K lacked some enthusiasm tonight when I suggested we tromp out to the field to see the ISS again. I guess not everyone’s idea of a good time is stumbling among brambles in the dark. Still, he came along, and thought muttered as we ambled to the viewing site, he agreed it was well worth it.

First of all, the night was very, very clear. Next, this time the ISS was hella bright and, as it went straight up (from our vantage point), it quickly dimmed and disappeared. It looked quite ethereal for a hunk of metal. We did bring the ‘nocs, but it didn’t improve the siting. The effect was definitely best with the NAKED eye.

And to think, just 13 hours before, a Russian spacecraft docked there. Weird. The modern world is just plain weird.

IMGP6092.JPGThis Bewick’s Wren has had a thing for the fake chintzey nesting thingy (made out of some sort of straw) that I’ve got jammed in my ficus tree. This has been going on for months. Last fall she would occasionally pick up detritus and put it inside, but about November she gave that up. She came back with a mate (not in picture) to try to convince him this was a great nesting site. I was hoping he’d buy it, and we’d have cute little wren chicks in our yard. but evidently he didn’t. I haven’t seen them since.

IMGP6119.JPGWe’ve had a very lovely flock of the oh-so-charming Cedar Waxwings lounging about our ‘hood for the winter. From what I’ve read, this should end right about … now. In fact, I thought they were gone already until the other morning. I was quietly eating my breakfast when a hailstorm of juniper berries started raining down from our backyard tree. This makes quite a racket, as our yard is paved (for now). Being that it’s mating season, there’s no other flocks left, so I figured it was them. I looked up through the glass and there they were, gulping down berries. They swallow them whole, so you can watch them go down their throat. Which is cute and weird at the same time.

I went out, and they flew up to the pine tree, and I snapped this lousy shot. But if you click on it, you can see them up there.

Being that they winter this far north, it’s obvious that their from Canada. And, I don’t know, I feel like they’re flaunting their Canadian citizenship when they look down on me. There’s something condescending about them, their beautiful feathers, and their not-as-fucked-up country.

Here’s a nice picture of them so you can see how pretty they are… and supercilious.

IMGP6090.JPGHere’s a picture of our very first bird friends, Howie and Allie, the house finches. They came to our feeder when no one else would deign to place their delicate little bird feet down in our presence. That was about six months ago.

Now that spring has sprung, one by one our birdie friends have vanished to go about making homes. Hey, we understand, we just bought this condo not long ago. We understand, but we *appreciate* loyal friends like Howie and Allie. They still come by, even for just a few minutes just after dawn. Howie comes by first, a chirps loudly until Allie joins him.

I don’t why I love them so damn much.


For a time, we had a lively party going on at our hummingbird feeder, as I spoke about here and here. This was a large part of my day, observing Ezzie, Eddie, Esther, Earl, and Emma at our feeder.

Then it all vanished. I took down the feeder to wash it out — carefully, with no harmful substances, of course — and didn’t get it back up for a couple of days. Apparently, in hummingbird time, this is a looooooooooooooong time. I don’t know they were totally insulted by my negligence, or simply moved on to other feeders or springtime flowers. Either way, no one showed up for weeks. Long, heartbreaking weeks.

Finally, Earl starting showing up again. Two weeks later, he’s still the only one to return. Also, he never stays long: ten seconds, tops.

I don’t know, I just feel crappy about it. I feel moronic for getting attached to them in the first place. It’s probable that either they or other hummingbirds will show up eventually. But I do miss them.

amelia1_1.jpgI’ve been vaguely aware of Amelia Earhart for most of my life. How can you not be? She did daring flights when airplanes were in their infancy (in fact, still often called “airships”, as in The Good Ship Lollipop); the rose to prominence in a male-dominated field (which remains so to this day); and she tragically disappeared during her famed flight around a world. Yet, I guess I never gave her much thought.

I recently came across her book Last Flight in the library. Originally titled World Flight, this was her account of her flight around the world. She sent the chapter back to her husband during the trip. On the back cover it says, “Told with engaging humor, modesty, and charm…” They’re not kidding. I was in love with her by the second chapter. I dare anyone to read this book and not fall madly in love with Ms. Earhart.

For weeks I couldn’t bring myself to read the last chapter because after that, she’d be dead. Her voice would end forever; she would have nothing else to say. How do you say goodbye to someone who has been dead for over seventy years?

Last night I finally braved the last chapter. I’m left wondering how much she would have influenced the world if she lived. She speaks frankly about the absurdity of gender determinism and says that if boys want to learn sewing or girls want to fix motors, no one should stand in their way. She had planned, upon her return, to be a teacher/mentor for girls who wanted to be up to their elbows in motor oil, and had an offer from Purdue University to do just that. She was going to call her machine shop “Tinkering: For Girls Only.” It’s amazing how simultaneously she could be so cute and forward thinking. This was 1937, after all.

Her husband published the book posthumously, including a note she wrote (printed in her handwriting) in case she didn’t make it. It read:

“Please know I am quite aware of the hazards.

I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.”

So, sadly, I say: Goodbye, Amelia.

IMGP6053.JPGOne day, and one day only, this particular Towhee decided she was the boss of the backyard. She would get particularly agitated whenever a junco came to the yard, whom she evidently perceived as a direct threat. Now, being the California Towhees are twice as large as junco, she was quite intimidating, but only in the short term. Ten minutes later some other junco would show up and she’s get all flustered and aggro.

Towards evening she spent a few restful moments drinking out of our birdbath, the first we’ve witnessed to even notice it. She seemed quite impressed with herself in that moment. I don’t think the photo quite captures her baditude.

This was a couple weeks ago and the behavior has not been repeated. I suppose she’s off to nesting now. I did appreciate the drama, albeit brief.

IMGP6036.JPG (NOTE to non-birdnerds: Titmouse is *not* an April Fools joke. It’s really the name of the bird.)

Welcome to our new addition to birdfeeder madness, the Plain Titmouse. She’s not so plain to us! She may have a silly name, but we enjoyed her excited chatter when she discovered the bird feeder. She hasn’t been around a lot, which is why all I have is this lousy photo.

Who’ll show up next? We’re still hoping for goldfinches, although we keep forgetting to buy thistle, their favorite treat. So, yes, it’s a vain hope if we don’t get off our asses and buy them some of that goldfinch candy. Although I’ve heard it called goldfinch crack. Now, really.