Book club meeting

Terry and Penelope came round for the book club meeting, bringing Stephen with them. Since all our kids were there too it was a pleasant rowdy dinner around the kitchen table. Amy and I had gone down to the 17th Street Market to buy shrimp and had a companionable time wandering the aisles, picking out chilis and chutneys. For some reason it reminded me of trips to Quincy market when we were in graduate school, a strangely distant resonance since there are much more recent ones available, such as trips to Monterey Market in Berkeley. Perhaps it was the sense of an excursion from domestic routine. I picked up some smelt as well, which I tried to cook by dumping them all in hot oil. They disintegrated but tasted good. Must be a trick to producing the delicious fresh salty crusty things I was dreaming of. The book was An Unfinished Life, which we disposed of fairly quickly. We all liked it, but it was light fare. Stephen had been to some national fencing championships and came in second in one of the events.

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New cholla growth

The green spikes behind the new spines are rubbery. They are not present on older growth. I wonder what their purpose is. A Finger-leaved Gourd up at the north end, with a flower and a gourd on it. The White-thorn Acacias a showing some flowers, bright yellow puffballs, quite different from the creamy catkins of the Catclaw Acacia.

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Wild Zinnia

The rain has brought this out all over the place, Zinnia acerosa. There was still water running at the north end of the wash from last night’s rain, and the ground was patterned with flows in the yellow and black sands. The wash shows heavy erosion some places, with new banks and cuts through old ones. A couple of plants I’d like to identify: one low shrub with woody stems and soft green linear leaves, which stay on dried giving it a broom-like appearance, and one with large floppy spear-shaped leaves, lobed and convoluted.

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Jello dance

The spoons are hitting dishes of Jello that Abby had prepared for a Jello-wrestling party that was cancelled. Apparently Jello-wrestling involves wrestling with Jello. I had a long flight home, 35 hours all told from door to door, but uneventful. Karen King sat next to me on the flight from Brussels to New York, at one point waking up to tell me a brilliant idea. For the institute, I thought? No, for getting Project Runway from the iTunes Music Store. (I had been complaining we couldn’t see it any more after Stinson Beach.) The last two days in Dakar were quite, mostly in and around the hotel. I got some good birdwatching in, documented on my Natural History blog. I was glad to be home.

My new assistant, Joy, is one to work with, and seems to be very efficient. We had a session on Monday going through my mail, which led to a discovery that nobody seemed to know about my counter-offer. This got sorted out on Tuesday. Some irritating interactions with NSF over the MSP grant, but I imagine it will all work out.

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Kestrel on saguaro

The wash has been transformed by rain while I’ve been away. The Brittlebushes have come out in full leaf, the Hackberrry bushes are lush, bright green Devil’s Claw vines cover the floor. The Desert Senna at the bottom of the path down is in flower.

And, as usual, the rain seems to bring out the predators. This kestrel was in his usual spot on a saguaro on the west side of the wash.

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Eggs on the golf course

Dakar. One of the caddies pointed these out, they belong to a Spur-winged Lapwing, a bird with a thick white neck, black hood cominb back in a point, black belly and throat strip (connecting beak to belly), straight beak about half the length of its projection back across the head, grey brown wing coverts, black tail and wing edges. Many on the golf course, noisily protecting their nests. The caddy said that the Woloff word for it is Vanon.

Other birds: a wren-like bird in the trees near the hotel, black tail with white under coverts, grey, noise, curved beak, dark around eyes.

A Long-tailed Glossy Starling, blue with very long tail and prominent white eye ring, black throat and auricular, buzzy up and down call.

Sparrow: white belly, brown mantle, grey head, black throat with salt and pepper chest patch, making a sharp chip.

Finch: Red beak, red or gray breast, grey-brown wings, in a large flock. Probably a firefinch.

Red-billed Hornbill: large curved yellow beak, white head, black around the eye, black and white speckled wings, long tail, grey breast.

Pied Crow, black with a white mantle and breast.

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Village Weaver nests

Dakar. In the late afternoon these nests were live with two sorts of birds (male and female of the same species, I presume). One was a large to middling size, black head, red eye, strong black beak, black and yellow wing coverts, black triangular downward pointing throat patch, and a tail with two separate rounded parts, the separation coming up to the diameter of the round. The other, slightly smaller, was duller yellow, olive wing coverts with white wing-bars, similar beak. The nests were hanging baskets with a cylindrical entry underneath. The duller birds were disappearing into the nest, one with a piece of grass. The more striking birds were hanging upside down at the entrance flapping their wings, exposing yellow under the wing. Photos and a Dakar birding website on the web make it a Village Weaver.

Also a small finch-like bird, white fluffy belly with clear central dividing line, warm brown head, mantel and throat, greyish triangular beak, grey wing coverts with black edges showing and black tail narrowing to a point. Again, from birdlists and photos, this is probably an African Silverbill.

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Yellow-billed Black Kites on Gorée Island

Dakar. These birds gather in flocks at any water’s edge, fan tail, brown back, some grey all over, one with some white under the wings, wheeling around. Identification from this website and from photos online.

At the University of Dakar, I saw an interesting pigeon, with a red-carmine patch around the eyes, streaked brown throat, grey mantle, speckled brown wings, grey belly. Also a flycatcher, slight crest, white under the tail, typical pea-whistle quality to the call. Identified later from photos on the web as a Speckled Pigeon.

Driving down the coast I saw a strange bird with a very heavy downward curved, yellow beak that seemed to be dragging its head down as it flew.

In the harbor on the boat out to Gorée Island I saw a group of birds, heron bodies, yellow neck, heavy hooked beak, white throat, black head and mantle, sitting on a buoy.

Also a white pelican, with large yellow beak and white head and back.

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