#449 Sage Thrasher

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

There’s a big difference between “What else could it be?” and “That’s what it is!” When Kelsey Gonzalez spotted a roughly mockingbird-sized grayish bird with a streaked breast and a downward curved bill between Ponds 2 and 3 at San Joaquin this morning, I was really tempted to call it a Sage Thrasher. After all, nothing else even came close. American Pipit, seen earlier in the day, was probably the second best, but the bill was completely wrong for that. In fact, everything else even remotely possible with that streaked a breast had a straight bill, and the bill was the most distinctive feature. Still, Sage Thrasher would be a very unusual bird for that location, and one thing stood in the way: according to the field guide, the iris should be yellow, and this bird’s wasn’t. It wasn’t completely dark, but it was what I called a hazel brown.

Thank God for the Web! When I got home, I used Google image search to look for Sage Thrasher photos, and sure enough: even if the field guides don’t mention it, lots of Sage Thrashers have a noticeably hazel brown irises! That clinched it for me: it was a Sage Thrasher, life bird #449 and my 250th bird in California.

Election Thoughts

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

As Michael Harrington told me back in 1984–hoping for a Mondale victory–if he wins, tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we start organizing to keep him honest. Like Jimmy Carter and John Kennedy, I fully expect Obama to talk a much different game than he plays.

For all the wingnut fears about a vast left-wing liberal agenda over the next four-eight years, it’s worth remembering that like Clinton before him, Obama is slightly to the right of Richard Nixon. In any other Western democracy he’d be considered somewhere from a moderate to a hard right-winger. That Obama’s considered a liberal is simply a measure of how far to the right this country has swung in the last 30 years. Not that this isn’t a victory, or an important one, but it’s small change in direction, not a large one.


Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Voting in California is sure a lot more exciting than in Brooklyn. There’s a lot more to vote for here, and the outcome doesn’t seem like a foregone conclusion. (In my Brooklyn district, the Democratic machine just wins, every single time, with perhaps one notable exception when a quirk of election law briefly put control of the nomination in the hands of a murdered city councilman’s mother.) Here in Irvine we get to vote on 14 different propositions.

Of course they’re the statewide propositions. You’ve all heard about Prop 8, I’m sure, but there are 11 others on the ballot. In California various interest groups get together to buy laws with disinformation. For instance, T. Boone Pickens is pushing Prop 10, a measure to give about five billion dollars of taxpayer money to natural gas and trucking companies. Of course, if you phrase it like that no one would vote for it, so instead it’s disguised as an environmental measure. It isn’t. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Prop 7 is another weird one that seems to be about the environment. This one I don’t really understand, but the Sierra Club says no, so I’ll vote against it.

Moth Monday: I’ve Run Out!

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

So I went back to Santiago Oaks yesterday to find another one. This is an Armyworm Moth, Mythimna unipuncta, Hodges#10438, which I found about 7:15 A.M outside the restrooms. Thanks to Steve Nanz for this ID.

Brown moth on ceiling

However this may be my last moth for a while. I don’t have any remaining publication quality (even blog quality) photos of moths, and the winter months are not great for moths, though just maybe I can scare up one or two more. Maybe if I put up a black light?