Saturday, September 16, 2017

Emergency birdie update

This is an Emergency birdie report!

I admit it when something obsesses me. I always liked birds, but the last couple of years I'm just crazy about them. I'm not the only one either. Yes, many of my friends look at me when I'm talking about them as if I'm crazy (or crazier than they already though), but l also know a lot of people really interested, some much more than me.

Lately, my obsession has heightened my awareness of them and whereas, I think like most people, I used to just note a bird, now I'm looking at its features intently as soon as I see it and boring my evalovin' gf (and others) by identifying it verbally, if I can. Unfortunately, it is rare I have my camera on me when I see one flying by, or to be ready to snap a picture if I do, and the cell phone camera is rarely sufficient for smaller birds. Unlike cows, birds are often on the move and you only get a few seconds before they are gone.

A few weeks ago while at my pond (see previous "birdie" posts) I suddenly noticed a little gull shaped bird flying by. It was smaller than most gulls. I stared at it like a panther its prey and could see it had grey wings and a completely black hooded head. It flew off. Although I had my camera next to me there was no time to take a picture.  I hoped it would come back to the same spot as many birds do. A few weeks later I saw what I thought was a pair of them, but I was looking into the light and couldn't be sure. I've been trying to track it down in my bird books and I'm pretty sure this is it - it is a little gull - that's its name, little gull. It looks like this:

Related image

As my gull flew by I could not see its underside, but only the upper wings and head, so its body may or may not have been white.  It was not making any noise or doing anything notable, just flying by, so I can only say that New York is in its range, I couldn't find anything else that fit the bill (pun intended) and I am pretty sure it's what it was.

A few weeks back I stepped outside to greet some workmen. There was a small bird on the front lawn - not unusual - pecking into the ground. At first, I thought it was a small crow or maybe a starling. But, just as one of the workers was stepping out of the truck he heard me say, "What the f*** is that?" He looked and said, "A bird." He wasn't wrong, but that's not what I meant. "I know that," I said. "But look at it. It has a black body and a brown head. I don't know what kind it is."  He said, "Ask him (his partner). He's a scientist." I was a little surprised that the guy who was going to rip out the kitchen was a scientist (he explained later this work paid much better) but he immediately said it was a grackle. I didn't think that was it but just said, "Oh, thanks." A few seconds later its mate flew down, and then they looked at me looking at them and then flew off.

The scientist was a nice guy and I think intelligent, but he was a marine biologist, not an ornithologist, so I decided to look in my books (I love my bird books) and online. I couldn't find a grackle that matched what I saw. So I did what I always try to do - I just perused until I found it. The brown-headed catbird. It looks like this:

That was definitely the birds I saw on my front lawn.

As I've pointed out in prior Birdie posts, the birds' behavior is also of unending interest to me, even though they are usually creatures of habit. I love it when they do the same thing day after day. But sometimes they step out of character and it is more interesting. I don't know why, the other day, a mallard picked up and try to swallow what was obvious a feather. Birds know feathers. Sparrows and swallows often pick them up to carry away, I'm presuming to their nests. One mallard did it and then a second, watching, tried too. They both gave up after a few chews. I mean, ycchhh, even for a bird. But what made them try? Did they think maybe it was food?

And for a few days last week the three main families who inhabit the shore of my little pond, the swans, the geese and the mallards, were visited by a stranger - a sea gull. One plopped himself down in the midst of them. Not a few minutes flight away there are thousands of other gulls at the shore. But, he must have wanted to be here, because he stayed for about three days before leaving, I'm guessing to find other gulls.

In the meantime, I think I hear the mockingbird in my backyard imitating his neighbor the cardinal. Gonna go look.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you I have been photographing the swanlet the pair had at the pond all year since it was born. It is almost full grown and many of its feathers have turned white. I will put some photos together when he's all white and you can see the change over time. This is not a particularly attractive time for the young swans as the gray and white does not mix very well. He's like an ugly duckling.

I also met a man at the pond who also comes there frequently and belongs to the Audobon Society. He had a bird book in his car and we discussed what we have seen at the pond for a good while. That doesn't happen to me a lot. He mentioned that the male swan here now is not the same as the one last year. That swan died after getting tangled up in a fishing line. He himself cleans out the fishing lines left at the pond frequently. I don't go in the water, not having waders, but I do clean up the shore and curse out the bastards who leave their junk there. "Bastard!!!" (and much worse).

This has been an Emergency birdie report!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


Ahhhhhh - football is here. The long night is over. Starts Thurday.

As fans know, the Lions' QB, Stafford, just signed an insane contract, making him, by averaging, the highest paid QB.  When you look at the highest paid QBs long term or this year alone, makes no real sense. It is a consequence of the salary cap and the desire to lock QBs in on long term deals.

Here's the top ten for 2017:

Joe Flacco, $24.55 million
Carson Palmer, $24.125 million
Kirk Cousins, $23.943 million
Matt Ryan, $23.75 million
Matthew Stafford, $22 million
Aaron Rodgers, $20.3 million
Cam Newton, $20.166 million
Philip Rivers, $20 million
Eli Manning, $19.7 million
Andrew Luck, $19.4 million

Now the top 5 have all proved they are NFL starting QBs. But, imagine anyone other than Brady getting more than Rodgers. And where is Brady on this list? He's down a bit, getting only $14 million this year (only a million in salary and a $13 million deferred signing bonus from several years ago. In the end, I believe (though it is a little complicated), he cares more about winning than making extra millions, his wife makes insane amounts of money (still, by far, the highest paid supermodel in the world), he brings in another 12 mill or so in endorsements (though P. Manning still makes more, as do Newton and Wilson). Consequently, he doesn't care that much.  

Here's my list of, if salaries were for one year and rational, what the QBs should make this year. Admittedly, after my top ten, it gets fuzzy and after 20 really fuzzy. At the bottom, there is no real order - those guys are either just barely there or unproven.

Brady - Even if everyone says, he is the GOAT, he is still under-appreciated. 14-1 TD/interception ratio last year was unheard of, even over 12 games. And, if he played not one game until the SB, he still might be on top. 
Rodgers - The only QB who could make some argument he should get as much or more than Brady. 
Ryan - This is based on this one past year, though he did not produce in the second half of the SB. Brady was the real MVP for the season, in my mind, but you can justify, after the regular season, giving it to Ryan.
Brees - A future Hall of Famer for sure, who is every year among the best in the league, although reportedly, he may care too much about his stats. He is phenomenal, but the numbers from a team that passes, passes, passes, is padded a little.
Roethlisberger - Another future Hall of Famer who produces every year he plays and isn't hurt. But, seriously, find something to call him other than "Big Ben." Commentators say it so often it has become ludicrous.
Wilson - Sometimes I think he is underrated. Every year though, he has to become more of a pocket player. Getting hit doesn't work out well in the long term. Ask RGIII and Luck.
Carr - One of the best of the young men who got to start early on in his career. Lets see how he recovers from injury. Raiders are a real question mark this year.
Prescott - Some think he is the best young player in the league. I'd still put Carr ahead of him, but you could convince me otherwise. Phenomenal rookie year.
Cousins - He doesn't get the credit he deserves. Look at his accomplishments on a mediocre team.
Bradford -  Some might be shocked I'm rating him so highly, but he's a very good traditional pocket QB who was hurt his first two years and has since played on mediocre teams. But, he produces. He hasn't won, but he hasn't had a chance.
Newton - One of the most overrated players in the league, he still makes the top third. He had his one great year. Otherwise, he is a dangerous weapon that often misfires. No excuse for not winning the SB two years ago.
Smith - Does anyone know he's still playing. Very steady, but not great QB.
Rivers - Great talent. People argue whether he is a hall of famer. I'm on the fence too but leaning no. He may have seen best years.
Hoyer - Better than everyone thinks. The Browns made a huge mistake. But, he's now a journeyman who has yet one more chance to prove himself.
Wentz - He has potential. He could be another Foles though, never quite making it.
Taylor - Talented, like a little Cam, but has never really shown enough.
Flacco - I actually like Flacco a lot, think he could have been near the top, but, other than their unexpected SB year, I don't think he has ever showed much except in flashes.
Palmer - Too many years hearing what talent he has.
Stafford - Too many years hearing what talent he has.
Dalton - Too many years hearing what talent he has. These last three QBs are just never quite there and their time is running out.
Mariota - Could be a great someday. Still not there though.
Winston - Same as with Mariota.
Luck - most overrated QB in the game. He throws endlessly and I hope he has learned it is not fun to get sacked. I'd say he can be very good, but he's definitely not great. And, as we know, it has been a long time off. I include him expecting he will start game two or three.
Manning - I know he won 2 SBs, so maybe I'm wrong. But, most of the time, he doesn't seem all that good. He has an incredible opportunity this year. If he doesn't produce, he belongs here. If he does, I was wrong.
Siemian - He can go up or down from here. I'm not expecting that much.
McCown - A journeyman, who had one good year (a few games).

Unproven or not really good at all:
Bortles - So far shown very little.
Goff - So far shown nothing.
Kizer - Unknown
Savage - Unknown
Cutler - So tired of hearing what talent he has. Despite his once astronomical salary, he has always been bad to mediocre.

Who is going to win the 2018 SB? The Pats says I. Anything can happen in the NFL and injuries, sometimes to the best or key players, often do.

Who will they play? I think the Seahawks. For brief flashes last year, the Hawks were the best team in the league. They were the only team I feared the Pats facing. And when they did, they crushed them. Some are arguing that getting Sheldon Richardson is not a big deal. I think it is. Again, injuries can change everything.

Who would I like the Pats to face? The Giants, who are hard to predict. They beat Dallas twice last year and their defense is among the elite teams (Seahawks, Pats, Texans and Giants).  I see them again being a wild card, but not going far. But, if like in previous years, they surprise everyone, I will be happy. Because if there is one thing Brady and Belichick would like, it would be to avenge their two defeats.

Short post today. Let the games begin.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .