Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Random music: Philmont Hymn

Crossposted from Dafydd's Random Music.

The internet is a strange place. The elder daughter is expressing an interest in Girl Scouts. I had been holding out until she was 14, so she could join Venture Scouts, the co-ed program run by the BSA. I have an ulterior motive. Venture Scout crews can go to Philmont. I went thrice as a Boy Scout, and want to go back, badly. If she goes, I can go. To entice the elder daughter I told her, again, about Philmont. To drive the point home I searched youtube for Philmont videos. It wasn't hard to find nice videos with slide shows of the scenery. I may have hooked her. Of course I ran across some videos that use the Philmont Hymn as a soundtrack. I like the Philmont Hymn, and a spent the better part of the evening singing it. (The younger daughter now hates it.) After my evening shower I had a brain fart on the lyrics, and looked them up via Google. A little bit if searching turned up an astonishing coincidence. The Philmont Hymn was written by a 16 year old Philmont Ranger in 1947, John Westfall. Mr. Westfall died this month after a good life aged 81. It turns out that he lived in town I now live in. His funeral was at the Episcopal Church down the street from my house, the church my family occasionally attends. His obituary describes as active in scouts and in his community throughout his life. He was a past member of the board of directors for the ballet company my daughter is in. I never met him, but throughout my life his song has meant a great deal to me. I never met him, but I miss him.

So far as I know, the Philmont Hymn has only bee professionally recorded once, by the US Air Force Academy choir. I used to own this version as a single.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A birding trip

Yesterday the family and I piled into the car and wet on quick birding trip. We've been doing this fairly regularly for the past several months. Usually we don't see much out of the ordinary, but yesterday was different.

We just took a run up to Lake Copan, in part to see how high the water has gotten in the lake. We took the usual route, up what I call "Buffalo Road" and then skirting Dewey to the west and finally coming out on Highway 75 a couple of miles north of Dewey.

Last week we went up Buffalo Road and found a flock of Bobolinks, which were a life bird for all of us. Yesterday, the flock was still there. They may have settled in for the season which would be cool. Buffalo road is prime flycatcher habitat, and both Scissortails and Eastern Kingbirds were out in force. No Western Kingbirds though. The Dickcissels were also out in force. Add in a couple of Meadowlarks and Grackles and you had almost everything you could want from the Prairie.

While running up the road west of Dewey I spotted a couple of Great Egrets in a field. What Egrets were doing in a field, I'll never know. Well, I do know, they were hunting, as I saw one of them catch something a couple of times, but what they were hunting I can only guess. Perhaps there was a small pond that was hidden from view by the grass, or perhaps they were hunting mice or frogs. I dunno.

A bit later on, a red bird flew across the road in front of the car and landed on the fence. My wife called, out "Cardinal!". Something about the bird pulled me up short, though. It didn't look right. I stopped and took a look. Summer Tanager. Right then, an Eastern Bluebird flew from the section of the fence where the tanager had landed. I noticed a second bird on the fence that I at first registered as another bluebird. I quickly saw a blue head and red breast, the the bird turned a bit and I saw the green back. Painted Bunting! Summer Tanagers and Painted Buntings were two of my nemesis birds. I had neither seen either one, and here I had them both in the same binocular view. We hung out admiring the birds until a passing car flushed the birds.

We didn't see anything unexpected at Copan, although I have never seen the water that high. If it keeps raining, and they don't get a chance to lower the lake levels, Bartlesville is in for another flood. I also didn't find any Orioles at Washington Cove, which is usually a dead certainty. Maybe it's too early for them.

Here's the bird list for the day:

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Eastern Kingbird
Scissortail Flycatcher
Blue Jay
American Crow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Carolina Chickadee (heard)
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Summer Tanager
Painted Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Twenty five species. Not bad for 1 1/2 hour trip.