Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: You Guys Jealous of Seahorses or Something?

Winter generally isn’t my favorite season, but there are a few compensations. When the leaves are off and the plants have died back, you can see the geology better. There’s lots of night-time in which to write, which is awesome for a nocturnal person. The cat gets cuddlier the lower the temperature drops. And there are winter visitors. Like these little guys at Juanita Bay.

Image shows a bird with a brown wing, black back, white chest, black face, and white head that looks oddly like a moonpie with all but a single stripe of chocolate along the edge munched off.

UFD I

There’s usually at least one group of birds around I’ve not seen before. I’m always on the lookout when we got walkies for something new (to me – one of you has probably already identified the above birdie). Our leisurely ramble around Juanita Bay a few days ago didn’t disappoint – these were very eye-catching specimens, both in appearance and behavior.

Image shows a back view of the same bird, showing off the white stripes on its wings.

UFD II

There were two of the above variety, and one that I’m relatively certain is a female of the same species, based on the fact the guys were acting like idiots around her.

Image shows two males clustered together, looking toward another bird who is darker with a burnt-orange flare of feathers on her head.

UFD III

It was getting on close to sunset on a cloudy day, so the light wasn’t the best, and she was too dark to really stand out well. But hopefully this shot gives you a general idea of what she looks like.

Image shows same female bird. The head feathers are much different, looking more like a mohawk than a moonpie, but she's of a similar shape to the others, with similar white stripes on her wings, and a nearly-identical beak.

UFD IV

The dudes were doing their best to impress, swimming around her, showing off. They’d swim a bit, then rear their heads up out of the water and curve their heads and breasts back, looking for all the world like avian seahorses. And they’d make a really odd noise I’m having a hard time describing. Good news is, I don’t have to! I took a video for ya. Just turn up the sound, and when they rear back, listen closely: you’ll hear a kind of hollow creaking noise.

That’s them. They sound like sound effects in this Pharoahe Monch song. (If anybody knows what that sound effect is, please enlighten me. It’s now driving me mad.)

Such birds add enjoyment to a winter excursion. Hopefully, we’ll see many more awesome birdies this winter. If global warming’s good for anything, it should be good for sending new and different birds our way, eh? Although these could be regulars I’ve just never noticed.

The whole trio, with one of the males stretching its neck.

UFD V

I’ve put the full set up at Flickr for those who haven’t gotten enough yet. Enjoy!

A Water Ouzel at Lunchtime, With Bonus Hygiene Footage

You confirmed our suspicions, my darlings – Lockwood and I did indeed see a water ouzel at Clear Lake. Bloody odd for a water ouzel – RQ says she can’t find any other footage of them swimming, and from what I’ve read, I do believe it’s rare behavior. I’ve seen them several times in the wild now, and I’ve never until that day seen them paddling around like any ol’ waterbird. Generally, they’ve been flying into waterfalls and walking boldly into swiftly-rushing water. Like Trebuchet says, it’s “quite amazing.”

Trebuchet’s remark actually reminded me I’d got footage of one at McDowell Creek Falls County Park a little over a year ago. Lockwood and I went there on a lovely May afternoon, and while we were kicking around one of the waterfalls, he spotted a water ouzel. We first saw one or two of them on a ledge up by the falls.

Image shows a water ouzel standing on a wet ledge of rock beside a waterfall.

Water Ouzel, Waterfall.

The little bugger flew straight into the waterfall, I swear to you. I think I even caught a shot of it – you can look here and see a dark little smudge to the left of the right-most branch hanging over the falls. It caught my eye because my camera shot that scene twice to get a better exposure, and that smudge wasn’t in the previous shot. The next photo has got the ouzel landing happily atop the waterfall. Alas, my camera thought we were doing branches, so the ouzel’s blurry. (Yes, I should get a DSLR, but I’m not fond of bulky cameras.)

Lockwood wandered down to the creek below the falls, while I messed about with the rocks and flowers a while longer before following. He pointed out another ouzel, or perhaps the same one, now fishing in the swiftly-flowing water downstream.

Water ouzel fishing in the creek. It's in a relatively shallow part. Behind it, whitewater is towering above it.

That is one brave bloody bird.

Alas, I didn’t get any shots of it walking underwater, and my luck wasn’t in whenever it buried itself in the whitewater. Lockwood got a shot that gets the point across, though.

Image shows the water ouzel in whitewater. Its head appears to be buried in the water, and a wave had broken over it in a splash of droplets.

Fearless Avian Menace to In-Stream Edibles, by Lockwood DeWitt.

The water flow was so fast and full that it looks almost fake in the videos I took. But there’s that bird, unconcernedly wandering around munching. Here’s a video I shot of it lunching for your viewing pleasure.

Of course, before that, it took its own sweet time getting cleaned up. Here’s the bonus video showing water ouzel hygiene routine.

And if you just can’t get enough of this ouzel, there’s a whole photo album full of it for ya. If fortune smiles upon us next summer, I may even be able to get you some more intense water ouzel shots. I fully intend to get back to McDowell Creek with Lockwood and B. I hope our water ouzel is there, washed up, and ready to demonstrate the full range of its native awesomeness for the camera.

Holy Cat

More Misha in sunbeams. Some would take this as a sign from God.

Image shows Misha lying on the floor in sunshine. Shadow on the wall is in the shape of a cross.

We skeptics of course know it is the inevitable result of sunshine shining through one of those windows with the rectangular thingies meant to make it look like it’s got lotsa fancy panes. But shhh. Don’t tell the it’s-a-sign folk. Quick! Look holy!

Same image as before, but Misha has turned her head, looking a bit like she's bowing it.

She’s got that false humility pose down, don’t she? I should take her to church. Imagine their faces when I tell ‘em it’s my cat who’s the Christian. Although I’m pretty sure she actually worships herself.

Why Am I Torturing Myself With Twilight?

Are you going to make it worse?

The reason I ask is because I’d got rather addicted to this Twilight sporking by Das Mervin. All right, so the homophobia and gendered slurs make me wince, and I wish she wasn’t so Catholic that she refrains from giving religious fuckery a good pounding when necessary, but I still couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t stop even though I kept kicking myself over spending time with this when I had other things to do. I couldn’t stop even when I was screaming along with her at the sheer bloody awfulness of these books. I don’t even remember exactly how I got started – something about wanting to know a bit more about Twilight because of Fifty Shades, but not wanting to go through the agony of reading the actual books. I mean, I appreciate good books. Everyone I’ve ever loved and trusted have said these books are horrible, even the people who like them. They’ve told me enough about them for me to know I should never read them. I will end up like Mervin, tearing out my hair, doing other violence to myself, and screaming myself hoarse over the lack of plot, the horrific grammar, the awful storytelling, the abusive relationships, the g-rated rapes, and other awfulness I can glimpse only dimly through the protective glass others have placed between me and these books.

But…

I’m actually tempted to read them myself, just to see how horrific they really are.

Image shows a white and gray cat, sitting on a table with its paw on an open book, looking at the camera. Caption says, "Sparkly vampires? Why you read this crap?"

Alone and unshielded, I would read every damned word, and report my findings to you, so that you may laugh at my pain. But it’s only worth it if you want my impression of these things. Otherwise, I will set temptation aside, and aside from sporkings, never touch it again.

What do you think? Do you want me to do this? Do you have certain themes you want me to look for and expound upon? Would you like these books thoroughly savaged, even if you love them? Do you want me pointing out where she got the local geology laughably wrong? If you ask me, I will do this for you. Because I love you. But not like Edward loves Bella, because that’s just dysfunctional.

Image is an extreme close-up of a cat's face. Caption says, "Edward kitteh watchez you sleepz. You smell liek bacon."

Along the way, I’d be reading some better fiction, and giving you reviews of it as an antidote to Twilight. Also, we’ll take a trip to Forks, and poke around the local geology while we tip our hats to the locals’ ability to mine shit for gold. (I’ve been through Forks, once. They’ve branded everything with Twilight crap, and the fans apparently eat it up. We’ll see if everything’s still Twilight-branded now or if they’ve decided cash isn’t as crucial as dignity.)

So, what do you think? Want this done? I’ll do it under one condition: one of you will have to send me the books. I’m not going to buy the damned things. I don’t want you buying them for me, either. Stephenie Meyer has made enough money from this drivel. But if you’ve got copies haunting your house, and you haven’t wanted to take them to the used bookstore because you’re a better citizen than to release that tripe into the community, then let me know, and I’ll pay the shipping for you to send them to me.

We’ll mine their rich veins of fail.

Then I’ll figure out something useful to do with them. Perhaps turn them into pet bedding, or use their crumpled pages as packing material as I ship you the rocky trinkets you’ve ordered from the Etsy store I swear is coming soon and will probably be called Dana Hunter’s Gneiss Schist because I can’t bloody resist a geological pun. Or perhaps you’ll come up with an even better fate for them.

So let me know at dhunterauthor at gmail whether you want me to murder brain cells like this. And if you do, we’ll get started just after I finish setting up stores and bleaching my brain with some good fiction.

Also, if you wish to donate small amounts of cash for the copious amounts of alcohol it will take to survive this, or larger amounts for the diligent medical attention it will take to recover from the alcohol poisoning, feel free to make enthusiastic use of the donate button in the sidebar.

Late Roses

It’s been a rather lovely fall, up until the last couple of weeks, during which nature has decided to make up for not raining enough during early and mid October and has rained nearly every day. Some of the local roses didn’t seem to want to let go of summer. It’s always nice to be able to stop and smell them when the leaves are changing.

Now, I’ve seen October roses in Oregon before. I’m always delighted to see them again. When we went to visit Lockwood, we stopped at the rest stop just outside of Albany, and the bushes there were enthusiastically abloom.

Image shows a red-orange rosebud just beginning to open, surrounded by younger buds.

A lovely set of buds.

And, for those who are fans of the single:

The same bud from a slightly different angle, with the other buds cut out.

A single half-blown rose.

But that’s not the most interesting rose. There was one that intrigued me. See if you can spot why:

Image shows a rosebush that has a variety of roses on it: some red, some pink, some red-orange.

A very interesting rosebush.

Here’s a different shot that may make it clear:

The same rosebush from a different angle, clearly showing the different varieties.

Intriguing.

See how many different colors there are? I’m not sure if this bush is a lot of bushes planted together, or if they were grafted to the same root stock, or something else, but it was odd and fun to see all those different kinds of roses popping out from what appeared to be a single bush.

Turning now to more local roses: some of our natives planted up by the creek have been enthusiastically blooming this fall. You got a sneak-peek when I showed you one that bees were hanging about on. But I took shots of a bunch, and they were lovely.

Image shows two dark pink wild roses blooming side-by-side. There's the remnants of an older bloom between them.

Native roses.

Some of them were in full bloom, while others were just getting started.

Image shows a dark pink rosebud, most of it tightly closed, but with a couple of petals beginning to unfurl.

Rose. Bud. Extra points to whomever gets the Rocko’s Modern Life reference.

Some were just on the verge of unfurling.

Image is a single dark pink rosebud, looking down into its opening petals.

Unfurl.

And the scent, people. I’m telling you, our native wild roses put a lot of cultivars to shame. Yeah, I buried my nose deep in to the ones that hadn’t got insects in them. Inhaling the last of summer, right there by the roadside. I try to set a good example for my fellow citizens.

Here’s one that’s nice and inviting. You can put your schnoz close to the screen and imagine, right?

Image is a single dark pink open rose.

Smell me!!

Notice the brilliant red rose hip there just below it. Love it when they’re all ripe and vibrant like that.

Fate intervened in the form of a kidney infection, or I may have been out there sniffing away as often as I could. But I got one last chance when B and I ventured out for a gentle walk to photograph fly agaric last week. There were still a few roses in bloom, despite the fact their own leaves were turning.

Image shows a different dark pink native rose in bloom, which has fewer petals than the other. Many of the leaves around it are still green, but a fair number have turned bright yellow.

Last brave roses.

See the raindrops on the petals? That’s my northwest, right there.

I had to take a last lingering look at that rosebush, blooming whilst turning yellow, and with a tree turned brown behind it.

Image shows the rosebush from the previous picture, with a tree behind it. The tree's leaves have all turned a russet brown.

Fall couplet.

I love how things hold on around here. Life was rather more sparse and cautious in the desert where I’m from, even up in the more alpine parts of the state. Here, the stuff grabs hold wherever it can, and generally holds on til the very last instant. There are almost always flowers. And it gives you plenty of opportunity to smell the roses, from early spring to late in the fall. I don’t think I’ll be trading this for anywhere else any time soon, unless someone’s got a little cottage on the Mediterranean they want to set me up with. In that case, I suppose I can relocate for a few seasons. But I’d want to come back here. Between the geology and the biology, it’s one of my favorite places on Earth.

 

 

Darwin’s Geologic Sense of Humor

Looking for a sophisticated way to call someone’s grasp of geology rudimentary or primitive? Want to tell them they’re backward without coming right out and saying so? Charles Darwin has you covered:

His Geology also is rather eocene…

You can adapt this phrase to any creationist of any background or gender, as well as use it on people who think they know a lot about geology but actually don’t. If they get what you’re saying, it’s just possible they’ll be able to extract their head from whatever orifice they’ve got it stuffed in and reconsider their understanding.

Something tells me I would have enjoyed spending time with Darwin.

Here is the phrase in context, in a letter to Joseph Hooker:

…I have been very deeply interested by Wollaston’s book (‘The Variation of Species,’ 1856.), though I differ GREATLY from many of his doctrines. Did you ever read anything so rich, considering how very far he goes, as his denunciations against those who go further: “Most mischievous,” “absurd,” “unsound.” Theology is at the bottom of some of this. I told him he was like Calvin burning a heretic. It is a very valuable and clever book in my opinion. He has evidently read very little out of his own line. I urged him to read the New Zealand essay. His Geology also is rather eocene, as I told him. In fact I wrote most frankly; he says he is sure that ultra-honesty is my characteristic: I do not know whether he meant it as a sneer; I hope not. Talking of eocene geology, I got so wrath about the Atlantic continent, more especially from a note from Woodward (who has published a capital book on shells), who does not seem to doubt that every island in the Pacific and Atlantic are the remains of continents, submerged within period of existing species, that I fairly exploded, and wrote to Lyell to protest, and summed up all the continents created of late years by Forbes (the head sinner!) YOURSELF, Wollaston, and Woodward, and a pretty nice little extension of land they make altogether! I am fairly rabid on the question and therefore, if not wrong already, am pretty sure to become so…

I have enjoyed your note much. Adios, C. DARWIN.

P.S. [June] 18th. Lyell has written me a CAPITAL letter on your side, which ought to upset me entirely, but I cannot say it does quite.

Though I must try and cease being rabid and try to feel humble, and allow you all to make continents, as easily as a cook does pancakes.

See? He even closes his letter with Spanish! Someone call the Doctor and get the TARDIS over here so we can go visit this man.

Charles Darwin, circa 1881. Photograph by Messers. Elliot and Fry. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Charles Darwin, circa 1881. Photograph by Messers. Elliot and Fry. Via Wikimedia Commons.

(h/t Glenn Branch)

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Odd Behavior

A mysterious birdie goes swimming and diving for foodstuffs in the McKenzie River valley’s Clear Lake, Oregon. This isn’t going to seem like particularly odd behavior for a water bird, but it is if it’s what we think this UFD is. I won’t say much so as not to give anything away. You can judge yourselves from the pictures and video.

Image shows a dark gray water bird swimming with its wings slightly raised. It has a rather short, thin beak, so we know it's not a duck.

UFD I

It was just a wee silhouette on the shadier side of the lake at first, and we watched it do the typical water birdy things without knowing what it might be, other than it definitely wasn’t a duck.

Image shows the dark silhouette of the water bird. It has jumped up on a log that crosses the lake there, and it walking about amongst the vegetation growing on the old wood.

UFD II

Now we could see its shape a bit better, but keep in mind, it was pretty far off and we didn’t have the same zoomed-in view this photo has.

The water bird, still in silhouette, has a foot up and is plucking a bit of something from it.

UFD III

It seems to be plucking a bit of plant from between its toes, there.

The water bird is now walking along the log.

UFD IV

In the above photo, we can now clearly see it hasn’t got webbed feet, but looks to have distinct, narrow little toeses. Rather odd for a paddling bird, innit? Yet when you watch the video, you’ll see it swimming and diving like a pro.

The bird is perched on one end of the log, looking in to the gap where the log has rotted away and water is flowing.

UFD V

Finally, it’s moved to a sunnier area, and we can see it’s a charcoal gray, not black. Not the most colorful bird ever, but if it’s what Lockwood and I think it is, this is a pretty exciting sighting.

The bird is leaning over the side of the log, getting ready to pluck something from the water.

UFD VI

You can see the feet pretty well in this shot, and it definitely looks like there’s no webbing.

I don’t really have an excuse for including this next photo. I just think it’s cute.

The bird seems to be scratching its chest with its beak.

UFD VII

And here you can see some faint markings on the wings, like little white stripes, possibly, but very subtle.

The water bird is in partial profile and looks like it's gazing toward the camera.

UFD VIII

I know what this little delight looks like, and when you watch the video, it’s behavior may have you exclaiming, “Is that a -?!” much like Lockwood did. Truth is, I dunno. So it’s down to you, my darlings. Watch its feeding behavior in the video, check out the photos, and decide if it’s acting just a smidge out of character for what it is, or if we mistook it for something else that’s acting perfectly normal.

 

The Wit and Wisdom of Ed Brayton, Guru Edition

I will probably never stop loving this bit of dry wit aimed at people who just cannot come to grips with reality. Ed Brayton on the death of a guru, my darlings.

The richest guru in India died of a heart attack in January. Doctors have declared him dead. But his followers insist that he isn’t dead, he’s just in an incredibly deep state of meditation. So deep that he has no heartbeat or brain activity and has to be kept in a freezer.

Image shows an orange and white cat standing with its front paws clenched in front of its face and its mouth gaping. Caption says, "It's alive!!!! Alive, I tell you!!!!"

Sometimes, all you can do is point and laugh without laughing. Thank you, people who invented deadpan humor.

Guess Who’s an Ordained Minister!

Yes, indeedy. You’re looking at Minister Dana Hunter now:

Image shows me wearing a sifter (which I use as a pasta strainer, which is holy headgear), holding my Letter of Good Standing from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Minister Dana Hunter, at your service.

I’m delighted. My ordination certificate should be here in a couple of weeks, and I’ll have a proper photo with me wearing the holy pirate garments for ya.

I’ve loved the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for some time now. Gotta respect a bunch who stand up against Intelligent Design and creationist nonsense, and challenge Christian hegemony with humor and panache. So when I needed to become an ordained minister in something (so as to make our schist holy), and I discovered it was quite easy to become ordained as a Pastafarian, I didn’t hesitate. (Procrastinated, yes. I do that.)

Becoming an ordained minister means I could also look in to things like officiating at weddings, should any of you wish to have me do that. I’d be honored to do the honors, as long as your state will recognize my authoritay.

And yes, I’m still an atheist. Of course I chose a church that will respect my philosophical stance!