Environment

Environment, or how to survive us

Forests I have Loved

By accident and restless choice I am the ultimate stone that gathers no moss and have lived all over this country. In each location, I've hiked whatever wilderness the area boasts, and one doesn't truly know how beautiful this country is until you've walked the fields and forests, beaches and rivers.

In the Northwest, the wet rainforests of the Peninsula be-grudge every inch of path and at times you feel as if the forest will swallow you whole, so rich and close it is. If one is fanciful, and the rainforests generate fancy, one would think to look close at the bushes, to see if a set of eyes looks back. Cold water droplets down the back of one's collar area is a typical Northwest rainforest experience. Elsewhere in the region, the forests are less dense but no less wild: whether walking the foothills of Cascades, or the high hills of the Inland Empire.

As a break from the forests, one can walk the desert-like petrified forests, the rich meadows, or the beaches of the Oregon coast, getting lost among the rocks and the tidal pools, to climb sandy dunes and rocky cliffs. I have walked a thousand miles of Washington and Oregon through the years, and every mile is unique.

Roosevelt lake a few miles from where I grew up

In Arizona, the forests are in the north and consist mainly of Ponderosa and scrub pine. In the red rock country, the trees fight for a life among the rugged rocks, their green a brilliant counter-point to the rust reds of the ground, and the azure blue of the skies. In the Arizona deserts, one can turn about once, twice, and get lost if not careful, and during the summer, the wilderness is unforgiving of fools. But, oh the beauty of an Arizona desert in the Spring, with flowering cacti and cool breezes, snakes warming themselves in the sun, lizards scampering about. And the area is so rich with minerals that one can find entire valleys literally sprinkled with jaspar or black or white onyx.

One might expect fierce wilderness in Vermont, but you'd be surprised. The entire state was clear cut at one time, and the trees are of a uniform sameness and type and size. But in the winter, when the snow is on the ground and the lakes are frozen, that's when Vermont shines for me. The irony though is that there are few places to hike easily in Vermont. In the winter, on Grand Isle, the local high school opened its doors in the evenings for community members to walk the corridors, get a bit of exercise and socialize. When snow is 4 feet deep, you don't just cut across country for a bit of a hike. Unless you're a red fox.

Once, when I stayed at a bed and breakfast in the central part of the state, I found a trail made by a snow trailer and was able to walk to the top of the hill the B & B was next to. The day was sunny, and cold, and fresh snow was pure white, all about me. As I walked further and futher up the hill, all sounds fell away until the only thing you can hear is your own heart.

Trail in Muir Woods, CA

In Massachusetts there are miles of coasts to walk if you can find them. The water is warmer than the Pacific, but more tempermental, and there are few experiences finer than to stand on a beach during a summer storm in New England. Wet. Truly wet.

I prefer hiking, but it's hard to resist the lure of the Emerald Necklace in Boston for walking — the series of connected parks that traverse the city. In Boston, you're always aware that the streets you walk were once walked by the likes of John Hancock, Samual Adams, and Paul Revere. It was in one part of the Necklace that I walked along a stream and a red-tailed hawk landed on a branch only a few feet away. Right in the middle of the city.

In Montana, the green forest gives way to mile after mind numbing mile of cattle ranches before hitting rocky mountains that tear through the earth in jagged layers, dangerous to walk, beautiful to see. And In Idaho, the lakes rest like blue saphires nestled in verdant green velvet.

In Northern California, you can walk among Redwood trees so tall that no other life grows on the forest floor, because no sunlight ever makes it past the trees. In the distance you can hear birds singing, but not a sound at the forest floor. As you walk, you can reach out and pat a tree that was born about the time when Abraham gave birth to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Rocky Mountain forest

Here in Missouri, where mighty rivers have carved a culture unique to this region, of blues and banjos, where north and south meet and co-exist, this is a land of many faces: river fronts give way to wild mountain, which gives way to city, which gives away to parks absolutely unique in this country. One can walk every day in the year and still not touch all the trails and paths this state supports.

The mountains here are smaller than in the Northwest, but no less wild and no less fierce with brambles and tangles and rocks and soft clay ready to trip you up at every step. Here is where one is likely to meet white tailed deer and beaver and black bear in addition to squirrel and opposon and racoon. The bird life is as rich as the landscape, with bluebirds and red cardinals and mockingbirds and finch, hawk, eagle, and red-winged blackbird, all within a few miles of the city.

However, the real magic in this simple land is to walk the same path in all seasons; to see the land in winter, only hinted at behind lush trees and bushes in the summer; to watch a whole valley suddenly become dusted with green after a spring rain; to stand at the edge of the forest and see color that would shame the finest painters as the leaves of dozens of different trees of different heights and shapes change into their autumn colors, of gold and rust, pink and scarlet, with a hint here and there of defiant, stubborn green; to stand beneath a canopy of trees as golden leaves cascade down around you.

Trail in the fall

From the Archives

I have been scanning old negatives, many of which are starting to deteriorate, years earlier than I expected. The trouble with color film is that over time, the color fades and the film gets grainer and the picture can begin to degrade, especially if the film is not carefully preserved. The deterioration is hastened if the negative is put into an ill fitting plastic sleeve. No film does well when stuck to the sleeve and after having to be pulled out by force.

Luckily most of the negatives are salvageable, including some of my favorites. They are damaged, but a little careful work with Photo Shop hides much of the damage. It's funny really how easy it is to fix a scratch with Photo Shop, because years ago, when I used to work for photographer in Yakima, one of my jobs was to use dyes and pencils to correct dust spots and damage in color photos or to add tints to black and whites. When I showed both an aptitude and interest for this type of work, the photographer had me trained in Seattle by a professional lab. It was less expensive to have me to do the work and I enjoyed it–better than doing books and waiting on customers, trying to get them to buy cheap wooden frames, while lying to them about how good they looked in their photos.

I worked for Bob off and on for four years, and in the last year all I did was freelance photo correction work for him, using a studio I created in my Dad's garage. You couldn't do the work in the house because the fumes from the sprays used to provide a work surface on the photo were nasty without a protective mask.

Now, tonight, a little Photo Shop magic helps me fix the scratches in an old photo in ten minutes that used to take me hours. Sometimes progress is a good thing.

forest05.jpg

This photo sure brings back memories.

I grew up in a small town dominated by an old fashioned saw mill. Some days the smoke from the mill would be so thick that our eyes would water, and an acrid taste would form in our throats, causing us to cough. Driving to and from our farm 12 miles outside of town we would pass big lumber trucks along the way; we kids would yank our arms up and down and the drivers would catch the hint and pull the cord for their horns, letting loose huge blasts of sound, smiling at our delight.

The risk and threat of fire was a part of our lives living in and among the trees of the national forest area. Once a fire got close enough to our place to leave scorching on our garage, like the dark spit from the tongue of a giant rapacious lizard. I grew up in and among those trees, spending more time in with them than with people.

(I imagine this accounts for my shyness at large parties and formal gatherings–after a few hours I am overcome with a strong urge to find the nearest stand of trees and quickly disappear from sight. Heck, give me a large enough bouquet and I'll make a run for it.)

Of course, this explains my love of hiking. When I'm out on the paths, I'll sometimes see a particularly big and beautiful tree, and I'll just have to stop and admire it. After checking carefully around to see that I am quite alone, I'll reach up my hand and touch the rough bark, lay my head against the surface, and listen to the heart of the wood; breathing deeply the wonderful brown-green and slightly pitchy gold smell. I used to think in more fanciful moments that I could actually sense the tree pulse with life.

Trees have the most wonderful feel to them.

I moved to Seattle in my teens, then away, then back after I was married. I and my husband used to explore all the wonderful forested area in and around the city and on the Peninsula. Driving toward the ocean, we'd see stands of trees surrounding the roads and it would make us itch to get out and explore.

One day we decided on impulse to follow a lumber road into the hills to see if there might be good hiking. After we crossed over a small hill separating the trees from view of the road, the sight that met us shocked us both into silence. Ahead of us was what was left of a once proud and old forest, now clear cut with only a few trees left standing among the barren and ripped fields.

We parked the car, got out, and just stood there, not saying a word to each other. I grabbed the camera I always carried with me and shot this photo along with others.

I'm glad I was able to preserve the image with my scanner, and correct the damage with Photo Shop. Wouldn't want to lose it.

Yes, progress is a good thing.

Creating:

Bees 2.0

Bee in flight

Bees 2.0.

Bee in flight

Here's a great rumor to start: too much cellphone use makes one think and act like Tiny Tim:

Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that is where I'll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me.

Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me

Knee deep in flowers we'll stray
We'll keep the showers away
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me

Red Tulips

Up to 90% of honeybees have suddenly died in 27 states in this country, as well as other countries. Tell that to your friends on Twitter.

Bee in flight

Apple makes sexy hardware, but nothing as sexy as a lusty red tulip.

Tulips

Have you ever noticed how delicate a honeybee is?

Honeybee on Grape Hycanith

This is my idea of 'more is better'.

Bunch of flowers

Creating:

Architeuthis Dux


Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep,
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
Above his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;

And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green,
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by men and angels to be seen,

In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

The Kraken — Albert, Lord Tennyson

The Giant Squid

The next time you sink your teeth into some calimari think of this: The giant squid has been measured to a length of 60 feet, and weighs in the neighborhood of between 1 and 2 tons. It has eight arms, each lined with two rows of suckers. The giant squid also has the largest eyes of any known creature, over a foot in diameter.

If the giant squid is like its smaller cousins, it is a predator. To make the giant squid an ideal predator, its suckers are ringed with a hard, jagged edge, resembling teeth, in order to better enable the squid to hold onto its prey. Additionally, two longer tentacles are also used to help move the prey to the large, sharp parrot-like beak.

Needless to say, you will not sink your teeth into this creature without a fight.

The Stuff of Legends

I looked in my turn, and could not repress a gesture of disgust. Before my eyes was a horrible monster worthy to figure in the legends of the marvelous. It was an immense cuttlefish, being eight yards long. It swam crossways in the direction of the Nautilus with great speed, watching us with its enormous staring green eyes.

So says the Naturalist, in the Jules Vern classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 18. Though this book is a work of fiction, the squid encounter that Vern wrote about was based on fact, or at least a story that Vern heard about at the time. The story states that a French naval ship was attacked by a giant squid in 18611.

Since earliest times, there have been legends of sea serpents and large, many-armed creatures attacking boats. One of the fiercest creatures was the legendary beast known as the Kraken.

Now, modern belief is that the kraken was a giant squid, and that the size of the creature has grown through numerous re-tellings of ancient stories; from creatures of 50 feet to creatures the size of islands.

A Norwegian Bishop, one Erik Ludvigsen Pontoppidan, wrote in his journals about the kraken and mentions the size of the creature as being one and one-half miles long 3! More recently, another eyewitness account of the size of the giant squid is given by an A.G. Starkey, who was stationed on a British trawler in World War. Starkey tells of being on deck in the evening when he notices a light in the water next to the boat. As he tells it, "As I gazed, fascinated, a circle of green light glowed in my area of illumination. This green unwinking orb I suddenly realized was an eye. The surface of the water undulated with some strange disturbance. Gradually I realized that I was gazing at almost point-black range at a huge squid."

According to the Starkey account, he walked along the boat, measuring the giant quid and realized that it was as long as the boat he was on. It is at this point that accounts may differ. According to a Discovery Channel special on the Giant Squid (telecast July 31, at 8:00 pm in a show titled "X Creatures"), the boat Starkey was on measured 60 feet. According to the account given in the Museum of Unnatural Mystery4, where I pulled the quote, the boat measured 175 feet!

Eyewitness accounts of the size of the giant squid are matched by tales of squid behavior, specifically stories of squids attacking ships.

As said earlier, Jules Verne based his squid fight in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on an eyewitness account of a giant squid attacking a French naval ship1. Another account of a giant squid attacking a ship is given in the logs of the Brunswick, a Norwegian Trawler. In the logs an account is given of a giant squid attacking this large ship three different times, before the squid finally slid into the ship's propellers and was killed.

A third account tells of nuclear submarine losing the use of its sonar equipment on the ship's maiden voyage. When the submarine returned to port, the Navy found that the covering on the Sonar had been torn lose and that hooks remained in the material, hooks from a giant squid.

Other accounts tell of giant squid grabbing men from the waters as ships were sank in World War I and II, and also of giant squid attacking small fishing boats. Two South African lighthouse workers reported in 1966 about seeing a giant squid wrapped around a baby whale, in a ferocious fight, with the baby whale surfacing and being pulled back under before it finally stopped rising to the surface4

So, are there giant squid lurking off our coasts that reach a size of 150 feet and that pull folks off boats? Well, behind every tale, there is a seed of truth, and now its time to take a look at what we do know about the giant squid.

What We Think We Know

Amid rumor and scant eyewitness accounts, we have little knowledge of the giant squid and its behavior. Giant squid have washed up on shore sporadically so we have had a chance to examine dead specimens. We also know that the giant squid forms part of the diet for toothed whales such as the sperm whale. Outside of that, though, we have little knowledge of these of the largest known invertebrate. We have never successfully viewed the giant squid in its natural environment, and we have never had a chance to examine a living specimen. But what we do know makes this an incredibly interesting creature.

First of all, when discussing giant squid, most folks are discussing the squid known as Architeuthis Dux. There are other large species of squid, some of which have been seen in the wild. For instance, the Navy provides an audio account of an encounter between a robotic research submersible and a variety of squid known as Moroteuthis. In the account, the squid was six feet in length5. Compared to its larger cousin, though, Moroteuthis is pretty small: Architeuthis Dux, or the Giant Squid by its popular name, has been measured at close to 60 feet in length.

The first recorded physical record of the giant squid was made by a Reverend Moses Harvey in Newfoundland, based on a dead giant squid that had been caught by local fishermen. Dead giant squid had been washed up on shore before, but this was the first time a person had taken samples of the squid, and made scientific observations of the creature — due to the foresight demonstrated by Rev. Harvey as he sent the creature to Yale University for study6.

Since that time, more creatures have been washed on shore or been pulled up, dead, in fishing nets. However, no live giant squid has been captured, nor has one been seen in its native element. Most of what is known about giant squid has been derived from these specimens and from the remains of giant squid specimens found in the stomachs of whales, primarily sperm whales.

Consider the giant squid: the largest size of the giant squid is between 60-70 feet as determined from pieces of the creatures that have been found7. It should weigh in at close to 1 to 2 tons. In addition to its large size, the giant squid also has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, with each larger than your typical dinner plate!

The giant squid's territory is in the depths of the ocean, up to 3000 feet below the surface of the ocean, in a world that is as foreign and deadly to us as is the vacuum of space8. It, as with other squid, does not live on the ocean floor, as an octopus does, but lives, instead, between the surface and the bottom, a state easily maintained by its natural buoyancy.

In addition to its size and habitat, the giant squid's physical makeup also differs from the squid normally consumed by people: instead of sodium chloride in its system, biologists have found ammonium chloride. Snacking on Architeuthis would be similar to sucking on a bottle of your favorite ammonia floor cleaner, without the lemon scent. Nummy.

Other than these small differences, the giant squid is similar to other species of squid. It has a mantle, which is where its internal organs are found. Along the length of the mantle is a funnel, used for expelling waste, water, and for locomotion10 — the squid ejects water through the funnel to push it along the water.

The giant squid has eight arms, each containing several suckers; to make the suckers even more interesting, the edges of the suckers have a jagged set of "teeth"11 to help the squid grasp prey.

The giant squid also has two longer feeding tentacles used to push food into the squid's mouth, which resembles a parrot's beak. A large parrot. A large beak. It also can squirt ink to confuse predators, matching its smaller cousins capability 12.

Other than these facts about the squid's physical makeup, little is known about how the squid acts in its environment, a void that scientists have been trying to fill for the last several years.

In Search of…

There have been numerous attempts to study giant squid in its natural environment. Two expeditions have been sent to Kaikoura Canyon, off of New Zealand, the first in 199713, and the second of which occurred in February and March of 199914. Both of these expeditions were under the leadership of Dr. Clyde Roper from the Smithsonian Museum, probably the world's leading expert on the giant squid. He is also one of the few people to actually taste a sample of giant squid, and it is from his reaction that I pull my "ammonia without the lemon scent" taste description.

The Kairkoura Canyon is considered a favorable spot for finding the giant squid because several specimens have been found by fishermen in the area, and sperm whales also like to hunt in the area — a good indication as sperm whales feed on giant squid.

While neither expedition was able to capture images of the giant squid, neither trip was considered a failure due to the other information the scientists were able to find, and the observations they were able to make. In addition, during the trip in 1999, Dr. Roper was able to examine a captured, dead giant squid that was in very good shape, something that doesn't always happen when squid are caught up in fishing nets as the creatures are very fragile.

Using manned submersibles isn't the only approach to filming giant squids. Another approach used whales, with scientists attaching video cameras to whales before they begin their hunting dives. I have seen these films, and though they haven't, yet, been successful (the cameras tend to get knocked off by other whales), this approach is an innovative effort17.

Robotic submersibles have also been used to try and capture images of the giant squid, including the MIT Sea Grant Autonomous underwater robot16. Unfortunately, all of these efforts have not succeeded in filming an adult giant squid in its natural habitat.

However, folks like Dr. Roper aren't giving up in their efforts. Dr. Roper is already talking about an expedition back to Kairkoura in the Spring of 2000.

Unfortunately, the 2000 expedition wasn't successful.

So What About the Attacks?

One major question that remains about the giant squid is its behavior; specifically would the giant squid attack boats and people. The more I learn about this creature, the more I wonder whether the giant squid was attacking boats and people as food sources — or perhaps just trying to find a ride home.

The giant squid inhabits that nether region of the ocean that is hundreds to thousands of feet below the surface, but not at the bottom of the ocean. Its entire physical makeup is suited specifically to this environment. The main reason that the giant squid has been found dead and washed up on shore is most likely because of clashing ocean streams, cold water meeting warm water.

The giant squid lives in cold water that can get trapped above a layer of warm water. This pushes the poor creature to the surface. The squid's natural boyancy makes it difficult for it to sink beneath this warm water, and I imagine the hostile surface area weakens the giant squid to a point of desperation. So, what's a good way to return to the depths? Why, hitch a ride on one creature it knows dives to the depths: whales. And since boats can look like whales…

Now, attacking a submarine as a food source makes a bit more sense, as these craft are much closer to the giant squid's preferred environment than a boat on the surface of the water. However, a submarine would strongly resemble a whale, a creature the squid knows it can't beat, so its hard for me to believe that the squid would attack a naval submarine because it considers it "food".

As for giant squids attacking a whale, a creature the same size as it but weighing many, many times more than the squid — again, this doesn't make sense unless the squid is desperately hungry. We know, though, that a giant squid defends itself from the feeding whale, which is why there are squid sucker scars found on whales, but the giant squid wouldn't have a chance against an adult whale. However, it might have a fighting chance against a smaller, juvenile whale, which would explain the sighting of a young whale fighting with the squid, and the squid shown at the surface mentioned by the lighthouse men earlier — the giant squid was still wrapped around the young whale in combat, and the whale dragged the creature to the surface. Going back to my original hypothesis about why a giant squid would grab a boat, the giant squid attached to the young whale is not going to let go when it's on the surface. Hence, the look of a battle.

Okay, so my guess is just that, a guess, and most likely not an accurate guess at that. But I can't help thinking its a better interpretation of the boat attacks then the giant squid leaving its perfect little world to venture to the surface, an almost guaranteed act of death for the squid, just to nosh on a tasty new takeout.

The truth of giant squid behavior is out there, waiting for folks like Dr. Roper to find.

Updated for 2004

The majority of giant squid research is moving, more and more, to Australia and New Zealand. In particular, one of the leading researchers now is Dr. Stephen O'Shea at Auckland University of Technology.

In 2002, he managed to grab photos of baby Architeuthis dux, and even keep a few alive for a short period of time for study. (Read a lovely New Yorker magazine article on Dr. O'Shea.)

O'Shea was also the one to tentatively identify the new species of giant squid discovered recently ("giant squid" is really a category of squid, rather than any one species), calling it Colossal Squid, or by it's scientific name, Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni.

The Colossal is an amazing find, and may actually be the squid at the root of so many stories we hear. However, we'll never know for sure until we can see it, as well as it's cousin, Architeuthis, alive, adult, and in their native habitat.

So even now, the search continues…

Photo of Squid, (c) National Resource Center for Cephalopods2

References:

Don't just read about the Kraken — hear Chris Hall recite the famous Tennyson poem at the BBC Nature web site.

1 The Smithsonian has an article of Dr. Clyde Roper that discusses, among other things, the french battle with a giant squid in 1861.

2 Image from National Resource Center for Cephalopods.

3 The tale of the Norwegian Bishop and the mile wide kracken comes from the Museum of Unnatural Mystery's Kraken page.

Image of Kraken from Museum of Unnatural Mystery3

4 Read accounts of the giant squid at the Museum of Unnatural Mystery's Giant Squid page.

5 Sorry, dead link

6 Read about Rev. Harvey's squid and other interesting information at the excellent Ocean Planet: In Search of Giant Squid from NASA and the Smithsonian.

7 Read the Squid Educational Page at Chalk Hills Educational Resources.

8 Check out the How Deep can they go page at Ocean Planet — very well done!

Early illustration of giant squid, by Professor A.E. Verrill of Yale, from Ocean Planet6.

9 Diagram of Giant Squid at Ocean Planet. For fun, also check out a robotic version of the giant squid at The Tech's RobotZoo.

10> Again from the RobotZoo, the mechanics of funnel locomotion.

11 Photo of sucker teeth from the Ocean Planet.

12 See a video of a squid using its ink defense at the Ocean Planet.

13 Read about the 1997 Expedition to Kaikoura, at the National Geographic Web site.

14 Read about the 1999 Expedition to Kaikoura at Ocean Planet/Smithsonian.

15 A day in the logs of the second Kaikoura expedition, Setting up for a dive.

Diagram of a squid from Ocean Planet9.

16 Discussion of the use of the MIT Sea Grant underwater robot at MIT.

17 Read an article on the use of Whales to film giant squid.

18 Complete text of the translated Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne — from the Jules Vern Collection.

Photo of submersible used to search for giant squid in 1999 expedition, NIWA/NASA15.

Also check out the The Octopus News Magazine Online.

Robin Redbreast

We had another flock of robins come through again today. Many more females this time since they are on a southern migration, not northern. Robins are ground feeding birds, so it's surprising how fast and agile they are in the air.

robin1.jpg

Robins have long been the harbingers of spring, but for some reason, the robin is also associated with war and even with death. I wonder if its because its a migratory bird, leaving in the winter and returning in the spring. Leaving and winter reminds us of loss, while spring and returning remind us of hope.

As coincidence would have it Loren discussed Stanley Kunitz's poem "Robin Redbreast" this week:

It was the dingiest bird
you ever saw, all the color
washed from him, as if
he had been standing in the rain,
friendless and stiff and cold,
since Eden went wrong.

Loren covered the poem on Veteran's Day a day when we honor our veterans from so many wars. When I was driving yesterday, the radio played a set of ads from different organizations and companies and people in celebration of Veteran's Day. The word Freedom was central to each and every one.

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

At poets.org, I found Sara Teasdale's poem "There will come soft rains" that references a robin. I liked it, but it, too, is somber:

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

The page noted that this was a war time poem. My first reaction was: which war?

robin3.jpg

But robins are also a harbinger of spring, and they cheer me so with their puffed up chests of bright scarlet; like an oldtime politician thrusting out his well-filled belly before shaking the hands of Father, while patting baby Suzy on the head.

Robins are also a contradiction: they're a territorial bird, independent and individual, but they migrate in flocks. It's comical to watch them when they fly as a group — they fly their own path within the flock's path, and it looks like this big disorganized cloud of fast moving but fiercely chaotic smoke. When they land on the holly berry trees, they start to squabble when others land nearby but then remember, "Oh yeah. That's right. Cooperate', and settle in to feed.

Today though they picked a holly tree that has a large, well entrenched grey squirrel nest in it. The birds drove that poor squirrel to distraction — just as he chased one off, another would land.

Everything is a pest for something else.

robins2.jpg

Reflections:

Creating:

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