- He may pass on before we get to zero, but Jimmy Carter. Made. This. Happen. Guinea worm: A nasty parasite is nearly eradicated, but the push for zero cases will require patience, by Kimberly Paul.
- This project can’t move fast enough. The W&OD’s crossing of Wiehle Avenue is bananas dangerous. Groundbreaking of new bridge over Wiehle Avenue set for next month, by Fatimah Waseem.
- So that’s why I’m not a White House-advising economist with five textbooks published. Utahraptor: “Nah, every time I [have regrets] an alternate timeline version of my self parachutes in and beats me up.”
seven methods of killing kylie jenner
I don’t know of a graceful way to put this: this play will resonate more with audiences who are different from me. Many of the work’s themes—prejudices in favor of light-skinned BIPOC, the shameful treatment of Sara Baartman (the so-called “Hottentot Venus”), an offhand homophobic remark unearthed from the deep social media timeline—have been elaborated elsewhere. And let us retire the trope of bringing up the house lights to implicate the audience.
The play does make it clear that, and why, Cleo (Leanne Henlon) is enraged. And the strongest element is the theatricalizing of the chaotic cacophony that is a viral thread, realized by Henlon and Tia Bannon as her friend Kara. Their physicalizing of emojis is quite the thing. Don’t understand current British slang and internet initialisms? It doesn’t matter. The playing is there.
- seven methods of killing kylie jenner, by Jasmine Lee-Jones, directed by Milli Bhatia. Royal Court Theatre’s production, presented by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
Personally, I have never understood the mania for all things Jenner-Kardashian. But that’s easy for me to say.
Great Backyard Bird Count 2023
Working around the weather (as usual), as well as some other appointments, I visited the Glade and Lexington Estates Park at suboptimal times. But I came back with a combined species count of 21. The Great Blue Heron in the little skid of a pond in Lexington Estates was the biggest surprise. There seems to be more Leatherleaf Mahonia (Berberis bealei) along the Glade than in years past—or maybe I’m just better at spotting it. Nasty stuff.
Woodend lichens foray
Another lichens walk with Natalie Howe, this time as part of a five-week class, and this time back in the friendly confines of Nature Forward’s Woodend Sanctuary. I excelled at finding sticks with not-lichens, like this one with a big patch of Giraffe Spots (Peniophora albobadia). But I did meet two taxa of Physcia, including Physcia stellaris, a Parmotrema, and a shadow lichen, Phaeophyscia rubrophulchra.
We walked the new trail, so most of the rocks were newly-placed and hadn’t acquired the requisite patina of lichens.
The one downer about lichens workshops is that they tend to take place when nothing much else is going on, so it’s always freezing and windy.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story
HOTSPUR. Nay, I will. That’s flat!
[King Henry IV] said he would not ransom Mortimer,
Forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer.
But I will find him when he lies asleep,
And in his ear I’ll hollo “Mortimer.”
Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but “Mortimer,” and give it him
To keep his anger still in motion.Henry IV, Part 1, I:3
It’s fair to say that the ecological consequences of the introduction of European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris, EUST) into North America have been a (mostly adverse) mixed blessing. I’ve been told that EUSTs are favored by groundskeepers for golf courses, because the birds eat turf-destroying grubs—make of that what you will. And my grandmother had a particular animus against them; make of that what you will. I certainly wouldn’t knowingly park my car under a roost.
But perhaps we can retire the canard that the introduction happened at one place, at one time, by one man: Eugene Schieffelin, a drugmaker and socialite in New York. Research by Lauren Fugate and John MacNeill Miller, as reported by Jason Bittel, confirms that Schieffelin wasn’t the only American to release EUSTs, nor was he by any means the first. By the 1870s, “introductions were well underway,” decades before Schieffelin’s activity in 1890-1891.
According to the former president of the Acclimation Society of Cincinnati, between 1872 and 1874 the society released about four thousand European birds, including starlings.
“Acclimation” or “acclimitization” was a particularly boneheaded piece of nineteenth-century ecology that held that introduced species could improve an ecosystem.
Anglophone countries… focused instead on the ways importing species could increase the beauty, diversity, and economic yield of the local environment—sometimes because they themselves had destroyed it.
Most importantly—to answer a question that Rick Wright asked in a 2014 blog post— Schieffelin had no particular interest in the birds of Shakespeare. He just liked starlings. Fugate and Miller lay the myth on the desk of Edwin Way Teale, in an essay from 1948.
“[The starling’s] coming was the result of one man’s fancy,” he writes of Schieffelin: “His curious hobby was the introduction into America of all the birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.” Published more than forty years after Schieffelin’s death this sentence is the first time Shakespeare enters the story. It is hard to say where Teale got the idea.
Perhaps Teale was bemused by Central Park’s Shakespeare Garden, begun in 1913, years after Schieffelin’s death.
As Wright wryly observes,
With a Horatian eye to their capacity to delight and to profit, the [American Acclimatization] Society’s introductions over the years included everything from brook trout to Java finches, neither of which, if memory serves, ever trod the boards at the Globe.
Shakespeare’s one reference to Sturnus vulgaris (above) isn’t even pejorative; rather, the bird is recognized as a good mimic. Make of that what you will.
Understatement of the week
Some Trump advisers worried that the enterprise would come across as a tacky marketing gimmick.
Selling Trump Isn’t What It Used to Be, by Ken Bensinger (print headline: Digital Trading Card Venture Shows Selling Trump Isn’t What It Used to Be).
Or is it just redundant?
It was only a matter of time before it showed up here: Fairfax County launches plan to combat invasive spotted lanternfly in parks.
Invasives management at Fraser Preserve
In my newly copious unscheduled time, I’ve been working with Margaret Chatham on invasives removal at Fraser Preserve, at the tippy-top north end of the county. Last week and today we focused on turning Rosa multiflora stems into brush piles. The snow didn’t slow us down much, but my dogs did get a bit frosty.
Field trip and workshop resources in the DMV
Here’s a roundup, somewhat Northern Virginia-inflected, of some organizations that run field trips in the mid-Atlantic.
Nature Forward is our standard-bearer. Workshops and camps for kiddos and families, walks focused on birds/geology/botany/etc., CEU-credited courses in lichens/spring wildflowers/conservation history/etc., overseas travel—something for everyone at nearly every level of expertise. NF is also an important advocate for protection of natural areas in the DC metro.
Some outfits mostly interested in birds:
- Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and DC Audubon Society* are chapters of the National Audubon Society, and there are several chapters in Maryland.*
- Northern Virginia Bird Club’s name tells you what they’re about. In addition to maintaining a calendar of field trips and directory of Christmas Bird Counts, NVBC holds regularly scheduled meetings.
Are you ready for some botany?
- Virginia Native Plant Society is organized into regional chapters. Our local chapter, the largest in the commonwealth, is the Potowmack chapter. Farther outside the Beltway, check out the Prince William Wildflower Society and the Piedmont chapter.
- Maryland Native Plant Society also has a chapter for DC.
Maybe something a little more niche is your interest.
- The Mycological Association of Washington, D.C.,* for fungi enthusiasts, has been recommended to me. Hey, I just joined up!
Or you’re looking for something more fast-paced than the naturalist’s shuffle.
- Some time back, I did one or two hikes with DC Metropolitan Hikers, a Meetup group. And Capital Hiking Club has made the transition from paper newsletters and phone trees to the electronic age.
- Wanderbirds Hiking Club hikes were too fast for me, even when I was young and in good shape.
The Washington metro is a mosaic of publicly-accessible, natural areas under several different jurisdictions. Check out individual parks and recreational areas for scheduled workshops, camps, and events.
- Parks and trails managed by the National Park Service (in Maryland, the District, and Virginia) are more than just Rock Creek Park and Shenandoah National Park.
- The District’s Department of Parks and Recreation manages hundreds of parks.
- Outside DC, parks managed at the county level include those in Arlington County, Fairfax County (including Huntley Meadows Park, which the Mason & Bailey Club visited), and Montgomery County (including Rachel Carson Conservation Park, also visited by the Club).
- Prince George’s County parks fall under the regional Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).
- The well-loved hike-bike-commute Washington and Old Dominion Trail is part of the regional Nova Parks.
- Zooming out again, consider state parks in Maryland and Virginia. Virginia has gamified visiting as many state parks as you can. I’m working on my 10-park badge.
- And don’t forget privately-held, but open to the public, sites like The Nature Conservancy’s Fraser Preserve and Stronghold’s Sugarloaf Mountain.
*I know these organizations only by referral/search, not by firsthand field trip experience.
Silver Line progress report: 56
It’s your list
A reminder from Laura Erickson and Joseph J. Hickey:
The beauty of birding is that there is no right way. Hickey wrote in that inviting first chapter of A Guide to Bird Watching  that birding is “anything you care to make it.”
It’s income tax season again, and the likes of Turbo Tax and H&R Block are likely to steer consumers into paying for filing their returns when they don’t have to. Here’s an update from Sylvia Kovatch and ProPublica.
Taxpayers can go directly to the IRS to find out what their options are.
I’m going to make this a thing, too
Teachers understand that errors in their learners’ output are normal and complex. They can be… a misapplication of an analogy (e.g., if “let’s do lunch” is correct, then “let’s do sandwich” should be fine also).—Andrea B. Hellman et al., The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners: Adult Education and Workforce Development (2019), p. 63