Friday, October 06, 2006

kinglets and kittens

I spent yesterday afternoon helping out with a field lab my all-time favorite professor was doing with her introductory zoology course, which involved measuring the webs of spiders belong to different genuses out at a local wildlife area. It was a lot of fun, though I must admit my attention wasn't one hundred percent on the students in the lab... I was distracted by the birds.

For the first hour or so all I noticed were a lot of blue jays, the occasional crow, and some turkey vultures overhead. However, as I was walking through the brush from one group of students to another, I struck gold: a mixed flock of fall migrants suddenly materialized out of nowhere in the scrubby trees around me. It was amazing.

It's one thing to drive for a couple hours to visit a wildlife area specifically known for being a staging area for spring migrants about to cross Lake Erie, and another thing to suddenly walk into a flock of migrants when you're not even supposed to be birdwatching. And it's one thing to have an experienced birder point to something moving in a tree and tell you, "That's a ruby-crowned kinglet," and another thing to find yourself face-to-face with half a dozen of them.

Kinglets. A number of them, hopping to the edges of their bushes for a look at me while I just stood there pishing quietly. Also some sparrows, wrens, and a warbler or two, none of which I got a good enough look at to identify properly (though I'm guessing the wrens were house wrens, just based on what species would be likely to be migrating through my area at the moment). After five or ten minutes, the flock moved on, and I went running to find the professor to tell her about it...

Only to find her with two students, trying to coax a pair of abandoned kittens out of their hiding place.

So I finished out the afternoon sitting on top of the earthen dike with my professor, each of us cradling a kitten on our lap. Two of the students who live in the area volunteered to give them homes. After a brief stop to show off the local bald eagle nest, we headed back to campus. All in all, a pretty satisfying way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

Monday, October 02, 2006

movie review

Okay, here is my attempt to write a coherent review of An Inconvenient Truth (as opposed to my infuriated babbling after seeing Who Killed the Electric Car?).

The movie opens with an ethereal shot of a river with mist and trees and Al Gore's ethereal, misty voice-over talking about how wonderful it is. And then it cuts to shots of Al Gore running out on stage and being cheered by people. And extreme close-ups of Al Gore looking pensive. And... I was kind of giggling. Because, you know, it's Al Gore.

But after a few minutes things get going and you get drawn in to the point that you forget to giggle at Al Gore. This film does a very good job of explaining global warming in a way anyone can understanding and showing that it's definitely not just part of natural variation, with a lot of excellent graphs my statistics professor would go ga-ga over. (He has a thing for graphs.) It's not the most sophisticated movie ever, as it's mostly just Al Gore giving a Powerpoint presentation, but that's not the point. It does what it sets out to do. And well, if there's a certain amount of "Look how awesome I am for doing all this stuff spreading the word about global warming" from Al Gore, he is doing a wonderful service, and he probably deserves his moment (okay, many moments) in the limelight.

Memorable quote (wording may not be exact): "Too many people make the leap from denial to despair without pausing to ask what they can do."

Go to, part of the movie's official website, to take a quiz to calculate your own carbon emissions and find out how you can help change things. Kay? And now I must run to my music history class.