End of Game Reverie

Sunday morning on Meet the Press a statement of a panelist during the End Game segment struck me personally. Speaking about the split in our nation’s citizenry it was noted that we had become a nation “where politics is our primary focus.” That statement hit home as I realized it had become almost all I think about, write about, follow on television. Gone were the lazy days of jogging after work; parties with neighbors; weekend picnics with the kids; watching Cheers, All in the Family and Seinfeld in the evening on tv and laughing until my sides hurt. I now only watch the news and political programs, and very little of that and then go to bed angry. I only read non-fiction, primarily history and haven’t read a good spy novel in 10 years. No wonder my blood pressure is high.

I ask myself, how did this happen? How did I not see the majority of American citizenry moving from a cohesive society with a multitude of humanitarian values and bent on doing good for the world into a society where only the “bottom line” was important and then, really only for “ME.”. My neighbor recently admitted me that, “The primary thing I base my vote on is how well my 401-K is doing!” Well, that about sums it up for much of our society, doesn’t it? Our citizenry writes it off in saying:

“So what if foreign parents are divested of their children somewhere along the border because it doesn’t affect me personally and it’s likely they deserve it.”
“Too bad about the hurricane in Puerto Rico, one of our protectorates but I like Hawaii better anyway. People there speak American (English)”
“What? Our voting processes have been attacked by the Russians. Well, It doesn’t affect me because I don’t vote anyway.”
“And our President lies on a regular basis to us and cheats on his wife? So, doesn’t everyone? Well, I hear he goes to church now on occasion.”
“Another school shooting? I sure wish those teachers could pack guns so as to stop these crazies before these things happened.”
“Not to mention those damn liberal scientists making up stories so they can get more grant money. God would NEVER let that phony global warming occur and…now where did I put that damn iphone? I need to check my Facebook account.”

In the early 19th Century Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill both wrote on the notion of the Tyranny of the Majority. It refers to a situation in which the majority enforces its will on a disadvantaged minority through the democratic process. We have witnessed this in so many ways recently: The Senate’s refusal to have hearings on Merritt Garland; the ramrodding of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanah through the system; widespread voter suppression in red states; ignoring public demands for gun legislation; etc. It appears that we have rapidly moved toward an oligarchy supported by the majority with a fascist dictatorship close behind and staring us in the face.

Another issue brought up on the Meet the Press segment by the conservative panelist was, “We had to suffer through 8 years of Obama’s trashing the Republicans!” What? Hello! During his term I never once heard him rally his party to hate Republicans, their elected officials, etc. He spoke of our differences but he never resorted to “Pocahontas” or “Dirty Hillary” comments and, remember, for the last 4 years he had a Republican House and Senate that made certain that NOTHING got done. And what’s this about giving Kavanah, Mueller and MBS the good ol’ American judicial standard of being innocent until proven guilty while he is whipping up his followers to chant “Lock Her Up!” directed at Hillary and Pelosi…they haven’t even been charged with a crime, have they?

A year ago the 20 top world political scientists met to discuss what appears to be the decline of democracies world-wide. They pointed to breakdowns in social cohesion (meaning citizens are more fragmented than ever), the rise of tribalism, the erosion of democratic norms such as a commitment to rule of law, and a loss of faith in the electoral and economic systems as clear signs of democratic erosion. Hey, look around you…isn’t this what’s happening?

So how did I let this happen to me? I’ve always voted…sometimes for a Democrat. sometimes for a Republican, sometimes for an independent. I’ve always paid my taxes on time, sent my children to swimming lessons and college, and paid the veterinarian to care for my dog. I’ve always felt I was an average Joe. For my entire life, both recreational and professional my focus was on making the world a bit better. Things that mattered were cleaning up the air with The Clean Air Act (I grew up in the Los Angeles Basin where we regularly were prevented from playing outside due to the unhealthy condition of the smog); protecting our lakes, rivers and ground waters with the Clean Water Act; protecting and preventing the degradation and/or extinction of our native species through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and The Endangered Species Act; protecting our natural resources, parks, monuments and natural heritage sites from destruction through the National Environmental Protection Act, the Antiquities Act.

I was proud that my country was known worldwide for its compassionate focus on the down-trodden; the first to set aside national parks that so many other countries followed; generous donations of foreign aid in the face of natural and unnatural disasters; supporting human rights world over; and knowing that everyone wanted to be like us.

I’ve watched all that disappear in two short years. Environmental protections have been trashed; our world leadership is a joke in many other countries; truth and compassion; and the application of the Golden Rule have been shoved under the carpet. I’ve seen how gerrymandering and voter suppression has become the primary tool of the governing party and now witnessed two recent presidential elections where the loser of the popular vote was inaugurated. What has happened to democracy?

Maybe I should I just say “That’s Life!” or, as my father used to caution me, “Things will turn around and get better, they always do.” Or maybe I should I be pissed and take it out on everyone else. Do I just want to wait until global warming so changes our planet that life as we now know it is an irretrievable memory and then gloat as I say, “I told you so!” Do I want to accept bankruptcy and eventual starvation if I have to use all my resources to treat a grandchild who acquires a serious illness? Do I want my grandchildren to face global chaos? That looks like the path we are taking but the sad truth is I’m becoming relegated to the fact that there’s nothing much I can do about it. It’s very likely my ashes will be mixing with the soil in some Sierra forest when the last coral reef expires or the Arctic becomes ice-free.

Most people I know really never thought much about abstract principles like free speech, the freedom of the press or jurisprudence (unless, of course, it affected them personally). They more or less expected that was just part of American life. But people have lost faith in the system. The social compact has been shattered. We’re left to focus on our racial and cultural resentments, which have paved the yellow brick road for a demagogue like Trump. We have become the Jedi versus the Galactic Empire.

But, whatever…my 401-K is doing great (if, indeed I really ever had one

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Lying: The New American Distinguishing Character

We, as Americans, have learned to relish lying. We advocate it; laud it; and vote in favor of it. We attend rallies where lying is the primary element and wave our banners, flags and posters in support of it. Lying has become the ultimate process to dispute annoying scientific realities; to ignore history; to promote self-worth; and to increase corporate and personal wealth.

As lying has become the most valuable asset of those seeking to advance themselves politically and economically, we joyfully advance the most skillful liars to the highest of positions. Our citizenry is not only supportive, it is unduly proud of those who tell the most outstanding lies.

Given this fact, should we now develop university curricula to teach lying as a science; how best to apply it; when it is most affective; and toward whom it needs to be directed (e.g. Lying 1A and 1B)?

We fortunately have a President who is adept at this practice; Senators and congresspersons who fully support this activity; and now, 2 supreme court judges who have not only been accused of lying, but have been proven that they have done so under oath with impunity.

What has happened to us?

Raptorial Birds-Part 2

While Part One showed a part of the 51 species of raptorial birds native to North America, the number pales to the variety found in tropical climes such as South America and South Africa that have almost twice as many (Brazil and Ecuador 98 each and South Africa 81). And, due to the forested conditions and savannahs, finding and photographing in many of these areas depends more on luck than skill. However, I have been fortunate enough to photograph 31 of these on my excursions. Here they are:

Lappet-faced Vulture (South Africa)

Lapped-faced vulture 1

King Vulture (Costa Rica)

King Vulture 16

Black Vulture (Costa Rica)

Black Vulture 4

White-backed Vulture (South Africa)

White-backed vulture 1

Crested Caracara (Panama)

Crested Caracara 3

Carunculated Caracara (Ecuador)

Carunculated Caracara 7

Yellow-headed Caracara (Panama)

Yellow-headed Caracara 1

Harpy Eagle (Panama-captive)

Harpy Eagle 1

Tawny Eagle (South Africa)

Tawny eagle 1

Bateleur (South Africa)

Bataleur, Kruger NP, South Africa

Ornate Hawk-eagle (Panama)

Ornate Hawk-Eagle 3

Martial Eagle (South Africa)

Martial eagle 2

 

African Fish Eagle (South Africa)

African fish eagle 1

Black Hawk-eagle (Panama)

Black Hawk-eagle 1

Brown Snake-eagle (South Africa)

Brown snake eagle 1

Lizard Buzzard (South Africa)

Lizard Buzzard 1

Secretary Bird (Tanzania)

Secretary Bird

Variable Hawk (Ecuador)

Variable Hawk 3

Roadside Hawk (Brazil)

Roadside Hawk 5

Black-collared Hawk (Brazil)

Black-collared Hawk 8

Savannah Hawk (Brazil)

Savannah Hawk 2

Rock Kestrel (South Africa)

Rock Kestrel 1

White-tailed Hawk (Panama)

White-tailed Hawk 1

Great Black Hawk (Brazil)

Great Black Hawk 8

Plumbous Hawk (Panama)

Plumbous Hawk 4

 

Pale Chanting Goshawk (South Africa)

Pale-chanting Goshawk 1

Gray Hawk (Panama)

Gray Hawk 1

Pearl Kite (Panama)

Pearl Kite 2

Snail Kite (Brazil)

Snail Kite 4

Gray-headed Kite (Panama)

Gray-headed Kite 4

Striped Owl (Panama)

Striped Owl 3

 

Scopes Owl (South Africa)

Scops Owl 1

Mottled Owl (Panama)

Mottled Owl 1

Pearl-spotted Owl (South Africa)

Pearl-spotted owlet 3 copy

Spectacled Owl (Panama)

Spectacled Owl 2

Cape Eagle-owl (South Africa)

Cape Eagle-owl, Cape Town, South Africa

Roe, roe, roe your vote…

As usual, I’m confused. For most of my life I’ve watched the national news; followed the critical issues congress is faced with and strives to solve; and listened to our Presidents explain things in a logical manner. But somewhere along the line I’ve totally missed the disaster facing us by not overturning Roe v. Wade. As this issue appears so important that it pales all other issues I’m asking those of you who find this to be the sole driving issue of the 22nd century to please enlighten me as to how overturning Roe will:

• Promote world peace
• Curtail global warming
• Solve our opioid addiction problem
• Restore our crumbling infrastructure
• Eliminate pollution
• Activate a workable immigration system
• Reduce gun violence
• Create jobs thus eliminating homelessness
• Provide healthcare and education for all

I know there must be a valid and logical answer that has escaped me so, please, those of you who stand on the street corners with your signs and ignore our Constitutional commitment for separation of church and state, help me out here so I, too, can understand the crisis facing us if this is not carried out.

My Life With Raptorial Birds

Generally, ones introduction to raptorial birds is in the negative vein. Chicken Hawk, Buzzard, Butcherbird, Shite-hawk, Carrion Crow, Quail Hawk, etc., all derogatory titles to describe members of this group of avian predators. Farmers wrongly believe they choose to primarily prey on their poultry; sport hunters promote the false premise that they significantly reduce the populations of those small game species (quail, rabbits, etc.) they seek to shoot themselves; and children are taught animals that kill other animals are in some sense, “bad” (of course, exempting we humans).

Red-tailed Hawk (“Chicken Hawk”)

RTHawk38

When I was a child my Dad identified American kestrels (sparrow hawks) as “Butcherbirds,” confusing their predatory activity with the shrike ( a passerine bird that impales its insect and small rodent prey on thorns or barbed wire fences because it has no grasping talons to hold it while it feeds.) The kestrel’s practice of hovering in place while seeking prey would entice him to throw rocks at it. Later, I wondered why he’d want to protect the kestrel’s prey species (grasshopper, mice) since he set traps for mice in the garage and sprayed DDT in our vegetable garden to kill grasshoppers. I doubt he ever thought much about it.

American Kestrel (“Butcherbird”)

Kestrel 10a

Loggerhead Shrike (“Butcherbird”)

Loggerhead Shrike 5

Recently, my neighbor insisted a large oak snag be removed from the field behind our homes because it was occasionally used as a nighttime roost for a half-dozen turkey vultures that she termed ‘harbingers of death.” (The snag eventually fell in a winter storm much to her delight).

Turkey Vultures (“Buzzard”, “Carrion Crow”)

IMG_4299 (3)

My interest in birds, including raptors began early in life and increased exponentially as I studied birdlife through college. I vividly recall seeing my first bald eagle; identifying the various species of raptors in Arizona; and, later, being hired by the US Forest Service to study California condors. That work allowed me to spend a bulk of my time in the field with Fred Sibley, a Fish and Wildlife Service ornithologist who schooled me in observing and identifying many raptorial species. Red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and many others. Later, Sandy Wilbur shared these experiences with me.

California Condor

condor1

Moving on to northern Idaho I became intricately involved in the osprey populations that frequented the rivers and lakes– St. Joe, Coeur d’Alene, Pend Oreille– of that area. Although the area provided ideal habitat for this species–significant fish populations, natural and man-made nesting structures–the populations had declined due to reduced reproductive success. Becoming participant in the studies conducted by Wayne Melquist and Don Johnson of the University of Idaho, we surveyed osprey populations, banded nestlings and assessed DDT levels in the population. As the DDT levels began to decline due to the ban in 1972, reproductive success began to rise and there is currently a healthy viable population in that area, not to speak lightly of the return of nesting bald eagles, once extirpated from the area.

Osprey (“Fish Hawk”)

Osprey38

From Idaho I returned to California and headed up Forest Service programs to recover endangered species. None the least of these were the California condor, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and spotted owl. Here I was lucky enough to spend field time with Butch Olendorff, Dave Harlow, and Brian Walton and other pillars of the raptor community of biologists. And, then as now, my photographic efforts always highlighted raptorial bird species.

Peregrine Falcon (“Duck Hawk”)

Peregrine 10
A few species, such as the osprey, are termed circumpolar because they are found world-wide. Others are found in both North and South America and others spend the winters on one continent while spending the summers on another. In review of my photo portfolio I realized I now had images of 23 of the 33 North American raptor species and 26 found in South America and South Africa that I’ve taken on my photography excursions.

Ornate Hawk Eagle (Central America)

Ornate Hawk-Eagle 4copy

I continue to add to this collection but for now, these are my chosen images, Part One includes the North American Species and Part Two, those from other countries. Enjoy!

 

Part One-North American Raptors

 

Bald Eagle (Washington)

Bald Eagle, Seabeck, WA

Golden Eagle (California)

Golden Eagle, Clovis, CA

Red-tailed Hawk (California)

RTHawk29

Rough-legged Hawk (Oregon)

Rough-legged Hawk 3

Red-shouldered Hawk (California)

Red-shouldered Hawk 16

Swainson’s Hawk (Texas)

Swainson's hawk 4

Harris Hawk (Texas)

Harris Hawk 1

Gray Hawk (Arizona)

Gray Hawk 7

Cooper’s Hawk (California)

Cooper's Hawk 6

Northern Goshawk (Montana)

Goshawk25

Northern Harrier (California)

Harrier3

Swallow-tailed Kite (Florida)

Swallow-tailed Kite 1

White-tailed Kite (California)

Black-shouldered Kite 1

Snail Kite (Florida)

Snail Kite 1

Crested Caracara (Texas)

Northern Caracara 5

Peregrine Falcon (California)

Peregrine 12

Merlin (Oregon)

Merlin 10

American Kestrel (California)

Kestrel 15

Turkey Vulture (California)

TV14

Black Vulture (Baja)

Black Vulture 1

California Condor (California)

California Condor 2

Barn Owl (California)

Barn Owl 2

Great Gray Owl (Montana)

GGOwl 1

Burrowing Owl (Idaho)

Burrowing owl 14

Long-eared Owl (California)

Long-eared Owl 2

Pygmy Owl (California)

Pygmy Owl 10

Great Horned Owl (California)

GtHOwl 2

“ALMOST WINNING” IS REALLY LOSING!

I was away last week and when I returned I noted a lead story in national news service that bragged, “Democrat Danny O’Connor almost won it in his race against Republican Troy Balderson” and then went on to crow about how close he had come and the ensuing future “Blue Wave.” Well, I hate to rain on your parade, Progressives, but celebrating “almost winning” doesn’t get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks!

 
In my younger days I was a pretty fair college track athlete. However, many times did I endure the slaps on the back and comments of my teammates, “Good job, you ALMOST won that one.” So, experience allows me to dampen your elation Progressives, because “almost winning” is simply LOSING! Almost winning didn’t put my name in the record books; didn’t give me a spot on the USA Olympic Team; didn’t put my face on the Wheaties Box or in the Nike ads.

 
I’m a Progressive who wants to see America continue to move forward as a democratic society, not a fascist state; as a leader in science, education and human rights, not as a puppet of the oligarchs; towards what inspired those who wrote our Constitution and who looked to the day when we might be world leaders (we were once…remember?), Where do you think we’d be if on June 7, 1944, Dwight Eisenhower had said, “Don’t be discouraged because WE ALMOST WON!” Yet I see the pundits on tv and in the logs yelling “Looking good because we ALMOST won that one.” The truth is, if you “almost won” you’d better start trying harder.  Do you hear me, Progressives?

 

High Desert

Back to Oregon…back to Fort Rock where several miles beyond pine forest meets high desert sage. The summer heat draws to birds to the shallow basins where water from the winter rains, caught on steel aprons and directed into underground cisterns, flows into these two sites and provides a source of life-giving water to many bird and mammal species.

Even though it was hot and dry, bird activity was much less this year than before. I logged in about 21 species in 3 days but many were only single sightings. But, only a year away from 80 I prided myself on still being able to camp out again, even though I needed the comfortable cot and foam futon to replace sleeping on the ground on a thin Thermopad. But away from the light pollution of our cities and two moonless nights, the star show was spectacular. How it brought back my many nights almost 60 years ago in the Arizona deserts.

Fort Rock

Fort Rock, Oregon

Ponderosa & Sage Ecotone

DSC03514

Water Basin

DSC03278

Photo BlindDSC03411(1)

Camp

DSC03136(1)

Pinyon Jay

Pinyon Jay 15

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill 16

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler 14

Mourning Dove

MourningDove 14

Western Tanager

Western Tanager 3

Clark’s Nutcracker

Clark's Nutcracker 22

Green-tailed Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee 9

Sage Thrasher

Sage Thrasher 12

Brewer’s Blackbird

Brewer's Blackbird 1

Mountain Chickadee

Mt Chickadee 20

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow 1

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting 4

Cassin’s Finch

Cassin's Finch 13

American Robin

Robin 13

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird 8

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird 25

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker 21

White-headed Woodpecker

White-headed Woodpecker 24