Friday, April 3, 2020

April 3 - Wet day's window birding.

It was a relatively wet and blustery day. The kind of day it was good to be indoors looking out. Despite the weather I did record thirteen species from my apartment window (below).

Canada Goose
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Egret
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird
House Sparrow

The Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, and the Mourning Dove were all new to my apartment list for the month, bringing my apartment list to 18 for the first three days of the month. My overall Inwood Park list for the month rose to 29.

It was the kind of day, that on my Central Park bird walks, we would end up discussing old movies, or books, or whatever, since there weren't many birds to see. In that spirit I thought I would mention a couple of books that seem appropriate to the current times. The first is the book I am currently reading and its title will let you know why I find it appropriate: The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics by Stephen Coss. It was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster. It is a nonfiction book that concerns a major smallpox epidemic that hit Boston in, yes, 1721. Some of the major figures are the preacher Cotton Mather (yes, the minister involved in the infamous Salem Witch trials of 1692/93), a Dr. Zabdiel Boylston (whose family name is on one of Boston's major streets), a teenage Benjamin Franklin and his older brother James, and Samuel Adams, Sr. among others. It involves Dr. Boylston's attempt to save his patients through the use of a controversial technique of smallpox inoculation (this is nearly eighty years before Edward Jenner's invention of the smallpox vaccine which would eventually lead to the eradication of smallpox, a far more deadly disease than the COVID pandemic we are currently living through. Also part of the story is the publication of America's first independent newspaper, published by James Franklin. In this instance, Cotton Mather is not the villain he was at Salem. For those of you with New York Public Library privileges, the book is available as an audio book.

The second book I want to mention (and recommend) has nothing to do with epidemics or any diseases. It is Curse of the Narrows by Laura M. Mac Donald (2005, Walker & Co.). Like the above book this is a work of nonfiction. It is the account of the explosion of a World War I munitions ship in the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 6, 1917. It was the largest man-made explosion in the world until the atomic bomb in World War II. The explosion and tsunami it created devastated the harbor and much of Halifax. As if that was not enough, that evening a huge blizzard hit the Maritimes cutting off a relief train sent from Boston. (I was reminded of it while reading the Fever book because Boston is so involved in it). The book is a chronicle of disaster and great heroism. I read it a number of years ago, but Ann and I still have it on our bookshelves. The efforts of those coming to the aid of stricken Halifax can only be called inspiring, something we can all look to at the moment. Over a hundred years later Halifax still sends Boston the city’s Christmas tree in recognition of Boston's aid in 1917. The NY Public Library has Curse of the Narrows as an ebook.

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