Monday, June 27, 2016


A red bird has been attacking the mirror on my car for months.  He stands and gazes into the mirror and sees only himself.  This guy pecks at his picture in a frantic attempt to convince his other self how great he is and all the while pooping all over my car.  No matter how frantically he kisses the mirror his image keeps coming back and just will not leave.

His love for himself knows no bounds as he continues to visit the mirror for hours on end.  And when he is not kissing himself on the glass he is off on a nearby structure singing his praises at the top of his lungs telling the world what a wonderful red bird he is.

Will all this self adulation convince the powers that be to elect Red Bird KING?


During the past year there have been numerous news  reports about the spread of the Zika virus through South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico  . This disease is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito  Over the last year scientists have observed a strong correlation between this disease and a spike in children born with a birth defect called microcephaly.  Brazil has been particularly hard hit, but the disease is spreading fast and has reached much of the warmer parts of the Americas.  These mosquitos can breed in a tiny amount of standing water and the slums of Brazil and other countries are the perfect locations for this epidemic.  Many of these "shanty towns " do not have sewer systems or  good sources of clean drinking water.  Rain that falls, collects in  puddles and abandoned trash like plastic cups.  The mosquitos have a perfect habitat for their life-cycle that only takes a few days. In the United States cases of Zika have been reported in many areas of the country,  so far all have resulted from  travel to Brazil or other areas where the disease is prevalent.

Why should we care?  Recent evidence suggests that the babies carried by pregnant women  are at extreme risk of acquiring the virus.  This pathogen apparently has the effect of creating the retardation/birth defect we call Microcephaly where the head and the brain are much smaller than normal.  Many babies have been born in Brazil and other parts of the Americas with this condition.

There is NO quick fix.  No cure or treatment. No vaccine. There is not even a reliable test for this disease. It may take years to bring this pathogen under control. At this point experts indicate that controlling the mosquito is the best way forward.  However, recent information indicates that the virus can not only pass from mother to child but also between sexual partners as well which is a first for a mosquito borne disease.  Adult who become infected with Zeka can come down with the neurological condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome This means this disease can spread without mosquitos, which makes it a threat to the human population world wide.

The  prospect of millions of babies being born with microcephaly or other birth defects as a result of a Zika infection, has sent shock waves throughout the medical community.,  Our government has requested 1.9 Billion dollars to deal with  this disease and women who are pregnant are being cautioned not to visit areas in the "Zika Zone".

It is still too early to predict what will happen, but the potential economic ramifications  of this disease could be devastating.  Any person going to see the Olympics in Brazil  in the Summer of 2016, will have to factor into their thinking  that there is a real possibility of contracting Zika.  Are people willing to take the risk of getting sick and potentially destroying an unborn child? Already the Brazilian government has panicked and is using its military to spray insecticides and do other things to try to get rid of the mosquitos---these efforts may ultimately  do more harm than good.  The economy of Brazil is already in trouble  and this epidemic is not going to help.

On a human level this is a tragedy   A Time magazine photo of a young Brazilian couple with their microcephaly child, was  heart wrenching.  As this disease continues to spread, millions of couples across the planet will make the difficult choice of postponing  having a child or accept the risk of  bringing a child into this world who faces an early death or at best a life full of problems.

The recent Zeka funding bill passed by the House of Representatives is a disgrace.  It is wholly inadequate in the face of this terrible threat.  The radicals who run the House are going to live to regret their stupid behavior.  Many of these members of Congress represent areas in the south where the disease will hit first because they have the most mosquitos and  it has the potential to do the most damage. When young mothers begin having retarded children because of their incompetence their lack of foresight will come back to haunt them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016



Every Spring we are serenaded by mourning doves, cardinals, robins, mockingbirds, wrens  and other song birds as they prepare for the spring mating season.  Humans get an emotional boost when birds begin singing in the early Spring  because they know the weather will get warmer; and the vegetation will start to grow and everything will begin to green-up.

Recent fossil discoveries in China have found that not all of the dinosaurs died out in the big meteor strike about 65 million years ago.  Modern birds are descended from a flying feathered dinosaur that some how survived the disaster. Why did they survive when so many other species became extinct within a very short time?  Being small, mobile and warm blooded probably helped.

Bird song is interpreted by us as a pleasant experience, but for birds it is part of a threat display that is anything but pleasant.  If you translated a robin's song into English you probably could not print it or say it on TV. The male robin who arrives on site first uses his beautiful song to create a "wall" between himself and other male robins in the area.  Unlike humans who create actual walls, fences and hedges to separate themselves from their neighbors, the robin's wall is invisible. If you doubt this just watch the birds for awhile as they chase each other back and forth  until they agree on the boundary. Once the territory boundaries  are  defined the female robin will join her mate and they will get down to business.

In most bird species the female builds a nest while  the male stands guard. Each kind of bird has its own technique in nest building. The behavior is instinctive, meaning the steps followed are programed into the bird's tiny brain. The choice of  location, materials used and the procedures followed are all set in this animal's DNA. As remarkable as it may seem robins, cardinals and Baltimore orioles will make a nest exactly like the one they were born in, even without ever having seen one. The oriole weaves a bag-like nest that hangs from a branch that must weather rain, heat and wind as it holds mother and young for more than a month. And she does this with a beak and two feet. I challenge any human who has seen such a nest to create one with just your fingers---you can not do it.

Once the chicks hatch, typically both parents carry food to the nest.  Why do they go to all this work to care for their offspring? Love? To make sure their children grow up to be good productive citizens in bird society?  Not really. If you look in a nest you will see baby birds open their mouths in anticipation of food. A scientist once placed  a test-tube painted with the same color as the birds mouth in a nest.  The result---the parents filled the test-tube with worms. When the baby opens its brightly colored mouth this is a signal "Mom,  go get food".  If it is cold, wet or the babies do not feel well they will not open their beaks and the parents stop bringing food---result is death to the young.  This Spring was cold and wet; and when I monitored some bluebird boxes, I discovered several young bluebirds dead in the boxes. Absent a signal, their parents had simply stopped feeding them.

The flying dinosaurs  living in our landscapes are beautiful, fascinating creatures that have managed to survive for millions of years.  They certainly brighten our lives with their songs, their wide variety of colors and their fascinating behavior.  If you do not have these creatures visiting your yard on a regular basis, adding native shrubs and trees  to the landscape will provide the habitat they look for each Spring as they prepare to keep their species going.