On a Happier Note

Whew. That was a week, eh? Government malaise, potential military malaise, a cri de couer from an Asian American, and another look at positions on MAiD.

As we complete February, let’s end on a happier note. Three, in fact.

Note #1

Ice! Icicles, in fact. On the same tree as before, since it’s one I can get at from my front porch without bundling up. Any day warm enough to melt any of our prodigious pile of snow is a welcome promise of Spring.

2-photo collage of icy branches

Note #2

Birds! Redpolls, in fact.

2-photo collage of redpolls

Common on the left for sure, but what’s on the right?

Having tuned me to watch for hoary redpolls, Merlin — the all-seeing most-knowing bird-ID app — assures me that these are all commons, not hoaries. Well that’s great.

Cornell’s All About Birds site notes, and I quote:

Common Redpolls are often darker overall
with a larger bill than Hoary Redpolls,
but there is overlap (emphasis added)
which makes separating
the paler commons from the hoaries difficult.

Who authorized this dagnabbed overlap? Cornell does not say: Probably they’re in the Injudicious Authorizer Protection Program. I just mention that it’s especially hard to separate the paler common females/juveniles from the darker hoaries, although presumably the birds themselves don’t have the same trouble.

For humans, Merlin sums it up this way in talking about the Hoary Redpoll:

Can be very difficult (emphasis added)
to separate from Common Redpoll;
some are best left unidentified.

Merlin, however, does not take its own advice, never throwing up its virtual hands and saying, “That one is best left unidentified!” It confidently identified these next two photos as different species. So for human eyes — mine, at least, especially when squinting through a camera viewfinder — it’s pretty subtle.

2-photo collage of redpolls

Per Merlin: hoary on the left; common on the right.

Maybe it *is* all in the black mask around the bill, as I think Jim T. noted last week (although the commons have a small black goatee). Who knew there was so much ambiguity — maybe even out-and-out sneakiness — in my backyard?

Note #3

Lights! A festival of lights, in fact. Friday was the Lantern Festival (for which festival on water the Ottawa website notes that the 2020 dates are TBD). Yes, Virginia, “two weeks to flatten the curve” has turned into “12 months and counting.”

So — always ready to grab any excuse to mess about with lights — I invite everyone to mark the end of the Lunar New Year, albeit belatedly. Light up lanterns if you got ’em, Christmas lights and candles if you don’t. Or post photos of lights on train bridges. It sure beats cursing the darkness.

Streak of light from passage of traine





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11 Responses to On a Happier Note

  1. Fabulous bridge photo! Congratulations on your vision and precision!

    Thanks, I feel better.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Specular pictures, Isabel.

  3. Jim Robertson says:

    Great photographs Isabel.

    Maybe there is something to be said to just settle on “LBJs” for the wee birds

    (LBJ=Little brown/black job)

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim R – Indeed there is. I may have to settle on “redpoll” for most of these little guys, and be happy to know that much.

  4. Sam Feola says:

    I have some great lantern photos. I will email you one as I don’t see any way to upload it here.

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