Upcoming: 57

WATCH assignments are out for the calendar year, and after a run of 2002-2019, I do not have a year’s worth of shows to judge. I am sitting out until the COVID-19 situation calms down, if it ever does. Hard same from two of my other judges, and my fourth has departed the metro for Albany. Fortunately, through the grapevine I’ve been able to recruit four judges for Silver Spring Stage. I remain ambivalent about all this: the last thing we should be doing is sitting in a box with a bunch of strangers projecting. Anyway, among other shows, my team will be seeing A Little Night Music (Sondheim/Wheeler) and Prelude to a Kiss (Lucas).


What Will Art Look Like in the Metaverse?, by Dean Kissick.

In late-19th and early-20th century Paris, Rousseau and his contemporaries (Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, etc.) were busy inventing bohemian modernity, creating new ways of living and of seeing the world. In our century, that visionary role appears to have passed from the artists to the engineers, to Zuckerberg and his ilk. Who else tries to invent new universes? Who dares spin grand utopian fantasies? Artists don’t anymore. It’s Silicon Valley’s Promethean founders who try — and routinely fall short.

My year in hikes and field trips, 2021

5 downI earned my next pin for Virginia’s Trail Quest project, so there’s that.

We did get in a full season of nest box monitoring at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Va.

For another year, the Mason and Bailey Club did not meet, alas. I scouted Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Arlington County, Va.; Turkey Run Park, Fairfax County, Va.; Carderock, C&O Canal National Historic Park, Montgomery County, Md.; the Boundary Bridge area of Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C. Maybe next year we can do Boundary Bridge, and I really want to show off Huntley Meadows.

I followed the phenology of a patch of Aralia spinosa near my house, down by the Ridge Heights Pool; we liberated a Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) from an overgrowth of non-native invasives at Idylwood Park; and all of us chased cicadas.

The year in review, 2021

Some months are a little skimpy this year, for the expected reasons. The first sentence (more or less) of the first post for the last twelve months:

  • 2 January: Staying close to home, I walked over to Reston’s Walker Nature Center, past the high school and the mini-mall with the Domino’s and 7-Eleven.
  • 15 February: Waiting out the ice storm until Monday, I got some time to walk the Glade today, just before the rain came back.
  • 7 March: We have resumed nest box monitoring at Huntley Meadows Park (following precautions and adhering to protocol, of course).
  • 6 April: Sean Wyer unpacks a word that has always puzzled me: naff.
  • 1 May: Box #68 hatched out — Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus).
  • 3 June: I’m Washingtonian-famous, for the month at least, recommending Mucca Pazza’s Tiny Desk Concert.
  • 5 July: After my annual scuffling with the Google chart API, I can post the summary graph of nesting activity for 2021.
  • 1 August: この ちかくに コンビニが あります。
  • 6 September: Labor Day means a hike in Shenandoah National Park.
  • 5 October: Best use of inset text, Snark Division.
  • 6 November: Phase 2 has hit the “substantially complete” milestone.
  • 5 December: Oh, dear.

The year in review:

My year in contributions, 2021

There are a few hours left in the giving year.

(Who will win the dubious prize of last begging e-mail of the year? Judges are monitoring my inbox hourly.)

What organizations are worthy of support? Consider this list as some recommendations from me.

These are the groups and projects to which I gave coin (generally tax-deductible), property, and/or effort in 2021. Limited travel and in-person work this year, so my out-of-pocket expenses continue to be down.

Walker Nature Center: North

Next weekend is spoken for, so my first day hike will have to be a Boxing Day walk at Walker Nature Center. It proved to be a rather birdy trip, with 15 species spotted in 75 minutes, including four Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) together in one tree and a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) high in a White Oak.

The trails in the northern tract look messy on the map, but make more sense on the ground: a box around the property, and an stone dust inner loop, with some connectors between. And I found a footbridge (#37) over the Snakeden Run inlet to Lake Audubon that would make the property easily accessible from home on foot. The bridge wasn’t there the last time I looked, but it’s weathered, so perhaps it was temporarily removed while the stream was being rebuilt.

My year in books, 2021

I’ll go ahead and link to my Goodreads list now, even though I’ll probably finish A Thousand Acres before the of the year. Top marks for

Christmas Bird Count 2021: Seneca: 2

On Sunday, my plucky team of eight braved winter winds and a brief period of sleet for the sector 14 count. We put up a respectable count of 40 species; next year I hope to squeeze out a bit more (maybe Rock Pigeon at Reston Town Center?). Avian highlight: an adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) being chased out of a Red-tailed Hawk’s (Buteo jamaicensis) airspace above the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail at Leigh Mill Road. Mammalian highlight: two River Otters (Lutra canadensis) doing their otter thing in Lake Fairfax.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) numbers were down, perhaps reflecting the semi-mysterious illness afflicting songbirds in the mid-Atlantic this past summer.

I spent a lot of time scouting, but the team knowledge was perhaps more important, and a little liberating.

More takeaways:

  • Plan for a good 20 minutes of logistics conversations at the first meeting point as people trickle in, and especially if you’re going to split the team first off.
  • Exchange phone numbers ahead of time. One of my subparties got separated from one another on their way to their first stop.
  • Check your batteries for your camera, not just your phone and tablet.
  • Use your field notebook, not a copy of the tally sheet on a clipboard. Too easy for the sheet to slip off in a strong wind, and you’re stuck carrying the board all morning.
  • The boathouse at Lake Fairfax makes a tolerable windbreak.

Final results for the Seneca circle will be released by the compiler January-February.

Peculiar Muzak: 8

Not, strictly speaking, Muzak, because it was clearly an album/CD that I was listening to in my urologist’s office (while the receptionist was doing a great job of Fully Committed with a difficult patient): arranged for breathy girls’ choir and piano, pop hits from the 80s and 90s. I could make out through the pillowy arrangements and crappy speakers

  • “Follow You Follow Me”
  • “Boys Don’t Cry” (with particularly obfuscatory dynamics)
  • “Barbie Girl”
  • “In the Air Tonight” (with no drum drop—what’s up with that?)
  • And the mystery as a bonus, because I cannot make out who committed such an enormity. Spotify is fine for finding one song, but not an entire track list. But wait—the Googles came through. The CD (Solstice by Scala & Kolacny Brothers) was on shuffle!

    I don’t think you’ve lived until you’ve experienced this version of “Creep”:

    As Martin Vanderhof said,

    GRANDPA [surveying the group]: Well, sir, you should have been there. That’s all I can say—you should have been there.