Tag Archives: state

May Birding – Best time of the year

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

A Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a rare "shorebird" that you normally don't find along the shoreline as they migrate through. Today was the exception to the rule though, as a flock was found on the edge of a shallow wetland.

May is such a wonderful time.  After a long South Dakota winter, May brings warm temperatures and green landscapes.  From a birding perspective, after a winter of very little species diversity, no other time of year can match the number and variety of species that you can see in a given day.  Shorebirds are migrating through the interior of the country, and a trip to a mudflat or shallow water area can easily yield a dozen or more shorebird species.  In eastern South Dakota where I live, we can have truly incredibly warbler migrations, with the possibility to see 20+ warbler species in a day.  The summer breeding birds also have all arrived by the end of the month, with Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, and more bringing a very welcome splash of color after a winter dominated by the cute, but gray/black/white Dark-eyed Junco.


It's amazing how such a small bird as an Ovenbird can make such a loud noise! This time of year, their loud crescendo songs can be heard throughout Newton Hills State Park.

I always try to save some vacation days and go out on all day birding trips in May.  I went yesterday, and had a truly wonderful day.  The day started with a trip to Newton Hills State Park, about 30 miles south of Sioux Falls.  Newton Hills is a relative rarity for South Dakota habitats, a true “eastern” deciduous forest.  As such, it often holds eastern U.S. forest species that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in South Dakota. It didn’t take long to hear singing Blue-winged Warblers, a species on the edge of its range in South Dakota.  Warbler numbers weren’t all that high compared to what they can be, but there was a nice mix.  American Redstarts were relatively common, and Yellow Warblers were everywhere.  One of my personal favorites, Ovenbirds, are quite common in Newton Hills and they were certainly doing their best to announce the arrival of spring, with their distinctive, loud songs.  Other warblers included Blackpoll Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush.

Hudsonian Godwit

One of the most beautiful shorebirds that migrates through the state, a male Hudsonian Godwit.

It was also nice to see all the summer “regulars” at Newton Hills.  Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, singing Wood Thrush, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireo…all welcome for both the views and for their songs.

After Newton Hills, I headed up towards the Lake Thompson area in Kingsbury county, looking for waterbirds.  Lake Thompson never disappoints in the spring.  It’s so large, and no matter the water levels for a given year, you’ll always find mudflats and shallow waters that hold shorebirds, as well as deeper water for other birds.  The highlight was a Little Blue Heron, a bird more often thought of as a bird of the southeastern United States. It was hanging out with a group of about a dozen Snowy Egrets, and is only the 2nd Little Blue Heron I’ve ever seen in the state.  Another highlight were a group of at least 18 Buff-breasted Sandpipers.  They are a pretty rare migrant to begin with and are always a welcome sight, but it’s not often you see a large group of them.  They’re normally found in short-grass areas, but at least yesterday, this flock was acting like other “shorebirds”, hanging around the edge of a shallow-water lake.

Little Blue Heron

A bird you associate more with the Gulf Coast than you do South Dakota, this is only the 2nd Little Blue Heron I've ever seen in the state.

On the grasslands and fence lines, both Eastern and Western Kingbirds had returned, while Bobolinks were seen, and heard, singing their unique, metallic/clinky songs.

Wonderful day, both for the variety of birds seen, from forests, to grasslands, to wetlands, but also for the surprise of seeing some rarities for the state.  Gotta love May birding in South Dakota!

Sandy helps clarify the election

Hurricane Sandy

Who would you rather have deal with disaster relief after something as devastating as Hurricane Sandy? The Federal Government? Or for-profit private industry? Government obviously has important roles to play in society, despite what one side will have you believe in this election.

Sandy has certainly proven to be the superstorm it was labeled, with massive flooding and damage as it slammed ashore in New Jersey last night.  There’s certainly plenty of coverage on Sandy in the media, and I won’t focus on the storm or storm damage itself.  I will comment though on a peripheral effect of Sandy…helping to clarify what this election is all about.

The New York Times today has a very nice editorial on the role of government in times like this.  As they state a “bit storm requires big government”.  Response to a disaster is of course one of many important roles the government plays.  However, to Romney and Republicans, ANY Federal government task, outside of making sure we have 10 times as many weapons as the next guy, is better relegated to states, or better yet, the private sector. Romney was asked about the role of FEMA in a Republican debate late last year, and stated that it was “immoral” to provide disaster relief, given the effects on the debt.  He goes on to say that FEMA tasks should be given to states themselves, or better yet, to private industry.

Mr. Romney, do you think the victims of Katrina thought it was “immoral” for the government to provide assistance in the face of a horrible disaster?  They probably thought Bush’s handling of the disaster was “immoral”, especially given how the Bush administration weakened FEMA during his administration.  But I guarantee you that victims of a national disaster such as Katrina or Sandy would NOT feel more comfortable having states handle such situations.  As much of a Obama basher as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is, ask him if he thinks his state can handle this situation on their own.

An even WORSE idea is Romney’s suggestion that such disaster relief be placed in the hands of private industry.  JUST what is needed in times of natural disaster…a capitalistic approach, and an opportunity to make a buck off of other people’s misery.

I’m not even surprised any more at how incredibly short people’s memories are, or how they understand basic political, economic, and social events in this country.  The Bush administration did everything they could to lessen government regulation, to let capitalism run unfettered by government restraint…and helped to lead us straight into the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.  Four short years later, when a recovery has taken hold, when housing prices are rising, when unemployment is falling…and there’s a significant chance that Americans will be voting in another Republican administration who wants to cut government regulation, and privatize a government function as critical as FEMA and disaster response.

I wish those in the Northeast all the best as they try to recover from this storm.  It certainly is going to make life a lot harder for a lot of folks over the next several weeks and months.  But as an underfunded FEMA attempts to handle one of the largest natural disasters to hit the U.S., I hope that one tiny silver lining to the event is that it clarifies for many just what is on the line in this election.

Don’t blame Romney, Repubs. It’s your party that sucks.

Ohio Polls

Poll trends in Ohio over the last month (Average of polls, from RealClearPolitics.com). Despite this being average of all polls, Repubs continue to insist on poll bias. Or media bias. Or, many are just assuming they're going to lose at this stage, and are blaming Romney. It's not the polls, or the media, or even Romney himself. It's what the Republican Party stands for.

I love the panic right now among Republicans. Ever since the conventions, and ever since Romney lost his ability to censor himself, the polls have moved very strongly in Obama’s favor.  InTrade had Obama with a 54% chance of reelection before the conventions.  Now, it’s over 75%.

Republicans are in a state of shock.  They just assumed they would win this election, solely based on the state of the economy.  Their entire strategy was based on the proposition that voters would blame Obama for the current slow economy, and would vote for the Republican candidate by default, whoever that candidate turned out to be.  Now that Obama is widening his lead in Ohio, Florida, and other important swing states, Repubs are placing the blame on one of 2 factors 1) Romney himself, or 2) “biased” polls.

There is no getting over the fact that Romney has run a miserable campaign.  More on that in a second.  Beyond Romney though, there have been numerous stories and opinion pieces out this week from the right claiming some kind of conspiracy or bias in the poll numbers.  Despite the fact that every poll on the planet has Obama in front nationally, and in front in Ohio, Florida, and every other swing state, Repub pundits are claiming it’s all a part of an effort to depress Republican voter enthusiasm, that the polls are using incorrect assumptions, and that these same Repub pundits “know better” than the pollsters.  Republicans just seem to be in shock that the electorate isn’t rushing to support them.  It HAS to be the polls, right? There’s no way people actually LIKE Obama and Democrats!!!

I am absolutely loving it.  I’m loving seeing the Republican party completely self-destruct.  The election is still almost 6 weeks away, but Republicans are falling all over themselves right now, trying to play the blame game.  IT’S ROMNEY!  If ONLY Romney were more like Paul Ryan!  Or, IT’S THE POLLS!  The media and the polls are out to get Repubs!

Well, guess what, Republicans?  It’s not Romney.  It’s definitely not the polls. It’s not some liberal media conspiracy.  It’s your entire, deluded, $hitty excuse for a political party that’s at fault.

Let’s start with Romney himself.  Clearly, of the miserable batch of Republican “stars” that were in the primaries, Romney was the most “electable”.  He was the most qualified.  He was the right choice, from a Republican perspective.  But in winning the nomination, Romney has been forced to act like he’s something he’s not…a hardcore, right-wing conservative of the kind that Republican leadership INSISTS on.  Romney has had to abandon his former moderate stances and has shifted so far to the right he can’t even remember where he came from.  Granted, given how extreme the Republican party has become, he likely wouldn’t have won the nomination if he hadn’t moved to the right.  Some assumed he’d move back towards the center after winning the nomination, in preparation for the election against Obama.

However, Republican leadership simply hasn’t allowed any wiggle room for Romney.  Be it foreign policy or the tax policy back home, Romney has been squeezed into a position where he’s forced to continually reiterate the most extreme conservative positions.  Obama has taken out Bin Laden and kept us safe at home, but Republicans continue to act as if they alone are the standard-bearers for security and the military.  Hence the sabre-rattling tone from Romney on every foreign policy issue, as if America acting “tough” is the answer to the delicate and extremely complicated issues in the Middle East and elsewhere.  Romney continues the bravado when talking foreign policy, however, simply because he HAS to.  His base insists that he act “tougher” than Obama.

Things are no different on the domestic front.  Romney and every other candidate running for the nomination were all pushed into a position where even a $1 tax increase for every $10 cut in spending was too much.  Romney has been pushed into a position where he has to continually talk about cutting taxes, while at the same time, somehow magically maintaining or increasing our military budget, and balancing our overall budget.  It’s an impossibility…but logic or fact have given way to ideology for the Republican party.  Romney is a problem-solver…he’s not one to carry the Republican ideological flag.

It’s a mismatch, it’s been doomed from the start, and there’s no one to blame other than Republican leadership and the party as a whole.  Republicans, you’ve been done in by your own hatred, your own intolerance, your sole focus on being the “anti-Obama”, rather than standing for anything meaningful.  You’ve been done in by your extremism, by your unwillingness to compromise, no matter the consequences.  You’ve been done in by a vision for America that bends over backwards to accommodate those with money and power, while abandoning those who need our help.

It’s not Romney.  It’s not the media. It’s not biased polls.  Don’t act shocked that you’re losing, that people aren’t stampeding to support Romney or Republicans.  You simply don’t represent what America wants, or needs.

Scum of the Week – Mike Turzai

A quick shout out to this week’s “Scum of the Week”, a guy I’m sure nobody has heard of, Mike Turzai, a state House Republican (of course) from Pennsylvania.  In comments this week, Turzai was talking about “accomplishments” for the state house, and touted the passing of “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

The man is scum, but he’s HONEST scum, unlike the rest of the Republican party who are pushing for over-the-top voter ID laws to combat “Voter Fraud”.  THIS, despite studies and evidence showing there IS no meaningful voter fraud in the U.S.  Turzai was just stating the obvious, the real reason Republicans are pushing voter ID laws…these laws have been shown to depress voting from the poor and minorities who tend to overwhelmingly vote Democratic.  As this story from the NY Times notes, a federal panel studied the issue and found NO evidence for any significant voter fraud in the last election…but then Republicans complained and “revised” the report, changing the conclusion that voter fraud wasn’t an issue, and instead reporting that it was “open to debate”.

In the last presidential election, there were stories of “robo-calls” to minority voters, telling them they will be forced to prove detailed citizen paperwork before they could vote.  In the Wisconsin recall vote for Gov. Walker, Democratic voters who signed the petition to get the recall vote on the ballot received robocalls telling them they didn’t need to come in and vote, because their vote was recorded by the petition.  What does it say about the Republican Party platform and election strategy when a key component seems to be trying to PREVENT people from voting?  Given their complete lack of support for anyone who doesn’t make over $200,000 a year, I guess it’s not a surprise that the only voting bloc they WANT to vote in elections are rich, Christian white men.

In some ways, I feel guilty about giving Turzai the “Scum of the Week” award.  HE’S the only one who has been honest about the true Republican strategy.

Romney Tells Governors to Lie About Recovery

Romney and Obama

More deception, more lying from Romney. Is this what happens to a GOP candidate? Is the GOP SO corrupt, that any GOP presidential candidate turns to a lying POS? Before the last election...I LIKED John McCain. I RESPECTED John McCain. They he runs for president, and everything he ever stood for went out the window. Romney is headed down the same path. I USED to think he wasn't bad, a Republican governor with a moderate, pragmatic streak. Now? He's a lying, deceptive, slick POS...

The economy has been recovering in several swing states.  Uh-oh, says Romney, we can’t have that!  At least, we can’t let the electorate know the truth!  Hence, the story of Romney telling GOP governors to downplay any economic recovery that’s happened in their states.  He’s told GOP governors to cool it, and not talk about improved economic conditions, lowered unemployment rates, etc.

After all, we can’t have voters knowing the truth!  It fits right in line with the overall GOP strategy of SCARING voters into voting for them, by either playing to their inner bigotry, or playing up just how “bad” things are, or will be, under Obama. Even if they’re not!

Romney continues to bash Obama on foreign policy and national defense fronts, stating that under Obama, we’re much less safe.  This, despite the incredible foreign policy and military successes under Obama.  When Obama DARED to try to obtain contraceptive coverage for those individuals who wanted it but couldn’t get it through their insurance…Romney fell all over himself stating that religious freedoms are “under attack” by Obama, and would shrivel if he were given another term.  There’s a lovely new attack ad on Obama by the National Republican Campaign Committee that claims under ObamaCare, there are massive new taxes on ‘heart attacks, sick puppies, and new babies’.

Romney and other Republican attacks on ObamaCare alone probably keeps the entire staff of FactCheck.org working 24 hours a day.  What’s one more lie, on top of all the others?  Romney knows that lying works, since far too often, the electorate believes this kind of crap.

And the hits keep on a comin’ – SD Legislature

R-Stan Adelstein

Stan Adelstein, another grumpy white male SD legislator with a personal agenda he wants to impose on the entire state.

Man, when the South Dakota legislature gets on a roll, there is NO stopping the endless string of bad legislation. We already know our South Dakota legislators are gun-totin’, bible-thumpin’ white boys who want the rest of the world to be, well…gun-totin’, bible-thumpin’ white boys. I also swear to god South Dakota legislators are the most easily influenced group of people this side of middle-school girls at a Justin Bieber concert.

Unions are evil!! The REST of the right-wing GOP establishment SAYS so!! So by god, our brilliant and innovative South Dakota legislators are going to fall RIGHT in line with the rest of the GOP, and do away with all the harm unions have done in the South Dakota. Repubs have filed a bill that would eliminate the right of public employees in the state to collectively bargain. After all, the idea has gone over SO well elsewhere, like in Wisconsin or Ohio, where voters rebelled against laws that restricted the rights of public workers to unionize and collectively bargain.

But hey, this is South Dakota. Our boys here are a little slow on the uptake. They’re JUST startin’ to pick up on this anti-union thing, and decided that they too needed to restrict public unions that have caused SO much harm in the state. Right? I mean, there has to be SOME reason they’re introducing this bill, other than the fact that our legislators here are a bunch of slack-jawed nincompoops who aren’t capable of doing anything but following the rest of the right-wing wackos in this country.

We already have wages that are the lowest in the country. Unions aren’t exactly causing businesses to fret over wages and benefits.   State and local governments aren’t being driven to the poorhouse by union-negotiated contracts.  So what possible reason IS there for Republicans to bring this bill up in South Dakota?

How about one MORE redneck, ass-backward South Dakota legislator with a burr up his butt?  R-Stan Adelstein is the major sponsor of the bill in the South Dakota Senate.  As Adelstein makes sure to point out, “I carry a concealed weapons permit“…something I guess Adelstein wants all those rabble-rousing union folk to know, in case they had any plans of messin’ around with him.  As the Argus Leader story above notes, Adelstein has had “run-ins” with unions before, in association with his engineering business.   What the hell, might as well take his own personal issues and make South Dakota teachers, fire fighters, policemen, and other public employees pay the price.

It’s ass-backwards.  It’s the South Dakota way.