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May 17, 2021

Failure as a Conservative art form

      Hey kids, it’s Word Thursday! Whether you find it grotesque, or humorous (or both), the transmogrification of Governor Dunleavy from a humble Wasilla man of the people into a self-glorifying Trump wannabe continues before our very eyes. And it’s not really a stretch to say that the governor thinks he’s Tundra Trump because he is literally saying it himself… while gazing meaningfully into the middle-distance. It’s not clear why the State Senator who voted against a budget so he could get thrown out of the caucus so he could justify quitting so he could get an early…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Southern Crested Caracara

Southern Crested Caracara, Pantanal, Brazil

Caracaras are a subfamily of Falconidae, the same family that includes North America’s falcons. Exactly which subfamily is a matter of some dispute; the taxonomy of Caracaras is unsettled.[^1] Probably the most common Caracara in South America is the Southern Crested Caracara.[^2] The species is somewhat like a Bald Eagle in that it is both a predator and a scavenger. It has almost no fear of humans and bullies Black and Turkey Vultures off of carrion. Its wingspan is a little over four feet but the head and bill, as you can see here, are massive. The talons are pretty…

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FACE it – Time for Don Young to go.

TOTALLY NOT WORRIED. NOPE, NOT WORRIED AT ALL…   The beleaguered governor who said he “wasn’t worried at all” about the recall effort has spent the last week being “not worried” on national TV and in the White House. The guy who spent most of his political life grousing about “federal overreach” and how those darn DC bureaucrats need to stay out of Alaska’s business is now begging for dollars in the Oval Office. Literally. The schmoozing has resulted an extended meeting in the White House on “personal business” which basically means who knows what the governor has promised or…

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Return of Bird of the Week: White-tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite, Panama

You can readily see why it is called a White-tailed Kite. The photo also shows those distinctive black shoulders, the two-toned tail and that very distinctive hovering posture. It’s a bit smaller than the other Kites, but still a decent-sized raptor, with a wing span of 42 inches. The populations and even the range of this species has been on a roller-coaster the last 100 years. The species’ preferred habitat is open grasslands and savannah-like habitats. It has benefited somewhat from humankind’s conversion of forests to pasture, but suffered from the conversion of grasslands to monoculture agriculture. It was threatened…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Plumbeous Kite

Plumbeous Kite

WC is continuing with kites, mid-sized raptors, not the human-made flying objects named after the birds. This week we’ll have a look at the Plumbeous Kite. The Plumbeous Kite takes its name from its dark gray, well, leaden color. “Plumbeous” is from the Latin for “lead.” It’s quite similar in appearance to the Mississippi Kite, which shares its range in migration and during the winter. It ranges from northern Mexico to northern Argentina. It feeds on insects from a perch or while in flight over the forest, particularly over the canopy or along edges. Some Plumbeous Kites also follow primates…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Snail Kite

Female Snail Kite, Peruvian Amazon Basin

Non-birders are always surprised to learn there is a large raptor whose primary prey is . . . snails. It somehow doesn’t fit the image of a raptor: a fast-flying, fierce predator that subsists primarily on famously slow-moving mollusks. But that long, hooked upper mandible has evolved to hook the snail out of its shell. Voila! Escargot! Snail Kites are also a bit unusual in that they are sexually dimorphic. Females have a dark brown back and a heavily streaked chest, brown on white, with lots of white on the head. Males look very different. The backlighting in the photo…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite, Ecuador

As promised, WC will take a break from Tanagers for a while, and spend some time with bigger birds instead. Specifically, with Accipitridae, the world-wide family of birds sometimes called raptors, and at least to start, with Kites. When WC was just getting started in birding, it was a shock to learn that “kite” isn’t a specific family of birds, or even a single genus. It’s a catch-all lay term for medium- to small-sized raptors with pointy wings. “Hawks” and “falcons” refer to specific related groups; “kites” are just hawks with a different name. We’ll start with the very handsome,…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Beryl-spangled Tanager

Beryl-spangled Tanager, Eastern Slope of Andes, Peru

If WC has counted correctly, we’ve featured 25 weeks of Tanagers. And while we’re a long ways from exhausting tanagers – we haven’t touched on Mountain Tanagers yet, or tanagers that aren’t called “tanagers” – WC will move to a different family of birds next week. But let’s close out tanagers with a spang(le), specifically with the spectacular Beryl-spangled Tanager. WC’s first sighting of the species was pretty unusual. We were walking along a grassy river corridor at about 2,000 meters on the east slope of the Andes in Ecuador, just below Guango Lodge. There was a commotion in a…

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Gov is definitely NOT scared of the recall. Definitely.

  OH, LOOK! No worries about changing the name of this newsletter any time soon, because they just can’t get over the fact that he’s tall. A new pro-Dunleavy group has sprouted up like a mushroom in the night. “Stand Tall With Mike” has just registered itself with the Alaska Public Offices Commission as a political group whose mission is to “oppose signature collection effort to recall Governor Dunleavy.” You know – the signature collection effort that the governor is completely not worried about and was totally not the reason for the ouster of his former chief of staff, Tuckerman…

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Return of Bird of the Week: Vermilion Tanager

Not to be confused with the similarly colored but unrelated Vermilion Flycatcher, the Vermilion Tanager is a bird of the eastern slopes of the Andes. It’s another canopy species; this is another photo from a steep hillside, looking at downslope treetops. Yes, the shot was photobombed by a Golden-naped Tanager, but that’s a pretty good bird, so WC let it pass. The bird was pretty far away, the crop is pretty heavy and both photos demonstrate a hazard of birding in a cloud forest: clouds. Still, it doesn’t get much more red than that. Unusually for a tanager, this species…

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