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Crackberry, the addiction!

by Lanny McDowell on October 1, 2008


My friend is physically rather imposing.  Let us just say he doesn’t get lost in any room.  He is very outdoorsy, active, intelligent, by my standards, and inquisitive.  All that is in the process of going to waste, turning to mush, failing to materialize, etc., etc.  It is a pitiful thing to watch:  the deterioration of a competent mature adult with a wealth of useful experience into the hunched and immobilized victim of addiction, of what even he calls “Crackberry”.  The scourge running rampant among even the healthiest among us could also be referred to as I-phonitis.  It’s not just for kids anymore!  The sad joke of children lost gaming in tech world is now a generation-jumping epidemic affecting vulnerable individuals well beyond any notion of youth, those who perhaps only just last month learned how to cut & paste .  Now they interview global information piloting their own palms, scraping the cerebellum for reasons to stay attached.  Consider  the patient on an IV drip who balks at the imminent threat of pending release from hospital, like a canary panicky in the face of freedom through the open cage door, clutching the wheeled drip stand for fear of wellness and fresh air.  This is the new pathetic face of umbillicalization to the global info placenta.  What used to be communications opportunity is now Bubble Boy with WiFi. 

My good friend has lost one to two inches in height. His gaze can hardly elevate above the horizontal.  Maybe a Gyrfalcon streaking above the treeline could do it, but it would rock him back on his heels, his neck having lost most flexibility, atrophied by the unceasing down-slanted stare.  He is most comfortable with a focal length out about fifteen inches.  When he stands directly in front of you, you no longer really exist in his world.  You are too far away, outside the attention limit, beyond the frame of his world, the impersonal and cynical world of Crackberry.  And it is not only communicable, but highly contagious.  Sit in any waiting room and look about you.  Emergency patients no longer wail for Nurse, doctor!  Soldiers don’t scream Medic!  Old folks who have fallen and can’t get up no longer press the panic button for remote rescue teams.  All anybody wants is Dr. I-phone or Nurse Blackberry.  That’s the fix, baby.  Life is good as long as the battery is.

For the addict, of course, the comforting rush of endless and constant connectivity has replaced any priority for interpersonal give and take in the flesh.  Hand gestures, facial expression and eye contact have given way to frantic thumbing of the device, fingertip filing to work the tiny keys and out-of-sync exclamations of surprise, urgency or, more often, exasperation with the vagaries of not enough bars.

Of course, that’s not my only observation about the great time I had just recently downeast in Maine.  Once you start noticing that practically everyone everywhere is immersed in their personal digital assistant, assuming you can spare a second or two to look up from your own, you will find it’s a majority that you are observing.  At least no-one will see you staring at them!


Well, that techno-rant notwithstanding (always a curious and especially-appropriate-here word in its own right), below are some random photos from that recent trip to and off the coast of Maine, out of Rockport, past a zillion gorgeous islands to Matinicus, then out to circle Matinicus Rock, then back with a couple of stops along the way:


George – surfer, host, entrepreneur, business maven and, alas, fisherfolk.


One of two princes of Matinicus Rock:





Matinicus forest & harbor:



Not Porter:




This is the sort of aerial engagement no beast with feathers wants to encounter, the ‘grine strafing run. Enlarge.




This Maine photo has everything but the moose and the rifle and an LL Bean logo.


Birds are cool!  Lanny

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Morning birding, Squibnocket, Chilmark, MA 09/30/08.

by Lanny McDowell on September 30, 2008

 Two observers covering a couple of the fall hot spots on Martha’s Vineyard, Squibnocket and Aquinnah, had about eleven warbler species and four vireo species, along with a sapsucker and a few Baltimore Orioles.  The day started near the cliffs at the western tip of the Island, with Dickcissals and Bobolinks about, the mimid collection, a couple of E. Phoebes and a kestrel.  Then the quest moved to thickets just interior to the beaches of Squibnocket

Remember, you can click an image to enlarge it.

 Female Black-throated Blue at Aquinnah.  A male was seen briefly later.

 A Magnolia and a fall Yellow were hanging out together.


 A weak-capped Wilson’s:

 Black & whites are always nice.  Noisy Carolinas kept track of our progress. 


 Northern Parula:


 We saw two Mourning Cloaks and a Cloudless Sulphur motoring by.

Two whimbrels were reported to me by phone from the Farm Institute field nearest the left (or eastern) fork in the road to Katama Beach, around noon today.


Birds are cool!  Lanny

These images and more are available for purchase. Contact me or View store.




Not so birdy in Asheville

by Lanny McDowell on September 24, 2008

Just got back from Asheville: two days of family wedding shenanigans, plus three days to play outside that slot.  Did the NC Botanical Gardens.  It’s a nice spot, but kind of a bust for birds overall at this particular time of year.  I did hear a distant Pileated and heard one drumming.  I assume it was one and the same.  Also, I missed a thrush in a hemlock.  Not a Wood Thrush or a Hermit.  It was interested in me, but not enough to make itself known, in typical thrush fashion.  The chickadees sounded different though … Carolinas chatting and scolding lower than Black-capped.


I forgot … I did see a giganto dark brown Peregrine winging strongly over downtown Asheville on one of my mornings looking out the ninth storey window of the wedding-designated hotel room.  You never know.


The North Carolina Arboretum, on the other hand, was a winner.  Lots of unfamiliar flora, crafts (the new whisk and handled brooms were the purest design, and practical) and woods trails and a big greenhouse, plus an extensive collection of bonsais.  I especially liked the ones that were planted to look like a grove of miniature trees.


Travel tip for Asheville: stay at a sixteen room older and refurbished place called The Princess Anne Hotel.  It’s online and, basically, it fits halfway between a B & B and a regular hotel.  Included in the more than reasonsable room price is a great gourmet breakfast and an afternoon wine tasting.  Can’t beat it!  Also, there’s a great art gallery called Blue Spiral and plenty of music in town.


So, what does this have to do with a bird photography blog from Martha’s Vineyard?  Very little!  I had arranged to have my Canon 30D surgically removed from my hand (temporarily) before the trip, figuring that there would be next to no opportunity to use it to any plausible advantage during the trip; and I thought I should one time in my life experience walking through an airport without my left shoulder sagging under the weight of my camera bag, even though I usually manage to travel pretty light.  I include a photo of self before the camera severance procedure. When you arrange somewhat artificially to not take photos for a period of time, that does not mean that you don’t think about pictures to take or recompose scenes you see into a pleasing design.



One last thing.  I managed to score probably the last two available tickets on the planet to a sold-out concert by David Byrne, the Texas born originator and lead singer/guitarist of the Talking Heads.  The crowd was college young, or close to it, which was great for the energy level and basic adulation of this guy and his music.  For a nice and very active touch the three dancers in an almost constant choreography were likely from the Twyla Tharpe world, doing classic weird David Byrne spastic moves when not flingng each other around the stage and smiling like they were having the best of times.  One of the thundering encores I was looking forward to was really the highlight of many:  “Take me to the rivah.  Drop me in the watah.  Hold me, squeeze me.”  All that great Al Green stuff!


Birds are cool!  Lanny

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Alert the Media!

by Lanny McDowell on September 13, 2008


This item may have slipped by you in the frenzied juggling of clickers and remotes, LAST buttons and FAVORITES surfing:  While the species names for Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Semi-palmated Plover have been on the books for quite a while and whereas birding enthusiasts may use the terms with both competence and flair, how many observers out there have actually contemplated empirically the half palms themselves?  Usually the birds are too far away, the angle too shallow to show the webs, the wee tykes are moving too fast (ususally scampering away from the observers) or, God forbid, no one is paying attention!

Here they are, in the closeup photos below, for all to peruse.

For those of you not familiar with my typical perambulations about the Place de la Concorde vortex of birding discussion and chatter, I am not intending to know that much technical stuff about ornithological matters.  I know some things about watching birds on Martha’s Vineyard and a few other places and taking photos of them, but I operate at some reach from the levels of both science and expert birderism.  I do want to be informative when I can be, because trivia involving things that get you up in the morning can be just fun.  My principal interest, though, is simply being where the birds are, which, btw, is the title to the third and lost sequel to the movie series of almost the same name.

I include the yellowlegs, a greater, because it is cool, was in the same place as the semis at Wilson’s Landing at one of the northern coves to Edgartown Great Pond yesterday, and because a small bodied greater looks very much like a lesser with a too-long beak.   Please also note the photo of the two semi-sands.  They are juvs and do not yet have the black legs they will acquire soon, so you cannot use their leg color to help distinguish them from Leasts.


Two semi buddiesHalf-palm sandpiperHalf-palm plover














Birds are cool!  Lanny

These images and more are available for purchase. Contact me or View store.