Every political convention needs at least two lubricants. The first of these is nostalgia. Delegates pat one another on the back, recalling the last time they met, the elections they helped to win and the candidates who won them. There was a lot of this at last week's Democratic-NPL convention.
It's wrong to describe the migration of birds as a parade, since a parade has a beginning and an end. The movement of birds is more like a stream that ebbs and flows as it passes a given point, bringing different species one after another in more or less regular order so that we can speak of "time for robins," for example, or "time for eagles."
Like everybody else who watched North Dakota politics in the '80s, I spent the weekend remembering Bud Sinner. Sinner was elected governor in 1984; he served until 1992. He died Friday, a couple of months short of his 90th birthday. Much of what I remember about Bud Sinner makes me smile, including the sound of his name, which was George, even though everybody called him Bud.
Last week's bird, the house sparrow, is the image of domesticity. Even its name suggests a place bound creature. This week's bird is a wanderer, as its name implies. What do the house sparrow and the Bohemian waxwing have in common? They are "missing birds of the week." The house sparrow isn't as much missing as disappearing. Last week's column discussed the downward trend in house sparrow numbers, from a high in the five figures a couple of decades ago to fewer than 400 on the most recent Christmas Bird Count in Grand Forks.
The Class B girls' basketball tournament turned out to be wonderfully competitive, with several upsets and a final game pitting the Cowboys and the Coyotes. The Coyotes represent Grant County High School, a consolidated district including two of the county's towns, Elgin and New Leipzig. The school building itself is in Elgin. The Cowboys are from Killdeer. Which team to root for? It was a hard choice.
The other day, when I picked up my cup from the coffee maker that sits on the countertop next to the sliding glass deck door, I looked out and saw a house sparrow. It was the first one I'd seen at our place west of Gilby, N.D., since mid-August. This happened to coincide with a posting on the local birding listserv reporting the presence of house sparrows.
Questions of the week, with suggested answers: First question, as raised on the front page of the Grand Forks Herald Saturday: What should be done to honor the Lamoureux twins? Suggested answer: Bring back women's hockey. The Herald said of the Lamoureux twins, "The Grand Forks natives helped lead the U.S. hockey team to victory over Canada." This is an understatement. Their play was critical to the U.S. victory; Monique's late goal tied the game and Jocelyne won it in the shootout.
The white-breasted has several appealing attributes—to people, at least, and presumably also to other nuthatches. For starters, the nuthatch can hang upside down. For another, it is a resident bird, which means it is around all year. This combination provides good winter entertainment for bird watchers. Beyond attendance and athleticism, the nuthatch offers aesthetic appeal, as well. It is not a flamboyant bird, but a natty one, neatly marked with black and white on a blue-gray background, and with a breast that is usually brilliant white in color.
Here's a summary of last week's news in North Dakota: Two big surprises and two big risks. Surprise No. 1: Kevin Cramer decided to give up a safe seat and more clout in the U.S. House of Representatives to run for the Senate. He made that announcement late Friday, by which time it wasn't much of a surprise. But it's still a risk, and not just for Cramer.
Back in December, I appointed the common redpoll as a symbol of Christmas. It could serve as well for Valentine's Day. The redpoll is a northern bird, and I used its occurrence around the Northern Hemisphere to qualify it as a Christmas bird. A second qualification, I suggested, was the red in the birds' plumage. Redpolls have a blood-red spot on their foreheads, the so-called poll, and often they display varying shades of pink and red on their breasts.