Monk parakeets in the locusts Chinese pistache

August 10, 2010

Terri Potts Smith showed up bright and early for work — was it in the spring? — and we talked in our first floor Dirksen Senate Office Building office about the grind we faced ahead with the hearing schedule for the Senate Labor Committee and subcommittees.  Suddenly she was transfixed by something out the window.

Having just recently learned that terrorists favored that particular corner for planting bombs under cars, I started a bit.  Terri explained, astonished, that a red bird flew into the tree out the window.

It was a cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), a common bird, but not one common to Utah, where both of us had grown up.

I think of that often these days, and am still constantly startled, to see green birds flit across the streets of Duncanville, Texas.

Monk parakeetsMyiopsitta monachus. Also known as the Quaker parrot.

Monk parakeets in the locusts, Duncanville, Texas, August 10, 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell, use with attribution encouraged

Monk parakeets profiled in the Chinese pistache, Duncanville, Texas, August 10, 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell; more than a dozen birds are hidden deeper in the tree.

Monk parakeets are invasive in Texas — it is thought the wild flocks developed from a few dozen escapees in the past three decades.  They favor nesting on tall electrical poles — the stadium lights of the high school and college football stadia host a lot, as do electrical transmission lines.  At Verizon Wireless we had at least one occasion when one of our cell tower climbers was attacked by one of the birds, apparently a mother just after the chicks had hatched.  Cell towers provide excellent habitat for the birds.

At the best sitings I’ve had, previously I lacked a camera.  Today I happened to have the small Pentax Optio V20.  20 to 30 of the birds roosted along an electrical wire.  They were happy to see me until I pulled out the camera.  (Pure conjecture:  They’re smart.  They’ve seen people with cameras before — and frequently, shortly after that some crew appears with a cherry-picker to destroy their nests.  Camera-shyness is a survival function for the birds.)

Cute little beggars.

Monk parakeets flocking -- collecting nesting materials?  Photo by Ed Darrell

Monk parakeets flocking -- collecting nesting materials?

All I observed was social activity and some preening, except for the one bird flitting around with a stick in its bill.

And the two who were trying to pull tape off of electrical transmission wires.

Monk parakeets assaulting an electrical transmission line.  Photo by Ed Darrell

Monk parakeets working to get a charge out of life, picking at insulation on an electrical wire.


Truth be told, I’ll take the monk parakeets in greater profusion, if we can reduce the populations of starlings, grackles and cowbirds.

Is there any evidence of the parakeets preying on songbirds?

Monk parakeet in the <del>locust</del> Chinese pistache tree - photo by Ed Darrell - IMGP2237

Monk parakeet in the Chinese pistache tree. All photos by Ed Darrell, use with attribution encouraged.

[Update: Oops.  Looked like a locust tree on a quick look.  A longer look, I wasn’t so sure.  Kathryn confirmed that it’s really a Chinese pistache, Pistacia chinensis.]

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Something to toot your horn about: Scouts save Bugling merit badge

August 10, 2010

Boy Scouts of America reviews merit badge offerings from time to time, adding new badges, modifying requirements, retiring badges that are unpopular or outdated.

Recently Bugling was dropped as a separate badge, and made an adjunct of the Music merit badge.  Bugling was a great tradition in Scouts — a music-oriented badge that required only that one be able to memorize and blow recognizable versions of several bugle calls.

Perhaps ironically, Bugling also drew the spotlight as the last merit badge earned by several of those super Scouts who earned every possible merit badge.  For some reason, learning to blow the horn was just the last or toughest thing they could master.

Good news:  Bugling has been reinstated.

Bugling reinstated as separate merit badge

Bugling Have your guys start practicing “Taps,” because Bugling is here to stay.

In early June, we reported that the Bugling merit badge was to be discontinued and its requirements merged into Music merit badge.

That’s no longer the case. Responding to concerns from hundreds of Scouters, the BSA’s Youth Development team has decided to reinstate Bugling as a separate merit badge.

Oddly enough, this means that Bugling will never have officially been part of Music merit badge, because the changes were never reflected in a Boy Scout Requirements book.

Bugling and Music will continue to share a merit badge pamphlet. Requirements and information for both of the badges will be contained within that single booklet.


To the Colors, from USSSP Bugling Merit Badge page

"To the Colors," one of the bugle calls required for the Bugling merit badge. Image from U.S. Scouting Service Project

Another blog, shocked — shocked! — at cold in Argentina in July

August 10, 2010

Unlike the blog discussed in an earlier post at first, this blog seems to understand that it’s winter in South America.  Still, the author can’t understand why record cold in one small spot doesn’t completely negate warming in the rest of the world:  Minnesotans for Global Warming.

One almost expects to find it has sister sites:  Minnesotans Love Cancer, Minnesotans for Child Abuse, and Self-Lobotomies R Us.

Maybe it’s not the concept of climate that confuses these people, but the entire notion of “average global temperature.”  People who spend their entire lives below average, probably expect that’s the way it is in temperatures, too.  (Is that nasty enough for today?  I’m feeling crabby about idiocy.)

Breitbart’s blog: Misanthropes, pathological psychoses

August 10, 2010

Is Andrew Breitbart’s blog the world’s largest collection of misanthropes and pathological sociopaths on the internet?

Is there any fool idea that crowd won’t celebrate?  Is there any fact they won’t ignore?  Is that the ultimate result of people whose ears are burned shut by listening to Limbaugh and O’Reilly?

Just curious, and appalled.

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