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May 25, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Birding on Shenandoah Mountain

I went hiking on Shenandoah Mountain today, heading south from the Confederate Breastworks, just like I did one year ago (May 30). NOTE: Shenandoah Mountain is NOT part of the Shenandoah National Park. As soon as I got out of my car at the Confederate Breastworks, I heard a veritable symphony of warblers, vireos, and others. Not long after I began hiking I spotted a Blackburnian Warbler up in the trees, but just couldn't get a decent photo. Along the way (about a mile in each direction), I saw a wide variety of birds, including one of my "target species," the Cerulean Warbler, but they were too quick for me to get a satisfactory, well-lit photo. I heard a possible Ruffed Grouse flushing from a short distance away, and heard the loud crash of a breaking branch, which may have been a Black Bear. There was bear scat in more than one location. On the way back, about a couple hundred yards from the end, I saw what I thought was an Eastern Wood-Pewee at the top of a tree. But after looking at the photo later on, I realized, to my surprise and delight, that it was an Olive-sided Flycatcher -- the first one I have seen in years!

Shenandoah Mountain trail, Augusta, Virginia, US
May 25, 2016 9:15 AM - 12:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
28 species

  1. Turkey Vulture -- 4
  2. Broad-winged Hawk -- 1
  3. Yellow-billed Cuckoo * -- 1
  4. Hairy Woodpecker -- 2
  5. Olive-sided Flycatcher -- 1
  6. Eastern Wood-Pewee * -- 2
  7. Yellow-throated Vireo -- 1
  8. Blue-headed Vireo -- 7
  9. Red-eyed Vireo -- 5
  10. American Crow -- 2
  11. Common Raven -- 1
  12. Black-capped Chickadee -- 5
  13. Tufted Titmouse -- 4
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch -- 3
  15. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher -- 1
  16. Ovenbird -- 8
  17. Worm-eating Warbler -- 4
  18. Black-and-white Warbler -- 4
  19. Hooded Warbler * -- 1
  20. Cerulean Warbler -- 3
  21. Blackburnian Warbler -- 2
  22. Black-throated Blue Warbler * -- 2
  23. Pine Warbler -- 3
  24. Black-throated Green Warbler -- 6
  25. Chipping Sparrow -- 6
  26. Eastern Towhee -- 2
  27. Scarlet Tanager -- 5
  28. Indigo Bunting -- 9

* (asterisk): heard but not seen. View this checklist online at ebird.org

Montage 20 May 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Black-throated Green Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Pine Warbler, and in center, Hairy Woodpecker.

More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page. I also saw a few Periodical Cicadas, which are just emerging. We had a swarm of those in many parts of Augusta County in 2012 (see June 11, 2012 and Other insects photo gallery), but this brood is either in a distinct range or overlaps with different hatch year cycles.

Periodical Cicada - 2016

Periodical Cicada, on Shenandoah Mountain.



May 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Four-way race in the National League East!

My last baseball blog post (May 5) was in the middle of the Washington Nationals' daunting road trip through the midwest, on which they won five of the first six games. We all know how the rest of that road trip turned out; see below. The Nats are still in first place, just as they were on May 5, but the race in the National League East Division now involves four teams, not just two. The Mets finally turned cold after an amazing, prolonged hot streak, while the Phillies and the Marlins have surged ahead, and were briefly tied for second place. Whereas last month some people said that the Nationals' success was merely a reflection of the weakness of their division, right now the NL East has more teams above .500 (four) than any other division in baseball.

Tonight the Mets and Nationals began a three-game series in Washington, and once again the Nats took an early lead with three hits in the first inning. But somehow the usually-sloppy Bartolo Colon outpitched the usually-razor sharp Gio Gonzalez, who gave up three home runs. Mets 7, Nats 1. With a 27-16 record (.600), the Nationals' lead in the NL East is now just a half game.

The Nats had beaten the Mets in two out of three games in New York last week, scoring 16 total runs to just 4 for the Mets. Daniel Murphy was briefly welcomed back to Citi Field by Mets fans, but the warm feelings quickly dissipated as he made New Yorkers regret not having kept him there. He continued his unbelievable hitting, flirting with a .400 batting average and hitting a home run. Meanwhile, Anthony Rendon showed a big improvement in the batter's box, getting multiple hits and RBIs.

That road trip concluded in Miami over the weekend, and again the Nats won two of three games. On Friday both Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Taylor slugged impressive home runs way over the deep left field fence, as the Nats won 4-1. On Saturday evening, broadcast by FOX (rather than MASN), pitcher Joe Ross committed an error that gave the Marlins the opportunity to take a lead. The Nats staged a rally in the top of the ninth inning, scoring a run and loading the bases with nobody out. It should have been a cinch to at least tie the game 3-3 or even take the lead, but Jayson Werth grounded into a double play (force at third, tag at home). The umpire had already called at least one very low pitch a strike, or else the tying run would have walked in; that's why Werth had to swing at that low pitch. Final score: Marlins 3, Nats 2. On Sunday, the Nationals wrought revenge, winning 8-2, as Ben Revere finally got into the hitting groove, going 3 for 5. Revere was injured on the very first game of the season, and did not return to the active roster until early May.

Earlier this month in Washington, the Nationals beat the Tigers two out of three games (May 9-11) and split a four-game series with the Marlins (May 13-15). The May 9 game ended on a walk-off home run by Clint Robinson, the first such game by the Nationals this year. On Wednesday May 11, Max Scherzer tied a major league record by throwing 20 strikeouts in a 3-2 victory. It was an unusual situation because Dusty Baker let him pitch the ninth inning, even though Max was tired and the Nats only had a one-run lead. Ordinarily, the closing pitcher (Jonathan Papelbon) would have come into the game. When two batters reached base, Nats fans got nervous, but Max's 20th strikeout and then a ground ball out ended the game (and the series) on a euphoric note. In the first game of the series against the Marlins (Friday the 13th!), three Nats had three home runs to win it, 5-3. The next day there was a double-header, making up for the rained-out game that was scheduled for April 8. The early game on May 14 was plagued by light rain, and they just barely finished it before the field conditions became unplayable. On Sunday May 15, the Nats lost 5-1, with their only run coming on an inside-the-park home run by Ryan Zimmerman. It would have been a double, bouncing off the wall in right-center field, but Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton collided with each other while chasing the ball. They were shaken up, but continued playing.

The big showdown between the Cubs and the Nationals at Wrigley Field in Chicago (May 5-8) ended in a resounding triumph for the home team, as the Cubs swept the Nats. All four game were fairly competitive, however, so it wasn't really a disgrace for the Nationals. On May 5, the Nats were on the verge of being shut out, but Jayson Werth hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to make the final score [5-2]. Joe Ross pitched well for the Nats, but Kyle Hendricks was better. The Friday game was a slugfest, as Max Scherzer got pounded, and the Cubs won, 8-6. Saturday May 7 marked Ben Revere's first big day with the Nats, as he doubled and tripled, but the Nats still lost, 8-5. On Sunday Bryce Harper tied a major league record by being walked six times, as the Cubs chose prudence over valor and it paid off in the end. After 13 grueling innings, the Cubs emerged victorious again, 4-3.

All those walks in Chicago seem to have hurt Bryce Harper's batting. Since then he has only had one home run, and only a few hits here and there.

Target Field update

Target Field

My brother Chris saw a game in Minneapolis yesterday, enjoying beautiful blue skies, but it wasn't a great day for the home town fans, as the Twins lost to the Blue Jays. He sent me a nice panoramic photo of Target Field from behind home plate, clearly showing the new restaurant seating area in center field. While I was comparing that photo to the photos I took there in 2010, I noticed a few small discrepancies in my Target Field diagrams, and decided to revise them. The most notable change is that the upper portion of the upper deck in left field has been "pushed back" 8-10 feet, no longer overhanging the lower portion as was previously depicted. I last revised the Target Field diagrams in March 2015

Target Field BHP 2016 panorama

Panorama of Target Field from the lower deck behind home plate; click on the image to see it full size. (Courtesy of Chris Clem)

Old ballpark stuff

On Facebook a couple months ago I saw a youtube.com video of a Philadelphia Phillies game at the Baker Bowl, some time in the 1930s. I was utterly mesmerized. It confirms most of the details that I added when I updated the Baker Bowl diagrams in February.

Bruce Orser brought to my attention a photo of Sportsman's Park on baseball-fever.com which shows the pavilion that went from near first base toward the right field corner. Just as described by Ron Selter in Ballparks of the Deadball Era, and as depicted by my Sportsman's Park diagrams which were updated in April, the roof hung about ten feet in front of the front row of seats, and the structure intersected with the foul line, creating an unusually short right field dimension: an estimated 270 feet!

There's a bunch of new ballpark stuff to get to in the next few days, so stay tuned...



May 21, 2016 [LINK / comment]

ABC field trip to Reddish Knob

I led a very successful Augusta Bird Club field trip to Reddish Knob yesterday, joined by Peter Van Acker and Ed Lawler. The trip was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but rain forced a three-day postponement. Indeed, it has been raining or drizzling almost every day this month, and we were lucky to have mostly sunny, mild weather conditions for our trip. While we were still discussing plans in the parking lot, a Pileated Woodpecker flew right over our heads, a very auspicious omen. This photo montage shows what a great day we had:

Montage 20 May 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ruffed Grouse, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Red Crossbill, and in center, American Redstart.

Departing from Staunton, we drove up I-81 into Rockingham County, then turned westward, passing through the town of Bridgewater. Just before 8:30 we reached our first stop, the Briery Branch Reservoir. With the rich green trees and bright blue skies as a backdrop, it was a a beautiful sight. Unlike my last time there (June 7, 2015), we didn't find any Northern Parulas, but we did have some dramatic close encounters with a male Indigo Bunting and an aggressive (presumably young) male Black-and-White Warbler. We also saw a pair of Phoebes building a nest on the side of a public restroom used by the many folks who go fishing at that lake.

Next we drove along Route 257 upward into the mountains and stopped at two places with a mixture of shrubs and burnt-out trees. Such semi-open "successional" habits are ideal breeding grounds for certain species, and sure enough we soon saw the first of many Chestnut-sided Warblers. We also saw a Scarlet Tanager, and heard the songs of various warbler and vireo species. One in particular grabbed my attention, and when I saw the unmistakeable orange throat of a Blackburnian Warbler (first of year), I could barely contain my excitement. I kept playing its song on my iPod, hoping to lure it to a lower spot so that I could get a better photo, but my repeated attempts did not pay off. I was fortunate that Peter and Ed were patient with me. We were also surprised to hear and then see a Common Yellowthroat, which usually breeds in low, moist areas. Perhaps it was just "passing through" on its way farther north.

[UPDATE: For the sake of accuracy in the narrative, I have reversed the sequence of the following two paragraphs and the associated photos and captions, based on a more careful review of when I took the photos.]

After that we stopped at the main intersection where Red Crossbills are reputed to frequent, but [at first] didn't see anything other than Towhees and Redstarts. [Then we had a] stroke of luck. We saw some birds in the tree branches, and with their streaked dull plumage and slightly forked tails, I thought they were Purple Finches. But when they flew down to the ground, along with some odd-looking yellowish and reddish birds, I realized that they were Red Crossbills -- one of our main "target species"! It was only the second time I have had a good look at a Red Crossbill, the first being in May 2013.

Red Crossbills, F & J

Red Crossbills: adult female (yellowish) in front, juvenile (streaked brownish) in back. Roll over the image to compare it to the male of the species, which is "reddish" (like the Knob), consistent with the species name.

[Then] we headed north for about a half mile along the gravel road which follows the crest of the mountain ridge. We saw some species that only breed in the highlands at this latitude, such as Juncos and Yellow-rumped Warblers, as well as some that are more often associated with lowlands: Bluebirds and Brown Thrashers. It was interesting but not spectacular. On the way back down to the main intersection, however, I caught a glimpse of a large brown bird perched on a fallen log: a Ruffed Grouse!! That was our other main target species, and I asked Peter to back up very slowly so as not to frighten it away. To our immense good fortune, it remained in place while we all got excellent looks, and I took some photos. As an added bonus, we saw one of the babies scrambling across that log, probably just a few days old, and I got a photo of it too! (I had previously taken photos of that species were in June 2010 and June 2013, but they weren't nearly as clear.)

Ruffed Grouse, F & J

Ruffed Grouse, presumably a female. Roll over the image to see one of the "lovable fuzzballs."


Next we drove southward along the ridge crest, and [soon saw our first Black-throated Blue Warbler of the day -- one of the "secondary" target species. Then] after hearing an unusual, sharply punctuated song, we spotted a family of Canada Warblers. They were hopping around inside rhododendron bushes, however, and I just couldn't get a photo of them. (I was lucky to get a photo of a Canada Warbler on Bell's Lane earlier this month.) Then we drove up to the summit of Reddish Knob, enjoying the grandiose view and taking a few photos. But unlike past visits, there were hardly any birds there, so we left after a few minutes. On the way back down to the main intersection (which I think should be called "Crossbill Crossing"), we finally saw [the last of the target species of the day]: Black-throated Green Warbler. Since it was already after noon, we descended the mountain without any further stops until we reached the town of Mount Solon, where we saw a female Wood Duck with several youngsters in the pond there. We racked up a few more species on the way back to Staunton, reaching a grand total of 57 altogether. Strangely, we never saw any titmice, wrens, or hawks. Nevertheless, it was one of the best field trips I have had in a long time.

Peter Van Acker, Ed Lawler, Andrew Clem

Peter, Ed, and me, at the summit of Reddish Knob. In the background is the U.S. Navy communications center near Sugar Grove, West Virginia.

eBird report

Reddish Knob, Augusta, Virginia, US
May 20, 2016 9:00 AM - 12:45 PM
Protocol: Traveling
4.0 mile(s)
Comments: Augusta Bird Club field trip, accompanied by Peter Van Acker and Ed Lawler
42 species

  1. Ruffed Grouse -- 2 (one adult female, one very young chick)
  2. Turkey Vulture -- 6
  3. Chimney Swift * -- 1
  4. Downy Woodpecker -- 1
  5. Hairy Woodpecker * -- 1
  6. Pileated Woodpecker * -- 1
  7. Eastern Wood-Pewee -- 1
  8. Eastern Phoebe -- 3
  9. Blue-headed Vireo -- 4
  10. Red-eyed Vireo -- 1
  11. Common Raven -- 3
  12. Black-capped Chickadee -- 3
  13. White-breasted Nuthatch -- 1
  14. Eastern Bluebird -- 2
  15. Veery * -- 1
  16. Wood Thrush * -- 1
  17. American Robin -- 15
  18. Gray Catbird -- 8
  19. Brown Thrasher -- 4
  20. Cedar Waxwing -- 15
  21. Ovenbird * -- 10
  22. Worm-eating Warbler * -- 1
  23. Black-and-white Warbler -- 7
  24. Common Yellowthroat -- 2
  25. Hooded Warbler * -- 3
  26. American Redstart -- 8
  27. Blackburnian Warbler -- 2
  28. Chestnut-sided Warbler -- 15
  29. Black-throated Blue Warbler -- 4
  30. Pine Warbler * -- 1
  31. Yellow-rumped Warbler -- 2
  32. Black-throated Green Warbler -- 5
  33. Canada Warbler -- 3
  34. Chipping Sparrow -- 3
  35. Dark-eyed Junco -- 2
  36. Eastern Towhee -- 8
  37. Scarlet Tanager -- 6
  38. Indigo Bunting -- 6
  39. Red Crossbill -- 5 (adult male & female, three juveniles)
  40. Brown-headed Cowbird -- 2
  41. House Finch -- 2
  42. American Goldfinch -- 6

* (asterisk): heard but not seen. View this checklist online at ebird.org.

In addition, we saw these other species at various place en route to Reddish Knob, and on the return trip back to Staunton:

  1. Mallard
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Wood Duck
  4. Black Vulture
  5. Common Grackle
  6. American Crow
  7. Blue Jay
  8. Barn Swallow
  9. N. Rough-winged Swallow
  10. Mourning Dove
  11. Eastern Meadowlark
  12. European Starling
  13. Northern Mockingbird
  14. Northern Cardinal
  15. Song Sparrow

Spring migration ends

The Augusta Bird Club had its annual picnic brunch on Saturday May 14 at Ridgeview Park in Waynesboro, but I was unable to attend. That was Graduation Day at Sweet Briar College, and I was obliged to to participate in the commencement exercises. Afterward I stopped at the boat pond and photographed an Eastern Wood Pewee and a House Wren, the first one I'd seen this year. The next day, I went to Ridgeview Park, in hopes of seeing a Wilson's Warbler that club members had seen. I did in fact see one in the bushes, along with a Common Yellowthroat, but it was just a brief glimpse. I had better luck with a female Northern Parula in that same area, and took some photos.

For some reason, I didn't see or hear any Blackpoll Warblers in our neighborhood this year. They are among the most consistent seasonal visitors, the latest-arriving of all the migrating warbler species, and their repetitive "tsee-tsee-tsee" song is ubiquitous this time of year. Well, I finally heard one singing in the middle of commencement exercises as Sweet Briar College, of all places. But not until Thursday (May 19) did I see any Blackpoll Warblers, and then it was a sudden deluge of them. I heard one singing while I was at the recycling center in Gypsy Hill Park, and spent a good 45 minutes or so trying to get a good closeup photo of one. The results were only mixed, however.

So, this marks the end of spring migration season, and the beginning of breeding season. (Obviously, some species are already raising broods of young ones.) As always, there are more photos to see on the Wild Birds yearly page, including montages. My main photographic "targets" in this area for the upcoming weeks are Cerulean Warbler and Kentucky Warbler. Maybe I'll finally get down to the James River and see some Prothonotary Warblers!

[NOTE: Multiple corrections were made above for the sake of accuracy, including a change in sequence of paragraphs, as explained above.]



May 12, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Birding in Rockingham County

Once again, I was lured northward to Rockingham County yesterday, hoping to see a Blue-winged Warbler that had been reported in Harrisonburg. On my way there, I stopped at Cook's Creek Arboretum, in Bridgewater, where I had seen several warblers on April 30. There weren't quite as many this time, but I did see at least two species for the first time this year (Black-throated Blue Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler), and got some decent photos. Then I went up to Silver Lake in Dayton, and finally over to Hillandale Park, on the northwest side of Harrisonburg. It was my first time to that park, so I wasn't sure exactly where to go, but I did see several good birds, including three first-of-year species: Great Crested Flycatchers, Magnolia Warblers (bingo!), and an Eastern Wood Pewee. No Blue-winged Warblers, however. On my way back to Staunton I stopped at Leonard's Pond. Here is the list of all significant sightings yesterday, with abbreviations of the respective locations.

Also, I may have seen a Gray-cheeked Thrush and a Cuckoo (presumably Yellow-billed) at Cook's Creek, and heard a Common Yellowthroat at Hillandale Park. This montage of photos from yesterday is overcrowded, reflecting what a busy day it was.

Montage 11 May 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-throated Blue Warbler, Great Crested Flycatcher, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Least Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpiper, Osprey, and Eastern Towhee. Roll your mouse over the above image to see a closeup of the Magnolia Warbler.

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Augusta Bird Club field trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway was rained out, so I went up there on May 7, on my way to Sweet Briar College. I heard Cerulean Warblers in the trees and lured one into close range (first of year!), but couldn't quite get a photo of it. There were a few good birds at other locations, such as Black-and-white Warblers and American Redstarts (both first of year), but I didn't have much time. [I also saw a Broad-winged Hawk fly past the Ravens' Roost Overlook, another FOY.]

Montage 07 May 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ovenbird, Blue-headed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, seen on the Blue Ridge Parkway on May 7; and Orchard Oriole (1st-year male), seen on Bell's Lane on May 8.

The Orchard Oriole was the first one of the year for me. As always, there are more photos to see on the Wild Birds yearly page, including montages.



May 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]

More migrants visit Bell's Lane

The weather has been very wet for the past week or two, but there have been a few intervals of clear skies or at least no rain, and I took advantage of them. It all started on Monday, May 2, on an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Bell's Lane led by Penny Warren. We were excited because of reports of Golden-winged Warblers and Blue-winged Warblers there on Sunday, but alas they had already left. (My eagerness to see a Golden-winged Warbler is what prompted my visit to Cook's Creek Arboretum in Bridgewater last Saturday.) Overall, the number of birds seen on Monday was below expectations, but we did see some unusual migrating species, most notably the White-eyed Vireo seen below. Also, a Baltimore Oriole was in the tree tops. Afterwards, most of us went over to Betsy Bell Hill, where we heard a Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, and other migrating species, but didn't see much other than a Scarlet Tanager or two.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo; I used this photo in the Augusta Bird Club bulletin.

The very next day (Tuesday) I returned to Bell's Lane and saw my first Indigo Bunting of the year flying across Commerce Road. I also saw a first-of-year Common Yellowthroat, but couldn't get a photo. The highlight came at the upland portion of the pastures, where I heard a distinctive gurgling song with a metallic tone, and soon saw several male Bobolinks flying around. After a few minutes of patient stalking, I got in good position for a photo, with ideal sunlight.

Bobolink

Bobolink (male)

Finally, on Wednesday morning I went back to Bell's Lane, and soon saw a few Yellow Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers, two species that were both singing constantly. Further along, I heard and then saw Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Common Yellowthroats, as well as a Baltimore Oriole. But the highlight of the day was when I heard a distinctive, complicated song, which I correctly deduced was a Canada Warbler. After playing his song on my iPod Touch, I lured him into my vicinity and got some very good (if not well-lit) photos. On my way out, I caught a glimpse of a Green Heron flying across the road.

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler (male)

As always, there are more photos to see on the Wild Birds yearly page, including montages. Today, I'm going to the Blue Ridge Parkway, in hopes of making up for a bird club field trip that was cancelled due to rain on Thursday.



May 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Trump secures victory; Sanders fights on

On Tuesday, Indiana voters handed Donald Trump the clear-cut victory needed to assure the Republican nomination, while Bernie Sanders scored yet another surprise win over Hillary Clinton, prolonging the fight on the Democratic side. On Tuesday night as the election results came in, Ted Cruz shocked his supporters by announcing the end of his campaign, and the next day John Kasich did likewise. Game, set, match to Trump.

Since then, Republican leaders have been scurrying about trying to figure out what to do. Paul Ryan said he is "not ready" to endorse Trump for president, prompting Trump supporters to label Ryan a "RINO." Pretty ironic. Ryan's in a tough position because he needs the support of the GOP right wing, many of whose members support Trump) in order to get legislative bills through the House of Representatives. If he could speak his own mind, there's no doubt he would decline to make such an endorsement. In contrast, Sen. Lindsey Graham made it clear that he will not support Trump (see Washington Post), while Mitt Romney has begun organizing some kind of last-last ditch effort to stop Trump, apparently via a third party candidacy. I was amused when Graham made a speech in February bemoaning that many in the Republican Party have gone "batshit crazy." (See usnews.com.)

Many people have concluded that Trump will not only lose badly to Clinton, but will drag the Republican Party down with him. Maybe yes, maybe no. According to Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, "Donald Trump will win in a landslide" because he has tapped into the emotions of American voters. See washingtonpost.com; hat tip to Shaun Kenney.

Delegate race scoreboard

Trump won all 57 of Indiana's Republican delegates, even though he only received 53% of the vote ("The system is rigged!"), while Clinton won 46 (39 pledged delegates plus 7 "super-delegates"), two more than Sanders' 44, even though Sanders received 52.5% of the popular vote. Apparently the Democrats are planning to sharply limit or eliminate "super-delegates" for the 2020 campaign. In any case, I updated the Decision 2016 page with the latest delegate totals.

Here are the current totals showing the delegates won by each candidate in each state that has had a primary election or caucus thus far. Sadly, John Kasich never caught up to Marco Rubio's delegate total, even though he campaigned for an additional month. I previously presented those figures on March 26 ("Trump triumphs, Republican Party implodes"). Today I updated the big spreadsheet which I placed on the wall at Sweet Briar College.

Democratic candidates # of delegates Republican candidates # of delegates
H. Clinton 2,228 D. Trump 1,068
B. Sanders 1,454 T. Cruz 564
Uncommitted 127 M. Rubio 166
Martin O'Malley 0 J. Kasich 153
- - Uncommitted, others 64
Needed for Nomination 2,383 Needed for Nomination 1,237

SOURCE: politico.com

My takes on Trump

Since The Donald has nailed down the nomination, I thought I should check to see what I have written about him in the past. (I made a point not to mention him last year, either on my blog or on Facebook.) So I searched my archives for the years before 2015, and came up with this:

March 30, 2007: "Generally speaking, I pay little or no attention to the snit fits of Donald Trump vs. Rosie O'Donnell and other media personalities."

June 2, 2011: "Working in Romney's favor is the weakness of the Republican field. Donald Trump is a joke, and few of the serious candidates have much going for them."

November 4, 2012: "By now it is fairly well established that Barack Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen, not a Kenyan or an Indonesian. Aside from Donald Trump or Glenn Beck, not many mainstream political figures would question that." Ironically, Glenn Beck despises Donald Trump, notwithstanding their common status as "birthers."



May 5, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals flush the Royals

After a disheartening loss like on Tuesday, when the Nationals let the Royals come from behind with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning, the rubber game on Wednesday was a true test of character. In fact, the Nats passed with flying colors, scoring six runs in the top of the first inning, with help from two K.C. infield errors to start the game. Three consecutive Nats had RBI doubles -- Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Jayson Werth -- and Royals pitcher Kris Medlen threw 38 pitches before getting his first out. Ouch! The Nats added four more runs in the third inning, and one in each of the three innings after that, until the final score reached 13-2. Along the way, Bryce Harper broke out of his slump, with an RBI single and a solo home run (#10), while Daniel Murphy went four for five, Ryan Zimmerman hit two doubles, and Wilson Ramos went 3 for 5. Stephen Strasburg raised his record to 4-0. (Full details at MLB.com and the Washington Post) So now Murphy's batting average is back up to nearly .400, while Ramos is batting .364 -- hot, hot, hot!

With a record of 19-8 (second only to the Cubs' record of 20-6), the Nats begin a four-game series tonight against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The outcome of this HUGE matchup will set the tone for the rest of the month, at least.

I forget the exact numbers, but the Nationals have far more first-inning runs than any other MLB team this year. Tonight both the Blue Jays and the Reds did their best to catch up to the Nats, both scoring five runs in the first inning.

Nationals page update

I should have previously mentioned that I updated the Washington Nationals page with data for the first full month of the 2016 season, including the head-to-head matchups. The Nats' 16-7 record (.696) was their best-ever win-loss percentage for the month of April. (Their best month ever was September 2014: 19-8, or .704.) That page also shows two new grand slams (both by Bryce Harper) and one new walk-off home run, by Clinton Robinson.

If the Nats keep flirting with the .700 mark, I'm going to have to recalibrate the winning percentage charts for each year on that page. That's the current upper limit, which few teams reach after April.



May 3, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Cardinals

There's a first time for everything, and the series in St. Louis over the weekend was a perfect example, as the Washington Nationals won all three games. It was supposed to be the "road trip from hell," with games on ten consecutive days against teams that were in the postseason last year. But instead, the Nats rolled over the Cardinals, their first sweep in St. Louis since the team was "reborn" in 2005. On Friday, Stephen Strasburg gave up just two runs in seven innings, as the Nats hung on to win, 5-4. It was his fourth win of the season. On Saturday, the Nats jumped on top with four runs in the first inning, thanks mostly to Jayson Werth's three-run homer. Young Joe Ross pitched another superb game (his ERA is only 0.79!), as the Nats won easily, 6-1. The final score on Sunday was the same, but the path to victory was slower. Neither team scored for the first five innings, but the Nats finally got to the Cardinals' ace Carlos Martinez, who took his first loss of the year. For the Nats, Max Scherzer finally pitched like his old self and chalked up his third win. He grew up in the St. Louis area, so a lot of his friends and family were probably there to see him, no doubt with mixed emotions.

Another sweep? Nope.

Then the Nationals headed to the other side of Missouri, where the World Champion Kansas City Royals were waiting. Once again, the Nats got on the board in the first inning, and once again an RBI by Ryan Zimmerman proved to be all the Nats needed to win, as neither team scored after that. D.C. 2, K.C. 0. Gio Gonzalez had another fine outing, going six innings without allowing a run; he has a 1.15 ERA right now. Tonight's game was a thriller, with home runs by Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, and Jayson Werth, plus three doubles and a triple. Tanner Roark recovered after giving up three runs in the third inning, and was in line for the win, except that Jonathan Papelbon blew the save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth inning. In fact, he gave up three runs on five hits, as the Royals came back to win it, 7-6. That one stung a little bit, but "you can't win 'em all."

Meanwhile, the Mets and the Cubs keep winning. Those two teams and the Nationals are the hottest teams in the National League right now. The Mets lost to the Braves tonight, thus remaining 1.5 games behind the Nats, while the Cubs trounced the Pirates again in Pittsburgh. After the rubber match game in K.C. tomorrow, the Nats head to Chicago for a true "clash of titans" -- a four-game series that could well be a preview of this year's NLCS. OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves... wink

The mail bag

Ohio resident Jim Gumm informed me that when Riverfront Stadium ("Cinergy Field") was reconfigured in 2001 to make room for construction of Great American Ballpark next door, the diamond was moved backward about ten feet. An article in the Cincinnati Enquirer provides plenty of detail, and clears up lingering doubts in my mind. Diagram update pending!

On a related note, after looking at photos of Riverfront Stadium, I realized that it should have been included among the stadiums with a "ribbed" roof, which I mentioned when I updated the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium diagrams last week.

In another week or so, I'll have a lot more time to work on diagrams and respond to e-mail inquiries.



April 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Migration season reaches peak

I wasn't even planning to go out today (too exhausted from school work!), but when I saw the e-mail alert from Greg Moyer about a Golden-winged Warbler at Cook's Creek Arboretum in Bridgewater, I just couldn't resist. So I hit the road and drove north. I didn't see that species, unfortunately but there were plenty of other warblers to make the trip worthwhile; see list below. It was a truly spectacular "fallout" of neotropical migrants, perhaps aided (ironically) by the gloomy weather. Many thanks to Greg!

While at Cook's Creek, I had nice chats with two prominent local birders, Ken Hinkle and Ken Ranke.

* I saw my first Cape May Warbler of the year (from a distance) at Betsy Bell Hill on Tuesday. Later that day I saw my first Grasshopper Sparrow of the year on Bell's Lane.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler (male), at Cook's Creek Arboretum, in Bridgewater today.

Last Sunday afternoon, I heard a familiar high-pitched song in the back yard, and sure enough I soon spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler in the bushes. Then I saw a small yellowish bird taking quick baths in a stream, and managed to get closeup photos of a Yellow-throated Vireo. Finally, I saw what I thought was a female House Finch, but the photos I took proved that it was a Pine Siskin. Not bad day!

Oddly, I had rarely seen Yellow-throated Vireos, much less gotten good photographs of one, until about a year ago, when I saw one at Sweet Briar College and later at Natural Chimneys. They seem to be more common than they used to be.

Yellow-throated Vireo

Yellow-throated Vireo, in Staunton, April 24.

Other photos from today and recently can be seen at: Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.



April 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Trump & Clinton take commanding leads

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton followed up their victories in the New York primary elections last week with decisive wins in five other mid-Atlantic states this past Tuesday. In all five states, Trump won by a wide margin, while Hillary won in four of them. Bernie Sanders won Rhode Island. Thus, after a momentary pause in Wisconsin earlier in the month, the front-runners have regained the momentum they had recently lost to "Ted" Cruz and Bernie Sanders.

As of now (see politico.com), Hillary Clinton has 2,165 delagates, and Bernie Sanders has 1,357. She is so close to the 2,383 mark she can almost taste it. Bernie has begun laying off staff workers, and has shifted his rhetoric from seeking outright victory to merely getting his way with the Democratic platform. In other words, for all intents and purposes, it's all over on the Democratic side. I updated the Decision 2016 page with the latest delegate totals.

As for the Republicans, Trump now has 996 delegates, far more than "Ted" Cruz's total of 565. That puts Trump within close range of getting the 1237 delegates he needs to claim a first-ballot automatic victory. In response, John Kasich and Cruz announced they will cooperate by not competing against each other in the upcoming primaries. Cruz will in effect run head-to-head against Trump in Indiana (election day is this Tuesday, May 3), while Kasich will do likewise in Oregon (May 17) and Washington (May 24). Whether this arrangement lasts that long is another matter. (According to Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post, the deal is already dead.) Rumors suggest that more Republican "establishment" figures are facing up to Trump as the "presumptive nominee." Nevertheless, hopes for a contested convention are not dead yet. It may come down the very last big state primary election, in California on June 7.

Here's an irony: Trump frequently complains that the delegate selection process is "rigged" against him, but the latest primary elections indicate the opposite is true. In all five states, John Kasich won at least 20 percent of the vote, but he only was awarded five delegates, in Rhode Island. In fact, the system is "rigged," but it's rigged in favor of the front-runner: Trump!

The other day, Kasich said he was going to make a special announcement, leading people to expect he was withdrawing from the race, and then after a pause for dramatic effect, he said he would remain a candidate. Good for him! Does he have a realistic chance of winning? Of course not! For those of us who worked for years in the trenches for the GOP, always putting the party ahead of self, only to be spit on and cast aside by a gang of thugs, it is a great tonic to see a courageous Republican leader. Kasich stared cold, hard reality in the face, and yet remains determined to give the voters a real choice!

Campaign signs Spr. 2016

Campaign signs for the presidential races and (at bottom) for the Staunton City Council or School Board.

Thoughts on Facebook

On his Facebook page, Bruce Bartlett often proclaims support for Donald Trump, but merely as a way to hasten the demise of the Republican Party. Prior to the Virginia primary on March 1, I explained why I resisted voting with such a extremely consequentionalist (indeed cynical) rationale:

I think it's probably too late to save the GOP, so strategic voting such as Bruce suggests is not likely to make a difference. Those in the center-right who still cling to hope are begging others to vote for Rubio as the only one who can stop Trump, but I plan to vote for the only remaining candidate whom I could respect as president: Kasich. Call it a futile protest vote.

On Ryan Setliff's page, I took exception to the suggestion that the Republican Party should identify itself with right-wing populism:

Historically, the Republican Party was never identified with "hard right populism," [as Ryan Setliff advocates] and the push to make it that has understandably met with some resistance by the "RINOs." (Ironic!) It is not neoconservatives who define the dwindling core of old-timers, but rather a commitment to free markets, international engagement (a middle course between unilateral interventionism vs. isolationism), and fiscal responsibility. Personally, I favor an amicable divorce, in hopes of cooperation in future years.

Humor the best medicine

On Jimmy Kimmel's show, they did a great parody of the movie and Broadway play The Producers, in which a couple of sleazy political operatives concoct what they think is a bogus presidential campaign for Donald Trump, taking advantage of gullible elderly donors, and then the whole scam goes south when Trump ends up winning. See vox.com. Truth is stranger than fiction?




 

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What's this about?

This blog features commentary and musings on a diverse but well-defined set of topics, from a critical-minded conservative point of view, featuring a veritable library of original graphics and statistical information. It is distinguished in many ways from the rest of the "blogosphere." My blog entries cover a rigidly defined set of topics, with varying degrees of intensity according to how much is going on in each area, and how much time I have. Being somewhat of a "do-it-yourselfer," I chose a "home-made" approach rather than conforming to the common blogging systems such as Blogger or WordPress. The blog entries and archives are arranged in a sort of "proprietary" scheme that I have gradually developed over time. Finally, being an old-fashioned, soft-spoken kind of guy, I avoid attention-grabbing sensationalism and strident rhetoric, and strive instead to maintain a reasonable, dignified, respectful tone.

"It's not just a blog, it's an adventure!"



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My blog practices

My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
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  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
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* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007

The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.

The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.



 

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