At the park: 102

From my report on last week’s monitoring activity:

No new hatches, but we have 9 boxes with viable nests. I think that box #13 will not be incubated. It’s likely that at least 3 will hatch before our next work day, which will be next Sunday, 28 April, at the usual time.

Bonus wildlife sighting: Snapping Turtles making whoopee….

And the fantasy birding thing is a real thing. It has a writeup by Cornell.

Carry on

On that same field trip today, Alonso reported seeing a Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) carrying an egg. The bird was at some distance to him, and I didn’t see the bird. We discussed the sighting, and concluded that it was possible, but somewhat unusual.

There is a bit in the literature: Robert W. Strader et al. (The Wilson Bulletin 90:1, March 1978, pp. 131-132) report an observation and suggest that the purpose of egg carrying is to remove eggs damaged by a woodpecker, another animal, or mishap. Larry J. Hindman (The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 127:4, December 2015, pp. 759-761) reports an observation of a male Wood Duck carrying an egg, and discusses some other possible explanations for the behavior.

The removal behavior might be more common than we think. In our boxes, it’s sometimes been the case that we count x eggs on a given Sunday, with high certainty, and we count x-1 eggs the next Sunday.

At the park: 101

another tower surprise 2another tower surprise 1The area around the observation tower continues to surprise. Alonso Abugattas, co-leading a Fairfax Master Naturalists training walk, pointed out the mini grove of American Wild Plum (Prunus americana) in full bananas bloom, along the ramp up to the tower. In this patch is the county champion.

At the park: 100

From this week’s report to the team and Huntley Meadows Park staff:

The nest box season is hopping! Box #7 hatched out (we counted 16 eggs in it on 10 March). On social media, you may have seen the pix of photographers lined up to track activity in this box. We have 4 boxes incubating, 1 probable dump nest in #13 with 20 eggs, and a couple more clutches still a-building.

At box #1 (HOME, 11 eggs, incubating), I observed an evasion/distraction behavior that I have not seen before. As I approached the box, I heard the rustling of a bird, so I paused to make a note and move on. The bird then exited the box anyway, and plunged into the water about 3 feet away. As I foolishly watched the patch where she had splashed down, after a few seconds she resurfaced a good 10 yards away and scarpered away.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were wheezing about, and Osprey were displaying and vocalizing over the parking lot.

We will meet again next Sunday, 14 April, and then meet every other week on 28 April and 12 May.

A mystery: 16: and solved

A turn of phrase that has stayed with me over the years, from James Thurber, “The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery,” (23 July 1932):

“What I lost?” The man squinted, unhappily. “Some—some cufflinks; topazes set in gold.” He hesitated: the cop didn’t seem to believe him. “They were the color of a fine Moselle,” said the man.

And here’s why: Thurber borrowed the bit of jewelry (“topazes, winy-yellow, lightly set in crinkly gold”) from Willa Cather, My Mortal Enemy (1926), part I, chapter 4:

[Aunt Lydia] said resolutely: “Myra, I want to give Oswald a Christmas present. Once an old friend left with me some cufflinks he couldn’t keep…. I brought them for Oswald. I’d rather he would have them than anybody.”

… Mrs. Henshawe was delighted. “How clever of you to think of it, Liddy dear! Yes, they’re exactly right for him. There’s hardly any other stone I would like, but these are exactly right. Look, Oswald, they’re the colour of a fine Moselle.”

Fold ’em

LINCOLN. People are funny about they Lincoln shit. Its historical. People like they historical shit in a certain way. They like it to unfold the way they folded it up. Neatly like a book. Not raggedy and bloody and screaming.

—Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog

Topdog/Underdog

Smooth Lincoln (Jeremy Keith Hunter) vs. scrappy Booth (Louis E. Davis): two brothers locked in a power struggle with Biblical overtones. Davis is particularly effective, with expressive eyes and nice physical business: he knows how to clear a dining table quickly.

The performance space is configured galley style, and designer Nephelie Andonyadis’s set wraps around the audience with the cardboard-patched walls of the brothers’ squat.

  • Topdog/Underdog, by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by DeMone Seraphin, WSC Avant Bard, Arlington, Va.

At the park: 99

From my most recent report:

We are up to 8 boxes with eggs, 4 Hooded Merganser and 4 Wood Duck — although it is doubtful that anything more will happen in box #2 (one egg for the past 3 Sundays). Two boxes are incubating.

Cameron spotted a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana); Kat reported a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata); we saw tight little flower buds of Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica).

We have a few people who will be out next Sunday, so I’m calling that a Free Parking space and our next work day will be Sunday, 31 March.

JQA

Aaron Posner’s enjoyable riff on the life of John Quincy Adams, sixth U.S. President (and here, perhaps the last adherent of the Enlightenment), would slide easily into the family-friendly, history-inflected programming at Ford’s Theatre, were it not for several outbursts of salty language. The play unfolds as a series of imagined one-on-ones between Adams and various figures in his life, spanning the years 1776 to 1847; indeed, much of what we learn about Adams comes not from what he says and does, but rather from what his interlocutors say and tell him to do.

What keeps this dialogue-heavy play afloat is a clever bit of double-cross-casting: by turns, each of four actors, of various genders and colors, portrays Adams, with the remaining three taking on all the other roles of the play. Thus, for instance, Joshua David Robinson, an African-American man, gives us a populist pro-slavery Andrew Jackson, and then in a subsequent scene, Frederick Douglass, who makes an effective appeal to Adams’s abolitionist tendencies. Most effective at this multiple role-playing is Eric Hissom, with a masterful rendering of the profane Henry Clay, who tells the still-idealistic Adams that his only paths to an effective Presidency are finding legislative compromise or raising fears in the populace. When Hissom later plays Adams, there is a touching passage in which he contemplates his legacy and looks out on the people whose lives he’s touched, people who are yet to be.

There’s a nice structural pattern to the play, as it is framed by its opening scene in a public park between a young Adams (Jacqueline Correa) and George Washington (Phyllis Kay)—with some fun anachronisms like takeout coffee cups and a Secret Service detail—and its closing scene between an elderly Adams (Kay again) and freshman congressman Abraham Lincoln (Correa again). Costume director Joseph P. Salasovich has given the four Adamses four variations on a formal frock coat, each in the same rich burgundy color. There is a very fine moment each time an actor passes the role, and the coat, on to the next actor—an inauguration ceremony in miniature.

My favorite unseen character from Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, Mr. Hardtacks, makes a repeat non-appearance.

  • JQA, written and directed by Aaron Posner, Arena Stage Kogod Cradle, Washington

At the park: 98

From this week’s report:

Repairs to box #7 look good, and box #4 looks good, according to Kat’s reports. We now have 4 nests started, 2 each Wood Duck (#6 and #2) and Hooded Merganser (#7 and #5). That’s pretty early for Wood Duck….

Equipment note: on the garden hose that we use for cleanup, the sprayer nozzle unit is stuck in the ON position.

BLKS

Aziza Barnes’ play is high energy, often played at farce tempos. Often cartoonish, the script is redeemed in part by a nuanced portrayal by Shannon Dorsey as Imani; Justin Weaks also does well as Justin, a rather weedy fellow who just wants to do the right thing.

The play calls for several playing spaces: a Brooklyn apartment, a seedy neighborhood near a club, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the apartment set is not up to the task of supporting all the door slamming required. The wobbly walls recall the worst of community theater construction.

  • BLKS, by Aziza Barnes, directed by Nataki Garrett, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington

At the park: 97

From my first report for the season from the nest box monitoring team at Huntley Meadows Park:

The birds are still too early for us! Kat reports 8 Hooded Merganser eggs in box #7. This is one of the boxes that needs some repairs; I will bring some tools and materials next week so that we can attempt a field repair while the box is in use.

Other than that, Sunday’s activity was the usual first-of-the-season chips and removal of wasp nests. You may have already noted this: the fence at the end of the berm, meant to discourage pedestrian traffic, has a significant breach (caused by four- and/or two-footed animals).

At the edge between forest and stream, I spotted a Golden-crowned Kinglet foraging quite close to the ground.

Water levels were VERY high. At the old beaver dam at the entrance to the main pond, water was cascading over it.

My materials and tools checklist for next week: drill and bits, pliers, screwdriver, filler foam, staple gun, duct tape.

high water