It should be no surprise to any regular reader of this column that I watch birds, since at times in this space mention of some bird activity is made.

Thus it should also be no surprise that I confess that I, like Dennis Kucinich, have seen Unidentified Flying Objects.

Since I've never run for a high political office, it never before occurred to me to own up to that. Besides, no one ever asked.

Full disclosure: I have not only seen Unidentified Flying Objects, I have also seen, and called Misidentified Flying Objects.

I've unidentified or misidentified Perched Birds on occasion, too. I've seen UFOs that flow into shrubs, trees or sagebrush and immediately turned into leaves or branches. At times, lots of times, duck silhouettes remain duck silhouettes, Unidentified Swimming Objects. USOs.

Now, I have no particular interest in Mr. Kucinich's candidacy, (nor in that of the hordes of others who are running). Nevertheless, I believe he's been derided for having seen a UFO that's unwarranted. Media don't like him, it seems apparent, simply because he is not the media's notion of what a successful politician, let alone a presidential candidate, should look like, without caring much what he or she stands for. K is short, doesn't have leading man looks and speaks his mind. It doesn't help his image that he has a much younger, attractive wife.

We sure do choose our presidents, etc., etc., in odd ways.

The more I reflect, the more dastardly deeds I've committed come to mind. When I bird watched in the Middle West, I too often mixed up the names of two birds in particular. Tufted titmouse and white-breasted nuthatch. I knew the birds - they're common there and behave quite differently - but I would announce them incorrectly. Not spoonerism, but what would a Freudian make of that? Good thing I never ran for any office.

And so, sympathies to Dennis Kucinich and to everybody who's seen UFOs and talked about it. Dennis does use correct grammar, to his exceptional credit in that membership.

The Kucinich episode was not earthshaking, for which he's probably unhappy. So long has his name is spelled correctly, and all that. Real earthquakes happen, though, and on this continent one of the most famous faults is the San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas bisects California, runs some 800 miles and has produced some mighty earthquakes.

For several years, geologists have been drilling a 4-inch bore hole, 2.5 miles right into the fault and have recovered 135-foot-long cores from its for study. The geologists hope to find clues to why some areas in the joints between tectonic plates along the fault slide past each other easily on what is referred to as a "creeping" fashion, while other areas lock and eventually jolt violently and cause significant earthquakes.

Scientists are interested to learn of the creep phenomenon is a talc-lubed mechanism, since talk has been identified in some slurries of ground rock brought up from the fault zone during the course of the drilling. Pretty exciting stuff for geologists and other scientists.

Field notes: November usually brings tundra (whistling) swans into Jackson Hole on their migration to the south. Stephanie and Kirby Williams heard and then saw about 60 tundra swans flying south, and high, on Friday. Susan Patla surveyed swans on the National Elk Refuge on Friday: 70 adults, 20 cygnets in seven broods. All were trumpeter swans.

Pine grosbeaks are coming into towns; Bruce Hayse, Ron and Jen Gessler. Evening grosbeaks also showing up; Joan Lucas, Bruce Hayse. David Stokes is accustomed to seeing courting behavior demonstrated by mallards in autumn, but was surprised at a recent copulatory couple. Over in Dubois, Bruce Thompson observed a dozen pinyon jays; Oct. 28.

Deb Patla found a tree sparrow near Emma Matilda Lake on Saturday and hundreds of redheads on Jackson Lake. An occasional redtail hawk can still be found (Mary Lohuis) and rough-legged hawks are in the region.

The Jackson Hole Bird Club will meet at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in Jackson Town Hall. Regular meeting with observations, socializing and a talk by distinguished John Good entitled "Glaciers and Geysers." Open to everyone, and free.

© Bert Raynes 2007


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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