Like Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower, the gull, along with many urban birds, is overlooked and pushed aside, sometimes literally under foot on crowded sidewalks. Also like O’Keeffe’s flower, when you take the time to really look at that gull and embrace the wholeness of her — her yellow bill, her gray coverts, her ear spots or orbital rings, the white tips of her stretched wings — she becomes your world not just for the moment, but in perpetuity.
If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages. So here’s an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy.
This spring we had what's called an "outbreak" of tent caterpillars in Seattle -- Malacosoma californicum -- a cyclical occurrence of every six to ten years where these white, diaphanous tents drape across branches of alder, apple, ash, birch, cherry, cottonwood, willow, fruit trees, and roses. The tents are shelter, shade, and molting sites for the vivid larvae inside. The caterpillars venture out in the day to feed on foliage, then return each night to hunker down in their fortress. The black speckles are frass, or caterpillar waste which accumulates in their temporary home.
They sit suspended at the 18th weir, these scaled faces in the sockeye crowd. It's the window to their water world, the portal from ocean to stream to lake, where their gills remember the taste of fresh after years in the salty sea -- and where they lead -- at least in part -- by magnetic memories of the gravel beds where they were born.
Starlings are common residents in my city landscape. In appearance they are kaleidoscopic, polychromatic, iridescent, resplendent. In song, they are whistles, chants, murmurs and twitters. Every spring, they find ways to reconfigure urban structures into sanctuaries for their nests -- structures like this corrugated metal framework.
This isn't the first time I've seen an Osprey napping with a fish in his talons. Last year, while observing the platform way across Seattle's long-abused-but-recovering Duwamish River I watched a male Osprey land on a utility pole, clutching a half-eaten meal. A crow who'd been tailing the Osprey, landed alongside. The Osprey perched, adjusted -- then appeared to doze off.
One way to illustrate what’s at stake in removing protections from gray wolves, is to quote the people who’ve effectively been given legal license to kill them. I will not link out to their websites or Facebook fan pages (some of which have thousands of fans — one has more than 18,000), but I can assure you this rhetoric is frequently accompanied by gruesome imagery of dead wolves. I’ve posted just a smattering of their words, from a much larger supply, at the end of this post. [Crudeness warning.]
The flight path started at distant patches of seaweed which passing cormorants would pick off the water and carry back to their nesting towers. In the image below, a Pelagic Cormorant with characteristic white flanks, handed off a seaweed prize to his lady love. Since both male and female incubate, I'm not 100 percent sure of the sexes here, but the gift bringer did seem the larger of the two, which would suggest a male.
It seems like common sense ... to slow or stop the car if you see an animal on the road. But, in recent weeks, I've had several incidents where birds were clearly in harm's way and people refused to either stop or take even 30 seconds off their commute to let an animal exit the roadway.
During the week after I first documented the branch-bearing herons, I returned to the park to watch the avian house builders again. I posted to my Facebook page that I stood for an hour that first day, mesmerized by this testament to renewal. In the end, there were 40+ new nests and trees full of heron chatter.