Lake Pueblo State Park

This just felt like a day when something interesting could show up around Pueblo. As it turned out, I saw several interesting things, but somehow the day wasn’t as satisfying as it should have been.

I was numb with cold in the morning as I scoped the gravel pit for the Surf Scoter that’s been seen there recently. I finally found it way on the other side, but at the cost of a lot of pain in the hand that was holding the scope when I warmed it up in the car later. The scoter dove frequently, and was rather hard to keep track of, but I got several decent views.

As I was warming up and about to leave, an old guy wandered up to my car window. He asked if I’d seen the roadrunner that ran up and down the path. I said no, and I must not have seemed duly impressed, because then he told me about a “really big coyote” that had been seen in the area too. He still hadn’t impressed me, I guess, because next he said there was a bear around “that they’ve been trying to catch.” And then, without stopping to breathe, he said, “and a mountain lion by that metal shed over there.” I told him what I always tell people who say things like this to me—”I’ll keep my eyes open.” I usually do when I’m out birding, and today was no exception. I didn’t see any of the creatures he’s mentioned.

When feeling returned to my hand, I walked my usual loop along the Arkansas River. Almost immediately, I found a Swamp Sparrow (my 306th Colorado bird) and a very tame Curve-billed thrasher.


Blue-winged Teal

I walked around the gravel pit looking for the scoter again. I thought I’d found it rather close to shore, but a closer look proved the duck I was looking at was a Long-tailed Duck. I’ve seen them in Colorado before, but this is the first time I’ve located one myself.

I also spotted a Savannah Sparrow, which my app says is rare for this time of year. On the day, I walked 8 miles and saw 41 species.

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We spent six days in Arkansas relaxing, hiking, birding, and hanging with family. We stayed in a cabin above Lake Dardanelle.

Twice, when I was driving back roads, I stopped and carried a box turtle off the pavement. The first one didn’t seem bothered at all. It calmly looked around while I held it and wandered off when I put it on the ground in the nearby woods. The second one immediately shut itself up in its shell and didn’t come out even after I put it down.

Monday morning was humid and overcast. I birded for a couple hours at Bona Dea Trails in Russellville. The best bird was this very tame Red-shouldered Hawk.

Great Blue Heron

On Tuesday, we hiked at Mount Magazine State Park and saw several Walking Stick insects.

I took several walks around the immediate neighborhood by the cabin during the week.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Eastern Bluebird

Northern Mockingbird

On Wednesday afternoon, I hiked the trail at Woolly Hollow State Park. There were very few birds around, and I had pretty much accepted the fact that I was just there for a pleasant walk through the woods when I spotted a late-in-the-season Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

Eastern Phoebe

On Thursday, I birded at Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge. It was cloudy and not great for photographs. There weren’t a lot of birds, but I did see some good ones.

Great Egrets

White-eyed Vireo

On Friday, we drove to Petit Jean State Park. On the way, we spotted three Scissor-tailed Flycatchers hawking insects in a hay field.

In all, I saw 54 species, including several I hadn’t seen in a while (Northern Bobwhite, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a Golden-crowned Kinglet). I added 11 birds to my 2020 list, bringing my total up to 280 for the year.

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One by One

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Highlights from Recent Reading and Other Stuff

Perfection is the enemy of the perfectly adequate.

by Len Kasper, Chicago Cubs announcer

“You see,” said the Harvester, “this is a question of ethics. Now what is a guest? A thing of a day! A person who disturbs your routine and interferes with important concerns. Why should anyone be grateful for company? Why should time and money be lavished on visitors? They come. You overwork yourself. They go. You are glad of it. You return the visit, because it’s the only way to have back at them.

from The Harvester, by Gene Stratton-Porter (1911)

By the 1770’s, the Teton Sioux had overrun the Arikara, or Ree, on the Missouri River and made it as far west as the Black Hills, where they quickly ousted the Kiowa and the Crows. Over the next hundred years the Sioux continued to expand their territory, eventually forcing the Crows to retreat all the way to the Bighorn River more than two hundred miles to the west, while also carrying on raids to the north and south against the Assiniboine, Shoshone, Pawnee, Gros Ventre, and Omaha. “These lands once belonged to [other tribes],” the Oglala Black Hawk explained, “but we whipped those nations out of them and in this we did what the white men do when they want the land of the Indians.”

from The Last Stand, by Nathaniel Philbrick (2010)

We should ever remember, in a place of trial, that what we want is not a change of circumstances, but victory over self.

from Notes on the Book of Genesis, by C.H. Mackintosh (1879)

If you don’t think too good, don’t think too much.

by Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox player

“We got to have some government,” said Gay.

“Better none than too much. It is a corrupter, a seducer; it panders to the weak and selfish. It feeds us sugar till we like sugar too much, and then it has got us, because we need the sugar more than we need self-respect.”

“That’s a strong view,” said Gay.

“I fear government more than I fear hell, starvation, anarchy or the devil. I fear it because I fear the instinct in all men to want things for nothing. I never heard of a government that stayed small. They all get big and suck the sap out of the people they serve, and finally kill people, and kill themselves.”

The Earthbreakers, by Ernest Haycox (1952)

“It’s the old bone we’re chewing on,” said Burnett. “Stay ignorant and be happy. Get wise and grow sad. Be ignorant and believe just one thing, and fight for it, and die feeling you’ve had a hell of a good life. Be wise, and wonder if anything’s worth fighting for, and end up asking why you were born at all.”

“Truth and beauty, according to the poets, are two names for the same thing, and truth is supposed to set men’s spirits free.”

“But it doesn’t,” said Burnett. “I go tell a man the truth. Then we get in a hell of an argument, whether it’s true or not. If he doesn’t want to believe it, I don’t convince him. If I convince him, it only makes him miserable. Men don’t want to change their superstitions. They’re like blankets, dirty and full of fleas; but they’re warm and the man’s been sleeping in them so long he don’t want any new-fangled blankets.” He grinned at Whitcomb. “What the hell we talking about?”

Whitcomb looked around the room. “Why aren’t you married?”

The Earthbreakers, by Ernest Haycox (1952)

Up From The Egg: The Confessions Of A Nuthatch Avoider

Bird watchers top my honors list.
I aimed to be one, but I missed.
Since I’m both myopic and astigmatic,
My aim turned out to be erratic,
And I, bespectacled and binocular,
Exposed myself to comment jocular.
We don’t need too much birdlore, do we,
To tell a flamingo from a towhee;
Yet I cannot, and never will,
Unless the silly birds stand still.
And there’s no enlightenment in a tour
Of ornithological literature.
Is yon strange creature a common chickadee,
Or a migrant alouette from Picardy?
You rush to consult your Nature guide
And inspect the gallery inside,
But a bird in the open never looks
Like its picture in the birdie books—
Or if it once did, it has changed its plumage,
And plunges you back into ignorant gloomage.
That is why I sit here growing old by inches,
Watching the clock instead of finches,
But I sometimes visualize in my gin
The Audubon that I audubin.

by Ogden Nash (1957)

More and more I realize that to be bored with birds is to be bored with life. I say birds rather than some generic “nature,” because birds are what remain to us. Yes, deer and coyotes show up in the suburbs, you can see grizzlies in Yellowstone Park, and certainly there are bugs galore. But in Central Park, two blocks from my apartment, hundreds of species of birds pass through by the thousands every spring and fall, following ancient migratory routes as old as the Ice Age.

If herds of buffalo or caribou moved seasonally through the park, I’d no doubt go out to see them. But the only remaining wild animals in abundance that carry on in spite of human development are birds.

from The Life of the Skies, by Jonathan Rosen (2008)

Eating health foods won’t make you live longer. It will just make it seem longer.

by Jimmy Durante

We suddenly realized, lying there in our hammocks, that there is no romance at all within one’s own self. Romance must have an audience, or it doesn’t exist. It is like the famous falling tree in the woods, when there’s nobody there to hear it. Suppose you were to kill a tiger barehanded in the jungle. Would that be romantic to you if there was no one to see you do it, and if you knew that in your entire lifetime there would never be anyone to tell it to? I think it would not. And that was the way Ed Robinson felt about himself. He had all the intelligence and sense of drama to make his present circumstances seem romantic to him, and they were, in the sense that he knew how certain people elsewhere were thinking of him and picturing this kind of life. But he himself, living right there with the road scraper and the flabby tortillas and the pidgin English and the macaw that was after all just a pretty chicken, knew that it wasn’t romantic at all.

from Home Country, by Ernie Pyle (1947)

Most of the artists seemed to be genuine people, living normal lives, though there were freaks and pretenders—people who liked to dress up like Indians and stare into fireplaces. Many people who go to Santa Fe stay sane. Some go to pot. Some go what you might call native, and don’t take baths any more, and ride to cocktail parties on spotted ponies, and dress like Spaniards, and collect pink mice, and live in tents as the Indians used to do. There was one man who insulted every stranger at a party. And there was one woman who would go to parties, get bored, tie a string around her skirt, and then go and stand on her head din the corner the rest of the evening.

from Home Country, by Ernie Pyle (1947)

“When we return to Moscow in January, I shall be starting school.”

“You don’t seem very excited by the prospect.”

“I fear it will be dreadfully dull,” she admitted, “and positively overrun with children.”

The Count nodded gravely to acknowledge the indisputable likelihood of children in the schoolhouse; then, as he dipped his own spoon into the scoop of strawberry, he noted that he had enjoyed school very much.

“Everybody tells me that.”

“I loved reading the Odyssey and the Aeneid; and I made some of the finest friends of my life …”

“Yes, yes,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Everybody tells me that too.”

“Well, sometimes everybody tells you something because it is true.”

“Sometimes,” Nine clarified,” everybody tells you something because they are everybody. But why should one listen to everybody? Did everybody write the Odyssey? Did everybody write the Aeneid?” She shook her head then concluded definitively: “The only difference between everybody and nobody is all the shoes.”

from A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

Things I’ve Learned

  • Lunsford Richardson, the creator of Vicks VapoRub, convinced the post office to let him blanket homes with free samples without having to label each package with the individual name and address. He mailed each jar to “Boxholder.” In time “Boxholder” would give way to the more personal “Occupant.” And thus would be born Junk Mail.
  • The only baseball franchise that has never in its entire history had a cumulative record below .500 is the Chicago Cubs.
  • Lemon Pledge furniture polish contains more lemon than Country Time Lemonade.
  • Anson Williams, who played Potsie on Happy Days was born Anson William Heimlich. His uncle, Dr. Henry Heimlich, invented the Heimlich maneuver.
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Fall Leaves

We headed up into the mountains to see the fall colors. We decided on a prettier place, rather than just going where we were likely to see a lot of trees—and where everyone else goes. We headed to Elevenmile Canyon. Many of the aspens in the canyon were already past prime, but the willows along the Platte were beautiful.

On a whim, I decided to turn out of the canyon onto Wagon Tongue Gulch Road. We picked the wrong fork early on and ended up on a very rough stretch of road that dead-ended. I soon got back on the right road, and although it was still pretty rough, the leaves were stunning and we didn’t have any actual problems navigating the road.

The six or so miles until we got to a better road took us the better part of an hour. We saw two other cars and a flock of eight Wild Turkeys.

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