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.

On deck: 22

bookshelf November 2021The shelf was getting a little unbalanced, with too much fiction, but a tip from NPR’s Books We Love led me to Dreilinger. Of the Thoreau, I’ve got The Maine Woods and Cape Cod to read. The Bellotti is for a book club at work—not my usual cup of tea, but I want to contribute to the discussion. I have promised myself that I will crank through another story in the French parallel text collection; will I ever find time for the Echenoz? Juggling two volumes is too much trouble for the subway.

Vertical

Kristin Hunt observes,

In many ways, the streamers [like Netflix and Amazon] have been rebuilding Hollywood’s old studio system. That system, which lasted roughly from the 1920s to the 1950s, was powered by vertical integration. Major studios like Paramount or Warner Bros. didn’t just own a bunch of soundstages, but also the theater chains that screened their movies, meaning they had complete control over every aspect of a movie’s creation—a straight line down from film production to distribution to exhibition.

Even the sharp corners of ostensibly “bad” moves are being rounded over:

Critic Judy Berman argues in The Baffler, for instance, that the internet and the larger “streaming void” it perpetuates have slowly been killing the cult film, the “scruffy, desperately original, and intermittently brilliant works of transgressive art” once enjoyed communally on the midnight circuit, but now cynically engineered for social media engagement, à la Sharknado. Naturally, it’s not just the makers of would-be Rocky Horrors who are suffering.

Although she mentions the creative financing that powered Irving Levin’s distribution of Ida Lupino’s Filmmakers movies, she misses the opportunity to comment on the similar pattern shown by The Cannon Group during its ownership by Golan and Globus.

Suitland Bog

Lynn Rust’s Microbial Ecology class field-tripped to Suitland Bog (a magnolia bog that’s actually a fen). The property was once mined for sand and gravel before M-NCPPC picked up some of the land, while allowing development on another parcel. (In the inexorable logic of new streets being named for what they replaced, Rock Quarry Terrace passes through one of the nearby townhouse subdivisions.)

pine sandy 2pine sandy 1In the successional upland accessed by ample parking at the community center, we found the rocky, sandy soil of the Coastal Plain. Virginia Pine (Pinus virginia) is waiting to be overtaken by the beeches and oaks, while Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica) hunkers in the understory. Thundering helicopters from nearby Joint Base Andrews are just something you have to deal with.

In the bog itself, we easily found Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea). According to Lynn and the park ranger, this introduced species is outcompeting the sundews, and is subject to some culls. Yellowing leaves of Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) were recognizable.

Bisected by a power line cut, the place definitely shows the marks of human influence, and could use some major trash pickup love. I don’t remember, but I reckon that my visit in 2013 was from the other entrance, from the south.

That explains Blofeld’s cat

“No time to die: An in-depth analysis of James Bond’s exposure to infectious agents,” by Wouter Graumans et al.

We hypothesize that his foolhardy courage, sometimes purposefully eliciting life-threatening situations, might even be a consequence of Toxoplasmosis.

Particularly worrying:

While Bond was traveling to Japan (1967) shortly after the H2N2 pandemic (1957–1958), his actions were at odds with knowledge on the different modes of respiratory virus transmission. Bond regularly joined crowds without social distancing including on public transport.

h/t: Jennifer Ouellette at Ars Technica