Friday, February 16, 2007

The First 20 Birds of 2007

It has begun! I have started counting birds in 2007. I have a three month head start on last year (not that it will help.) The first ten birds I spotted were rather predictable. On new year's day I saw only two kinds of birds. I spotted crows and rock pigeons. No huge surprise there.

Returning to work the next day a quick visit to the feeders gained me white breasted nuthatches, black capped chickadees, American goldfinches, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, and hairy woodpeckers. While talking to Tom Anderson in his office a pileated woodpecker flew through the woods. That made nine. I didn't spot any birds then until Thursday morning while walking the dog. I purposefully went down an icy alley when I heard birds. There was a huge flock of house sparrows in some mulberry bushes one block east of my house. So, it took me four days to get ten birds.

Rock Pigeon
White Breasted Nuthatch
Black Capped Chickadee
American Goldfinch
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
House Sparrow

For Festivus, my family bought me a pair of binoculars which should be really nice to use. I haven't done any serious birding with them yet but what I have seen so far makes me excited for the year.

Starting on the second ten, I saw a blue jay along Square Lake Trail and a cardinal at Tamarack Nature Center on January 8th. On January 11th I saw a bald eagle at Keller Lake. January 15th I spotted a Pheasant at Lake Elmo regional park and then January 16th a Junco in the corn fields south of Warner along Manning Ave. I've spotted Canada geese several times.

On the 20th Bekah pointed out a flock of Turkeys just south of Warner bringing the total to 15. On the 25th I spotted a brown creeper (finally) and I confirmed that the birds I see almost every day along the highway are in fact red-tailed hawks. I figured they were but no fair counting them on an assumption.

I spied a Mourning Dove at Boot Lake on Feb. 8th. Finally, bird 20 arrived on February 15th as I drove to Marine Elementary for an outreach program. As I passed through the tunnel and under the railroad tracks I saw a bird flit across the road. There was a flash of a white rump and with a second bird I spotted the red breast. I had heard robins hang out along this stretch of road all year because of the springs that keep water open. it was nice to have number 20 be a nice old friend like the robin.

Blue Jay
Northern Cardinal
Canada goose
Brown Creeper
Red-tailed hawk
Mourning Dove
American Robin

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Last night was cold and clear so I finally got outside to do some astrophotography with my telescope. Saturn is a great target this month. The image above is a composite of about 20 images from a quicktime movie captured with a the Phillips SPC900NC web camera I got for my birthday. I stacked and averaged the images to bring out detail. This was my first attempt.

Ideally, once I get the hang of this I'll stack about 200 frames to make final images which should give me greater detail than this. Through the scope with my eyes I could clearly make out the cassini division which isn't visible in the photo. I'm guessing this may be a focusing issue. It is extremely difficult to focus the image and the cold wears my patience thin. Look forward to better images this spring.

I hope you enjoy my first attempt at photographing the ringed planet!


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On Rationality

Last night I caught a little bit of the show Wife Swap ( or maybe it was the other one) Anyhow, there was this christian family that traded places with a pagan family. The pagan family believed in fairies. They prayed to them, spoke to them, worshiped them, made them baked goods, etc.

When the new mom came and read the "house rules" book about who they are and what they do she kept on saying "Oh they're crazy." I don't disagree with that and I'm guessing most of America that was watching was thinking the same thing. "Anyone who believes in that is nuts!"

What strikes me is that reasonable people can look at a pagan religion and see people who believe in talking trees, spirits, and magic and they can instantly see that it is a bunch of hookum. However, these same people see absolutely nothing wrong with believing that 2000 years ago a god impregnated a virgin and the resulting kid (who could walk on water by the way) was killed and then magically came back to life. You want talking to trees? How about the burning bush? Believing is spirits and magic? Heck, christians believe that they can commune with spirits by magically turning bread into the flesh of a guy who died thousands of years ago. They also turn wine into his blood. By magically combing these elements in a ritual, their soul is cleansed of sins.

Yes, yes, this is totally rational and every other religion is crazy.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


A few years back I wrote the following:

1. seeing meaningful vision/values based change in youth as the result of powerful outdoor experiences that help them examine life/ecology and self.

I wrote that in response to the question, "What is your number one motivator at work?"

I need to re-examine everything I do. I've lost sight of this a little over the years as what I do becomes more about work and less about a vocation. How do I create powerful outdoor experiences? I think I'm doing okay with that but what bothers me about my current work is that it isn't as powerful as the adventure education. When I did adventure ed. I would see life change in hours. When everything went right the kids who left were different from those who came. Usually this shift was about self confidence. Studies show that this new self confidence lasts at least a year but for some kids you see that it will last much longer.

I think the effect is more subtle in any kind of environmental education or natural history program. Insted of a profound difference in how they view themselves, which is so personal, they may have a new appreciation for birds or something like that. That's cool and all but because it isn't really a change in self it isn't as intrinsically powerful.

We tend to teach natural history instead of environmental education. I'm proud of that fact but again, it is easier to see the change in an EE class versus a straight up natural history lesson. I think in truth the two can't be teased apart. I prefer coming at a subject from a natural history approach because I can get the group to fall in love with the subject and then they want to save it instead of telling them they are destroying something when they don't even care about it. If someone is falling in love with something that is a profound personal change that will affect their lives.

Bah. I need to examine all three parts of this but my brain isn't up to the task right now.

That and it is hard to affect change in the world when all of your programs get canceled because there isn't any snow.