The best view of a pine siskin is from behind with its wings spread. That way, the brilliant yellow patches show in the bird's wings and tail and clinch the bird's identification.
The fizz has gone out of North Dakota politics. One by one, promising Republican candidates have passed up a chance to challenge U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. Heitkamp is a Democrat in what Republicans like to regard as a "deeply Republican state." We heard this Sunday from blogger Rob Port, as dependable a spokesman for the party and its ideology as can be found among political pundits in the state.
Birds that come from the north get a lot of attention, and there are southern birds that show up here, too. It's likely that the motives of these species are different. The northern birds are migrants moving south from their breeding territories. The southern birds are pioneers looking to expand their ranges. The northern species are visitors; the southern birds are prospective residents. You might imagine the northerners are tourists while the southerners are immigrants.
Every year that passes leaves issues behind, and 2017 left many of them. The recitation that follows is hardly complete. There is not space enough in one newspaper column to list them all. Among them is reinventing government. Gov. Doug Burgum made reinvention a big part of his campaign, and he's made some progress in his first year in office. The biggest challenges may lie ahead, and the biggest of them all is higher education.
The weather outside is frightful — but the chickadees are still delightful. How do these tiny birds endure the cold? This is a source of wonder for human bird lovers; for chickadees, it is a question of survival. For answers, I turned to Susan M. Smith, the reigning expert on black-capped chickadees. A native Winnipegger, she's spent most of her career studying these birds. "Black-capped chickadees have a wonderful assortment of adaptations for the winter," she concludes.
Gov. Doug Burgum created a lot of interest when he announced a task force to study higher education. More than 200 people applied to be members. The announcement also created some anxiety. The governor has been a critic of higher education, and some were put off by his talk about "knowledge transfer."
Lately, I've been pondering what bird would be the best symbol of Christmas. It's not a critical question, that's true enough, but it has engaged carolers, cooks and greeting card companies. For cooks, it's the goose, although Americans prefer turkey; for carolers, it's the partridge. For greeting card companies, the choice is not settled. Cardinals, chickadees and snowy owls all are in the running.
Each of the 50 states is a political cosmos by itself, so it would be foolhardy to project the results in Alabama's U.S Senate race onto the contest that looms in North Dakota. Nevertheless, politics follow certain rules, and these apply in each of the states. Several were crucial in the Alabama results, and each has been influential in North Dakota contests.
The ruffed grouse is an aspirational bird for me; that is, a bird I haven't seen lately but hope to see soon. The grouse is on my mind for several reasons, but mostly because it could occur on this week's Christmas Bird Count at Icelandic State Park.
The obituary said, "Richard was involved in conservation issues throughout his life," and it listed examples of his activities: biologist at the Northern Prairie Research Center, regional vice president of the National Audubon Society, fighter of wildfires, hunter of ducks and deer. All true, but the obituary in the Jamestown Sun left out his great accomplishment. This Richard had an enormous impact on North Dakota, and his activities dominated the news throughout the 1970s. Rich Madson stopped the Garrison Diversion project.