Pink Fire Pointer January 2013

Last One this Month

One of the very few streets in town that we know by its actual name: Rue Weygand
Last day of the month. Almost made it to a picture a day this month, weren’t it for the fact that I was rudely interrupted by indeed the corrupt services of our Internet situation. We’re 150 out of 180, my brother mails me. And the internet isn’t getting any better due to corruption and a monopoly. As such, we shall suffer like Job for many more years to come.
This was going to be a nice picture, but my daughter ruined it . . . Downtown Beirut
Where was I? Oh yes, a picture a day. Well, that is not going to make it either. As I have indicated earlier, that new year’s resolution was a bit overambitious; I have way too much work to be able to do that, and so I am going back to my old habits: I’ll post when I am inspired. But I will leave you with some last pictures of the month of January: Downtown Beirut.
This particular mosk is not one of my favorites; it's not Beiryt architecture but rather Saudi chic. Still, the skies were so beautiful . . .  Oh, and there is my daughter again.
I had to pick something up, and the light was so gorgeous in the evening, that I had to take some pictures. I have so many pictures now, that I have had to resort to external hard drives (I think I am on number 3). I think that maybe I publish only about 4% of the pictures I take. I wonder if - in 50 years from now, when I will be docile and frail - I will be surfing through all these images, and if I do, will r I will still remember it all? I am horrendously nostalgic. I will probably regret then why I did not enjoy it more now. “But I did!” I shall tell myself, “I did enjoy myself.” And indeed, I do enjoy myself, although I do believe that I should more often just stand still, look at something and realize how satisfying it can be, just realizing how good life it.  That is, if life is good to you. Life is good to me, but I believe that you can force good things to come to you.  

A last one of the Corniche, which I took because I liked that patch of light on the mountain

And then, while I look zap through my 5 trillion pictures, it will all come back to me. How my daughter, annoyed with the fact that her mother – forever and ever – was always taking pictures, made it the habit to jump in front of the lens. I will remember that. Will I be in Beirut, when I zap through them? I hope so.
I was trying to make a picture of the beautiful light in this Beirut street. To no avail. That girl again. I will remember that, I think.

Radio Silence

I think my monthly Internet bill must equal my electricity bill. We've got 3 surfing adults in this house hold and one child surfer, and I frequently face this shitty screen.

Shawn Portmann and Pierce Bank

Well like the clock on the wall in this pic time doesn't sleep for those evolved that harms individuals, communities and a nation for that matter. Mr. Shawn Portmann was one of the nations highest producing loan officers that worked at Tacoma-based Pierce Commercial Bank in Washington state, in 2012 The Advocate gave Tacoma the title of "Gayest City in America", in part because of the large diversity of public offices held. This indeed is a beautiful area but so much can go wrong when you think it's OK for you to have fun when you know damn well your doing wrong.

The FBI along with the IRS investigation showed Portmann was (sentenced for 10 years) leading a scheme that saw hundreds of loans issued to unqualified borrowers. Which Pierce Commercial Bank failed on behalf of it's mortgage lending practice. Portmann along with two other lending officers launched Pierce Commercial Bank residential lending arm, PC Bank Home Loans in 2004, generated nearly $1 billion in home loan applications for the bank over several years. Two of his associates, Adam S. Voelker and Jeanette R. Salsi, have already pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Among those convicted in the scheme was Portmann's supervisor, Peirce Commercial Bank Vice President and Residential Lending manager. Portmann had help, of course, Portmann's loan processors handled the "fixed" loan applications, while his underwriter's stamp of approval cleared the loans for secondary sale. Like many banks in this hay day they bundled the loans and moved them out to other financial institutions, they were not worth the paper they were written on. The loans were doctored with fake employment, money that was placed in accounts and later removed to show that the borrower had met the guide lines of the loans.

Now your going to tell me that Mr. Shawn Portmann and his group are the only ones out there that made this up? This practice is what caused the collapse of many banks, the formula shared here in his conviction was practiced by many or you would not be reading this. Portmann and the rest were indicted in August 2011, just hours before U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan announced that no criminal charges would be filed against lenders at Washington Mutual Bank suspected of similar misdeeds. While federal regulators pursued a civil case against former WaMu CEO Kerry Killinger, Department of Justice investigators failed to produce evidence supporting suspicions that WaMu employees were illegally padding loan applications. Now Washington Mutual failed in 2008 for mishandling of lending, way else would they file for bankruptcy protection (same as Portmann's game) after the government seized its Seattle-based flagship bank and sold its assets to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion in the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

Regulators shuttered Pierce Commercial Bank on Nov. 5, 2010. The collapse cost the federal deposit insurance fund $25 million. Pierce Commercial Bank's failure also cost taxpayers at least $6.8 million in funds loaned to Pierce Commercial Bank through the Troubled Asset Relief Program - TARP - which have not been repaid.
So to date Mr. Shawn Portmann is the only one going to jail? This guy only pulled down 1.7 million a year and with 1 billion in loans, he alone is not even the tip of the ice burg here and others get to walk! Oh the web we weave stretches across the globe. But I'll tell ya we all have not heard the end of this, you have to but a face on the lost money and Mount Rushmore, is not a large enough face for this greedy practice. 

 This is still going to be damaging to business as a whole, the trust you have in the system simply sucks and it's showing.  Many banks are trying to win back your confidence in them, ah that's not going very well and you folks are doing a good job by not doing business with them. Maybe America needs a new bank, how about by the public for the public the common man, one you could trust. The word trust is going to carry far and long into the future. Tiered of bad work ethics it simply doesn't work, what's going to push this over the edge is interest rates will go up.  At that point you going to hear yet another bubble POP!

Video uploaded by U Tube user DocumentaryHaven

Precipitation of the past year

Yesterday I posted a look at the temperature of the past year as it was much above normal across Connecticut with the exception of November and a near-average June. Today I wanted to look at precipitation as I did from time to time in 2012 when it became a widely known on occasion because of the dry weather. Before I get to that I thought it would be prudent to post this unfortunately awful graphic concerning the current drought taking hold of the country from the U.S. Drought Monitor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, most of which is due to 2012's weather.

It has been a brutal stretch across the central United States with agricultural areas continuing to suffer long-term droughts. Basically the entirety of tornado alley is in need of rain or snow as soon as possible. The southeast had a difficult several years but has recovered to some degree, and the arid southwest could still use some more rainfall as well. The northeast looks to be largely in relatively good shape, and if you looked at Connecticut on a state level there would be absolutely no drought apparent by their measurements and calculations. I'll get back to that in a moment.

So how dry or wet was it in 2012 in our state? Here is the official precipitation data from National Weather Service weather and climate monitoring stations in Bridgeport and Hartford. I have listed the total precipitation followed by the respective change from long-term averages for the month and then the same for snowfall, if applicable. Snowfall liquid equivalent totals are also accounted for in the total precipitation.

2012 in Bridgeport:
January: 2.98 (-0.12), 7.4 (-0.5)
February: 1.58 (-1.21), 2.2 (-5.6)
March: 1.04 (-3.01), T (-5.0)
April: 2.97 (-1.16), T (-1.1)
May: 4.57 (+0.77)
June: 4.39 (+0.78)
July: 4.35 (+0.89)
August: 3.33 (-0.63)
September: 7.00 (+3.52)
October: 3.24 (-0.40)
November: 1.22 (-2.17), 8.4 (+7.7)
December: 4.32 (+0.99), 7.8 (+2.7)

2012 in Hartford:
January: 2.96 (-0.27), 6.8 (-5.5)
February: 1.47 (-1.42), 5.9 (-5.1)
March: 1.52 (-2.10), 1.7 (-4.7)
April: 3.02 (-0.70), 0.0 (-1.4)
May: 3.27 (-1.08)
June: 4.22 (-0.13)
July: 4.34 (+0.16)
August: 4.12 (+0.19)
September: 4.57 (+0.69)
October: 4.00 (-0.37)
November: 0.40 (-3.49), 2.9 (+0.9)
December: 4.55 (+1.11), 12.9 (+5.5)

Before I even say anything in regard to those numbers I'll reiterate that we should all understand one day, one week, one month, or one year - this is weather, not climate. Think of weather as a measure of the atmospheric conditions occurring at the current time, or over a short period of time at some point in history, whereas climate is the long-term accumulation of weather data. When I comment on a year or a month I am not saying it is all the proof we need of our new climate reality, just as we cannot attribute Hurricane Sandy to the negative changes humans have wrought on the Earth. Some organizations and individuals use this both ways - fighting for climate change by pointing out a specific storm, or claiming that the planet is peachy or getting colder (blatant and absurd lies cherry-picking data at best) because we had a cold winter or a hot summer day. The temperature of the Earth and its oceans has been increasing at dramatic rates over decades due to our actions and technological developments we have made in the last few centuries, and it is important to see the grand scale while realizing specific weather events and time periods will be altered because of the climate. The end of the 19th century had some incredible winter storm systems on a level that no one alive has ever seen, and if that were happening today it would be wrong to say, "Oh, three feet of snow? Global warming" and look at it as more than an isolated event or even a series of them. However, as we watch the thermometer going up and the seas rising, with parts of the world exposed from their icy cover for the first time in thousands of years, it is worth watching patterns that develop here.

One such pattern seems to be our trend of shattering the classic four-season weather that is buried deeply in New England lore. Once again we had a very early snowfall with the November Bridgeport total being an all-time record. Another November all-time record was the lowest amount of precipitation ever measured for the month at Hartford. This was quickly amended there with the all-time December record snowfall of 12.9 inches. The fall season is not normally anywhere near this wintry, and even though the two stations, so close yet so far apart in terms of sensible weather, had much different snowfall totals for November and December they both ended up with a little over 15 inches during the period.

The ensuing lack of snowfall for the remainder of the winter was well known to many. We certainly received some, but more fell in the fall overall, and the beginning of 2012 was marked by a lack of all forms of precipitation that became increasingly worse through March when temperatures soared in the middle of the month and record highs were shattered. As I have written about before here this accelerated the life cycle of vernal pools and began to dry them out very early along with other streams, creeks, and small ponds, sometimes leading to poor breeding years for a multitude of species. We may not always enjoy it but we need the snow, ice, and frigid air in the winter months in order to maintain a semblance of normalcy for our environment in the spring and summer.

April improved dry conditions a little, and the scales balanced a little more heading through the summer. The difference between the two stations is really something, and being on the coast seems to continually provide us with more precipitation than those inland, making for a small state with vastly different water levels at times. Even though we on the coast were somewhat near normal by the latter half of the summer it did not feel like it as higher than average temperatures and the lack of water in critical seasons meant that we had dried out wetlands and evaporated vernal pools. When people asked me about the terrible drought that was going on I pointed them to the precipitation by month and the temperature deviations. If higher than average temperatures become a reality we will need a steadily increasing supply of liquid to go along with it.

Guess what? This January is about to end with lower than average water and, as noted yesterday, higher than average temperatures. There is no reason to believe this will change in February at the moment, and we may be off to the races with an early start to the spring yet again and a struggle for water levels throughout most of the year. Points to our north are also snow-deprived, and I cannot see a lot of water flowing down to us from any snow melting as it does not exist for many areas.

Let's work to make sure this is not the new normal because our environment will not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive it without sustaining heavy losses.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Temperatures of the past year

January 2013 has had a little bit of everything with the operative word being "little". We had a stretch of cold temperatures followed by a snap back to some moderate ones a bit above long-term averages. This led to a week or so of much above-average temperatures, and then a drop back towards a seasonal feel. The most notable stretch of the month we are now exiting placed us in the middle of a frigid polar air mass and negative temperature departures for several days. This stretch helped turn ponds, streams, and even some lakes and rivers to ice, shifting waterfowl across the area and sometimes putting birds like Common Mergansers in Long Island Sound instead of their favorite freshwater patch. Take a look at Stratford Point on one of those chilly days - that is nothing but ice accumulation due to the temperatures and the tide, and it helped keep waterfowl and shorebirds off our beach and out of feeding areas frequently.

Today we are going to be moving towards temperatures in the 40s before a powerful jump into the 50s on Wednesday. Immediately after that we'll experience a cold front with strong winds Wednesday night and then we will be back to winter. Despite all of that we are going to end up with a positive temperature departure once again for the month.

It has been a considerable time since I posted an examination of Connecticut's temperatures. I thought it would be a good idea to go back and take a look at all of 2012 from the official National Weather Service weather and climate monitoring stations in Bridgeport and Hartford.

2012 in Bridgeport:
January: +5.6
February: +6.3
March: +7.8
April: +3.6
May: +3.8
June: +1.0
July: +3.0
August: +2.3
September: +1.2
October: +3.2
November: -2.8
December: +4.2

2012 in Hartford:
January: +5.5
February: +6.0
March: +9.3
April: +2.5
May: +4.3
June: 0.0
July: +2.6
August: +2.2
September: +0.6
October: +3.4
November: -2.4
December: +3.7

At least our deviation from the norm decreased in the second half of the year as we did not surpass five degree differences again after doing so in January, February, and March. One can hope 2013 will have many more months with a degree or two above or below average. November was the first month with a negative departure in a considerable amount of time, going back many more months than shown above. If you take a look at the day-by-day temperatures of November only three days at each of the climate stations hit double-digit departures. What this tells us is that it was a very consistent pattern, and most of the days were just a little cooler than usual. If only we could have a month like this in the critical spring season instead of the somewhat meaningless month of November when wildlife across Connecticut is all but set for winter.

The interesting part of that November data is that it was the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it being an enormous low pressure system that yanked a mass of seasonally cool air down upon us as it moved away at the end of October. This did not account for the entire month of weather or all of the temperatures, certainly, but one could almost say it took a historic hurricane to bring us some relief from the "heat" of the past few years.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Identify this waterfowl answer

Last week in this post I asked you to identify the waterfowl species in the photo. Here it is once again.

That's a bird in some water in the state of Connecticut - I know, that is a lot to go off of, isn't it? I told you it was in the last few months, and it was actually towards the end of November. I was glad to see a couple of people took the time to leave a guess in the comments section. Neither of them is correct but both of them are definitely understandable and excellent guesses! This photo makes scale difficult to judge, but both a Red-throated Loon and a Double-crested Cormorant are much larger than this species. They may both have longer necks, with a juvenile Double-crested Cormorant having some of the similar lighter tones but a Red-throated Loon having more gray and white on the neck and head.

You can barely see some of the profile of the head but it is short and relatively compact. The bill is mostly hidden, but even this can be a clue as cormorants, loons, and some other ducks would have longer bills sticking out even at this angle. Now that we have established a few more facts I can confirm that this is a freshwater pond. It is calm water, unlike Long Island Sound most of the time, and you can see a reflection of some sort on the left part of the photo, in this case vegetation surrounding the pond, instead of a clear blue or wide open area.

So to recap, it is a small waterfowl species with a compact bill in late November in a freshwater pond with at least some vegetation surrounding it. The bird is alone in the photo as it was in the pond. It has an area of white feathers at the rump, but is mostly drab browns of varying shades otherwise. Any more thoughts? Here is a photo that should help.

That is a Pied-billed Grebe. I was relatively far from the shy bird, but you can see the stout bill, the overall tiny stature, the brighter brown tones on the neck and some on the flanks, and the contrasting darker back. They are relatively nondescript in their wintering appearance as they lack the black ring on a gray bill, a breeding season feature. While this was a migrant and far removed from nesting season, I believe this was actually the only individual of the species I saw during all of 2012, somewhat of an unfortunate indication of how deserving their listing as "Endangered" on the Connecticut Endangered Species Act is.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Something More Serious

I have been contacted by 5 different people already who collect winter clothing and toys for children. Both my children's schools are organizing food and clothes drives. We (Lebanon) are a puny little country and hardly able to cater to our own poor, so these people are going to have to depend a lot on hand-outs. 

And it doesn't look like things are going to change any time soon. 

Roadkill app

Paula Coughlin, Citizen Science Coordinator at our Grassland Bird Conservation Center at Pomfret, sent me the following on a great new phone app for conservation and wildlife.

How can roadkill data inform us about local wildlife? What species are found more often as the result of traffic? Are there certain locations that are more hazardous to wildlife? Where are the amphibian migratory routes?

In October of 2012, 12 members of the Citizen Science Volunteer Mammal Monitoring Program at the CAS Center at Pomfret, attended the annual Northeast Wildlife Trackers Conference in Leominster, MA. Danielle Garneau Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh, was one of several wildlife scientists and trackers that gave presentations highlighting cutting edge wildlife research.

Dr. Garneau has developed a citizen science project to monitor roadkill and live animals using the Epicollect smartphone app (RoadkillGarneau and Wildlife BlitzGarneau). Anyone can add information to the database which includes species, location, condition of animal, and photos.

This data could be used for a variety of uses such as education, research, conservation, and public safety. Those without a mobile device can enter data on their computer. Visit the links to see how easy it is to add local data. The more data we have, the more we can learn about wildlife.

To learn more about this project please visit:

To upload data without a smartphone please visit:

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

The Other World

Ramlet el-Baida; 57 km from Faraya

It is only 57 kilometers away from the slopes of Faraya, but Ramlet el-Baida could as well be an entire continent away, that’s how different these two worlds currently are. I occasionally walk my dog there in winter time, because a dog is not greatly liked in Beirut, and in winter time this is the only spot where it is relatively empty in Beirut and he can run free.
I thought about cropping our housekeeper out, but I decided against it; it only illustrates the worlds apart even more

But times are changing, it no longer is a queit place. The continuous influx of refugees from Syria makes them a common view in the streets. They come in all states. Some are so unbelievably rich that I am not able to wrap my mind around the wealth they have. They don’t think twice about renting a $3,000 a month apartment for 3 years. They enroll their children in prestigious schools at $7,000 a child, if not more.
The majority however is poor; they come from the back country, and they did not come by car. They crossed the border in mini-busses, with their blankets and clothes wrapped in plastic bundles. They do not have an income, and no bank-account from which they can withdraw. They camp out, or rent rooms from Lebanese families who have unfinished apartments on their roofs they do not need at the moment.
They swim with their clothes on; most Lebanese here will at least take off the undershirt, if not the pants as well.

No Faraya for them. A day on the beach is all they can afford. That is, if they can afford the transport to the beach. One woman asked me if I didn’t know of an apartment in my neighborhood that was for rent. She’d been in Beirut for 2 months now, but this was her family's first day to the beach. She couldn’t tell the neighborhood she was living in. “It is difficult, you know. Just . . . very difficult.”
She cannot wrap her head around my wealth either; the monthly rent in my neighborhood would probably constitute a yearly income where she comes from. And so from Faraya to Ramlet el-Baida is worlds apart.
Amna from a village close to Aleppo, now in Beirut since 2 months

They are slightly different from the Lebanese. Apart from the accent, there are other nuances. In the way they dress, for instance. The clothes are a little . . . odd, not something you’d find in stores here in general. They are much more conservative, and the women will sit in 20 degrees Celsius, covered in thick coats, under the hot sun. Their children and their man will not undress in their underwear when they go and swim, but will bathe with everything on. When they play beach soccer, the Lebanese men will take off their shirts and play bare-chested; The Syrians keep everything on.
The children will come and ask if the dog bites, and the women will come and talk. They ask where I am from, and tell me what village they come from, and when they left. The men – not used to foreign women - just sit and stare.
The women usually start conversations with my daughter and then come to me.

I am kind of curious how this is going to play out on the long run, if the conflict in Syria is not solved quickly.
I have been contacted by many people that are collecting clothes for the children. Both my children's schools are organizing food and clothes drives. But that is not going to hack it on the long run.
Their men will have to work in order to survive, and the bottom part of the labor market will suffer with the cheap competition. Nothing you and I will notice. At first. But the poor will get poorer. And poverty is an excellent breeding ground for extremism, whether it be political or religious.

Common Man in 2013

Common man - a person who holds no title, a human being; "there was too much for one person to do".

A member of the middle class, a person of no influence the ordinary person, man in the street Joe Blow a hypothetical average man - someone who is not a clergyman or a professional person, one of the common people.

A member of the working class (not necessarily employed) "workers of the world--unite!" - an unsophisticated country person.

It will always be this way in life, the planet is like an ant hill, some own it others manage it and the rest work it.  Now for the common man, work is 6 days a week if not 7, busting your butt to stay afloat while others (who take an oath) get away with the worst criminal activity imagined. You find yourself around friends talking of such matters, but after you depart from such conversations the   fire of the conversation grows cold and hardly anything ever gets done to prevent such matters. Simply you do not have the tools to put in-place to correct this mechanical failure, for it is mechanical, anything that is designed, is to run.

Well the truth of the matter is everything runs on money and with that in mind where do you spend your money?  I'm at your fire, and we're tired of ideas going cold that we feel will not work and we walk away, because enough of us will not get involved.  Now that sucks because we are all here right now experiencing the same thing.  The Jack Wagons' leave a bread crumb trail through the woods where ever they go, this is not hard to follow.  The G.C.C.U. makes this easy for you so the idea does not grow cold, making any entity do a better job and if not, send them to tent city.  Your money counts and that an't no kidding, just ask the ones who profit from it.  You can pull it like a plug, Bye, bye now! (you will say)          

Video uploaded by U Tube user Mbrewer1959

Hawks hunting feeder birds

Some of the most common questions and complaints I receive via email and in person on walks and at talks are concerning raptors hunting and preying upon passerine birds at backyard feeders. What kind of hawk is doing this to my yard? Why won't it go away? What can I do to stop it? How come it is not more afraid of me? Shouldn't the birds be doing more to protect themselves? Is there a way I can build my feeding stations to keep hawks out of the area? Should I take my feeders down or stop feeding the birds altogether until this hawk goes away or because I am killing all of the little ones? And so forth.

I realize how difficult it can be to watch your feathered friends be hunted, injured, or killed by a raptor. After all you are spending your time and money to put out food for them, to help them survive a little easier in the tough winter season, and to enjoy watching them from your home. I have done this for many years of my life, including when I was a small child. When it comes to kids it can be challenging for them to understand what happens in this process, but everyone else should try to be aware of what is actually occurring. Then we can mostly accept it, continue our role in the lives of our backyard birds, and even appreciate on some level the chain of life that inhabits our neighborhoods.

The most common two species that take aim at feeder birds are the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the Cooper's Hawk. One Sharp-shinned Hawk visited me last week during a brief snow shower in the late afternoon, and while I did not see the attack I saw the aftermath with it picking apart and devouring a Dark-eyed Junco.

While looking at the first two photos notice how the raptor looks to one side and then the other as it continually scans the immediate area for threats. This could include humans, more small birds that could mob it or larger raptors that could easily overpower this small hawk. If you see the size of the pile of feathers in the third photo you will be able to note that not only do Dark-eyed Juncos have a lot of insulation but that this is a small hawk as well. It eventually left after being disturbed by people, carrying what remained of its meal along with it, leaving only feathers.

These are accipiters that specialize in hunting birds in the woodlands. They are thin birds with a long tail plus broad, strong, round wings that all serve them well in navigating through trees and brush at a high rate of speed in pursuit of winged prey. They'll often take a very fast dive at a group of birds, going after the one that moves out of the way the slowest or does not see them at all. They may pursue them for a few minutes, even into thick tangles, hoping to have the endurance and then speed to overtake their prey. Sometimes, if the birds scatter too effectively, you may see one of these raptors sitting in the open in the feeder area, analyzing its options, resting for a minute, or hoping one of the small birds makes a mistake and returns thinking that the attacker has left the area.

Occasionally there will be other raptor species taking a look at your feeding area. Red-tailed Hawks are known to make an attack - extremely impressive ones considering their large size - but they will often be after a mammal instead such as a Gray Squirrel or an Eastern Chipmunk. Take a look at this bird that visited my yard several years ago!

This squirrel looked all but dead by the time I took the photo. It had curled into a ball for protection but it was not moving whatsoever while the Red-tail dug into it deeper and pulled at it with its bill. I saw the Red-tailed Hawk dive-bomb the area and crash right onto the ground onto this squirrel out of the corner of my eye, startling me with its size and sudden appearance. The Red-tail took off shortly after and, while about 10-15 feet in the air, the squirrel shook itself out of the talons! It dashed under a nearby car and the hawk's meal was gone. This was in the middle of a frigid January like this one, and it probably cost the raptor a lot. The squirrel was surely mortality wounded...or was it? Actually no, and over the next week I took careful note of the squirrel with several large talon scratches and holes over its back, and these wounds appeared to miraculously heal. They are tough creatures.

As I alluded to, the key in all of this is that the raptors have to find their own meals in order to survive as well. What is to say they are not as important as the feeder birds? In some cases the species may be at a higher risk overall with, say, a Cooper's Hawk feeding on a very common Mourning Dove. The key to contentment in the backyard is to remember that they are feathered friends of another family in desperate need of food. Many raptors end up starving to death, especially young birds, and this method of hunting streamlines the process a little for them. If they weren't in your yard they would be hunting another bird or mammal somewhere else, and it is not your fault if they are successful. This is a healthy process - survival of the fittest - that weeds out the sick and weak of the prey populations to ensure the continued success of their species for generations to come.

It is best to keep this in mind while watching out your window and to tell children about it whenever they see such an attack, explaining the evolutionary function it serves, the importance of the food chain, and that these larger birds need to forage in their own way as well.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission


Faraya yesterday, after the slopes closed (the snow cats are at work in the background) 

A Facebook friend was wondering if I actually work now and then. Judging from my pictures, it seems all I do is engage in outdoor activities,  holidays and socializing with friends.
Don’t let that fool you. I actually do work, quite a lot, although truth must be told, in the past 30 days, I think I have worked a total of 12 full days, but that has been an unusual time. I’m back to normal work hours again, and then I clock, with everything included, prep time and the like, some 50 hours a week.

I make it look like life in Lebanon is all glamorous and fun and relaxing. Only the real Lebanese know this not to be the case. I have just gotten out of a government building where I needed to get a little paper. And although I was successful at my task, it did take most of my Saturday morning.

I just cull my pictures better than most. And I’ve got a camera in my back pocket all the time.

Gray ghost

We have very much enjoyed the company of several Northern Harriers at Stratford Point this fall and winter. Normally there are certainly a bunch of individuals that pass through during migration, and sometimes a bird or two hangs around here on wintering territory. In rare cases, during large snow and other inclement weather events especially focused on our entire region, you will find several birds attempting to hunt the grasslands at Stratford Point because they are quickly forced to the south and following the coast of Long Island Sound in search of acceptable foraging habitat. While we have had a mild winter so far this has not come to pass, but we have had a lot of frequent sightings of birds, including one "Gray Ghost" (adult male) Northern Harrier.

Here are some looks at him searching for small mammals on a (as usual) windy day at Stratford Point. 

I believe we have had so many sightings of this gorgeous guy and others of his species because of Hurricane Sandy. But it's January, you say...huh? Many coastal habitats, low-lying grasslands, marshlands, barrier beaches and the like were all inundated with water during the major flooding brought on by Sandy. This is the case across the entire nearby region, and certainly the case for most of the acceptable habitats in this part of Connecticut. When this happened it is generally believed that a lot of the rodent populations were destroyed, and while they will rebuild quickly, this means that small mammals may be more scarce than usual. Stratford Point may be surrounded by water but it is tens of feet above sea level in many areas, and most of its mammal population would have been able to find shelter and survive easily away from rising waters.

Unless a bird wants to go inland and face more snow, ice, and frigid air, fraught with more unpredictability, they will stay on the coast. And at Stratford Point they can find one coastal location that still has plenty to eat. It's almost too bad that we do not have a major irruption of Rough-legged Hawks or Snowy Owls this year. I feel as though if we had a bird or two looking for a spot to spend the winter they would enjoy the comforts of Stratford Points season even more than usual.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Incoming; Ahmad al Assir on the Slopes

My son's contribution to this blog; The Oakleys went off, and the snowball fight started! Apparently (according to my sources) part of the right slope in Jonction got cornered off, and that's where they were chillin'. You got to hand it to the guy, he's not stuffy. Ahmad and I will not be peeling any apples.

I love that skier in orange. He seems remotely surpirsed.

Peeling a Little Apple

He has proven he can drive on snow and ice, he has shown he is a responsible driver, and so this morning, for the first time, my son went up alone in his car, with his cousin, three friends and five snowboards.  They’re off for a full day of heavy-duty boarding. A shovel went along to dig some ramps. 
As mentioned before, I can set off a canon next to his bed on weekdays and he won’t wake up; but when it concerns snowboarding, he’s up at the crack of dawn.
And so he’s gone. He made it to the slope in one piece; he’ll be alright while he’s there. All I need to worry about now is the way down. I mean, he's legally allowed to fight in a war, but he's still got a -teen in his age. But I was all relaxed.

Update: I just had to share this photo: Totally  awesome! Sheikh Ahmed on the slopes.  Is he wearing Oakleys? Source
That was, until I read that this Ahmad el-Assir guy also went up to Feraya. Not only is this dude into twitter, swimming, water polo and biking, no, it seems now he’s a boarder too. I am all for a healthy life style, and if this sheikh wants to go skiing, kudos for him. 
Okay, it’s a little odd that he’s taking a busload of supporterswith him. They all ski?  A former minister (Khazen) said that he thought “Assir’s visit is suspicious.” 
Suspicious?  Naahhh, are you kidding? What’s wrong with a sheikh on a board? 
But I am telling you, if this in any way impedes my son’s descent down that mountain, the sheikh and I will be peeling a little apple (Dutch expression).

I wonder if sheikh Ahmed is a regular or a goofy. My guess he’s a goofy.
An addition to my Dikkaneh series (See July and August of this year); Here I caught them in the act of filling the wicker basket.


I had a TGIF drink with some colleagues after work at Sporting, except that it is Wednesday, but tomorrow it’s the birthday of prophet Mohammed, and so I’m off. 
Two of the colleagues basically ‘grew up’ in Sporting. One of them met her husband there. My hubbie was a Sporting old-timer. There must be a whole generation of old West-Beirut who grew up with/in Sporting. 

And while we saw the sun set, we discussed people we knew, and who had been a ‘Sporting regular’ and noticed how this part of time is somehow all interconnected with each other; Everyone knows somebody who knows somebody here.  She was married to him, and he dated so-and-so, who used to date this girl, and that girl got married  to this guy, whose sister was going to marry this man who then married that girl, while she hooked with so-and-so but his ex-wife then married so-and-so and on and on it went. There’s a village-like quality to this town, and it makes it quite pleasant.

I wonder how many of my Lebanese readers are Sporting regulars.

Identify this waterfowl

Here is an individual of a species of waterfowl taking a little swim. I am not going to name the location or the type of body of water - that would give away too much! It would not be enough for you to solve it based solely off that, but why make things easy on you? You have this picture and this picture alone.

Alright, I will say the photo was taken sometime in the last three months. And it was taken by me, and I was in the state of Connecticut. That's all I am going to give away this time. So what do you think it is? I'll give you the answer in an upcoming post.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Nothing Much

Typical Beirut: the wooden shutters, the balcony curtains, the laundry lines and the little cleaning items they've got on their balconies like the stairs and the brooms. My favorite (It's like an I SPY picture) is the canary in the cage.

I threw my son’s electric toothbrush away some three months ago, because the things wasn’t working. Actually, it hasn't been working since this debacle. Anyway, the thing was gone for some 3 months when a week ago (the day I announced the dentist’s appointment) he (my son) said: “You know, my tooth brush doesn't work anymore, I think I need a new one.”

Come again? You need a new one? Because it isn't working? And you’re telling me this because you haven’t noticed it has been missing for some three months now?

But we are vindicated. The result (of the dentist visit)? One clean slate (me), no cavities but one canine tooth not descending (my daughter) and TWO CAVITIES (my son). There is a god. 

And the picture? Well, that’s the view from a friend who invited me for lunch two weeks ago and I said I would send her the pictures and they’re still on my computer! I haven’t forgotten you, A! You will get your pictures, photo shopped and all!

Odd duck

Once I realized I had never put him in the blog, I had to post this superbly unique duck that might have you scratching your head for a minute or two. As far as I know 2009 was the first time it was seen in Stratford, and it has come back to visit us each and every winter season. It frequents Raven Park Pond and has been seen once in a while at Wooster Park Pond. This guy is a favored sight and, considering his looks, one has to presume it is the same bird every time. Do you know what he is?

Don't spend too much time flipping through a field guide! What if I told you this was a hybrid, does that help? He was moving about quickly on the dark day I took the photo so you can't quite see the dark long tail which would shed some light on the answer. It's actually...a Mallard and Northern Pintail hybrid. He's a really stunning bird to see up close, and if you are in the Stratford area or wanting to tick off birds for the new year, stop by at one of those locations and try to add this uncountable bird to your list anyways. He tends to hang out with a lot of Mallards, but there are occasionally a Northern Pintail or two that can be found at Raven Park Pond as well.

I wonder if he has been successfully breeding or not over the last several seasons, and if so, which species of female he has found to mate with. I also wonder where he ends up - if he moves far to the north to the Northern Pintail nesting range or stays somewhere within the Mallard range that is closer to his wintering grounds here. I would guess he would go into Pintail range because I would presume his parents met within it, a Mallard being in this more northern parts of their nesting areas. Here's to many more years of him coming back to us.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Men at Work

On Hamra today. Not me.

I think that this 'picture a day' thing is not going to work. I am too busy;  I have a life and a full-time job and a full-time family too. A dog that just vomited on the carpet, a cat that pissed in the plants of the old aunt's balcony, and so right now there's a war going on in the kitchen between cat, aunt and cat-owner (my daughter), my son just announced he couldn't find his tooth brush (The one that I threw in the garbage 3 months ago? And what exactly have you been brushing your teeth with since then?), we have a dentist appointment tomorrow, a late meeting at work and I can list some more things. I think I may slow it down a bit.


They’re ice-skating in Holland right now. There aren't many things I miss about Holland, except for cold winter weather. I like getting up in the dark and biking through snow. I like that  because I don’t have to do that anymore; it’s all nostalgia. I was quite an awful skater, if memory serves me right, but the mood on the village’s ice track (which was a farmer’s field flooded for the occasion) was always good.

Sledding in Feraya

No skating (on natural ice) in Lebanon, but we do get the sledding part. I used to have a wooden sled with iron runners. The design hasn't changed much except it is plastic now. She still used that same red sled we bought her brother when he was five. It's been through hard times, and even survived  a suicide run with him and cousin O. 

It’s amazing how my daughter nags at the snow when she has to ski, but doesn't cringe when she’s got snow in her boots, pants, neck, gloves, coat and hair when she’s sledding. 

Leader Ahmed Dogan Theatened with Gun

Ahmed Dogan Nice Move

Oktai Enimehmedov, a Bulgarian national and ethnic Turk managed to get on stage where Ahmed Dogan, the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, was speaking when a Gas Pistol was pointed at the head of Dogen. Either the weapon failed or Dogan's maneuver as to knocking the pistol from the assassin's hand as you'll see in the video.

After the weapon is knocked away, Oktai seems stun allowing once again Dogan to makes a move! Oktai is surrounded by delegates which wrestled him to the ground. While from there, Otai takes a man size beating! For all on stage are taking turns dishing out some Whoop Ass. Police arrested him and took him to a hospital. It wasn't immediately clear if he sustained serious injuries ah, it sure looks like a serious beating, surprised  no one dropped him.

Oktai Enimehmedov

The liberal MRF party mainly represents ethnic Turks and other Muslims in Bulgaria. Dogan, who is one of the Balkan country's most influential political figures was to be followed by Lyutvi Mestan, who was expected to become the new party leader, said "the true reason for the assault was the language of hatred and confrontation."

Video uploaded U Tube user AssociatedPress

Kick It!

Beautiful People

T'was quite windy today

It’s the ski season; it won’t last long (it’s over by the end of March) and so we make the most of it. 
I was struck by all the beautiful people on the slopes. Beautiful faces, beautiful ski clothes, the latest gear. They lead beautiful lives (at least that is how it appears), hanging around on beautiful slopes with beautiful friends, having beautiful conversations  and going out tonight to beautiful places. It looks all so picture-perfect and glamorous.

What a world of differences you find in this country; it is almost surreal.

Cabane (Wardeh, Mzaar); you can only get there by ski or skidoo

Board needed waxing

Sheriffs' Say No to Feds on Proposed Gun Laws

Oath Keeper

Violence is not a good thing but what is worse is government taking away the rights of the people. Any public official and military personnel takes an oath to uphold the constitution and protect those under the constitution, even against it's government that what's to over turn the constitution.

At the start of each new U.S. Congress, in January of every odd-numbered year, newly elected or re-elected Members of Congress – the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate – must recite an oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

In the United States, the oath of office for the President is specified in the Constitution (Article II, Section 1)

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

What you need to think about here is not fear but the fear factor and that is a monster who commits these violent crimes.  With a watch there is a watch maker so who is the Dr. Frankensteins' of our society that are creating these monsters'?  That's where we need to focus!    

These Sheriffs are not out of line, there doing their duty as sworn into the office they hold and that is protecting the people of The United States of America.

Video uploaded bu U Tube user news10ktvl1

Linn Sheriff Tim Mueller

Mueller is interviewed by Democrat-Herald online editor Graham Kislingbury and reporter Alex Paul on Jan. 16, the day after he sent a letter to Vice President Joe Biden stating that he will not enforce any federal regulation requiring the sheriff's office to disarm law-abiding citizens.

Video uploaded by U Tube user midvalleynewspapers

Sheriff to Obama: I Will Not enforce Unconstitutional Gun Laws

Jackson County, Kentucky Sheriff Denny Peyman recently said that he will not enforce any new gun laws that he believes are unconstitutional. Sheriff Peyman told Fox News on Monday that the U.S. Constitution is "like the Bible" because "you either believe it or you don't."
Sheriff Peyman said: "I swore an oath to the Constitution. And in the Constitution is the Second Amendment and that's what this country is based upon.

Video uploaded by U Tube user djgabrielpresents

The Last Stand

On January 18th... Arnold is BACK! A Sheriff we all need! Just like these Sheriffs above in this post. People of this country have had enough of The Jack Wagons time to GO!

Oath Keepers

Video uploaded by U Tube user movieclipsTRAILERS

One Cop at a Time!