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Trigger warning: Excessive emotionality

This is liable to be the sappiest post I’ll ever write. Take a look at this picture:

A chipmunk eating birdseed out of my hand.

When I show someone this picture, he or she usually starts lecturing me on how it’s not good to touch wild animals. I know. Normally I don’t. This was a very special little chipmunk that I called Scarface.

The summer before last, I was living with my sister while trying to straighten out my career. At that time, I was taking some graduate level computer science classes. I was also doing a lot of work in my sister’s yard. Most mornings, I’d get up, take my coffee and have my breakfast sitting on the ground near the bird feeder with my camera. It was like an avian portrait studio. As long as you don’t mind that every bird has the same pose against the same backdrop, I have a whole lot of lovely pictures of goldfinches, house finches, house sparrows, song sparrows, white throated sparrows, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, doves, cowbirds – and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. After a few weeks, my presence became part of the furniture. The small rodents also began to get used to me.

chipmunk

Eventually, I decided that the bird feeder was not the most aesthetically appealing backdrop. I started putting piles of birdseed in places that looked better to me. Apparently, it didn’t look better to the birds. The chipmunks, however, were quite thankful. There was one little chipmunk that would run across some railroad ties when I came out the door. One day, I was getting ready to do a little gardening. I put away my camera and started to put away the birdseed. The little chipmunk ran in front of me and stood up on his hind legs. I had my gardening gloves with me and I put them on, took a handful of birdseed and held out my hand just to see what would happen. I knew he ate birdseed, because he’d been raiding the feeders. I really assumed he would run away. Instead, he ran into my hand and and stuffed his little cheeks. From then on, almost every morning, I’d go out and sit in the middle of the patio with some birdseed and my little friend would run into my hand.

Chipmunks are not long-lived. Global warming is taking a toll on their populations. Little Scarface has gone on to that great burrow in the sky, but fortunately I got a few photos of him before he left us.

Close-up of a chipmunk with stuffed cheeks.

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Two benches facing one another inside an outdoor structure made of rough hewn logs.Researchers now think that polyandry, a woman marrying more than one man, was a more common social system than previously thought. From The Atlantic: When Taking Multiple Husbands Makes Sense.

For people who are interested in the more theoretical ideas having to do with liberalism, there’s an interesting debate going on in South Africa right now about whether or not the concept of ubuntu is compatible with liberalism. Why Ubuntu Is a Liberal Value: @zilevandamme; What’s Behind Liberalism’s Unseemly Attack on Ubuntu: The Modular Man ; Liberalism, the Democratic Alliance and Identity: Synapses

In the New York Review of Books, Russell Baker discusses how the resurgence of wildlife in North America has been caused by our changing attitudes towards nature and has, in return, changed our attitudes.

I have decided to request to join the Atheist Blogroll. I probably won’t be posting on that particular subject especially often, but I think it’s a good idea to identify myself as an atheist just to get across the notion that we exist, we’re pretty diverse and we’re interested in a whole lot of things. It’s important to let people know that people who don’t believe in the existence of any gods consist of more than just a handful of authors and active members of the atheist blogosphere. Since I’m not a former Christian, I won’t be spending much, if any, time criticizing that religion. Although, I haven’t been put on their blogroll yet, I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be, so I went ahead and posted the badge in the right hand column. The link will take you to a list of blogs maintained by atheists. Since you don’t have to write about atheism, you just have to be an atheist, I think it’s a good idea for people who post about a variety of things to think about joining.

Again, if anyone wants to share links of interesting things they’ve come across recently, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Another quick post to keep up the rhythm.A Northern Mockingbird in a bush.

Ever since I learned that they exist, I’ve developed a mild obsession to see the endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel. No, this is not a joke. There really is an endangered squirrel and I really would like to see it. Maybe it doesn’t quite rise to the level of an obsession. So, yesterday, my sister humored me and we went to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Delmarva Peninsula in Maryland with the hopes of getting a glimpse of one of these critters.

Reader, we failed. In fact the only mammal we saw was a Sika Deer. Sika Deer are actually moreMockingbird 2 closely related to Elk than to the American White-tailed Deer. They’re native to Asia, but they’ve established wild populations in parts of the United States. Although they’re considered to be environmentally damaging in the U.K. because they can interbreed with the native Red Deer, in Maryland their presence is considered benign and they’re left alone.

We did, however, see a fair number of birds, including an uncommon one, a bald eagle. The only birds we saw that we haven’t seen in my sister’s backyard were aquatic birds. We saw Snow Geese, whose numbers were truly impressive, a Northern Shoveler, which took me a long time looking up ducks to identify, some Northern Pintails, quite a few American Coots and a surprisingly large number of Great Blue Herons.

Mockingbird 3The most charming to me, however, was a Northern Mockingbird. They’re common enough and there’s one that’s taken up residence in a neighbor’s yard and I can see it from my window with binoculars, so I didn’t have to go all the way to the Eastern Shore to get a look at one. I know it’s not advisable to anthropomorphize animals and project human emotions onto them, but I can’t help thinking that Mockingbirds always seem a bit pleased with themselves.

I spied a little gray bird that had just lighted on a bush and I quickly turned my camera on it. He turned around an looked back at me, then he jumped onto a high branch on a closer bush as if he wanted to be sure that I got a good shot, despite being blown about by the wind a bit.

Mockingbird 4