Friday, April 19, 2013

What's Going On With All These Barred Owls?

I've been watching birds since middle school.  I can't say that I'm very good at it, because being a good bird watcher requires a lot of patience, which is a trait that I don't have.  Also, it helps to get up early, which I'm not really big on. In fact, I'm not really big on getting up at all.  Anyway, in all my years of watching birds, I had never seen or heard an owl in the wild until about four years ago, when I saw the above Barred Owl (Strix varia) here in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Since then, I've seen more of them, and heard their calls all over in Alexandria and Fairfax County. (The Barred Owl says "Hoo-hoo hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo hoo-HOO", with added enthusiasm on the final hoot.)  I find it odd that I never noticed their calls before, but I suppose that it's possible.  

Then this year a Barred Owl showed up on the campus of my alma mater, Yale University, as reported by both the Yale Daily News and the Yale Herald.  (There weren't any owls when I was there.)

And finally I came across an article in the New York Times which begins with the writer describing "a frigid, star-salted night spent tromping through the Alexandria woods with David Johnson of the Global Owl Project, and listening to the stridently mournful cries of wild barred owls that remained hidden from view".

(On a geographical note, there is very little forested land in Alexandria, and in order to spend a night tromping through the woods here, one would have to tromp in a very tight circle.  A more likely location is the 1452-acre Huntley Meadows Park, which is in Fairfax County, but has an Alexandria postal address.)

And so, what is going on with all these Barred Owls, which seem omnipresent? Is it just a coincidence, or are Barred Owls undergoing a population surge?  It's not unknown for bird species to undergo a large increase in numbers . . . or a decrease.  When I was young, I used to see Hairy Woodpeckers (Picoides villosus) all the time, but I haven't seen one in fifteen years or more.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

For the Sake of Clarity

For the most part, no one reads this blog.  The only people who normally read it are people whom I know, after I specifically ask them to read it.  Occasionally I will get a weird influx of views from somewhere like Russia or Germany, but that's probably some spam-related thing.  

But just in case someone should read this blog who doesn't know me, I would like to make clear that, although I am William Robertson, I am not this William Robertson

Friday, April 12, 2013

Late Night Warfare Continues

Last week it was decreed that Jimmy Fallon would be taking over hosting duties at The Tonight Show in early 2014.  This development surprises me, as I had expected Leno to stay on The Tonight Show until he literally died on stage.  (And when I say "literally" here, I literally mean "literally", and not "figuratively", in that I expected Leno's heart to stop beating while he was on stage at the NBC lot in Burbank.)  I am also surprised because I remember the infamous Conan Debacle of 2009 to 2010. 

It feels to me that the Conan Debacle happened just yesterday.  Yet it began almost four years ago.  Someone who was in eighth grade when Conan assumed command of The Tonight Show would now be getting ready to graduate from high school.  Funny how time flies, as Tears for Fears said at the end of one of their songs in the Eghties.  (This is not the first mention of Tears for Fears on this blog, but it's been almost three years since the last time that I mentioned them, so, once again . . . funny how time flies.) 

History makes me think that this new Tonight Show experiment won't work.  In 2009, people didn't want funny Conan, they wanted unfunny Leno.  And I have to expect that in 2014 people won't want funny Fallon, they'll want unfunny Leno.  (This isn't to say that Fallon is as funny as Conan, but Fallon is definitely funnier then Leno.)

As for me, I'll probably keep watching Jimmy Kimmel, because although Kimmel isn't nearly as funny as Letterman was when Letterman was funny, Kimmel is funnier than Letterman is now. 

And then there is Craig Ferguson.  Ferguson is funny, and possibly the smartest of the late night hosts, but while Jimmy Fallon's show feels like a party, Ferguson's show feels like what one would expect to see on television at 1:00 am—a man alone in a dimly-lit room with a robotic skeleton.  

I am reminded of an odd thought that I have been having recently, which is that the Celts dominate late night.  Ferguson is from Scotland, Conan describes himself as "110% Irish", Leno is half Scottish, and Fallon is half Irish.  I don't know if it's coincidence, or if there is some cultural reason for it.  Back in 2009, it even caused me a little confusion between Conan and Fallon—two tall, thin Irish guys from Saturday Night Live, both hosting late-night talk shows on NBC.  Of course, talking about matters of ethnicity like this could lead to trouble from the perspective of political correctness, but as long as I stick with discussing freakishly pale northern European-derived people like me, I should be okay, and I won't need to record a country-rap crossover song about being an accidental racist.