Hawks are back in the Delta

Hawks have been slow to return to the Delta this year.  Only in the last week have they begun taking up their posts. Usually that means a mild winter.  Hawks do what all sentient beings do and leave Arkansas in the summer. If they cared enough about humans, they’d wonder why some humans stay and hibernate in their air conditioning. But they’re also smart enough to leave the North in the winter.

Red-tailed_Hawk_l07-52-061_l

The South is where hawks breed and rear their young.   Hawk breeding season lasts from March through May. Mating begins in early March with both males and females performing aerial displays.

One of the delights of Spring is watching mating hawks circling and soaring to great heights, then folding their wings and plummetint to treetop level.  I’ve seen them do it five or six times in a row.  This isn’t a mating dance, because hawks are monogamous and mate for life.  The dancing is just a prelude to dest building. Their nests are in the forks of trees 35 to 75 feet off the ground.  The nests are large, flat and shallow. The preferred building material is 1/2 inch diameter sticks and twigs. Males and females work on the nests and use them from year to year while performing required repairs.

Mature red tail hawks return to their breeding grounds every year.  Young hawks will migrate earlier and go farther than their parents as they for their own territories.  You can tell them apart because the adults have reddish tails often with a band on the tip; juveniles have brownish tails usually with several dark bands.  So red-tailed hawks don’t necessarily have red tails.

I bet you’ve heard the call of the redtail.  Movie and TV directors seem to think the redtail’s raspy scream sounds exactly like a raptor should sound.  Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a red-tailed hawk.  When you hear the cry, it will get your attention.

So most everyone knows something about the redtail whether they know it or not.  And you’re pretty safe in calling almost any hawk you see a redtail.  There are several other species and we love to spot them, but the redtails predominate.

The flat farmland of the Delta is perfect for hawks  They love the open fields with great telephone poles to perch in.  Sometimes in the winter in the Delta, you can see a redtail on every other telephone pole.

Redtails love elevated perch sites.  One study in Arkansas indicated they prefer to hunt in areas with perches even if the area has a lower prey density than more open areas.  They sometimes spot prey from the air, but more often from their perches.  From their lofty thrones they watch until they spot a careless mouse or bird.

Redtails watch and patrol the fields and roads near the Delta outpost.  We regularly see redtails diving in the fields and coming up with dinner. We stop and watch them from a distance until they notice us and fly away with the rest of their catch.

Red-tailed hawks have been seen hunting as a pair, guarding opposite sides of the same tree to catch squirrels.

Many country people used to blame redtails when they lost poultry and called them “chicken hawks.”    As a result, redtails were commonly shot.  The redtail’s propensity to perch in the open made it particularly vulnerable to persecution.  Wildlife biologists now say redtails don’t go after chickens, but they may just like redtails more than chickens. So does any country person nowadays.  We’re willing to lose a chicken every now and then because we love to have hawks around.

Those who really like watching hawks will learn to distinguish hawks from buzzards when they fly over. Buzzards or turkey vultures can be easily mistaken for hawks when they are up in the sky.  Here are some tricks to use to tell the difference:

  • the tips of buzzard wings look a little more like fingers, the tips of hawk wings are smoother
  • redtails usually have light, oatmeal colored underside while buzzards have dark undersides
  • a buzzard will soar around in circles while a hawk usually soars for a much shorter time before flapping its wings and doesn’t usually make circles
  • vultures hold their wings in more of a V and wobble a bit while flying; hawks’ wings are more straight across and they don’t wobble.

Hawks have a particular flying style when they are just flying for fun and not hunting.  They kite.  This is a combination of soaring and gliding.  You may be familiar with the relatives of redtails called kites.  They are also members of the hawk family.

Redtails are one wild species you don’t have to come to the country to see.

The best known redtail is called Pale Male and lives atop an apartment building near Central Park in New York City.   He first appeared there in 1991. Since then, he’s built a nest every year on the same building. He’s has outlived several mates and produced offspring which have also established nests near Central Park. You can follow his adventures as late as October 2018 at http://www.palemale.com/.

The oldest known red-tailed hawk was almost 30 years old.  Since they usually come back to the same area to breed you can get to know your local redtails.

If you are really interested in hawks, come help us do a survey of our population this fall and winter.  Nothing nicer than watching hawks kite on a clear fall day.

Advertisements

Arkansas is not Arizona: so far we don’t elect witches

When people see the Arkansas state abbreviation of AR, they often think it stands for Arizona. We’re used to being confused with Arizona, but we really don’t have much in common.  We have 50 inches of rain a year; they get less than 10. We are mainly rural, most of them live in cities. We have a Ten Commandments monument at our Capitol.  Arizona has a major political candidate who consorts with witches.

Everything comes to Arkansas ten years late, so we don’t yet have any witches as political candidates. When we talk about witch hunts we are talking about a hunt for something which doesn’t exist. Arizonans have some real witches to hunt. In Arizona, there’s at least one candidate on the ballot who takes sorcery very seriously.

20171027_witches-4_bw_2000

I’ve had some great visits to Arizona and met some great people.  But even just two years ago I didn’t notice any witch infestation.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, is probably not a witch. But she has been known to hang out with witches. It was during the height of the Iraq War when Sinema, then a far-left protest organizer, summoned supernatural help stop the Iraq War.

Sinema inviting a prominent coven of feminist witches in Arizona called Pagan Cluster to celebrate International Women’s Day and to protest the war in March of 2003. Code Pink protesters wore pink, obviously enough, and the Women in Black wore black. But Sinema encouraged the witches to wear “colorful clothing and come ready to dance, twirl, and stay in touch with your inner creativity and with the Earth.”

Today’s Sinema campaign would not say why she invited the witches or clarify why she thought members of the occult deserved a seat at the table during discussions concerning war and peace. The witches in question, it should be noted, claim to practice only nonviolent magic. Their webpage says theirs is a peaceful and democratic kind of sorcery.

Out of the broom closet and into the public square, the Pagan Cluster focuses “sharing spiritual insights and participating in direct democracy.” Their visions are decidedly liberal and many of their coven “have roots in the Reclaiming Tradition of feminist Witchcraft.”

This sort of hocus pocus wasn’t isolated either. Later that year, in November, Sinema attended a similar anti-war rally, this one in Miami and with other pagans. She writes about “singing and spiraling in the pagan’s circle only 5 rows back from the police line.” The magic was not enough to stop a police crackdown apparently. Sinema described the subsequent crowd control and arrests as “brutal.”

Most people in Arkansas are pretty happy to be behind the times.  When the world ends, Arkansas will be the place to be because everything comes here ten years late. We are just now voting on casino gambling when all surrounding states already have it. So we aren’t upset to have no witch candidates. It’s fine to let others try out witches as Senators and Governors.  History tells us that doesn’t work out too well, but Arizona seems to be falling for the spell.

=======

Mark Twain spent lots of time in Arkansas and supposedly is the source of the ten years late idea, but others don’t think so. Click this article on the end of the world.

Saudi Arabia: pampered pet gone feral

A real country dog lives at the Delta outpost. When I forget to feed her, she just finds a rabbit or squirrel for dinner.  Now and then she brings home the haunch of a deer. And she doesn’t come in the house. Country people don’t allow dogs in the house. Let pets in the house and you are headed down the slippery slope to spoiling them.  Then watch out or they will become like Saudi Arabia.

buka miniskirt

Dogs and cats and horses are great to have on the farm. But treat them too well and they will control your life. At Meadowcreek, we had a resident who loved her chickens.  So much so, she brought them inside. They had the run of her house. And we had to clean it up after she left. Cats are probably not as bad, but they sure do leave a lot of hairs on the furniture of cat lovers.  Dogs are fine inside if you ignore the little accidents they will have now and then.

Saudi Arabia resembles a city pet spoiled by the West. Eighty years ago, nearly all Arabs were primitive goat and sheep herding tribes who had turned their lands into deserts and were continually raiding each other. The heyday of Muslim science and mathematics (algebra or al-jabr in Arabic was first systematized by the Arabs and our numbers are still called Arabic numerals) was long gone. Creativity, enterprise and science were stifled by strict religious hierarchies.

On their desert peninsula, this control was exercised by the Saud family who had defeated all the other tribes. Before oil was discovered, Saudis produced nothing of value to the outside world.  The royal family and their government was supported by taxes on imports and pilgrims to Mecca and the other Muslim holy sites. The land was a few tourist sites in the midst of the goat and sheep herders.

Then oil was discovered. After the Second World War, American oil companies developed and managed oil production.  The oil facilities were manned by Americans and other foreigners trained by Americans.  American companies created a new company, Arab-American Oil Company or ARAMCO to extract wealth from the world in exchange for oil.  In return, all the Saud family became a pampered pet.  The Saudis did nothing except let the American companies operate and extract profits as they wished.

But the xenophobic Sauds were gradually able to get more and more control and profit from the Americans. Then the riches really started to pour in.  Nearly all the work in the Kingdom was done by foreigners. Meanwhile arch-conservative religious extremism–known as Wahhabism–continued to control all life in Saudi Arabia.  The most popular major in their new colleges was religious studies. Saudi wealth enabled them to establish Wahhabist schools throughout the world.  These schools provided employment and a base for proselytization by the graduates of Wahhabist schools.

I’ve only been to Saudi Arabia once.  On the flight in, all alcohol, Bibles and other forbidden materials were ordered locked up as long as the plane was in Saudi air space.

The most extreme version of Wahhabism was suppressed in Saudi Arabia itself because it threatened the rule of the Saud family.  Instead it flourished in Wahhabist schools in Afghanistan (where the 9-11 plot was hatched) and Iraq (where it gave rise to ISIS).

Saudi Arabia once was a pampered pet maintained in luxury by its American oil company masters.  Then it grew more and more demanding until the former master was almost the slave to the pet.  Now the pampered pet has become a violent beast still supported by the wealth pouring in through the system established by its former masters.

Saudi Arabia has long executed scores of people every year for crimes including atheism, adultery, sorcery and witchcraft. Until recently they have limited their executions to their own country. Now it appears they may have executed a journalist in their consulate in Turkey.  The pampered pet first took over the house, made its former master its lackey, and then began spreading its spawn across the world.  When will we wake up to the danger it represents?

Snakes make the best snake hunters

Nobody likes snakes. Just like nobody likes politicians. But sometimes they are useful.  Like when they are killing other snakes.

A few days ago, I almost stepped on a copperhead when I was cleaning some weeds next to our picture window.  Copperheads and water moccasins have to go when they are close to the house.  So I got a shovel and cut the head off that beautiful copperhead.  No matter how beautiful, it had to go.  I left the body in a brush pile.

When I got back inside I looked out the window toward that brushpile only to see a king snake rearing up looking at the brush pile and then hurrying over to it.  Probably to have a nice meal.  Sorry I deprived it of its kill.

King snakes are the only snakes I let live around our house.  They hunt down and eat all poisonous snakes.  Having them around means that we don’t run into many poisonous snakes. You don’t have to like them to know they are good to have around.

Some people vote for politicians because they like them.  They could see having a beer with them. She’s friendly and approachable.  They are voting for pet rabbits when maybe they should be voting for snakes.

Or they vote for someone who can speak well. Someone who is clean cut, presentable and seems highly intelligent.  They are voting for a valedictorian when maybe they should be voting for a snake.

In a world filled with snakes, the best politicians are king snakes. They hunt down and destroy other politicians who would do us harm.

So if you know a politician who seems like a snake, ask whether he is doing a good job getting rid of other snakes.  Maybe you should be glad he’s getting rid of snakes like ISIS and neutralizing others in Asia and finally standing up to the biggest threat of them all.  Naive, well-meaning Presidents have given snakes a pretty free range in previous administrations.

That doesn’t mean you will ever like that particular politician, just as you’ll never like snakes. But you can recognize the the best snake killer is another snake.

Happy Columbus (Indigenous?) Day!

On this beautiful Columbus Day 2018 comes the news that Columbus, Ohio, no longer celebrates Columbus Day.  Instead they are succumbing to the post-liberal orthodoxy. They have changed the name to Indigenous Peoples Day. I’m all for celebrating and learning about indigenous people. I go to Toltec Mounds State Park every chance I get. The question is: exactly which indigenous people are we celebrating?

megafauna-of-north-america

 

Five waves of different peoples have invaded North America in the last 12,000 years. The first humans to leave any calling cards on the North American continent migrated from Asia.  They are called paleoindians or Clovis people after the arrowhead first found near Clovis, New Mexico.

The Clovis people were wiped out by another wave from Siberia–the more advanced Hopewell people. The Hopewell people knew how to garden a little (so they could stay healthier than the Clovis people when game got scarce due to over-hunting) and they made captivating mound art.  This would be a great people for Columbus, Ohio, to celebrate since one of the best Hopewell mounds is in southern Ohio–the famous 1330 foot long earth sculpture called the Serpent Mound.

Or, maybe the Columbus city council mean to honor the tribe which wiped out the Hopewell.  I could see the politically correct honoring this culture (called the Mississippian).  This tribe invaded from Mexico  with an extremely resilient agricultural system. They grew corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and gourds.  They kept turkeys for food and feather coats and dogs for food and pulling travois.

Most likely, the Columbus city council was thinking of the tribes which were in charge when Europeans peoples settled the region.  These were the peoples who learned how to ride the horses they stole from the Spanish and used their new skills to raid and destroy the vast towns of the sedentary mound-builders.

So changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day means celebrating destructive raiding tribes who destroyed a strong culture stretching from Mexico across the US.  That doesn’t seem very politically correct.

If they really want to celebrate something indigenous instead of Columbus, why not celebrate the huge indigenous wild animals which dominated North America before the “indigenous” peoples arrived.  When the Clovis folk first set foot on the continent they began hunting the mastodon, woolly rhinoceros, mammoth,  horse, tapir, ground sloth, giant bison, giant beaver, giant tortoise, American lion, short-faced bear, and saber-toothed tiger. Over-hunting caused the mass extinction of these animals, More than thirty species of large animals became extinct. By about 10,500 years ago, megafauna no longer roamed North America. Only the relatively puny buffalo remained.

I don’t think the name “Indigenous Megafauna Day” will ever catch on. But why celebrate the invading people who killed off all these fascinating species?  That would be like glorifying the Chinese for wiping out the rhinos in Africa today.

Columbus represents just one of the many waves of invaders who controlled North America for brief periods of time.  Columbus wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.

I guess I just know too much about “indigenous peoples” (who are all related to ancient Siberians and not really indigenous at all) for my own good.  It just makes it really hard to figure out why the city councils are honoring these blood-thirsty sun worshippers over some blood-thirsty Christians.  They were both pretty horrible to modern, politically correct sensibilities.

It must be some kind of self-hatred since most of these city council folk are white people.  Or maybe it’s an anti-Italian dog whistle. Is an attack against Christopher Columbus an attack against all Italians?  I’ll let the always-indignant illiberal liberal mob figure out that conspiracy theory.

As for me, I’ll spend the day visiting the Toltec mounds and imagining the splendor of the thirty indigenous animal species wiped out by the invaders from Asia.

Fire ants, Kavanaugh and college football

Yesterday was historic because I destroyed a two foot tall fire ant mound in my yard and our country finally resolved the festering Supreme Court debacle.  My focus this week has been on gardening. But Saturday in the fall means college football.  So I turned on the tube to see a battle of semi-literate behemoths from a couple of the colleges where I used to work. Before I could find the right channel, I stumbled on the news.  It was long after the vote and I was hot and sweaty from the fire ant cauterization and getting raised beds ready for next year.  The situation was so similar to the last Presidential election, Then, I was at Meadowcreek with no TV.  We’d grilled steak and no one mentioned the election all night.  Word finally filtered in from outside the next morning.

Dealing with fire ants is much easier than our political battles.  There is no choice between the lesser of two evils. It’s just good versus evil.  And no remorse when hundreds of beings perish under the flames of my charcoal fire ant eradication method.  I did have some problems because the mound was so big.  I didn’t want to dig into it and risk hordes of fire ants attacking me.  So I got a fire going over the whole mound first.  This enabled me to destroy gradually the mound as I scraped off the burnt layers to find still living ants and started the fire anew on top of them.

Finally I got down to the egg and winged ant (future queen) level.  There I piled in the charcoal and, with lighter fluid, eradicated the heart of the nest where the queen lived.  When I came back and no ant survived, I guess I felt like the anti-Kavanaugh folks would have felt had they won.  Or maybe like some folks felt when Hillary lost.

But I didn’t drink a beer as many Kavanaugh supporters did.  Nor did I cry in my wine as the anti-Kavanaugh did. I just enjoyed college football and relaxed knowing I’d destroyed the fire ant colony.

Of course, now that fire ants have reached as far North as our part of Arkansas, i know another mound will appear in the future and I hope I’m here to destroy it. I just wish the attitudes and animosities which are destroying our country were as easy to identify and control.

We do know the source of our country’s destruction.  Some say it’s in the same colleges which let over-muscled thugs escape any hard learning so they can have winning football teams. The Know Nothing liberal arts authoritarians dominating nearly every university limit  discussion and try to limit thought to one topic: how to rid the country of what they see as the problem–the racist, misogynist conservatives.

Both sides think they have identified the fire ant mounds.  And both sides are doing their best to destroy those mounds at any cost.

I hope you are among those who know both sides are partly right and partly wrong. Neither is the fire ant mound which threatens our country and needs to be destroyed.  Our common enemy is the belief that we are right and they are wrong and we must do anything we can to destroy them.  As long as both sides have this belief, the descent into unbridled tribalism will continue.  Sadly, the leaders on both sides are stoking the fires.

Each side sees the other as evil fire ants which must be destroyed. And that attitude can only lead to destruction of the nation.  Even if one side does win, it will identify an Other within its ranks. Then the tribalism and destruction will begin anew,

“We are totally right and they are totally wrong” is the attitude of tribalism and mutual assured destruction.  The American Indians were divided into thousands of tribes which nearly all fought with each other even as the advancing Europeans took over their lands.  Something similar is happening in the US today.  Because we are so busy fighting with each other instead of working together to conquer our many challenges, other tribes are invading and taking over more and more of our country as we fight with each other.

So enjoy your college football, your Kavanaugh victory and your beer while the other side plots your demise. One thing our universities can still do well is create enjoyable spectacles for the masses. And they also produce graduates who are making more and  more good beers