Thursday, February 28, 2019

AFTER THE STORM

AFTER THE STORM

Lost by the side of the road
A pair of flightless gloves
The color of bluejay wings.

Each new pot hole
Waits like a hungry bird
To pierce a tire.

On my way to work
I crossed three watersheds
Marveling how water
always seeks its own level.

Trees take on new angles a possibility.
It’s a race against gravity.
And we know gravity always wins.

The bright green promise of grass
Beguiles the eye with false allegations of spring
while herons wade along the clement shores
of new lagoons.

2/28/2019

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

I made a new art blog

I made a new blog, Maureen Hurley Art, to showcase some of my most recent art. Two new blogs in as many months, not counting another blog I made in December. A friend wants me to create an Etsy account and begin selling my work. So this is a stopgap. I may backfill with earlier art at another time. My artwork is lost in this massive blog. I’ve  managed to post most work when it was created, but when I post the older work, I’ll be lucky to get the year correct. Work is posted by month and by medium. As the river crests, during the record-breaking Pineapple Express storm that threatens to rival the 1986 Valentine’s flood, I am surrounded by floodwater. Massive slides, multiple road closures, the only way out is through art. So below is today’s offering, a pastel of  the Nicasio Reservoir from the spillway side.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Two pastels, Nicasio oak & rock

Chalk pastel. I usually work wet, so this is a learning curve.

Oil pastel, same place, same day, different mediums.





Sunday, February 10, 2019

Channeling the clouds on Elephant Mountain


This morning the mountain was completely enveloped in fog. It was a transcendental experience watching the lake emerge from the flat planes of the pewter mist, and the myriad possibilities of fog and light emerge and recombine minute by minute. I never grow tired of watching it. Why did I never find the time to seek out and observe such beauty? It fair takes my breath away. It seems I am channeling the master cloud painters Frangonard, Watteau and Turner—with the clouds posing like that.


Black/Elephant Mountain is made of Franciscan strata and pillow lava, volcanic extrusions from under the sea—a child of the San Andreas Fault. Meanwhile, down the valley, in the distance, I could hear the call of a flock of Canada geese on the move, and a cow bawling for her errant calf. The cacophany of wild geese grew nearer—They were accompanying a lone bicyclist, blithely unaware that the wild geese gods were overhead protecting him on that empty stretch of road. The redtail hawks are flying low, zoning in on the chickens that are digging for worms in the pasture. A flash of red against the green grass, and the intense yellow of mustard. Somewhere, just out of sight, the bald eagle is circling. Leaping bass make concentric coinage on the surface of the lake. Grebes bob on the ripples, tree swallows crochet the air. I may be living somewhat feral existence well out of my comfort zone, but I am doubly blessed when it comes to a matter of light and fog on a lake at dawn.

The bicyclist and his entourage of wild geese.
They followed him all the way around the lake.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A bird and a half a day. Cats and bird deaths—an inflated fact?


Photographer friend Jerry Downs posted a lovely photo of an orange spotted housecat sitting on a car hood enjoying a rare bit of sunshine in an otherwise bleak and rainy week. And of course someone had to go and spoil it all by stating how every outdoor cat was responsible for 500+ songbird deaths in North America. (To the tune of  3.6 million birds a day, or 1.3billion birds a year). A bird and a half a day per cat? Do the math. Who comes up with this stuff?

To wit, I replied—The cat bird kill thing is somewhat inflated....that would be something like a bird and a half per day per cat. I don’t think so. Besides, not all free roaming house cats kill birds. In fact, most pet cats are clumsy lummoxes. Easy targets like mice run in front of their noses and they hardly know what to do with them. They’re not the ferocious hunters they’re cracked up to be. Besides the males (he’s orange, therefore, has an 80% chance of being male) rarely, if ever, hunt.

But when it comes to birds, people’s free range pet moggies are unfairly bearing the brunt—convenient scapegoats for bird deaths. Instead look to climate change, bird habitat loss, exposure to chemicals, fertilizers, insecticides, and collisions with man-made objects—from cell towers airplane engines to to cars to windows. A billion birds a year die from colliding with windows. Human impact is the real threat" to songbirds.

We’ve also systematically killed off most of the wild birds’ natural predators—from kestrels and hawks to bobcats to coyotes and wolves— which was never factored in on the annual estimated bird population death counts. That said, I’m not for vast colonies of feral cats. They don’t belong here. They should be eradicated. But when someone’s pet moggie sitting outside on a car hood enjoying a spot of sunshine, being held responsible by proxy for massive bird deaths, is a bit over the top. Talk about killjoy.


Should you happen to have a free range moggie with a taste for fowlish feathers friends, there’s an app for that, a splashy Elizabethan style collar ruff that the birds can see a mile away. According to the Atlantic article, there are 8.4 million pet cats, and 4.6 million of hem have outside access. That does not mean they are all catching birds, that’s an assumption being made. Besides, it’s not  measurable. The article states that the feral cat population in the US is somewhere between 30 and 80 million cats. I’d suspect that they are the real culprits. The estimates are as flagrant as the Powerball meme circulating on Facebook. So let’s play with the math. Suppose all 34 to 84 million cats were successful bird hunters, now divide that number (both high and low estimates) by 1.3 billion. You can see that the claims are impossible—even if you can’t do the math.

1,000,000,000 (one billion) is 100 million.
1.3 billion dead birds / 4.6 million hungry pet cats
(most are unlikely to bag more than a bird or two in a lifetime). = 282.60896
1.3 billion / 4.6 million / 365 days = .77 birds a day
(but we still need to add in the estimated feral cat population)
1.3 billion / 34.6 million total cats, both feral and domestic low estimate = 37.5722543
1.3 billion / 34.6 million / 365 =  .10 birds a day per cat
1.3 billion / 84.6 million total cats, high estimate = 15.36643026
1.3 billion / 84.6 million / 365 = .04 birds per day per cat.

Outdoor cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year, study says Researchers estimate one pet cat kills between one and 34 birds a year, while a feral cat kills between 23 and 46 birds a year..
The Quiet Disappearance of Birds in North America Though the continent has 3 billion fewer birds than it did in 1970, those losses are hard to glean because it’s the commonest species that have been hit hardest.... the continent’s bird populations have fallen by 29 percent since 1970. That’s almost 3 billion fewer individuals than there used to be, five decades ago... 90 percent of the missing birds came from just 12 families, and that they were all familiar, perchy, cheepy things such as sparrows, warblers, blackbirds, finches, larks, starlings, and swallows.... About 19 species have each lost more than 50 million individuals.... habitat loss and degradation are the largest forces behind the decline of birds... domestic cats, which kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds every year. Window collisions claim 600 million bird lives a year, vehicles take out 214 million, power lines are responsible for killing 32 million, and the lights of industrial towers fatally distract about 6 million. Wind turbines...
Cats are not the problem. We are. Not only have we destroyed bird habitats wholesale, we’ve poisoned what’s left with pesticides. The cat to bird  kill ratio is from one report from a long time ago, and that number has been inflated and bandied about ever since. Parrot statistics and peculiar math equals a convenient half truth.

The headline states:
“The continent has 3 billion fewer birds than it did in 1970.”

Then it states: “Other threats are easier to quantify, and the biggest of these, by some margin, is domestic cats, which kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds every year.”

Do you see the applied math problem? If we have 3 billion less birds since 1970, then cats can’t be blamed for killing 2.4 billion birds a year. The math is wonky.  Even if the “per year” clause were dropped, the statement is still false. It doesn’t take massive critical thinking skills to see through this false syllogism, just basic reasoning skills.

Monday, February 4, 2019

RARE SNOWFALL, IMBOLC


After the rain, A surprise snow, it’s 36 degrees—
not cold enough for snow to stick in the valleys
but all the ridges are dressed in white.
Well it did snow anyway, through the night.
But this morning, not a trace,
even though the temperature dropped to 24º.
A friend who lives in sonwcountry scoffs,
says, barely cold enough for a jacket.
Black ice on the car. Traces of fallen snow—
clumps on the windshield archived in ice.
Driving north on Wilson Hill Road, today—
Geyser Peak and Mt. St. Helena,
all the peaks of the greater Bay Area
are grizzled white with snow.

2/4/19, rev 2/4/20
from a Facebook post
It got so extensively revised, I moved it to a new post.
Snow in West Marin