Joe Biden: “Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President. No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it’s about time.”

Media was bringing this up all week. Still cried when I saw it!

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2020: the lost year of covid

March 13, 2021

in Me

Like many Americans, today for me marks the one-year anniversary of lockdown or stay-home-stay-safe, depending on your viewpoint and attitude. Mine was the latter, and we’ve been successful.

In 2005, I did a fair amount of reading and research on zoonotic viruses, because as an ornithologist I was “involved” with H5N1, doing testing on migratory birds. So I followed the news of covid last January and February. Each time I went to the store, I’d stock on up on a few more things; in general we have tended to be pretty well prepared materially for short-term disasters. On March 13, 2020 I went to my Pilates class, the store, the pharmacy, and the vet to pick up supplies for poor Juniper, who had developed a major health issue a month or so before. I remember feeling more uneasy than I had during the bird flu threat because clearly this was much worse. Still, we thought we might need to stay home for a few weeks or a month, going out only when needed, and taking precautions. (That stint with bird flu left me with spare real N95 masks!) Kingfisher was able to continue working full-time from home.

I think April and May were the worst months for me. The virus was spreading; the federal government was not simply failing to launch an appropriate response, but was going through stunning display of denial, ignorance, and incompetance; the uncertainty about both the short and long-term future was peaking; and the political divides were accelerating. The stories about people dying alone in overwhelmed hospitals brought me to tears each day.

At this point, as well, Juniper was not really responding to any treatment of what we initially thought was just a UTI. Of course, I couldn’t be with her the times we had to go to the emergency vet. I spent many anxious hours in the car while she had several ultrasounds, an x-ray, and exams. Some of the vets she saw sort of settled around some sort of tumor in her lower abdomen, but unless she had more invasive procedures for a diagnosis — at a specialty clinic at least an hour away — we would not know for sure. Given her age (14 this month!) we would not subject her to surgery that would not add much to her life expectancy, we settled into doing everything we could to make her comfortable. Our hearts were shattered to think we were going to lose her.

I’ll skip to the end of that story — as time went on it was clear she did not have cancer, because things really didn’t worsen and she had no other signs other than a bad reaction to one of her medications. Once we squared around her medications, supplements, and diet her symptoms became much more managable. She is happy, goofy, and very active for a senior cat, although her condition will likely always be categorized as “idiopathic cystitis.” There is some sort of auto-immune component, I think, as her entire life she has suffered from food and skin allergies. Among the things I have become grateful for this past year is the time I’ve had to do research and understand feline health, and especially be here for her constantly to provide the care and routine she needs. I worry about how to maintain it when things become more normal, but the other thing 2020 taught me was to be prepared as best you can, and not plan or worry too far into the future about things you have no chance of anticipating.

Over the summer, we expanded our veggie growing game and improved our pantry organization (I tend to go hog-wild organizing things when other aspects of life seem out of control). We received all our groceries and other goods via delivery or occasional curbside pickup. Our human contact was extremely limited — talking briefly at a distance with neighbors, a few necessary medical visits, a couple trips for Kingfisher into his office to exchange technology and clean off his desk for the long-haul work-from-home gig. We cut each other’s hair, and managed to stay out of each other’s hair. We did not have any sort of social visit until August 31 when my completely awesome pet-whisperer and friend came by and we talked outside, masked and distanced in the driveway (she kept me sane all year and her friendship is another silver-lining to this dark year).

This was also the summer of BLM and enormous political upheaval. We binge-watched a lot of pretty bland but pleasant British television shows to distract ourselves, starting with “Cruising The Cut”, basically a guy with a go-pro puttering through the English canal system on a narrowboat; we’re currently on “The Great British Menu.”

I have to stop here. I was going to try to list all the shows we’ve watched as well as the cozy British detective novels I’ve been reading before bed as a sort of roadmap through 2020 but it now just seems so trite.

I told myself I was going to write about the past year for myself and for history. And now I see that I can’t be more than just superficial here. I’m not as anxious as I was at the beginning of 2020, but so much has happened that has changed my life even though we have had it so, so much easier than most people. I’m not ready to tap into the anger and despair, the incredulity and disappointment, the outrage and sorrow, the surreal experience of living through a year with multiple historic events unfolding simultaneously. My world has become both very small, while at the same time tapped into the churn and turmoil of the global community.

I feel today hope and caution, resignation and weariness. Maybe later I can add to this. Then again, who knows what tomorrow may bring.

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Well, here we are, mired in the stay-at-home covid-19 pandemic. I know a lot of people did a lot of local birding in 2020, for lack of travel and other safe activities. I was home, but pre-occupied with other stuff.

  • Total life birds: 1112. Nothing new, although I think the recent split of Mexican Duck may be an armchair tick…I’ll revise next year.
  • Total ABA-area birds: 587. Ditto.
  • Total state birds: 330. Black Vultures have been becoming more and more common in Michigan the last number of years. Finally picked one up in my home home county.

Home county

  • Total birds, Washtenaw County: 243. Black Vulture and yard Northern Saw-whet Owl.
  • Total birds in my home township of Lodi Township: 202. The vulture, the owl, and a Solitary Sandpiper in our wet woods, and a singing Prairie Warbler (which I initially thought was on the soundtrack of a movie on television) in the backyard.
  • Yard birds: 164. The owl, sandpiper, and warbler.

Former work county. I don’t get down there much, but will leave my totals here because I’d certainly add to it if I can. With the awesome flight of winter finches this season, I was really hoping to add Evening Grosbeaks. They seemed to move straight through southern Michigan. While we did get them in the yard a few times and we made 2 trips to Wayne County to look for them, no luck. Maybe on the return flight!

  • Wayne County: 271.
  • Total Dearborn birds: 231.
  • Total birds at work: 203.

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Well, I did do a little traveling in 2019: to Wisconsin for my sister-in-law’s birthday, and to Montana for spouse’s old friends reunion. I’d been to both states before, so no lifers on these trips. My life bird this year was Whooping Crane, in my home county.

  • Total life birds: 1112
  • Total ABA-area birds: 587. Note this is two more than last year, and I think the bird other than the crane may have been an armchair pickup of a bird added to the ABA list from a split.
  • Total state birds: 329. The crane and Brewer’s Blackbird (also in my home township).

Work county. Alas, now that I have left my long-time job, my former county, city, and workplace lists will likely not grow much, although if something really interesting shows up I might run over there and take a look.

  • Wayne County: 271. For whatever reason, I had somehow missed Common Gallinule in the county.
  • Total Dearborn birds: 231.
  • Total birds at work: 203. The last bird for these 2 categories was a Yellow-crowned Night-heron at work.

Home county.

  • Total birds, Washtenaw County: 241.
  • Total birds in my home township of Lodi Township: 198.
  • Yard birds: 161. Coolest was an Eastern Whip-poor-will that was around for a couple days; it was also a township and county bird for me. Alder Flycatcher was an expected species. Several others were flyovers: Caspian Tern, Trumpeter Swan, and Greater Yellowlegs. The tern was also a township and county bird. Yard list is now 176 species.

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my year in birds: 2018

December 31, 2018

“Birding” in the sense of really spending time in the field looking for birds has largely fallen by the wayside. My work over the past few years expanded into broader ecological endeavors, heavy on botany and entomology. But in keeping with tradition, here is my catch up post. Some new life birds since the last […]

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10 years with “the bug”!

December 23, 2018

Juniper (a.k.a. Juni, June Bug, The Bug, My Beautiful Girl) has been with us for ten years now. At nearly 12 years old, she is still as goofy, sweet, and playful as ever. We lost our beloved Sophie in 2013 and it was devastating for all of us, including Juniper. She was clearly depressed for […]

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still with me?

December 19, 2018

Did you think I had just given up, abandoning bootstrap to the graveyard of dead blogs? The last few years have been a crush of winding down my university job, taking an offered premature retirement, and transitioning to more freelance work and more free time (in theory, at least). Although I have kept several of […]

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my year in birds: 2014

December 31, 2014

My traditional compilation, after the second full year in my new home and home township. Once again, due to many (expensive) house projects, we did not travel. New life birds: None. Total life birds: #1100. No change. Total ABA-area birds: 579. No new species this year. Total state birds: 315. A Western Kingbird showed up […]

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my year in birds: 2013

January 5, 2014

My traditional compilation, which is essentially the same as last year, except that I’m filling in the baseline data at my new home and home township. Otherwise, nothing new as we did not travel. Like last year, I picked up an armchair lifer, which I am counting because 1) it’s my list, and 2) I […]

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my year in birds: 2012

January 5, 2013

My traditional compilation. I took no trips at all this year, as my father was ill and passed away, and we bought and sold a house. We barely had time to eat, much less bird. New life birds:  I picked up an armchair lifer with the split of Gray-lined Hawk (saw mine in Nicaragua in […]

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