PSA: the 90 Miles from Needles team could use your help with our inaugural episode, to be launched in January. Here's how you can take part. This does not require that you live in the desert! In fact, we’d love a bunch of messages from all over.
• Call (760) 392-1996 (this is a Google Voice number that rolls straight to voicemail) or visit the podcast’s website and click the right-hand "leave a voice message" button
• Leave a message along the following lines: "Hi, I'm [yer First Name] and I live in [town or city], and I think protecting the desert is important because [a few seconds of why you think protecting the desert is important]
• Alternatively, you could say "... and I love the desert because [etc.]
A few people have already done this. I’d especially like to encourage you to call in if you want to mention quiet, dark night skies, or cultural resources, but do it regardless of your interests. Let people know why you think the desert is worth more than just its potential development value per square foot.
A few days ago I was on the phone far too early. My friend Matt lives way out on the Chemehuevi reservation along the Colorado River. He has farm chores that get him up early. He called me at something like 7:30. It was okay. I had already been up for some hours, a disturbing habit developing as I grow older. I’d spent a few minutes that morning trying to remember what kind of bird made the raucous, staccato call I’d been hearing for about half an hour just outside our house. By 7:35 we had dispensed with the important business that prompted the call and were on to catching up about cool desert things, and commiserating about my recent hamstring injury.
I have a habit of getting out of my chair when talking on the phone, and walking around, if a bit unevenly these days (see previous sentence). I walked out into our living room. The living room has a window looking westward onto the enclosed patio with a former swimming pool, which now has a collection of aquatic plants in it, and several thousand small fish, most of them fathead minnows. There, grasping the slightly upcurled concrete edge of the patio at poolside, was the answer to my idle wondering about what bird it was making that frustratingly familiar racket.
It was a belted kingfisher, a large fish-eating bird I used to see (and hear) several times a week when I lived up north. It was a little agitated. It was keenly interested in the minnows. It was also paying close attention to a patio chair a few feet away. Perched on that chair, looking extremely uncomfortable at suddenly being watched from inside the house, was an even larger bird.
I immediately and confidently identified the bird as a sharp-shinned hawk, and was subsequently persuaded by la mujer que amo that I was very likely wrong, and that it had been a Cooper’s hawk, her identification based on a phone photo she took which she did not subsequently show me.
The Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawk are very similar (sometimes considered almost identical) in plumage characteristics at all stages of development
… says Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is not kindly taking on all the household chores that involve hamstring use, and la mujer que amo is doing precisely that, so I am siding with her. Even though her key field mark in identifying the bird as a Cooper’s was “they eat birds,” which does not in fact distinguish them reliably from sharpies. Nonetheless. I am loyal.
Besides, this hawk did not happen to eat any birds in our presence. It made what seemed a half-hearted attempt to leap onto the kingfisher from the back of the patio chair, which attack the kingfisher successfully thwarted by pointing its sharp beak toward the hawk’s breast and emitting yet another loud trill. The hawk flew disconsolately south.
I realized Matt was still talking. “I’m sorry, Matt,” I said. “I’m going to have to ask you to repeat that. I’m looking out the living room window and got distracted by a sharp-shinned hawk on our patio furniture trying to eat a kingfisher.”
“Huh,” said Matt. “That seems like a pretty good omen.”
Matt has a gift for understatement.
Anyway. My hiking goals for the year had involved getting another hundreds miles on my boots before years end, but the above-mentioned hamstring injury, collected when the dog tripped me up, has scotched that. Put the kibosh on it. Jinxed it. Nixed it. 86ed it. I am finding things to do that mostly do not involve using my right (read: favorite) leg.
Among those things has been working on the podcast. We are now included in all the major podcast sites and a few minor ones. Go look at the list at the bottom of this page and let me know if your favorite one isn’t there and I will endeavor to add it. You can also follow the podcast on its FMaEcTeAbook page or on Twitter, if you do that sort of thing.
We’ve also put up a third trailer, with one more coming before our formal launch in January. It concerns the canard that Joshua trees aren’t really trees, which longtime readers will recall I have also covered here. Also! Becoming a Patreon supporter will help us make this podcast everything we want it to be by paying for software and gas money and online recording and engineering services, and the like. Thank you!
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