down to 59 degrees Fahrenheit one night last week. 

Robert Frost celebrated such days in this poem which he titled, simply, "October"; the days seem all too brief and we long for them to linger, and in the early morning the sun is shrouded by a "gentle mist." It will be many weeks yet until our leaves are "burnt with frost." We will enjoy October while we can. Maybe even into November.

October

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This week in birds - #324

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:


A tiny Brown-headed Nuthatch, a permanent resident in our area, visits a feeder in my backyard.

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The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its report this week. It was not expected to be good news, but, in fact, it was even worse than expectedWith global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. The good news is that it is still possible to reverse the trend but the world has just over ten years to take the actions that are needed to do it.

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Global warming is already having catastrophic effects on some species of birds and will affect even more, increasing rates of extinction, if present trends continue.

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And, of course, warmer waters in the ocean are increasing the power of hurricanes, as the people of Florida experienced this week. It seems that we are past the time when we can continue to deny that individual weather events, like hurricanes, are affected by climate change. 

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The California Condor continues slowly inching its way back from the brink of extinction, and the captive breeding program continues to aid in that recovery. Puppets play a very large role in that program.

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Brazil is in turmoil for many reasons these days and that is creating problems for the environment there. Recently, in the state of Rondonia, the government essentially removed protections for 11 preserved areas in the Amazon region, areas covering 2316 square miles.

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Cemeteries can be good places for birding. The areas are protected from development and, especially if there are trees and hedges, they are very attractive to birds.

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The population of cougars in the West is continuing to grow and, as it does, young cougars are dispersing farther east into the Midwest and even beyond.

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The privately run National Aviary of Colombia serves as a refuge in which birds representing 165 different species have a second chance at life after escaping the hands of illegal wildlife traffickers. So far in 2018, Colombian authorities have rescued nearly 4,000 birds — victims of a trafficking industry that has become the third-largest illicit economy in the country.

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Over the past 60 years, the Mariana Crow, or Aga, has completely disappeared from the island of Guam and has rapidly declined on neighboring Rota. Now, a captive-breeding program is producing chicks to return to the islands to try to reintegrate the species into the ecosystem. 

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In Canada, a vast region of the Northwest Territories that local Indigenous people call their “breadbasket” because of the abundance of wildlife has been declared permanently off limits to resource development, eight years after the federal government tried to open it to mining. 

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Gentoo Penguin image by BAS.

A study of Gentoo Penguin colonies on an island in the Antarctic shows a decline of 25% in the number of breeding pairs over the last twenty-one years. The reasons for the decline are not entirely clear and are probably due to a combination of factors.

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The chain of life has many links and everything in Nature is connected, a fact which we ignore at our peril. It turns out that the forest elephants of Africa are an important link in that chain and their extinction would adversely affect many species, including humans.

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How does one write about a vanishing world? How can one adequately chronicle ecological destruction? Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction, has some thoughts.

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Most of the seasonal invasion of boreal species of birds from Canada has not happened yet, but Red-breasted Nuthatches are already irrupting into the Northeast in droves this fall.