Excerpts from my most recent report from the monitoring team:
Nature is taking its course: we have Hooded Merganser eggs in four boxes (including the newly-replaced #84) and one Wood Duck egg laid in box #2.
Not much green visible yet [but this log nursing bryophytes looks cheery]. The team spotted the Red-necked Grebe [Podiceps grisegena] on the 15th and 22nd. An Osprey [Pandion haliaetus] was fishing over the main wetland on the 22nd. Kat and Chris, working the inflow to the wetland, have a lot more success snagging trash than we do in the outflow.
From my report from the nest box monitoring team for 8 March:
The team detected depressions in the 3 of the boxes, but (again a surprise) we have not counted any eggs yet.
Maintenance items: I discussed with Dave Lawlor on a separate thread the value of replacing box #84. The glued-on doorknobs for new boxes #1 and #3 have both come off; we’re going to screw in hooks next week. Most importantly, the pole for box #13 is cracked, but the PVC sleeve is intact. Box #13 is on the left of the boardwalk, the same side as the new monitoring equipment, along the old drainage canal, just off the patch of land before you get to the observation tower.
Birds observed: Black Duck, Bald Eagle, Tree Swallow (perched on the entrance of one of our boxes), Red-winged Blackbird (males singing). Also quite noticeable are the branches down from the big Willow Oak where the Heron Trail splits off.
A really strong workshop, with four good speakers, hosted by Virginia Native Plant Society at the University of Richmond. A theme emerged: interactions of plants with other organisms in the landscape, be they herbivorous White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (as discussed by Henry Wilbur, emeritus at the University of Virginia), or pollinating Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glauca), who pick up pollen from Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) on their wings (only the second such association known, as discovered by Mary Jane Epps, postdoc at North Carolina State University [her work will soon be published]), or the unexpected linkage (through soil pH) of invasive Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and the tiny arthopods known as springtails (Collembola), brought to us by Anne Alerding of Virginia Military Institute.
For me, the most interesting talk (and most challenging to follow along with) was Karen Barnard-Kubow‘s explication of her dissertation research on the genetics of American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum). This species has a range from the Virginia Coastal Plain to the breadbasket Midwest. Barnard-Kubow’s work has identified distinct clades: one in the East, one or two in the Appalachian Mountains, and one in the Midwest. Cross-breeding experiments on these populations suggests that the plant might be in the process of speciation. Her work also indicates that genetic material in the plant’s chloroplasts is sometimes inherited from the male parent, rather than strictly from the female, as received wisdom has it.
Our feeling is that triple certification [of coffee] has great potential. Consumers might have a short attention span, but they’re not stupid. If presented in short, cogent messages that explain the connections between the social and the environmental arguments, the average coffee drinker can undoubtedly understand the triple certification concept—and if you think about those groups that are “target audiences” for such messages (social action groups in churches or labour unions; vegetarian and organic devotees; birder associations, etc.) then the message may be even more palatable and likely to be heard.
—Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer, and Angus Wright, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation, and Food Sovereignty, p. 156
The team faced down the sleety weather this morning to start the rounds of checking nest boxes.
Following such a cold February, the wetland was substantially iced over, with only the main channel of Barnyard Run free-flowing. Which meant two things: first, we got some closer looks at wintering ducks than we otherwise might have.
Second, the effort of walking up to the boxes was much easier. Most of the boxes were surrounded by firm ice (see guest photo by Kat). This also meant that we weren’t working over our heads—always a challenge for the more diminutive members of the team. It was only at the edges of open water where the ice would suddenly break through, threatening to tip the unwary monitor into the cold, cold water and mud.
The end result is that we made our tour in an hour and half No dawdling to look for birds (though we did see a Bald Eagle and a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers), no fussing with the hardware. Back to the cars before the next round of frozen stuff falls from the sky.
What we did not see, somewhat surprisingly, were any merganser eggs. Usually they get a least one box started ahead of us, somewhere in the last days of February.
Wilson set his agon in the back yards of three Pittsburgh row houses. By contrast, the set for this production is spare, with nary a building in sight: nearly the only nod to realism is the patch of stony ground where King tries to grow flowers. To a certain extent this abstract approach works: Stool Pigeon’s opening prologue is given to the rest of the characters, who generally remain onstage throughout the evening. One gets the sense of a ritualistic retelling of a Greek tragedy. And the squared-off space of the Fichandler is the perfect setting for King’s Act 1 closing monologue by Bowman Wright, lightning escaping from the bottle. Would that the ring speeches on the pro wrestling circuit could be as terrifying.
E. Faye Butler produces some powerful, throaty vocal colors in her reading of Ruby. And André De Shields gives us a clear-headed Stool Pigeon. Thrust into the role of the community’s savant (now that the multicentenarian Aunt Esther has passed), their Teiresias manqué, Stool Pigeon never falls into the trap of mere mumbling craziness.
King Hedley II, by August Wilson, directed by Timothy Douglas, Arena Stage Fichandler Stage, Washington
So, picking up some vibration in the air or other, I recently watched Keep On Keepin’ On (2014), Alan Hicks’s documentary about the relationship between veteran jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and the young pianist Justin Kauflin. The film was thin in the areas I was curious about, namely Terry’s career in the 1940s and onward—his departure from the Duke Ellington orchestra gets only an offhand mention, for instance—but it does a good job of telling the story it wants to tell. Terry was an influence on so many players, and he continued to nurture talents like Kauflin’s into his 90s. His body ravaged by diabetes, Terry kept on teaching.
My familiarity with Terry’s work is rather limited, but he was a gateway drug for me, like Dave Brubeck. I have a vinyl recording of Terry performing live with the Ohio State University Jazz Ensemble; this would be early 1970s, as I bought it after then band played a high school assembly for us. His work with the horn impressed me less than his vocal work, especially his signature piece “Mumbles,” an encore bit of rhythmic whimsy.
Anyway, it came as a slight shock to learn that Terry had died just this past week, as Reuters reports. Another one gone, but we have his recordings (more than 900 of them!) and his students.