Dick Cheney’s Hunting Legacy Lives On

If you think Dick Cheney “hunting” birds that were tied down till moments before he arrived was bad, wait till you see what Sarah Palin encouraged in Alaska: hunting wolves in the winter from airplanes.

A warning: the following advertisement is not something you want to watch if you’re sensitive to animal cruelty. I’m not carrying it in my VodPod video gallery because I cannot make such a warning in that case.


Let me say that I can think of reasons people might want to justify such hunting methods.  For example, over-population of wolves.  We’ve had similar controversies in Rochester over the deer over-population problem at Durand Eastman Park, and deer don’t kill our livestock or our family dog.

However, there doesn’t seem to be any real indication that the wolf population of Alaska is really a problem.  Rather, there is a history of over-management of the wolf population that extends well into the past, and the policy is really more vestigal than a genuinely modern wildlife program.  Alaska meanwhile has the largest remaining population of grey wolves in the United States which it threatens to destroy with this backward program.

Personally, while I respect and often agree with animal rights advocates, I’m not shy about the need for hunting in some situations.  Neither do I have an objection to hunting as a recreational sport.  But where we’re from here in Upstate New York, there is a sense of basic fairness to the way we go about hunting.  For all the technology we have to employ in the task of hunting, ultimately, the expectation is that it comes down to one man (or woman), one gun and one animal.  You aren’t allowed to hunt before dawn; you aren’t allowed to shine lights at deer to stun them into immobility.  You certainly are not allowed to circle them in a plane and keep taking shots till you hit them.


‘Tis That Time of the Season, Again!

Hatching time at the old falcon cam!

Lucky Family!

Mariah and Kaver have begun hatching this season’s brood.  And meanwhile, their daughter Rae Mae is hatching babies with her man Tiago in Canada.  Ah, spring!  It never feels like its really here till the falcon hatchings for me, anymore.


Do Seals Vote Republican?

I didn’t think so up until now, but given the penchant for bizarre sexual behavior, you have to wonder if one of these fellas doesn’t turn up in the Florida legislature soon:

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | ‘Sex pest’ seal attacks penguin

Why the seal attempted to have sex with the penguin is unclear. But the scientists who photographed the event speculate that it was the behaviour of a frustrated, sexually inexperienced young male seal.

Equally, it might be been an aggressive, predatory act; or even a playful one that turned sexual.

Seals, by the way, are known to have an evolutionarily predisposed “wide stance.”


My Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions

Of course, how trite of me to have a New Year’s Resolutions list, eh? But then, the start of a new year, like any mathematically or biologically significant milestone in the wheel of life, is a good time to reflect on what has been and what you hope should be. I’ve never ascribed to the concept of “resolutions,” in the sense of those silly promises you know you can’t keep. Rather, I prefer to take the opportunity to look out on the new cycle and set some long-term goals which have at least the appearance of achievability, and those whose aim it is to make me just a little bit better off than I was before.

And so, for the sake of both reflection and anticipation, I commit my most relevant political resolutions for the coming year:

1. I resolve to remind myself that “sovereignty” is not a word important only to the United States.

All too often in the discussion of the War on Terror, our entire dialogue happens in the absence of this very basic fact. I thought about this again while watching Pumpkin Head in the last Sunday morning of the Old Year, questioning politicians about the situation in Pakistan. I regret to say that Mike Huckabee did better with his answer than did Barack Obama. But both politicians and Tim Russert all seemed to forget that Pakistan, for all the aid we might have provided them, is still a sovereign nation. When Barack Obama says we need to “be sure” that elections in Pakistan are fair, well, the fact is that we don’t have the right to make that call. We tend to forget that while we get all wrapped up in our own problems.

And So They Cut the White Tree Down

It had stood silently for, . . oh, say eighty years or close to it. Trees don’t count, and we here in Rochester will probably never know. In eight long decades, it had provided branches on which birds might nest, nuts upon which squirrels might make their winter rations and roots that tilled the earth.

Wonder what you see when you stand in one place for that long? Countless generations of countless animals, including year after year of new children in the school that ringed ’round that old tree. Children that were there a few years, moved on, and came back a few years later with more kids.

The Unexpected World of Blogs and Falcons

The debate over the efficacy of blogs and blogging continues, especially in the Rochester area.  I took my own stab at defining the undefinable just prior to vacation.  Meanwhile, as sort of a quiet answer to “what good are blogs,” the Rochester Falcon Cam blog reports some amazing news:

Imprints » Blog Archive » A Pair of Fledgling Updates

From Mark Nash and our friends at the Canadian Peregrine Foundation comes the news that 2006 fledgling Rhea Mae has established a nesting territory on top of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto, Ontario Canada. This location has been home to a resident pair, Wind and Tiago, for the last several years. Reports indicate that Rhea Mae and Wind engaged in a territory dispute for four days, with Rhea Mae emerging victorious.

Not only that, but Linn was spotted in the Syracuse area.  I call this news amazing not because of the distance the two fledges traveled: these are in fact small journeys in the life of falcons.  What is truly amazing is that there are so many people watching these birds and reporting back to Imprints.  Where previously the migratory patterns of falcons was a secret known only to biologists and conservationists – where our public understanding of these patterns has previously been gleaned from seconds-long views of marked-up maps on PBS – we now have a very personal account of our feathered friend’s lives and times.

What a world we live in where we can get details so granular about things we’re interested in.  In this world of information, we make our own newspapers where we find our joy, we don’t wait for others.

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rFalcon Cam: There Be Hatchin’ in Progress!

Yep, the moment those of us habitually staring at the Kodak Tower falcons anxiously await each spring is upon us: the first of the latest edition of new falcons is breaking out of his shell:

The First Little One Hatches

And mama Mariah is working to help get the shell out of the way. Funny thing about falcons, at least in my own observation: where other carnivores tend to make the young handle these stressful, dangerous trials on their own, falcons are remarkably loving and solicitous at this moment.

Cleaning the Shell Away

EggTurning: Turning the Egg Upstate!

OK, so I’m having a little fun with our good friends at RT’s name, but all in good fun!  Here we see a picture of Mariah turning her eggs over in the nest.  Peregrines do this from time to time, presumably so that they don’t under-incubate the eyases on one side.  You know, if you don’t keep turning them, they come out all black on the one side and doughy on the other!
Egg Turning

Whoa! Someone Alert Rick Santorum!

Elsewhere in the world (like Europe, that din of iniquity), it appears that people are starting to grant Chimps “Human Rights”:

Slashdot | Should Chimps Have Human Rights?

“A Brazilian court has already issued a writ of habeas corpus in the name of a chimp. And now an Austrian court may well decide that a chimpanzee is a ‘person’ with what up until now have been called human rights.”

Next thing you know, they’re going to let “the gays” vote!

In all seriousness, though.  This has some interesting implications.  My personal view is that all living things have rights, but of course if that’s true, does this eventually mean we will have to pay reparations to the buffalo?  We are recognized as having the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and we rebel against any attempt to manage our lives.  But providing any of those things to folks without opposable thumbs necessarily means managing wildlife.

The thing is, at the risk of sounding like a Conservative, this is one of those “slippery slope,” kind of deals.  Once you acknowledge the rights of primates as a singular thing, you’ll not long after need to recognize the rights of all living things.  That’s good news for crabgrass, but think of the end game!

What would this do, for example, to the definition of murder?  Are we going to have crocodiles serving time on death row?  Well, finally the Conservatives could get the turnover rate they’re looking for. . . .

OK, it’s obvious I need a vacation. . . .

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The Sentinel

High above Rochester, a watchful father keeps danger at bay.
Kaver is doing his falcon best to keep the first egg of the season well-guarded. Earlier today, Mariah was sitting on the egg, and I almost wondered if she wasn’t laying a new one, but alas, no new eggs today. At least not so far. According to Imprints (the Falcon Cam authority and a treasure trove of falcon information), peregrines tend to space out egg laying by about two days or so. That means that if there are any newbies in our future, they should be coming in today.

The Sentinel

Let me also say a “thank you” to the Genesee Valley Audubon Society and the authors of Imprints for this fantastic source of information. So many of us stare at the page when we should be working, little understanding the intricacies of peregrine falcon lives. No longer. Now, we’re getting great information all the time, and folks have a chance to comment and be part of a community. There are, of course, falcon and bird-cam forums and such, but those require registrations most of us won’t bother with and most forum software is devoid of the all-important RSS feeds that make modern blogging possible.

Thank you, guys!


Yes, yes indeed! It’s definitely spring, now. Days can be counted upon to be over 40 and even 50 more often than not, skirts are getting shorter and the falcons are laying eggs. Apparently, somewhere over the course of the night, when I wasn’t looking, Mariah laid the first arrival of the season.

Aaaahh! Spring. I feel like getting some brews and cooking out tonight. It’s just a shame that I don’t own a working grill at the moment. Well, there’s some impulse shopping for the weekend, eh?

The New Arrival

Now for the Really Important Rochester News. . .

. . .  What are the falcons doing?  That’s all I really care about, right now.  Certainly, that’s all my wife cares about.  We’re waiting for eggs to hatch and maybe catch them in the act like we did last year.  This year, we’re going to have some competition in terms of being the first to publish pictures of the new arrivals: the Rochester Audubon Society has a new, highly-informative blog dedicated to our favourite Peregrines (Took, not withstanding), Caver and Mariah:

Rfalconcam – Imprints » Blog Archive » Courtship, Mating, & Nest Preparation

Peregrines are creatures of habit. Like tony jet-setters with expensive apartments and high-rise condos scattered through midtown Manhattan, wild Peregrines typically select two or three nest sites within a given territory, and move among them from year to year. Mariah bucks this trend, as do many of her urban-dwelling cousins. It turns out that the nest boxes set up by their human benefactors on the tops of buildings, smokestacks and other lofty structures are so ideally placed that there’s little need to wander around– a bit of a contradiction for a bird whose name means “wanderer”.

If you have a chance to do some reading, check out this post. It’s fascinating.  Peregrine Falcons are really interesting birds!  I did manage to snap off a good screen grab this morning, but I’m not sure if it’s Mariah or Caver that I’ve got, here.

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