When Do We Finally Decide to Call in the Experts?

I should be feeling a great deal of security over the past several months as I have come to the realization that our elected officials, particularly those competing for the presidency, apparently have advanced degrees in physical and political sciences, sociology, economics, and now, military strategy. Obviously they must because they are able to rapidly analyze just what is wrong with our country…and the world…and then accurately propose quick, easy and inexpensive fixes to correct all these problems. They can even assure us that some things we think may be problems are no more than fairy tales. But they lament that sadly; the lack of implementation lies in the White House where our president refuses to listen to them and instead continues to ignore their “right way” to do things, purposefully dragging us further into the depths of becoming a third-world country, his ultimate objective. Some of them further inform us that even God is NOT on the side of the current administration and has commanded several of them to rectify this.

Our recent presidential debates clearly tell us just what is REALLY important to our citizenry. There is an abundance of discussion of Hillary’s e-mails to her daughter, Trump’s corporation bankruptcies, Bernie’s religious affiliations, Carson’s embellishment of his childhood violence, plus the evils of Planned Parenthood and birth control, our unmanaged international borders, and a lack of enforcement of the rules set down in Leviticus. The biggest audience applauses come after diatribes regarding gun rights, abortion and same-sex marriage with global warming and Wall Street corruption getting a real “Ho Hum!” While other issues of national and international importance are briefly addressed, the solutions the candidates provide involve “just doing things a lot differently” but don’t provide any definitive detail as to how or what. “Trust us…we know best. We’re going to build a great wall at no cost to us; we will round-up and deport 11 million non-Caucasians quickly and humanely; we will eliminate welfare, Social Security and Obamacare; lower (or even eliminate) taxes; quadruple military spending; calm the Middle East; repeal all environmental regulations; shrink government spending to less than that of a taco wagon in San Diego; make friends with Putin and eliminate Kim Jong-Un; give everyone a free Ivy League college education; greatly increase the GNP and eliminate the National Debt”; and on ad infinitum. And it all will be done at no cost in a matter of weeks, beginning immediately after the next inauguration. Then money will flow and our crops will grow. Wow! How can I not be excited about the future?

Isn’t the American public smart enough to witness a REAL debate? Aren’t we mature enough to hear the REAL facts? Regarding terrorism, why can’t we have the professional military personnel in our armed forces debate how best to deal with ISIS instead of having to listen to those with no military experience at all? Can we honestly examine the true costs of another war, both monetarily and in American lives? How long will we have to occupy these countries? Forever? Which ones? Can we afford it for the long term? (Rome tried it and it resulted in its collapse). And, please, at least realize, those rhetorical “boots on the ground” will be actually worn by our children and grandchildren, not by disposable and replaceable robots.

I fully realize there’s an overwhelming threat to world peace due to terrorism and religious fervor and something definitely needs to be done to alleviate it. My hawkish genes even admit that what might be required involves huge sacrifices in lives and economic stability. But I also understand that our country’s infrastructure is rapidly collapsing; our schools are in serious need of funding; our climate is changing by the minute; the middle class is disappearing (and dying earlier at an increasing rate); domestic poverty is on the increase; and I want to hear debates on solutions by the true experts, not from evangelical preachers or secularists; not from junior Senators from Florida, Texas and Kentucky ; not between Exxon and Greenpeace; not MSNBC and FOX News; not Solar City and the Koch Brothers; not between the NRA and Michael Bloomberg; not between Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman Schultz; and definitely, not involving those adjusting their rhetoric daily in order to garner increased campaign donations. I want to listen to the real honest-to-goodness professionals with the education and experience to effectively analyze these issues of dire importance to the future of this country…and the world, and provide well thought out options for potential solutions. Maybe then I can better decide on how I should vote.

We claim to be the most advanced, educated, and enlightened country on earth but we sure have ceased to function like it.

American Exceptionalism????

Hey Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and all you “Christian” members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans –who voted to turn your backs on Syrian refugees, let me quote YOUR Bible to you:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:35-40

Your piousness seems to only matter when it serves you politically.  SHAME!

Costa Rica

Costa Rica…my third visit and they say the third time’s the charm.  Maybe so, but if you want sun, don’t go to 3 different rain forests.  Of course, that’s where all the neat birds hang out so it’s a push.  My first 2 trips were sunny and few birds, this time it rained a lot but I got good images of at least 35 species in my 10 day trip.  And, with 2 superb workshop leaders, I got a wealth of knowledge of my equipment and how to best use it.

1

Atlantic rainforest

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Catarata del Toro Falls

Tucked back in to jungle, the lodges were adequate…but not luxurious…and NO AIR CONDITIONING (fans do poorly in high humidity!)  Mornings began sunny but rains usually began late morning and into the afternoon.  Humidity was awesome and temperatures ranged into the 80’s.

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Laguna Lagarto Lodge

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Laguna Lagarto Lagoon

But it sure did rain!  Fortunately, the birds were accustomed to it.

5

Black Vulture

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Montezuma oropendola

Bananas and mangos enticed the fruit feeders to the feeding sites.

7

Collared acari

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Keel-billed toucan

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Chestnut-mandibled toucan

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Montezuma oropendola

The tanagers weren’t as numerous as in Panama

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Blue-gray tanager

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Palm tanager

13

Golden-hooded tanager

14

Olive-backed Euphonia

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Yellow-throated Euphonia

But there were recent migrants from North America to add to the colors

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Baltimore oriole

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Summer tanager

All 3 species of honeycreepers were active at the fruit trays

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Red-legged honeycreeper

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Shining honeycreeper

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Green honeycreeper (male)

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Green honeycreeper (female)

And the kiskadees learned to enjoy over-ripe bananas

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Great kiskadee

The ground birds occasionallky came out of the forest

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Great curossow

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Black guan

Flash set-ups for hummingbirds drew in several species

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Green hermit

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Violet saberwing

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Black-bellied hummingbird

Stopping at a ranch we found a lot of action. The rancher had been rehabilitating injured macaws which drew the wild ones in to his properties.

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Scarlet macaw

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Green macaw

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Macaws flying

But my favorite bird of the trip (and the one I most wanted to photograph) was the king vulture.  An area was baited with cow heads from a local butcher shop which drew in many black vultures to the area where a permanent photo blind had been set up.  In time, a few over-cautious king vultures began to appear.  I think I shot over 1,000 images of them.

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King vulture

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King vulture

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King vulture

Besides birds, there were a number of  frogs, lizards and snakes

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Red-eyed tree frog

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Poison dart frog

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Green Basilisk

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Iguana

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Eyelash viper

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Green tree viper

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Caiman

But not many mammals

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Agouti

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Coati

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Pallid long-tongued bat

 All in all, it was a great experience.  Next destination…BRAZIL!

My take on life!

My take on life!

Being that I’m a biologist and accept the philosophy of secularism, I find I often have to explain my differentiation between being “Pro-Life” and “Pro Existence” as I definitely am pro-life, but only in a humanitarian sense.

To Me:

Life is NOT simply the merging of chromosomes and their subsequent advancement into a living organism; all organisms do this.

Life is NOT simply the beating of a heart and the movement of blood through a system.

Life is NOT the simply penance you pay for the chance at an everlasting heavenly existence of comfort.

Life is NOT being confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed with the inability to consciously move a limb; nor to eat, drink, or even think or comprehend your surroundings.

Life is NOT spending a good amount of my time on your knees to ensure an unproven salvation…or a favorable job interview.

Life is NOT never laughing, crying, loving…or being loved.

Life is NOT never having tasted sweet or sour or salt but being kept alive from birth through a feeding tube.

Life is NOT being hungry every day of your life or being exposed to heat and cold without the proper clothing or shelter.

Life is NOT being unwanted by your parents; by your community; by society; by your government.

Life is NOT fearing the infliction or continuousness of pain.

Just to insist a heart keep beating and blood flowing is not pro-life, it’s pro-existence.  It’s a lose/lose on all sides and not in keeping with the evolutionary order of life on this planet.

To Me:

Life IS being kissed, hugged and cuddled by your parents; by your children; by your friends.

Life IS putting on a warm coat and going out in the snow; lying in the sand on a warm beach.

Life IS watching the sun sink into the horizon over the ocean; seeing the moon coming up through the pine trees.

Life IS playing tag with your playmates; running along the hard sand at the ocean’s edge; climbing a tree; doing a cartwheel.

Life IS wearing a new pair of shoes; the smell of clean clothing.

Life IS tasting an apple; a Snickers bar; a piece of fried chicken.

Life IS listening to YoYo Ma’s cello or reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry.

Life IS petting a dog; sitting with a purring cat on your lap.

Life IS laughing hysterically at the antics of your children; of your friends.

Life IS crying at the loss of a loved one; of a pet; of a species.

Life IS listening to the sound of a running stream; the song of a bird yet to be identified; a fleeting glimpse of a deer as it disappears in the forest; the smell of  woodsmoke from the campfire.

Life IS a warm shower; fresh clean sheets.

Life IS a glass of good red wine; a cold beer on a hot day.

Life IS watching your partner caring for flowers in the garden; dressing your children; asleep next to you.

Life IS the satisfaction of doing something good for no other reason than just doing it.

Without such the ability to comprehend such things life is simply existence, the beating of the heart and the movement of blood…nothing more.   All organisms exist.   So when you tell me that existence is sacred and must be preserved at all costs, no matter it’s consequences as it’ll all work out after this life ceases, I must say…BULLSHIT!

 

OREGON ECOTONE

Contrary to what you urban dwellers might be thinking, an “ecotone” is NOT an environmentally sensitive ring tone for your i-phone.  It is, in fact, one of my favorite ecological conditions. An ECOTONE is the margin between two (or occasionally more) ecological communities.  It is the place where these meet that the organisms common to each come together, providing for a greater diversity of species.  Such is the situation in our western states where forest communities meet desert or grasslands.

In the area west of the pioneer community of Fort Rock, Oregon, at the boundary where the Deschutes National Forest adjoins BLM lands, such an ecotone is obvious as the ponderosa pine forest abruptly ends and the treeless sagebrush community begins.  Here, species common to both forest and high desert communities are often found in conjunction with one another.

Fort Rock

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Fort Rock, Oregon

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Ecotone: Where the pine meets the sage

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This is an arid area, having few locations where water is available during the hot summer months.  The Forest Service and the Audubon Society have enhanced the area through the installation of small water sources, the basins kept wet by water stored in underground cisterns that collect and store water during the winter moisture period.

Water basin

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Early this July I set up my portable photo blind near one of these basins and in two days was rewarded with and amazing number of species, primarily birds, using the water source.  I took images of 21 birds and 2 mammals that regularly frequented this site.  These are some of my images:

Clark’s nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker 4

Pinyon jay

Pinyon Jay 3

Northern flicker

Northern Flicker 2

White-headed woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker 2

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker 1

Lewis’s woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker 1

Western tanager

Western Tanager 1

Cassin’s finch

Cassin's Finch 3

Chipping sparrow

Chipping Sparrow 1

Brewer’s Sparrow

Brewer's Sparrow 2

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch 1

Mountain bluebird

Mountain Bluebird 4

Western bluebird

wESTERN bLUEBIRD

Robin

Robin 1

Mourning dove

Mourning Dove 1

Eurasian collared dove

Eurasian Collared Dove 1

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler 2

Mountain chickadee

Mountain Chickadee 4

Sage thrasher

Sage Thrasher 3

Horned lark

Horned Lark 1

California quail

California Quail 1

Yellow pine chipmunk

Yellow Pine Chipmunk 3

Golden-mantled ground squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel 1

The Gull Feather

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Alone –

on a bleak winter beach

endlessly pelted by crystalline sands

 

Alone –

half exposed midst the grains

held fast in its tomb as by invisible hands

 

Alone –

worn, frayed – yet still strong

once one of many, now gone from their sight

 

Alone –

nevermore to be preened

nor feel the air move in the magic of flight

 

Alone –

cast out and replaced

now blown by cold winds to whence it might lie

 

Alone –

I perceive its sad fate

we be one in the same, that feather and I.

 

 

Dean Carrier