Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Theme Thursday - Water

As many of you are by now aware, my favorite body of water in Newport, RI is - besides the ocean - Gooseneck Cove. Over the course of this winter Gooseneck Cove has been undergoing a thorough restoration project, with the intent of improving tidal flow throughout the whole length of the Cove and restoring the surrounding salt marsh to its original state. You can look at the whole project here on Save the Bay's website. Basically, they've eliminated an old Army Corps of Engineers dam, placed a larger culvert under Hazard Rd., and place a huge three-culvert flow-through under Ocean Drive. What this does is allow a much freer and increased tidal flow of salt water all the way up to the farthest reaches of the Cove. It also released water that was dammed up by Hazard Rd., the old dam, and the Ocean Drive causeway (also known a the Green Bridge); releasing this backwater will narrow the channels and allow a build-up of more salt marsh, and that in turn will lure more Winter waterfowl and Summer wading birds to the area. We're all very excited by this.

Last week they finished installing the culvert under the Ocean Drive causeway, and on Sunday I went down there expressly to look at the situation. Wow! There is some serious water flowing through those culverts! I took some pictures, but I almost wish I'd had a sound recorder so you all could hear the power of that water flowing through (the tide was on the ebb, so it was flowing out of the Cove and into the ocean). So my Theme Thursday pictures this week are of the water flowing free in Gooseneck cove for the first time in almost a century.

For this week's video extra, I couldn't resist posting David Byrne and the Talking Heads doing "Take Me To the River" from the movie Stop Making Sense. This is my all-time favorite concert movie; David Byrne is a freaking genius!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

A Bird for Wednesday

Out and about wandering around on my gradual way to the grocery store, I took some pictures. This one of a Song Sparrow on the Cliff Walk is the only one that pleases me.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Walt Whitman High Slam Dunks the Phelpses

Yup, that wacky Fred Phelps and his family and friends at the Westboro Baptist Church are in the news again, and this time they got good and spanked!

It seems that seven of Fred's congregants decided to set up a protest outside of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD. Why? Because the school is named after a gay poet, after all! What an abomination! Surely the school should have been crisped by angry bolts of lightning from the furious God for the effrontery? Well, apparently not, so the Westboro Baptist Chuch coterie decided to make up for God's inactivity last Friday.

But it backfired on them. The administrative staff and faculty decided to take advantage of the situation, and the day at school was dedicated to Walt Whitman and his poetry, and to the study of the grand American tradition of tolerance as exemplified in its legal documents and in its literary lights. And then at 2:10 pm, when school let out for the day, 500 students quietly filed outside and faced the protesters. They recited Whitman's poetry to the Phelps-ites. They sang songs to them. In the face of the WBC people's signs and t-shirts that declared "God Hates Fags", "God Hates America", and "God Hates You", the students chanted "We Love You". The students would make any parent proud, while the WBC protestors came across looking like fools. Definitely a slam-dunk for Walt Whitman High School!

You can read the Washington Post article about the event here. I especially recommend watching the included video, where you get to watch several of the WBC people, including one of Fred's daughters and one of his daughters-in-law, say the most outrageous, ridiculous, hateful things with straight faces. It's truly amazing.

One of the ideas that the WBC people kept repeating, and one that Fred Phelps harps on over and over again in his ravings, is that the idea that God loves everybody is a lie. Got hates, says Fred, and then he goes through all the verses he can find in the Old Testament and quotes the ones that say that God hates this thing, or that person, or that tribe. Hate, hate, hate; Fred is all about how God hates, and about how those who say God doesn't hate are liars.

The problem is that Fred is quoting the old Hebrew scripture. But Fred is supposed to be a Christian, and as such he's supposed to believe that through Jesus Christ God established a new covenant, a covenant based on John 3:16 & 17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." Do you see anything about God hating anybody in there?

According to the Gospels Jesus was always talking about love:

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
- Luke 6: 27 - 31

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.
- John 8: 3 - 11

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
- John 13: 34 & 35

And of course, there's always Paul's paean to love in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
- 1 Corinthians 13: 1 - 13

So you sort of have to ask Fred and his disciples: Are you calling Jesus a liar? And Paul? Are you so gone in hate that you commit the ultimate Christian blasphemy and accuse your God of lying? Really?

And the question that follows after that is: Is the Westboro Baptist Church really Christian? You have to wonder!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, April 27, 2009

Odds & Ends From the Weekend

Here are some photos that I didn't get a chance to post over the weekend.

Friday I went up to Miantonomi Park in the North End of Newport. The part of the park consisting of hiking trails is mostly wooded, and the place is hopping with songbirds. While I was there Friday morning I heard a Flicker going nuts the whole time I was there, plus lots of Cardinals, Chickadees, Goldfinches, Tufted Titmice, and the occasional Towhee. Unfortunately most of these, while easy to hear, weren't all that easy to see; I saw plenty of the Titmice and Chickadees, but they never sit still. I spent a while watching two Pine Warblers flitting amongst the branches of underbrush and jumping to the ground and browsing in the leaves, but never got a clear shot. But I got lucky with a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. It was up in a tree, and I had to use the telephoto lens, but eventually I got three shots, only one of which was usuable (and I count myself lucky to have gotten that one!).

Yesterday (Sunday) was our first really warm day of the season; It got up to 85º in town, although I suspect that down on the ocean, where I was most of the day, was probably more like 78º or so. Still, very warm, very sunny, and I hiked 12 miles and got good and sunburned and all tuckered out. And I got these two shots in the course of that hike.

This first shot is looking up the Newport shore of the Narragansett Bay from down on Brenton Point. Brenton Point State Park was crowded, as were all the access points to water. But that water is still cold (around 50º F/10º C), and all those guys you see on the rocks in shorts and without shirts stayed on those rocks; nobody was going swimming yesterday, despite the air temperature!

And this one is taken from King Park on the south end of Newport Harbor at the municipal pier. I call this one Waiting For the Season to Start.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Saturday Well Spent

Today was fun! I went to the Earth Day festivities at Ballard Park, first to look at the new trail map kiosks being unveiled, and then to walk the trails as a group, with Friends of Ballard Park executive director Colleen McGrath. I got to talk to a lot of cool people, like Colleen herself, and Frank Amaral (a local landscaper who has done a lot for the park's development and who designed the new trail maps), and Lauren Parmelee, local bird expert. I didn't take pictures during the walk because you guys have seen so much of Ballard Park already in my stuff both here and on my pages. But I did takes pictures of the new trail maps.

This is one of the new trail map kiosks, built by students in the Newport Area Career & Technical Center's carpentry program. As I said above, Frank Amaral designed the map. I've included a detail of the main part of the map below, which you can also download as a pdf file here. Click on the picture below to see a full size version easier to read.

But that's not the best part. After our walk, I headed down Hazard Rd. to see who might be on Gooseneck Cove today. And what I found was a very photogenic Snowy Egret. I spent almost an hour with this bird and took over 120 shots; the three posted below are the best of the lot. He/she was very intent on feeding on the schools of minnows in the water near the culvert under Hazard Rd. In any event, here is this very gorgeous Snowy Egret in all its glory!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, April 24, 2009


This is my "best bird shots" video slide show, which I update every year or so with better shots. This is the newest update. The music is Yip Harburg's and Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow", performed by Jane Monheit on her 2004 CD Taking a Chance on Love.

© 2007 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Theme Thursday - Fire

This week's video is Jimi Hendrix playing "Fire" at Woodstock. This has my all-time favorite Rock lyric line: "Move over, Rover, and let Jimi take over!" Gotta love it! (And yes, Jimi is definitely one of the gods of my youth!)

Photographs © 2008 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

La Mer

A video slideshow I put together back in 2007 - various ocean scenes in Newport, set to the "Jeux de vagues" movement of Claude Debussy's La Mer.

© 2007 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Piscatorial Whimsy

Yes, that really is a working weathervane, and that really is a Striped Bass sculpture on it. We take Striper fishing very seriously around here!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gooseneck Cove Is Coming Alive Again

Well, the Winter flocks have pretty much moved on; there are just a few Mallards and Canada Geese left who usually stay here year round. But the Pintails and the Teal and the Mergansers and the Grebes have all moved on. The good news is that the Summer waders are coming back. Today I saw a Great Egret, three Snowy Egrets, and two Lesser Yellowlegs in the upper Cove off Hazard Rd. Here, take a look:

This Great Egret kept turning around and around, ostensibly looking for lunch, but keeping one eye nailed to me to make sure I wasn't coming any closer.

This Lesser Yellowlegs, a member of the Sandpiper family, ignored me completely. I just had to get this shot because of the reflection.

This Snowy Egret was one of a trio who were hanging out on the Upper Cove. He had just been doing the "Snowy Dance" when he caught me looking and stopped to try and figure out what I was and if I was any danger to him. Oh yeah, the "Snowy Dance"; Snowy Egrets dance lightfootedly through shallow water to scare up small fish and shrimp. making them easier to slurp up for a tasty meal. When other wading birds see the Snowies go into their dance, they all flock to the area coz they know the pickings will be good.

But this is my favorite shot of the day. The above shots were taken later in the afternoon, when it was warmer and the breeze had backed off a bit. But this shot was taken in the morning, on my first pass through the area, and there was a stiff and definitely cool breeze coming out of the northeast. These poor Snowies were huddled together as if they were wondering if they'd come north a tad early. Once it got warmer they got more active, but here they look like they're regretting the whole thing!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Another Tour of My "Crust of the Earth"

I remembered that I had this slideshow from July of 2007 which follows the path of my usual Sunday "constitutional" - through Ballard Park, down Hazard Rd., across a brief section of Ocean Drive, up Brenton Rd. to the "country lane" section (Hammersmith Rd. and Beacon Hill Rd.), and ending up at King Park at the southern end of Newport Harbor. And all set to Ludwig van Beethoven's own little walk in the country, the first movement of his Symphony #6, the "Pastoral". I hope you enjoy this little stroll!

© 2007 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, April 17, 2009

Today's Gifts

Today was our first really Spring-like day, so of course I was out with the camera. I went down to my usual hang-out, walking through Ballard Park, down Hazard Rd. to Gooseneck Cove, down to Ocean Drive to look at the new conduits they've put under the road to increase tidal flow (and consequently saltier water) to the upper part of Gooseneck Cove. The water was really flowing through those conduits today, and we're hoping this will really perk up the upper Cove. After that I went up to my "country lane" leg of the walk, through the back fields of the Swiss Village Farm.

It was while I was on the country lane leg, on Beacon Hill Rd., that I saw one of our surest signs of Spring in full swing - this male Goldfinch in full breeding plumage, sitting high up in a tree and just warbling away. His song went on so constantly that I kept wondering where in there he was getting in a breath!

But the real star of the day was back in Ballard Park, in the pond on the floor of the old quarry. Three ducks flew by me and landed in the pond while I was walking by; a male and a female Mallard, and miracle of miracles, a male Wood Duck. I've been trying to get a decent shot of a Wood Duck for years, and finally today I got the chance. Here he is in all his glory.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Theme Thursday - My "Crust of the Earth"

Two entries from Henry David Thoreau's journals:

"You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake. You must be able to extract nutriment out of a sandheap. You must have so good an appetite as this, else you will live in vain." - January 25, 1858

"I will take another walk to the Cliff, another row on the river, another skate on the meadow, be out in the first snow, and associate with the winter birds. Here I am at home. In the bare and bleached crust of the earth I recognize my friend." - November 1, 1858

This is the very center of my "crust of the earth", the Gooseneck Cove watershed, from Ballard Park in the foreground straight out to the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon. Below are two slideshow videos celebrating my crust of the Earth.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Day for the Birds

I went for a long hike today, over to Sachuest Point, Sachuest Beach, and the salt marsh behind Third Beach. Not all the shots I took turned out well, but these three I can live with.

A Chipping Sparrow in the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge.

A curious Killdeer came to investigate in the Third Beach parking lot.

A Piping Plover (an endangered species) on Sachuest Beach.

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm not a Christian; my beliefs run to a more earth-centered, human-based spirituality. But I recognize in Easter the need in all humans to celebrate the return of warmth and growth after the stasis of Winter, no matter what belief system they embed such a celebration in. And I have my own Easter tradition, to play Brahms' German Requiem, because unlike the regular requiem mass, Brahms offers consolation and celebrates the triumph of life over death, themes much in keeping with both Easter and the celebration of the equinox. I've included the climactic sixth movement below, which includes in the libretto the text from 1 Corinthians 15:51 - 55, Paul's shout of the triumph of life over death. I've also included that verse below, in my own translation from the original Greek text.

Enjoy your Easter!

Listen closely, I'll tell you a secret: we won't all die, but we'll all be transformed - in a flash, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise up untouched by death, and we'll be transformed. Because this dying body must put on the undying, and this mortal must put on immortality. And when the dying puts on the undying, and the mortal puts on the immortal, then what was written will occur:
"Death is swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O Death, is your sting?
Where, O grave, is your victory?"

– 1 Corinthians 15:51 - 55

Music: Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, movement #6

Photograph © 2008 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!
How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. "
– Matthew 23:37 - 38

Music: Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings

Photograph © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Theme Thursday - Egg

For a while there I was at a loss as to what I would do for this week's theme. I don't eat eggs (cholesterol issues), so I don't have any hanging around in the fridge. I'm not a Christian, so I don't celebrate Easter and won't be dyeing and painting eggs for the holiday. And even though I'm a total bird freak, I'm at least a good ten years beyond the days when I would climb a tree to peek in a nest. So what was I to do about posting photos of eggs?

And then I remembered; we have plenty of eggs (or at least egg cases) from sea creatures lying on the beaches around here. We have Skate eggs, also known as Mermaids' Purses (below left), dotting the ocean beaches. And up the Sakonnet Passage of Narragansett Bay, dotting the cobble and shingle beaches there, are whelk egg cases (below right).

And I couldn't pass this one up - some ovate rocks in a "nest" of seaweed and reed stems. As a friend on said: "Of course! They're Roc's eggs!"

And on to the inevitable music video! Lene Lovich did a song called "Egghead", but apparently she didn't make a video for it. But while searching YouTube, I found this lovely little piece - a sequence of illustrations called "The Loneliness of William Egghead" by David Lupton. They're used by the band Keane as live stage projections to accompany their song "On a Day Like Today", and serve as a lovely little music video here.

Photographs & text © 2008 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sight & Sound - Shamanic Skull

There's something very shamanic about the remains of animals - feathers, bones, whatever. I found this Raccoon skull yesterday on my hike.

Music: "clay, wood, bone, dirt" from the CD Origins (1993) by Steve Roach

Photograph © 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Gee, It Must Be Spring!

Out and about today, I was coming home from the grocery store when I heard familiar sounds from above me, and I looked up at the Osprey nest built every year on the broadcast tower of Toppa Field, a sports field used by football and baseball teams from both Rogers High School and Salve Regina University. It looks like the eggs have hatched ands the little'uns are up and curious. So of course I pulled the camera out of the bag, attached the telephoto, and here's the result:

Cute little fuzzballs, aren't they?

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Nap Time

I was a little late getting out on my walk today. By the time I got to where I was going, everybody was taking a pre-lunch nap, like this Mute Swan couple on Gooseneck Cove and the Mallard couple on the pond in Ballard Park. Hmmm... I didn't know I was so boring!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Theme Thursday - Ten

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

– Tao Te Ching, chapter 10

And the inevitable music video - "I'd Love to Change the World" by Ten Years After:

Photograph © 2007 & 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Musical Fools

It being April Fools Day, I thought I'd share some of my favorite musical humor. So without further ado I present to you...

Victor Borge:

and Professor Peter Schickele and his musical discovery, PDQ Bach: