Sensei was amused when I asked why Mr. Smith, in our textbook, did not use the o-prefix for politeness when asking the name of the fish in the tempura restaurant scene, おなまえ sted なまえ. She said, “Nobody uses the prefix in this situation—well, maybe some senior ladies would.”

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Great Backyard Bird Count 2021

Waiting out the ice storm until Monday, I got some time to walk the Glade today, just before the rain came back. Sixteen species, a couple of bad photographs, but a distant look at a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) pair on drawn-down Lake Audubon. But I missed my usual Red-shouldered Hawk.

Unfortunately, there is much more Leatherleaf Mahonia (Berberis bealei) than meets the eye in the growing season.

ID corner

I was on a discussion thread at iNaturalist for an observation of Aralia species in Catonsville, Md. The non-native Japanese Angelica Tree (A. elata) has been escaping from cultivation and is reported in several Maryland counties.

How to distinguish A. elata from the native Devil’s Walkingstick (A. spinosa) in winter? David Sibley’s guide says that A. elata is “less spiny,” but that doesn’t help very much.

markerFortunately, Maraea Harris of Meadowlark Botanical Gardens pointed out for me (we were on an invasives removal work day) a cultivated example of A. elata, specifically the variety “Silver Umbrella” with variegated leaves (in the growing season, of course).

somewhat spiny young stemolder stemYou can see that the younger stems (at left) are lightly armored, but the older trunks show only vestiges of their spines. This observation squares with a horticultural blog post from Milan Havlis.

Also of note: cultivars are grafted, and can revert to the wild type. I wonder how many of our escapes are from cultivars.

Buchanan subbasement

OK, one parting shot at 45: Sarah Lyall polls several historians, looking for a prediction of how history will judge the recently departed resident.

“He’s in a whole other category in terms of the damage he’s done to the Republic,” said [Sean] Wilentz [professor of American history at Princeton University], citing the radicalization of the Republican Party, the inept response to the pandemic and what he called “the brazen, almost psychedelic mendacity of the man.”

Tim Naftali goes into detail.


Something that I make sure to ask about on my next community theater gig:

TOM MOORE: I put the blame squarely on the Nederlanders. I don’t think Jimmy Sr. had any fondness for [1981’s Frankenstein]. And Woman of the Year was waiting in the wings.

VICTOR GIALANELLA: Lauren Bacall had done Applause at the Palace, and her dressing room still had the paint color she had wanted.

Walker Nature Center

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. A crossing over Snakeden Run was not passable after yesterday’s rain—too muddy/slippery across the new weir.

The center’s trails are not well-marked, but the place is small enough that you can’t get lost. Not too many folks out in the woods on this unseasonably pleasant day. Pretty much our usual winter birds in the suburbs. Spotted a likely Hermit Thrush, a couple Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis), a teed-up Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). Coming the back way to the high school (RA’s maps really need an update in this patch), I heard a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) vocalization I’d not heard before, and got a quick photo of a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), just to boost my iNaturalist species count.

The year in review, 2020

The usual preoccupations. The first sentence (more or less) of the first post for the last twelve months:

  • 12 January: I’m going to try Musicology Duck’s Listen Wider Challenge 2020.
  • 3 February: I returned to Florida for the first time in far too many years for my first SCBWF.
  • 2 March: First week of nest box monitoring.
  • 5 April: Virginia state parks are still open for day use!
  • 3 May: A new non-native wasp has been spotted in the Pacific Northwest, Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia).
  • 6 June: At my desk away from my desk, 12 weeks since we started working remotely full-time.
  • 3 July: 51 murals promoting our 51st state.
  • 3 August: “To say that [the revival of evangelical Christianity in the 1820s] marked a turn away from the spirit of the nation’s founding is to wildly understate the case.”
  • 5 September: Look what popped up in a bare patch in my weedy back yard: two sprigs of Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata).
  • 12 October: Mikaela Lefrak of WAMU is releasing a six-part podcast on the fight for Washington, D.C. residents to be fully enfranchised and empowered to run their own government.
  • 1 November: “In my junior year I presented a skit at the Press Club Vod based on the idea of how closely allied jazz dancing was to the jungle.”
  • 8 December: “It was recently discovered, for example, that good tobacco crops depend, for some unknown reason, on the preconditioning of the soil by wild ragweed.”

The year in review:

My year in hikes and field trips, 2020

Oh, dear. I managed to visit one new state park (with my spiffy new annual parking pass). But a minor injury in August piled on to other restrictions leads to a puny list this year:

A few early work trips to my home park, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Va.

The Mason and Bailey Club did not meet this year.

My year in cities, 2020

Likewise, I got one road trip in before we all went home. No Turkey Day dinner at Charlie’s this year, alas.

Overnight stays in 2020:

My year in contributions, 2020

There not much time before the window closes on tax-deductible contributions for the year. 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 2020. Limited travel and in-person work this year, so my out-of-pocket expenses were down. But, thanks to a mini-windfall, I was able to surge my dollar contributions and generally bump up contribution levels.