Galveston Island, Texas

Galveston, Oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowing…Sang Glen Campbell in 1969

On November 6, 1528, the Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on a low sandy island off the coast of Texas. Starving, dehydrated, and desperate, he is the first European to set foot on the soil of the future Lone Star state. What he found was a flat, marshy ground occupied by a native American population that survived on roots and tubers dug from the ground and seasonal catches of fish in the estuaries.

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Senor Cabeza de Vaca would not recognize the site today but if he had the gold he sought, he and his fellow sailors could survive well on McDonald’s burgers and various food stuffs supplied from the Super Wal-Mart and many restaurants now located there, and reside in luxury in the numerous resort hotels lining the beaches.

The city of Galveston is situated on Galveston Island, a barrier island off the Texas Gulf coast near the mainland coast. The domain of Jean Lafitte, the famed pirate and American hero of the War of 1812, it is now a major tourist destination for Texas and the southern states.

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On September 8, 1900, the island was struck by a devastating hurricane that holds the record as the United States’ deadliest natural disaster. The city was devastated, and an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people on the island were killed. For the most part, urban development has taken all but the most low-elevation wetlands, mudflats and tidal estuaries and homes there are built on stilts to protect from the ravages of tropical storms and hurricanes when the storm surge covers the island.

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Commercial sites are now protected by an immense sea wall that runs nearly half the length of the Island.

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The beaches are crowded with sunbathers and surf boarders skim through the normally small Atlantic waves.

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Galveston Island is the first land available for songbirds migrating north across the Gulf of Mexico from their winter haunts in Central and South America. Finding a mound supporting trees on this naturally flat barrier island ( initially created in the 1950’s by the local cattle ranchers to allow their cattle a retreat from the flooding of tropical storms and hurricanes) they land there to drink, feed and rest before moving on.

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An ornithological graduate from Florida State University, Jim Stevenson, has owned the property since 1995. In the spring of 1996, he started keeping track of the birds he’s observed in or from his yard. His yard list of 318 species holds the record in the U.S.

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Bird watchers and photographers from all over the world visit Jim’s property in the spring months to view and photograph these migrating species, many on their way to as far away as Canada.

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Birds I photographed at Stevenson Woods from May 5-9, 2018, included:

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager 3
Summer TanagerSummer Tanager 5

Yellow-billed CuckooYellow-billed Cuckoo 5

Rose-breasted GrosbeakRose-breasted Grosbeak 5

Blackburnian WarblerBlackburnian Warbler 2

Chestnut-sided WarblerChestnut-sided Warbler 1a

Bay-breasted WarblerBay-breasted Warbler 5

Yellow WarblerYellow Warbler

Magnolia WarblerMagnolia Warbler 2

American RedstartAmerican Redstart 3

Red-eyed VireoRed-eyed Vireo 3

Swainson’s ThrushSwainson's Thrush 2

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Brown ThrasherBrown Thrasher 1

Bronzed CowbirdBronzed Cowbird 3

Common NighthawkCommon Nighthawk 3

Northern CardinalCardinal 14

Gray CatbirdGray Catbird 2

And while we were watching for birds we were sometimes entertained by reptiles in the nearby bushes.

AnoleAnole 2

Speckled KingsnakeSpeckled Kingsnake 1

When the heat and humidity drove us from the sauna-like blinds, we headed to the estuaries, beaches and mudflats for a different variety of bird species.

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Birds I found in these areas included:

Black SkimmerBlack Skimmer 3

Black SkimmerDSC09154

Clapper RailClap[per Rail 4

Tri-colored HeronTri-colored Heron 7

Great Blue HeronDSC08270

Snowy EgretSnowyEgret31

Yellow-crowned HeronYellow-crowned Night Heron 2

White IbisDSC02066

Roseate SpoonbillRoseate Spoonbill a

Black-bellied Whistling DucksDSC01536(1)

Black-bellied PloverBlack-bellied Plover 2

Wilson’s PloverWilson Plover 1

SanderlingSanderling4

Least SandpiperLeast Sandpiper 1

Stilt SandpiperStilt Sandpiper 1

DunlinDunlin 1

Lesser YellowlegsLesser Yellowlegs 1

Spotted SandpiperSpotted Sandpiper 5

Semitropic CormorantNeotropic Cormorant 3

Galveston Island!  Yep…a great place for birds but I sure wouldn’t want to live there!

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Thoughts and Prayers

“Thoughts and prayers.” Oh how heartfelt. I would imagine our legislators in the house and senate have programmed a key on their cell phones to immediately text that out when the next school shooting occurs. It certainly reduces the hurt, sorrow, loss for those whose children they’ll never play with again; laugh with again; watch playing sports; or hug on their birthdays. Going beyond “thoughts and prayers” our sociopathic President lamented, “We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack.” Oh my, that almost brings tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, this expression of grief followed his pledge to the NRA earlier this month that “the second amendment will never ever be under siege as long as I am your president.”
Isn’t it about time we quit applying 18th century laws to 21st century weapons? We stopped doing that with automobiles years ago. Oh yes, I forgot…the 2nd Amendment was ordained by God!
Such a sick society, I’m ashamed to be part of it.

ARIZONA…AGAIN!

Portal, Arizona! Where the Hell is Portal, Arizona? Well, it’s on the AZ/NM border about 8 miles from Rodeo, New Mexico and 60 miles north of Mexico. It’s in a part of our country that has no gas stations; no grocery stores; 2 cafes that may, or may not be open; and a lot of land covered with mesquite and creosote bush. If you’re in Portal and need gas it’s 30 miles by gravel road back to I-10. So why would anyone want to go there? It’s for the birds! Birds that live there; birds that migrate there from Mexico and South America; desert birds and mountain birds. This was my second trip there, lodging and dining at some single cottages after loading up on groceries (and some beer) for the week before I left Tucson.
Cool weather had delayed the migration so most of the birds found were residents. But the week provided some excellent opportunities for photography, over 20 species. Here are some of the results:

 

Scott's Oriole 13

Scott’s Oriole

 

Bullock's Oriole 4

Bullock’s Oriole

 

 

 

Hooded Oriole 4

Hooded Oriole

 

Crissal Thrasher 1

Crissal Thrasher

 

Curve-billed Thrasher 18

Curve-billed Thrasher

 

Canyon Towhee 1

Canyon Towhee

 

Roadrunner 17

Greater Roadrunner

 

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Painted Redstart

 

Mexican Jay 6

Mexican Jay

 

Bridled Titmouse

Bridled Titmouse

 

Chipping Sparrow 3

Chipping Sparrow

 

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco (red-backed race)

 

Lucy's Warbler 3

Lucy’s Warbler

 

Pygmy Owl 17

Pygmy Owl

 

Inca Dove 1

Inca Dove

 

 

Red-naped Sapsucker 1

Red-naped Sapsucker

 

Ariz

Arizona Woodpecker

 

Pyruloxia 9

Phyruloxia

 

BlackThSparrow5

Black-throated Sparrow

 

 

Coati 5

Coati

 

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Coues Deer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worser and Worser

In June, 2015, when Donald Trump declared his candidacy I laughed and said, “Well, it can’t get any worse than this!”
A year later, again in June, when Trump was nominated to run for President by the Republican Party I smiled and shook my head, and said, ”Well, it doesn’t get much worse than this.”
In November, 2016, when Trump secured the Presidency I unabashedly  claimed, “It’ll never get worse than this!”
But then as each week brought new issues: Access Hollywood; Charlottesville; Comey; Bannon; Russian election meddling;  “I’m rubber and you’re glue“ dialogue with Kim Jong Un; Cohen and Stormy Daniels; etc., I worried, “Could it really get any worse than this?”

And now each evening I watch the day’s news and go to bed saying, “It absolutely can’t get any worse than this?”
But by the time the morning tweets are posted it always has.

Oh, those wonderful guns!

I have to ask myself, “What is the most appropriate term to apply to GOP ‘gun facts’. Well, it didn’t take me long to settle on “BULL____!” Yet I’m amazed that apparently 38% of our citizenry either believe this drivel, or lightly pass it off as accepted philosophical rhetoric of the party. I’m equally amazed that the media representatives, who know better don’t just say,” BULL____!” when the legislators they’re interviewing come out with some of the most ridiculous defenses of prohibiting regulations on firearms. Here are some of the “facts” as provided by our learned GOP stalwarts with my comments:

Senator Don Young (R-AK): “How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?”
Hmmm…seems to me the French and Poles had guns and they didn’t fare very well against the Nazis.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI): “Remember, it’s not guns we’ve deliberately removed all barriers to owning that kill people. It’s people to whom we continually deny basic care that kill people.”
And, yes, Mr. Speaker…who is it that continually cuts these programs from the federal budget? It’s not the Democrats!

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): On his donations from the NRA: “The influence of these groups comes not from money; the influence comes from the millions of people who support the agenda.”
Really, Marco? Gallup polls indicate; 86% favor universal background checks; 83% want a mandatory waiting period; 70% of Americans want stricter gun laws; 67% want assault weapons banned; etc. So who are you swayed by, the majority or the money?

Wayne LaPierre , President of the NRA: “The constitutional right to bear arms is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”
Micah 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly: “They (guns) are used to defend our property and our families and our faith and our freedom, and they are absolutely essential to living the way God intended for us to live.”
Donnelly must’ve quit reading the Bible after Exodus.

Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH): “The only difference between an AK-15 and any other type of rifle is cosmetic.”
Does he really think everyone is that stupid? AK-15’s can have 30 shot (or more) clips and can be reloaded instantly; being semi-automatic they can shoot 30 rounds and reload in less than 20 seconds; the cartridge and caliber are designed to do the most tissue damage possible. My Sako hunting rifle has a 5 round magazine; it takes 2-4 seconds to chamber a second shot and at least 30 seconds to reload; it uses a cartridge and bullet to do the least tissue damage and penetrate into the vital organs. And, yes, cosmetically they don’t look much alike.

Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX): “I refuse to play the game of ‘assault weapon.’ That’s any weapon. It’s a hammer. It’s the machetes in Rwanda that killed 800,000 people, an article that came out this week, the massive number that are killed with hammers.”
From 2009 to 2013 there were 2,624 persons killed with “blunt instruments” (which included hammers among a lot of other things like baseball bats, tire irons and lead pipes) while there were 44,077 killed with firearms. But Louie was educated in Texas so his math is wanting.

Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD: “We Need Guns to Prevent Tyranny. The Second Amendment offers private citizens some protection should the government become overbearing or controlling.”
A group of people with muskets may have been a good defense against a group of people with muskets. However, considering we have the most powerful military in the world it’s unlikely that even a “well armed” militia would be able to stop any tyrannical acts carried out by the full force of our government. The weapons available to civilians just doesn’t compare to the tech and logistics that our military possesses.

George Washington, Founding Father: “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a move by the Republicans/NRA to remove “well organized militia” from the Second Amendment.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): “On guns, do we surrender? Or do we stand up now? The Second Amendment provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Now, what part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do they not understand?”
Senator Cruz apparently does not accept Washington’s definition of “a well-regulated militia” nor the Webster Dictionary definition of “arms” which is simply, “weapons collectively.” And, he is okay with the infringements on private ownership of automatic weapons, hand-grenades, F-81s and nuclear missiles…right?

Robert A. Heinlein, American science fiction writer: “An armed society is a polite society.”
Thus, Columbine, Newtown, Parkland and all the others were “acts of politeness”…right?

Representative John W. Patman (D-TX) : “The people have a right to keep arms; therefore, if we should have some Executive who attempted to set himself up as dictator or king, the people can organize themselves together and, with the arms and ammunition they have, they can properly protect themselves. “
See previous response to Carson.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “I think video games is a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people.”
And, obviously, a bullet in the chest has no effect…right?

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida (R) “A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools. The cumulative effect of this is you don’t solve the problem by passing the law, and you’re imposing on large numbers of people, burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder for people to protect liberty.”
Seriously, Jeb? Does that pertain to seat belt and helmet laws? How about highway speed restrictions and stop signs? And then there’s the starving heroin dealers. You’re an idiot!

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey (R): “The wide scope of a total ban (on military weapons), therefore, will not further public safety, but only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes.”
Well, Chris, it’s pretty obvious that tennis, cycling or jogging are pretty low in your schedule of “recreational pastimes.” How many calories do you burn shooting an AK-15 as opposed to a single-shot .22?

Mark Levin, show host: “Not a single gun was used at the Oklahoma bombing,”
Absolutely true. And not a single thoroughbred horse has won the Indianapolis 500! So…what’s his point?

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): “Here’s the simple and undeniable fact: The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.”
There can be no comment for this utterance of stupidity.

Fact and Fantasy

There are really only two elements in assessment of issues: fact and fantasy.  Fact is defined as a thing that is known or proven to be true.  As an example, it’s impossible to argue that mathematics are not facts.  Two plus two equals four, there is no other answer, period.  Fantasy is defined as: The faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.  Maybe two plus two could really equal six?

Our American society has regressed into a country where a significant portion of the public advocate the acceptance of fantasy over facts.  This seems to be a result of the self-serving nature of a society that cannot be satisfied and has always been provided with more, often more than they actually need for a satisfactory existence.  Therefore, it behooves those wanting to ensure their careers as elected officials to continue to ensure the public that their fantasies are real and facts are just the devious results of “fake news” promoted by those who live in the dregs of society (and the media).

We have watched children irreversibly sickened by Flint’s drinking water but are told that there is no need for regulations prohibiting pollution, especially if it affects the bottom line.  We suffered the loss of 24 persons in Newtown and 50 in Las Vegas but are told that there is no need for regulation of firearms, even for mentally disturbed people.  We see the growing number of homeless and destitute people roaming or city streets and we are told that the problem is theirs and not society’s.  And, when we are told it’s not an issue that Senate candidate Roy Moore is accused by six women of sexual misconduct, we argue they are likely all liars and that Joseph wed Mary when she was a teenager anyway.

Another example of fantasy, a good number of people support Donald Trump’s recent denial that the Access Hollywood tapes were anything but forgeries, even after hearing his previous apology “I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more-than-a-decade-old video are one of them.”

Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928 -2014) wrote, “The real danger in faith lies in its estrangement from rationality.”  We are already there.

As Usual, I’m Confused

The latest polls indicate that 82% of Republicans support Trump and his actions.  Now I know a number of Republicans…used to know more before they dropped me due to my occasional forays into being a guest columnist in this paper and liberal essays on my web site.  Of the ones I still do associate with we stay far away from politics (and normally any issues related to science.)  But my impressions are these are pretty normal run-of-the-mill American citizens.  They send their kids to school; go on vacations here and abroad; obey our laws; go to ball games; and appear to love their children, grand-children, wives and friends.  But, the polls tell me that 8 out of 10 believe:

  • Lying is a virtue, not something to be condemned.
  • Abiding by the law only applies to the bourgeoisie and unskilled laborers. The rich can ignore it.
  • That it’s perfectly acceptable for males in positions of power to grope females of less stature.
  • That science is a scam, not to be believed especially when adversely affecting economic growth.
  • It’s better to pay fewer taxes than for their children to breathe clean air or drink clean water.
  • A nuclear war will be over quickly and they won’t be adversely affected.
  • That more military arms in the possession of an untrained citizenry is a God-given right.
  • The National Debt is nothing to worry about.
  • Only well-to-do people deserve health care.
  • That in some point in human history trickle-down economics really worked.

Now, as I said, we don’t talk politics so I don’t ask them their opinions on these issues.  I know most of them are church-goers so I’m curious just what values the churches are teaching their parishioners these days.  It sure has me confused.