Friday, July 11, 2014

The Mystery Goose of Old Town



On Saturday I saw a goose that I couldn't identify among the Mallards and Canada Geese in the Potomac River at Founders Park in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia.  I got a few pictures, including the one above. 

I later consulted my Peterson guide and found that the bird resembles a Greater White-Fronted Goose (Anser albifrons). This was unexpected (although not as unexpected as the announcement that Pink Floyd will be releasing a new album in October), since the Greater White-Fronted Goose is not a resident of the mid-Atlantic states; it spends its summers in Canada and its winters in the Gulf of Mexico region.

I did some checking on the internet, and found that this individual bird has been seen in the area last year (pictures here, discussion here and here).  The speculation is that the mystery goose is not  a pure Greater White-Fronted Goose, but a hybrid with some other species.  If if is a hybrid, it doesn't show much physical input from the other species, having just about all the characteristics of a Greater White-Fronted Goose with the exception of the white line on the sides (which doesn't occur in juveniles).

(I sometimes think about starting a separate blog to document my wildlife observations here in Alexandria, but since I don't even have the energy to update Scaly Distractions more than twice a month, I don't know if I should be undertaking any new blogging projects.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mosquito Hopes and Theories Are Dashed


The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is an introduced species of day-biting mosquito which has been making summers unbearable in parts of the Washington area for the last fifteen years or so.  The adults die off during the winter in temperate climates; populations survive via eggs.  

   Much of the country experienced an abnormally cold winter in 2014, which, I thought, might have had an effect on this obnoxious species. A recent study discovered that Aedes albopictus eggs will suffer 100% mortality after being exposed to temperature of 10° F (-12° C) for four hours, or 5° F (-15° C) for one hour.  On January 7, the low temperature at Reagan National Airport was 6° F; on this day the temperature may possibly have met the condition of four hours at 10° F or lower.  For most of the spring I held out hope that the cold might have locally eliminated the Asian Tiger Mosquito (until it could recolonize from warmer areas, which one hopes would take a few years).

   But then on May 21, I received the first Asian Tiger Mosquito bite of the year.  Asian Tiger Mosquitoes are still here, bringing another summer of misery.  I assume that ultimately it was a problem of microclimate. Members of the species lay their eggs in holes in trees and other cavities where rainwater accumulates.  These cavities presumably created sheltered environments in which the temperature was significantly warmer than that of the surrounding air.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Presidential Longevity


Former President George H. W. Bush marked his 90th birthday yesterday by skydiving from a helicopter.  This sort of longevity is seemingly universal among chief executives from the last few decades.  Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford both lived to be 93, and Jimmy Carter is still alive and active at 89.

I have read (although I don't have any relevant links) that modern presidential campaigns are so strenuous that only the most healthy candidates can endure them.  It seems reasonable that such a process would select a group of Presidents healthy enough to generally live abnormally long lives.

Presidents from before about forty years ago did not tend to reach such advanced ages, however.  Richard Nixon lived to 81, Dwight Eisenhower died at 78, and Lyndon Johnson only made it to 64.

Was  this because health care at the time was less advanced, or were campaigns in that era less grueling, and thus less likely to select Presidents with the potential to live to 90? 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

It's Time to Blog Again


It's time to blog again, just to keep up my minimum of one post per month.  Unfortunately, I haven't had time yet to move my blog notes from my old computer, which, after refusing to turn on for weeks, suddenly started working again when I took it in to be repaired.  

Maybe I can do some better blogging tomorrow.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Blog Again About Television Because That's All That I Can Do


 I always seem to end up blogging about television shows or some other shallow element of entertainment culture.  And I'm going to do it again.  Unfortunately blogging about anything more substantial requires too much research, and I generally don't have the energy.  And it doesn't help that my old computer, which had all my notes for future blog posts (and lots of other stuff) on it, stopped working a few weeks ago, and I haven't had the chance to see if I can get it repaired.  

Two things are weighing on my mind concerning television.

The first is last week's Parks and Recreation season finale, at the end of which the show jumped three years into the future, and possibly jumped the shark as well.  Does this mean that next season will be set in 2017, or that all the past seasons have been set three years prior to their broadcast dates without us knowing it?

The second is Craig Ferguson announcing that he will be leaving his late night show at the end of the year.  I'm sure that Craig Ferguson will appear in other venues in future years.  But I can't imagine that we'll have any opportunity to see Geoff Peterson again.  And that is what is truly sad.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Later Late Night


Late Night with Seth Meyers has been on for a few weeks now, and I can't say that I like it.  (I addressed the show in an earlier post, in which I erroneously said that it would be airing at 11:35 pm, rather than 12:35 am, but I never felt like making the effort to correct the mistake.)  

One of my first thoughts upon viewing the show was that watching it is like eating an ice cube made of Windex. Upon further reflection, that impression may have been entirely visually-based, as backlit blue rectangles are a prominent element of the set.  

Still, I can't say that I like it.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Snow Thoughts


As I noted in my last post, I love snow.  The Washington area got some snow yesterday, even though it's March, and it's time to let the snow go, and yield the world to the frogs and the flowers.  The predicted accumulation was 6 to 10 inches, but where I am there was only 4 1/2 inches.  As I have probably written before, over the course of a life spent mostly in northern Virginia, I have seen countless days when there was less snow than predicted, but I can't recall a single snowfall that was bigger than predicted.  

A few weeks ago, I went into the District on a Saturday afternoon on the Metro.  It was supposed to snow that afternoon, but there was no snow.  I could only think how much better it would have been if it had been snowing.  

Since then, I have been thinking how fun it would be to have to make my way home from DC at the beginning of a huge snowstorm, a storm that would shut the city down for days. At my journey's start, there would already be six inches of snow on the ground, with another foot of snow expected over the next 24 hours.  I would catch the last Metro train out to the suburbs, just before the Metro shut down completely, then walk home through deserted streets, with snowfall so thick that I could barely see where I was going.  It would be a really awesome adventure, and afterwards it would feel really good to relax and have a nice snack.  

(Some of the same sentiments may have shown up in my Christmas story from last year.)