Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lazy Man's Birding from the Aerie
April 29, 2013

Monday was a gray, overcast, misting, mizzling kind of day punctuated with short spurts of real rain. Not a nice day to be outside at all. The temperature never got much above 50 degrees either. After putting the bird feeders out I retreated to the comfort of the living room and decided to compile a list of all the species I saw or heard throughout the day. Turned out to be 23 of them.

  1. American Goldfinch (Maybe two dozen males and as many females. The bright yellow matches the daffodils.)
  2. Chipping Sparrow (Small, energetic, nearly impossible to see in grass getting close to cutting length. Thank goodness they also spent time in the clear spaces.)
  3. Morning Dove (He was pitching woo. She wasn't catching.)
  4. Brown-headed Cowbird (Three or four in a group hung around all morning.)
  5. Purple Finch (Another abundant group. Males were as Roger Tory Peterson described them: "Dipped in raspberry juice.")
  6. House Finch (Slightly less colorful than the Purple.)
  7. Flicker (Hammering away at a dead snag as it proclaimed its territory.)
  8. Red-winged Blackbird (Up from the neighbors' ponds looking for some free seed.)
  9. Blue Jay (Bullies. Also tried to intimidate by using faux hawk whistles.)
  10. Eastern Towhee (Yes! Yes! I know! I'll drink my tea! Now shut up!)
  11. American Robin (Patrolling the lawn for worms and other food stuffs.)
  12. Dark-eyed Junco (Why are the snow birds still here? Do they know something?)
  13. Red-breasted Nuthatch (In-and-out like a flash! With just a tiny furtive look to the left and right before they grab a seed and GO!)
  14. Black-capped Chickadee (Friendly little chaps--until I went out to bring the feeders in. Then they got confused/angry.)
  15. Tufted Titmouse (My what big eyes you have!)
  16. Wild Turkey (?) (I heard one early in the day that seemed to be about 50 yards from the deck and on my land. It is hunting season, however and it could have been someone calling although that's unlikely.)
  17. White-throated Sparrow (Two males with their distinctive white bib and yellow pince-nez patch scratching for stuff under the feeders.)
  18. White-breasted Nuthatch (Climbing head first down the trees and telephone pole; rotating 45 degrees this way and that as they move. A sudden flutter of the wings as the back is arched and the tail and head go up tell me at least one of the three is a female.)
  19. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Female, darn it.)
  20. Eastern Phoebe (Nesting on the window ledge, it came out to search for bugs but couldn't find any of them flying so it was hitting them on the ground like a miniature hawk.)
  21. Osprey (!) (I think this is the first we've ever seen from the Aerie.)
  22. Downy Woodpecker (Came searching for seeds, bugs, anything it could get.)
  23. Common Grackle (A dapper, sleek looking male with a bright yellow eye and a glossy deep plum-purple head and his elegant Mrs.)
A few of these were firsts for this year. I'm still waiting on the warblers to come through and the local Indigo Bunting to show up. He should be here any day now as the aspen leaves are getting larger than a cottontail's ears. Perfect for him to hide amidst. If the weather stays above freezing, I'll be hanging the hummingbird feeders in a day or two.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Birding at Hills Creek State Park:
April 27, 2013

Another Saturday morning that was just perfect for a bird walk at Hills Creek State Park. Nary a cloud in the sky and barely enough breeze to ripple the lake surface. The temperature started at 32 degrees at 7:30 AM but climbed steadily so it was 55 degrees when we called it a morning at 10 AM. We had a great turnout of both the human (22 people) and avian (37 species) kind.

Here's the day's list as reported to eBird:

Hills Creek SP, Tioga, US-PA
Apr 27, 2013 7:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Comments: Clear, calm morning. Started at 32 degrees but ended at 52 under bright sunshine.
37 species

Canada Goose X
Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Lesser Scaup X
Hooded Merganser X
Ruddy Duck X
Pied-billed Grebe X
Great Blue Heron X
Osprey X
Bald Eagle X
Spotted Sandpiper X
Bonaparte's Gull X
Ring-billed Gull X
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Northern Flicker X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Brown Thrasher X
European Starling X
Palm Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Chipping Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
American Goldfinch X

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13899535

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Birding at Hills Creek State Park: Saturday, April 20, 2013

Went out birding at Hills Creek State Park for the third consecutive Saturday. With the front that moved through last evening, it was assumed it would be a rotten day, especially since the winds were still pretty strong and there didn't appear to be much on the lake. Because of the cool temperatures and strong breeze we stayed pretty much inland, skirting the north end of the lake only in passing.

Last week we had scores of waterfowl on the lake and never really left the shoreline. This week there were many fewer swimmers and even seeing those was difficult because of the chop. The woods and fields, however, produced numerous species and individuals including quite a few warblers--a sure(?) sign that spring may be gaining a footing. The trees are just beginning to bud out so the birds couldn't hide behind leaves.

 At the end of the walk we had tallied at least 33 species and could have had more if we had worked at it by extending our walk to include the beach area. Waterfowl may have been low in number, but the number of species wasn't as greatly reduced as we expected. And the number of swallows zipping through the air over the lake was amazing! What they may have been eating is a mystery as we saw no bugs hatching from the cold water.

 Any way, here's the report I filed with eBird for today's outing which included 12 birders:

 Hills Creek SP, Tioga, US-PA
Apr 20, 2013 7:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling 1.5 mile(s)
Comments: Very breezy morning about 40 degrees. Partially cloudy with a bit of snow flurry. Cold front moved through the evening before.

33 species

Canada Goose X
Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Bufflehead X
Common Merganser X
Common Loon X
Horned Grebe X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Osprey X
Northern Harrier X
Bald Eagle X
Barred Owl X
Belted Kingfisher X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Eastern Phoebe X
American Crow X
Northern Rough-winged Swallow X
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
Golden-crowned Kinglet X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
European Starling X
Palm Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Chipping Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Purple Finch X

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13814903

That Was The Week That Was

And one heck of a week it was.

There was a bombing at the Boston Marathon;

The Mets got snowed out in Minneapolis and again in Denver--twice in mid-April (and these weren't little bitty snow storms, either); gun control legislation was voted down in the Senate;

The President of the US went ballistic at the Senate for its daring to uphold the Constitution and the Second Amendment while in the background the Vice President appeared to be on the verge of tears (or maybe it was just gas);

There was a huge explosion at a fertilizer factory in West, Texas;

A wild man hunt in and about the Boston environs for a couple of Chechyan brothers whose names no one could pronounce (they had difficulty with Chechyan, too) who were reportedly responsible for the bombing at the marathon;

Those same brothers shot a cop at MIT; one brother got killed in the ensuing chase while the other tossed explosives at the pursuers before he disappeared in a suburban neighborhood causing tens of thousands of folks to be told to lock their doors and stay inside;

Then, finally, tonight, Suspect #2 was found hiding in a canvas covered boat in someone's backyard.

And through it all, the mainstream media and a good portion of the opiners on the interwebs got nearly every single detail WRONG as they rushed to report what was going on.

The weather, not wanting to be left out of the mayhem, interrupted things at the Aerie a bit Friday night. After a lovely, but windy day, we were treated to a period of havoc starting around 5 PM. A thin but long squall line moved through just ahead of a cold front. Warnings of heavy winds, tornado watches, thunderstorm warnings, and torrential rains were constantly being broadcast over the emergency TV band along with the annoying “Beep…Beep…Beep.” We got only the winds and the rains between 5 and 6 PM. The rest developed to the east of here.

Following the Mets on the computer Friday night, I rejoiced when Ike Davis and Lucas Duda both went deep with solo homers in the sixth inning. Talk about your Miracles!

I would have been ecstatic to listen to them do it again in the 8th, but the power went out at around 9:30 PM and stayed out until 10:30 PM. Why? I don’t know. The storm had long past and any winds were mere memories. Apparently it was a local thing as we were the first to call it in and lights were still shining a short distance down the hill.

To top it off we got two calls from our alarm company asking if everything was all right. The first came at 11:15 PM when the power had returned 45 minutes previously, but they wanted to make sure we knew it was out and ask if we needed any assistance. The second came at 2:30 AM to let us know it had come back on and ask if we needed any assistance. I appreciate their diligence and concern, but I would have liked an uninterrupted night’s sleep too.

Is it any wonder I needed to stop at the liquor store today for more bourbon? [UPDATE: Completely forgot about the mail that tested positive for ricin sent to a Senator and the President by an Elvis impersonator. Yeah. One heck of a week!]

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sometimes You Lead with the Obvious...

...and sometimes you don't.

You see a headline like this and what's your first thoughts?

Shell confirms FBI probe

Follow it with a lead paragraph of:
Shell Appalachia spokesperson Deborah Sawyer released the following statement today, April 19, about a state police and FBI investigation at two natural gas drilling pads in Tioga County:
and you're likely to conclude (especially in light of all the anti-fracking hysteria) that Shell has made a grievous error and all hell is going to rain down upon them and all the dirty rotten frackers!

And you'd be wrong. The statement from Shell Appalachia:
"On April 12, 2013, Shell personnel contacted the Pennsylvania State Police following the discovery of charred debris on an inactive Shell natural gas well pad site in Jackson Township, PA in Tioga County. Shell personnel also informed State Police of a second, possibly similar finding, on a different pad site in Rutland Township, PA in Tioga County that was found on March 21, 2013. This finding was not previously suspect and therefore not reported to law enforcement."
Yep. The remains of two fires set on the pads of drilling rigs were found. Who set them and why is the reason for the investigation. I don't think the well workers are careless enough to set fires on the drill rig pad for any reason (cold, lunch, coffee). They are aware of the dangers of open flames near a gas drilling site--or I hope they would be. Could it have been some idiot(s) protesting the fracking going on and hoping that a small fire could cause a larger conflagration? If the latter is the case, they failed--this time.
"These incidents did not result in any injuries or damage to any facility.

"The PA State Police and the FBI are now investigating these incidents. Given the active investigation, Shell is unable to comment further about these incidents. Shell is fully cooperating with law enforcement officials."
It might be difficult to determine who is responsible as the trail has grown cold, especially for the first fire. This is the entire article as it appears on The Wellsboro Gazette's web page on April 19 as "Breaking News". Hopefully they have more details in their weekly published paper.

A slightly different report from the Williamsport Sun Gazette:

Police: Explosive remains found at inactive gas well

Police say they're investigating reports remains of small explosive devices were found at two natural gas drilling sites in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Now that makes it a whole 'nother kettle of fish!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In which I answer an "Anonymous" comment.

This morning I found this comment to a post I made a week ago about U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D) not knowing that a magazine could be reloaded and thinking that once they were used that they were no longer “available”  for use.

Normally I don’t allow anonymous comments, but this one needs to be addressed. Put aside that I did not express anything but amazement that the person (Rep. Diana DeGette (D)) who is the lead sponsor of a bill presented to the House would/could be so ignorant of the item she wishes to ban, nowhere in my post did I make any of the statements alluded to in the reply. Upon reflection, this may be a response to a discussion I've been having with a former colleague on Facebook, or it could simply be a troll. I don't know because they didn't sign their name or leave a link through which I could identify them.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Congress and Idiots...but I repeat myself":

I disagree with you and I think that banning high capcity [sic] magazines would be effective...it won't solve the problem but it will help. Yes, magazines can be reloaded, but how much time does that take? Also doesn't every security/police/military expert agree that reaction time to a situation is essential? i.e [sic] if you can slow them down then isn't that a good thing? 

Reloading a magazine in a fire fight does take time. Reloading one at leisure, not so much. Reloading a weapon when you have multiple magazines takes virtually no time at all. Watch some competition shooting by people who know how to use a pistol or rifle and you’d see that it takes less than a second or two to drop an empty magazine and slap a full one in place. The shooter in Newtown carried 10 magazines and switched out partially empty ones several times as he moved from classroom to classroom even when those magazines weren't empty. Three of the ten were still full when he took his own life but many of the other seven still held live rounds.

As to reaction time being essential, yes it is. Call 911 in an emergency and see how long it takes for armed police officers to arrive. An armed citizen on the spot could be holding the perpetrator at bay while the responders are still answering the phone.

But the bigger question I have is what practical use (I also adress [sic] gun rights below, this is simply a practical question) do you have for a high capacity magazine? I get that people want to hunt, but if you need high capacity then you're a bad hunter. You want to protect your home? Then learn to shoot without a high capacity mag. In the relatively recent Empire States Building shooting all the bystanders where [sic] shot by highly trained police officers. 

“What practical use do you have for a high capacity magazine?” If a home invasion is made by two or more thugs, wouldn’t it be better to have as much if not more firepower than they do? High capacity magazines (also known as “standard magazines” since most modern pistols come equipped with magazines that would make Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer cringe) are not so much for hunting. Many states already limit the number of rounds you may have in a shotgun or the type of rifle you may carry when hunting in their game laws. My bolt action .270 is more powerful than most AR-15s. I've been fortunate enough to take several deer with it in recent years. It took me just one shot for each, but I still carried over a dozen rounds of ammunition with me into the woods. It's magazine (built-in, non-detachable) holds five shells. I carry 8 more rounds in a belt pouch. Why? Because one never knows what will happen in the woods even a few hundred yards from the house.

The .223 round used by the Newtown shooter in his Bushmaster are excellent for small game like groundhog, fox or coyote. The 5.56 used by the military and NATO are less powerful still, but they (the military) can often select fire bursts at a time--although that's considered a wast of ammo. Civilian rifles can, at best be semi-automatic which requires one trigger pul for each shot.

Also, in your example of the Empire States Building shooting, I would suggest that your “highly trained police officers” weren’t. Be sure of your target and beyond is one of the prime directives of any firearm safety course.

You're telling me that a weekend conceal and carry course [sic] is going to make us safer? To use your argument, crime is going happen regardless, what scares me more than a single deranged gunman is a hoard of semi trained, unpracticed, scared civilians firing off rounds. Unless you spend the same amount of time on a range as our active duty paid armed police and military forces do (at a minimum) then Johnny Q Public is my biggest safety fear. And if you qualified on a rifle in previous armed conflicts with no combat re-cert then it does not make you a highly trained shooter today. 

I didn’t address this in the post, but yes, a weekend concealed carry course would make everyone safer. Those who carry on a regular basis are extremely law abiding. (More so than Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns it seems.
"The important take-away from all those numbers? After 23 years of licensing those who wish to carry handguns, Florida has only had to revoke, at most, 0.277% of those licenses for cause.
As a somewhat random reminder, I would point out that Mayors Against Illegal Guns has had 2.2% of its members arrested, charged, and convicted of criminal activities (assuming 500 mayors – a number that is fiercely debated and probably artificially inflated).

Comparatively speaking, Mayors Against Illegal Guns members are almost eight times more likely to be convicted of crimes than Florida concealed firearm license holders – but that number is based off 23 years of licenses versus four years of MAIG. Assuming the mayors had as much history as the licenses, and assuming the same trend (11 mayors convicted in four years – a sizeable assumption, but it is all the data we have to operate on), you are looking at MAIG members being over 45 times more likely to be convicted of crimes than Florida concealed firearm license holders.")
They (concealed carry permit holders) have to be if they don’t want to lose the right to carry concealed. They also spend more time at the range—when they can get ammunition—than your average police officer or even military personnel. You’d be surprised how little range time is required of those paid professionals. Talk to a police officer sometime. Ask how much time on the range is required of him/her. Even your serious hunter spends more time at the range or in the backyard with his rifle honing his shooting skills than all but the most dedicated paid professional. And if you think a police officer doesn’t get flustered or scared in a shooting situation, how do you explain the situation you brought up about the Empire State Building shooting?

To adress [sic] Rights, they also come with responsibility, I'm willing to bet, and also willing to listen if someone can give me opposing facts (real facts, not fox [sic] news, MSNBC news or any other slant/paid/sponsored research by any side; I only want true unbiased research and facts) that there are more deaths from accidental shootings, suicides and crimes of passion from registered gun users than there are against innocents/crime victims/bystandards [sic]. So if, as a society, we can't stop the real issue or show the responsibility as a society to stop a negative action (again, where are most guns accidents?) then don't we also have the right or even responsibility to regulate that action? 

Yes. Rights do come with responsibilities. Perhaps that is why so many are willing to give them up.

I’ll not do your research for you but the FBI (See Table 1 of their Crime in the U.S. Report.  ) and others have many of the numbers for which you are looking. Although they do not break things down into registered and non-registered gun users, there is a table that shows the type of weapon used in 2011: Table 20. Of note is that while the number of lawfully purchased guns has skyrocketed (millions background checks performed in recent years Total NICS Background Checks Monthly 1998-2013 (It's a PDF file)) the rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter has declined considerably. In 1992 the rate was 9.3 per 100,000 while in 2011 (the last year reported) it was 4.7. That's from Table 1.)

No one is taking away guns rights, the only proposition is to regulate them. Which they are already regulated and unless you think every fam [sic] should own a nuke like N Korean then you would agree. 

Wow! Quite a strawman you’ve erected there! Who said anything about nukes? Also, what part of "infringed" are you having difficulty with?

 I'm sure this will draw some incoherent ire but I am willing to listen and consider true facts. As a hint, anything that can be disproved with a simple google search should not be use [sic] in a civil discussion.
Posted by Anonymous to Compass Points at 4/10/2013 12:40 AM

Allow me to define "incoherent" for you: anyone who disagrees with me. As for your hint, I agree. Show me how any one of the proposed bans on magazines and “assault weapons” or enhanced background checks would have prevented any of the mass shootings we have suffered in the last few years without harming the ability of law abiding citizens to obtain the firearms they want (not what you deem they need) and don’t lead me to any of the biased reporting of the Brady bunch, the UN or a Soros instrument.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Congress and Idiots...but I repeat myself

All too often it appears that our elected representatives are good at only one thing: getting elected. Outside that area they are awfully stupid. For example: U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D) out of Colorado is the lead sponsor in the House on a gun control measure that would ban high capacity magazines--in the future. She thinks such a ban would soon remove all high capacity magazines from the country because, as the Denver Post reports:
“I will tell you these are ammunition, they’re bullets, so the people who have those now they’re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”
That's right, she thinks that when you shoot all the bullets held in the magazine that the magazine is then useless. She doesn't realize that a magazine can be reloaded over and over again. And she's been the lead sponsor of this bill for two sessions of Congress! The country is in the very best of hands.