Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mystery Photo 20: Shocking Monuments!

     I certainly didn't know about this place until we visited it on one of our trips. I challenge you to just pick the country of location for this famous temple. If you know the country, then you might also know the name of the city. Watch for the answer in a week or 10 days on this site. There is a lot of history in its story.

      Send me a guess of first the country and then the name of the city.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A wonderful old toy: the Blackboard Easel

     In my toy collection, I have two blackboard easels that I love. You may recognize this toy from your grandparents, parents or your own childhood. I have one that belonged to my mother which probably dates to the 1920s. I received mine in the late 1940s when I was about 6 years old. Both of my sisters then played with it. I recall we used it to play school as well as to draw on and use as a desk.
     Here is my mother's easel:

Clearly my mother's was made during wartime, as the roll
contains several views of wartime machinery, ships, and

Several scrolled views are devoted to teaching arithmetic.
This one deals with a topic that often gave school children
difficulties -- fractions.

Here a reading readiness view teaches the basic words and
then substitutes pictures for more unknown words. This one
was very seasonal if the easel was a Christmas gift, dealing
with Santa, his home and his habits.

Compare these Wonderland drawings to similar fanciful
drawings on my easel below, 10 to 15 years more modern.

Some drawing instructions and patterns for use in drawing
or on the blackboard.

Some drawing and craft instruction.

Various US flags and patriotic symbols are pictured.

          The Richmond School Furniture Company was founded by a Quaker attorney named William Foulke Spencer in Richmond, Indiana in 1892. It made school desks, bookcases, benches, chalkboards, etc. (Spencer had formerly partnered with another furniture company that was destroyed by fire.) At the same time he formed the American Lawn Mower Company and the two businesses shared facilities. The companies moved to Muncie in 1902 to be nearer the recently discovered natural gas sources, so we know that your chalkboard was made after that date. The company stayed in business, essentially producing the same sort of things, until the mid 20th century. (The American Lawn Mower Company is still in business today!)

     Here are some photos from my Blackboard Easel, probaby of late 1940s or early 1950s vintage. Some of the paper scroll views are in color which were black and white earlier. There are more modern military views and not as many as on the previous version. And some views of cars and other technology have advanced.

     I have seen the vintage easel such as belonged to my mother on sale online for a requested $125.00. But my mother's may be worth more since the paper educational scroll though torn is all present. In the case of my more recent piece, the paper scroll is entriely intact. Both are otherwise in good shape. I have seen the more modern version selling of $50.00. I do believe that a lot of these were made over the years. They were produced probably until the 1960s or so.

     Here are some still photos of my later version of the easel.


     I also didn't realize that I had mounted a video of me scrolling the educational roll on my easel in a 2010 post on this blog. If you would like to see more of the scroll views you can turn to that blog of mine. It was posted on 12/10/2010.





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Aboriginal piece of art: Explanation

Sunset in the Australian Outback
     When we were in Australia, visiting the outback and Uluru, especially at Alyce Springs, we came across some Aborigines people who had set up some of their art laying on the ground for sale to tourists.     
     Read on to learn about the art we obtained in the Outback, Australia.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hovde's Ad: 8 Things You Need to Know About Obama - 620 WTMJ - Milwaukee's Source for Local News and Weather

My readers, as you have seen in reading my blog over the years, I have never posted anything political. But this election for President of the US is so very very important for the future of our country, I can not remain silent. I am a fiscal conservative and generally lean to the left on social issues. But I am prepared to give up even my feminist causes because I feel that the actual future of our country is at stake and sometimes you have to pick what is most important to determine your vote.

Mr. Hovde, a young Wisconsin businessman, who ran against Tommy Thompson for US Senate in the Wisconsins primary has not just disappeared from the political arena after he lost to Thompson. He paid for this political ad to be placed in every newspaper in the State of Wisconsin except for the Madison newspaper. He considered such a Republican ad to be a complete waste of money in the Democratic People's Republic of Madison newspaper. Please go to this ad and read these 8 items about the last 4 years with Obama as President.

Hovde's Ad: 8 Things You Need to Know About Obama - 620 WTMJ - Milwaukee's Source for Local News and Weather

These 8 slightly different ways of looking at things are very concise, very pointed and basically summarize the ways things are. I especially was shocked at Number 8. He called exactly 2 meetings of his cabinet during the last year and he attended 250 fundraiser events. Isn't there something drastically wrong with this? It is also a fact that he does not attend morning security briefings in the White House, but rarely. Is that why he didn't know Benghazi was at risk and didn't know what was going on when the attack that killed our ambassador and 3 others began, or even 2 weeks later? Is that why he didn't know how to react, how to get assets that were 2 hours away over there to stop this attack that went on for 7 hours? Or did he just choose to ignore this problem because it ruined his campaign stanse of having gotten Bin Laden and having El Qaeda on the run? And why is not the standard media carrying all this information? Only Greta Van Susterin on Fox is delving deeply into the occurances in Libya that led to the results of the Benghazi attack.

I also strongly recommend you get on ON DEMAND tv this weekend. The movie, Obama 2016, is available to rent for $4.99. It has a very interesting and unique explanation for Obama's views and some of the very strange things he has done, like sending back to England the bust of Winston Churchill which was a gift to the US and has been in the Capitol. There is an explanation for this strange behavior, and many of the other things that Obama does. His beliefs are not just liberal, are not just socialistic. There is more to it than that. According to an author and producer of the movie, a professor at an Ivy league school out east, Obama has been remarkably effected by his father who was caught up in the Kenyan independence movement, and by other professors in his education which have made Obama hate colonial empires, including the US, which he regards as a colonial power. See the movie; it presents this idea better than I can.

I think even soft liberals and certainly undecideds and moderate view people must look at these issues and really question their decision to vote for Obama. A vote for him for another 4 years provides undue risk for our country, for our diplomatic core, for our military and for every US citizen.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Medical benefits: the Didgeridoo

My fine instrument -- the didgeridoo
  Who would have thought it? This week I attended the Medical Grand Rounds at CSM, the hospital where I practiced. The topic of the lecture was: Sleep Apnea: a Complete Look at Advanced Diagnosis and Treatment.
       The speaker, a pulmonologist who specializes in sleep medicine, sited that learning to play the didgeridoo using what is called circular breathing actually can help people with sleep apnea and can decrease the number of sleep apnea episodes. Now I haven't read this article from the British Medical Journal, but I assume this would really only help those who have fairly mild sleep apnea. It is presumed that this activity helps by strengthening the muscles that support the tissues of the throat and that surround the airway, letting those muscles work to keep the airway open better during sleep.

Monday, October 22, 2012

4:00 AM Awakening: Owls & Venus Glade

     This morning I awoke at about 4:20 AM. I don't know what awakened me. At first, I was just moving around in bed to try to find a warm comfortable position. Then I became more aware. And I heard what sounded like the neighbor's dog barking. It was a series of 2 barks together, then a pause, then 2 more barks, repeating this pattern. This was unusual. The neighbor's have a chocolate lab mix with what looks like some hound in her. She is normally very quiet -- seldom barks. But it sounded like the soft bark of a dog that was waiting to be let back in the house. Then the sound changed to more of a yip and finally a medium loud shrieking or squawking call. I altered my identification -- the coyotes are playing in our neighbor's back yard. But then shortly, the culprit certainly identified itself -- with a hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo whoo whoo. It was our pair of great horned owls. They were calling to each other in our cottonwood trees just outside my bedroom window.
     We think they nest in Virmond Park just north of us, in some tall mature spruce trees in the center of the park. They have been seen there roosting. For as long as we have lived here on Lake Michigan we have occasionally seen one of the owls fly in front of our car headlights from a fencepost or tree perch. They are magnificent birds with up to a 5 foot wingspan. One year shortly after we moved here, a pair of owls were out flying in the late afternoon and they perched on a snag out front of our house in a small wood lot.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mystery Photo 19: Remagen Bridge Head

The remaining towers of the Bridge at Remagen, Germany

The Ludendorff  railroad bridge at Remagen, before its destructionin WWII

    The structure pictured in my Mystery photo is the remains of the Bridge at Remagen, immortalized in the American war film, The Bridge at Remagen of 1969. This movie was based on historical facts, but it is otherwise fictionalized. It implies more strategic importance to this bridge than really existed.

     There was indeed a small battle to take the bridge. Soldiers of the US 9th Armored Division conquered the bridge on March 7, 1945. And it is true that the Germans tried very hard after its conquest to destroy the bridge but initially failed. After the Americans took the bridge they spent considerable engineering skills to try to repair what the Germans had done. They were sometimes under sniper fire or air straifing during this repair work and sometimes had to shoot out the lights they were using at night to prevent some of these attacks. The bridge's continued existence was important to the Allies morale and damaged the morale of the retreating Germans, because the first Allied troops to cross the Rhine river in mass crossed this bridge. But it was known that it would not tolerate the degree of traffic necessary to supply the war as it advanced further toward Berlin. It was also located in the middle of the fighting lines. There was more requirements for intact bridges to the south where General Patton's and General Bradley's troops were entering Germany proper. And in the north it was General Montgomery who led the second largest contingent into the Rhineland.

     This bridge at Remagen, called the Ludendorff Bridge was originally a railroad bridge with a single pedestrian pathway. The Germans had put planks across the bridge to allow vehicular traffic. But the Americans quickly put up two ponton bridges both upstream and downstream from the Remagen bridge because they knew the huge and heavy traffic of war would need these extra bridges.
And on the tenth day after capture, the Ludendorff bridge suddenly collapsed into the Rhine killing 28 soldiers of the Army Corps of Engineers. My father was in the 181st Engineering Corps, but his unit had been engaged in erecting one of the ponton bridges 3 miles upstream on the Rhine at Linz.

     There are memorial plaques on these remaining towers  honoring both Americans and Germans killed here. But the bridge no doubt has more presence in our minds because of that famous 1969 movie than because of any real strategic importance in history. Interestingly that symbolic importance has also found its way into several video games, one for Playstation and others. Even the movie that we watch every Christmas, The Wonderful Life refers to some WWII battle scenes and one character is sited as having died at Remagen taking the bridge. Since 2009, an annual reenactment of the battle at Remagen has been preformed at Tidioute, Pennsylvania where a bridge of similar structure to the Remagen bridge crosses the Allegheny River.

     When we did a river cruise on the Rhine a few years ago, I was looking for the remains of this bridge from the deck of our river ship, the Avalon. I felt a certain closeness to the area because I knew my father had been near here in 1945 working on ponton bridges. I was somewhat disappointed in seeing these two small stone towers set against a hill on the Rhine. If not forwarned, I could have easily missed them. For whatever reason, in our minds this bridge and the little town near it which gave the bridge its name have for us symbolized one of the more heroic episodes in the long story of World War II.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writer's Block: personal thoughts about it.

    You might be asking where I have been for the last 3 months. This was the longest hiatus in my posting in the entire time that I have been doing this blog. Well, there were two big reasons. One was logistical. We took a trip for the whole month of July -- a long cruise of the North Atlantic.  We started in London -- did the Thames river cruise, the London Eye, and went out to Stonehenge, Salisbury Castle, and Bath. Then our three week cruise with the Nautica of Oceania Cruise lines embarked from Dover (the White Cliffs of Dover) with multiple ports of call. If your interest is peaked, I will tell you that we called at Edinburgh, Scotland; Lerwick, Shetland Islands; the Faroe Islands, Akareyri and Reykajvik, Iceland; Greenland; the Isle of Skye; Belfast; Dublin; Cornwall; Cherbourg, France; and Brugge, Belgium. Wow, what a trip. A lot of very interesting ports of call. You will no doubt see some posts with photos and stories from that trip.

The second reason for this hiatus is more esoteric. I have been writing this blog as an outlet for my "frustrated writer" status. I have always had a deep tugging in my heart to write -- not anything medical entirely, perhaps fiction, perhaps long fiction (ie novella or novel). I have written throughout my life in day to day journaling, in travel journals, and of course in my profession as a physician. But aside from patient records, it has always seemed like too much work especially after a full day of work as a physician and managing a home and children, to edit and polish something that I have written for publishing somewhere. So it just never happened. This blog has provided an easy outlet for this writing desire. The format and the way it adapts to short personal essays and travel writing with photos has made it particularly receptive to my brand of creativity.  But for the 2 months since we returned from our trip I just have not had an urge to sit down and create. Is this a form of writer's block or perhaps just laziness?
      My initial thought is that I am not enough of a writer to suffer from writer's block. These little vignettes that I publish on my blog are mostly triggered by our travels or by unusual or common place things that happen to me or mine. These posts have no deadlines; there is no remuneration; there are no expectations. So how could this blog create enough anxiety to produce so-called writer's block. Yet during these last 2 months at least, I did feel a small anxiety that I "should" be posting something. I was overdue. My readers, however few, would turn off from my blog because nothing new was coming up. Yet when I looked at the blog stats, there were still the same number of daily hits. People were continuing to read my old work. So that fact reassured me. Still, I could not make myself sit down and write something. Certainly our most recent trip provided ample subject matter. What was going on?

     So I looked up 'Writer's Block' on the easiest source: Wikipedia. As the scientist in me might expect, I learned that there have been numerous books and articles written about this topic. I found a favorite source -- a book by neurologist Alice W. Flaherty entitled The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain (ISBN 978061823065) This author postulates that some writer's block may come from dysfunction in certain areas of the brain. As functional MRIs shed more and more light on what various areas of the brain do and how the complex interactions of the various nerve tracts and ganglia in the brain interact with each other in response to specific thought patterns, I was not particularly surprised by the existence of this book. It will be a pleasant read for me
     I also found this great website which lists 10 types of writer's block. Indeed there are many varieties of this ailment. Several solutions, or practices such as free writing are suggested. Free writing is when you just write without regard to topic, grammar, punctuation, or even clarity. This practice often breaks writer's block, develops or even suggests ideas, and gets the creative juices flowing again. Also inserted into this website blog are wonderful photos of various science fiction and pulp magazine covers, making the site and the read very attractive as well. Check it out!

     I managed to break my own writer's block today. I just began to write first about our travel and my reasons for not having posted for a while. The idea of writer's block came to me and that provided these other jumping off places. I didn't even have to go to free writing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mystery Photo 19: Do you recognize this structure and monument?

     Here is a new Mystery Photo: I know I haven't posted on this blog for a while. Various trips and obligations have stood in my way. But to get me going again on regular posting, I am starting with this new Mystery Photo. I will tell you that this structure is in Europe. What is the structure?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

On Call: Memories

   Every now and then I like to write about some of my memories of my medical training and lifelong career. And one of the most memorable parts of both that training and work life is the on call duty. There is nothing quite like being on overnight call duty. The nature of that service changes as the doctor's life advances.
   My first memories of being on call over night arise from my medical school years. Medical students usually don't take overnight call until at least junior year and mostly it is entirely in the senior year clerk ships. Of course the junior student is entirely in a learning phase. He/she is there to participate in the care of a patient from the very beginning of that patient's admission and to learn from it, but the student is totally supervised by first an intern and above that a resident and above that an attending. Therefore, the student is not responsible for major treatment decisions, but is responsible for the first history and physical for that patient and then for various basic procedures such as starting IVs or putting down nasogastric tubes and such.
   I have a very strong memory of my on call nights during an obstetrics clerkship at St. Joseph's hospital here in Milwaukee when I was a senior medical student. We were on call every other night -- that is 24 hours on and then 24 hours off for the one month rotation. This schedule was hard and often during the night hours, if we had no women in active labor, the nurses would let us take one of the empty labor rooms and sleep during the night. There was only one problem. One of the very active staff obstetricians at St Joe's Hospital was Dr. Jack Klieger. He practiced there for probably 40+ years and had a huge patient base. He was a stickler when it came to educating the students. He felt that if you were on call, you were on call. You should not be sleeping. If you didn't have any women in active labor to follow, you should be reading about obstetrics or studying. So when one of Dr. Klieger's patients would come in and near delivery so that Dr Klieger was expected in the department to perform the delivery, the nurses would come and wake us up and give us a little time to make ourselves presentable (Dr. Klieger expected  a white short jacket and dark slacks or skirt,  with everything pressed and crisp, etc). I will say though that if you had a patient with Dr. Klieger, he was an excellent if demanding teacher and you learned a lot, often getting to help with if not actually do the deliveries toward the end of your rotation.  At the end of your 24 hours on that rotation, you went home and had something to eat, maybe put a load of laundry in, and then collapsed into bed.
     I remember that at Milwaukee County General Hospital there were no on call rooms for women medical students and I think there was even a shortage for women interns and residents. There were fewer women in medical school in those days and not all locations provided for their women students. You had to figure out where you might be able to catch some shut eye if there was any chance to do this during the night. Sometimes you could find an empty patient room and the nurses were always willing to let you use it. We didn't have beepers then so you had to let the operators know where you would be and then try to sleep under those circumstances. Actually you were so sleep deprived that usually you could fall asleep almost anywhere.
      One night I was on call at the VA hospital during a rotation there. The senior student got called first for problems on some of the non medical and non surgical floors, such as the psych floor, or the rehab unit floor. The senior was expected to go and assess the situation and then determine if any of the regular medical interns or surgical interns needed to be called to see the patient and if it was serious enough to transfer them to one of the more active care units. I recall one time getting called to the psych unit by the nurses there. I don't even remember the reason for the call -- it was a rather trivial problem that I was able to handle easily. But I will never forget entering that locked unit. It is in the middle of the night and to save money a lot of the lights in these unused corridors are turned off and just emergency lighting shines along the long halls. This psych unit was a locked unit so I had to hit a buzzer and get buzzed in (ie someone somewhere way off down the hall and around the corner would hit a button and the door would unlatch.) As I went through the door and entered the long dark hall, not knowing exactly which way to go to bet to the nurse's station, a deep voice from behind me said, "Well, hello sweetie!" and then some expletive descriptive words were applied to me. A man sat on the floor, just out of reach of the automatic door. He appeared a bit unkempt and wanted to continue his rather inappropriate commentary. I just hurried off down the hall. There were other patients awake along the corridor, but at least the comments I got as I went further into this ward were more what I was used to: "Hey, doc. How you doin' tonight?" Taking care of the vets at the VA was always enjoyable for me. In general they were great guys, very grateful for anything you could do for them. Many of them had been raised in a Wisconsin rural setting, and were even farmers after their return from WWII. As a group they did not know that I was not yet a doctor. So I received all of the respect and admiration that a doctor would receive. On top of that they thought it was great that a woman was becoming a doctor and they paid me even more respect. I remember one saying, "I want you to take care of me, Doc. I figure if you're here, and being a woman and all, you must be a very good doctor."  This particular on call encounter on the psych ward fortunately was an aberration.
     I took my internship and residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in Milwaukee, where I had served some clerk ships as a senior. My husband had taken a job in Milwaukee, so I was limited to this city for my training. The only other medical internship and residence was out at Milwaukee County Hospital and I knew that that was a tough residency. On many of the services, the call of every other night. Since my husband is 8 years older than me, I knew that we would plan to start our family during my training. How could I possibly be engaged in a tough residency with frequent call and have and raise children. So I made a choice. I knew that the Mount Sinai residency was less powerful but it had much less frequent call, every third night and sometimes every 4th night. So I made the choice -- less powerful residency but easier life. I was fortunate that many of the attending staff at Sinai knew me from when I did my senior clerk ships there. Therefore, they were comfortable with letting me take care of the patients, writing orders and making many of the treatment decisions. But there was also time during the day to read and study. I learned well enough to pass my Internal Medicine Boards the first time, whereas many of my friends out at County Hospital didn't pass their boards because they never had time to study and broaden their knowledge to be able to correctly answer the sometimes esoteric board questions.
      On call at Sinai was typical of on call duty at most hospitals. Our call rooms were on the 6th floor of the old building end of the hospital They actually were three rooms at the end of the hall of the Psych ward. Now this psych ward was not like that which I described at the VA hospital. These psych patients were quiet and well behaved. The ward was not a locked ward. And they slept during the wee hours of the morning. I can still remember be sound asleep and that phone ringing. The hospital operator would be on the other end. If the call was not extremely urgent, she would gently try to bring me awake. Even a young person, as I was then, being suddenly awakened from a sound sleep would likely be a bit discombobulated at first. The kind operator knew this and would talk me through it. She also didn't want me to just turn over and go back to sleep which was a real danger. If the call was a Code Blue, however, there was no time for such ministrations by the operator. She would just say, "Code, doctor, in the ICU. You got it? Go!" I can remember running down those stairs to the ICU thinking and running through code procedures in my head on the way. Running a code was one of the more demanding things that we did as house staff. That separated the women from the girls and the men from the boys. I had a very good relationship with the ICU nurses who did these types of procedures regularly. So they were often a great help. They knew the protocol inside and outside and often had the next medication ready to go before I even thought to ask for it. Looking back, those were times when I most felt like a true doctor, even during my training.
     Recalling these time, puts me in mind of one of my fellow residents at Mount Sinai. That was Dr. George Levisman. He was young Jewish man from Argentina, a quiet man, who stayed on at Mount Sinai for a cardiology fellowship. I regarded it very fortunate if he was in the hospital on call when I was called for an emergency. He was the most unflappable doctor I have ever worked with. The patient could be crashing in the worst way, and he just proceeded in a soft voice, directing the emergent situation like a master. He had a quiet little sense of humor during regular work hours that was so refreshing. I miss George very much. He went to California, completed his fellowship, and worked out of Cedar Sinai in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately he developed color cancer and died at a very young age. It is interesting that writing these memories called him back to my mind. What a great guy!
     After my training, I immediately entered practice with the Milwaukee Medical Clinic in Milwaukee, WI where I practiced Internal Medicine for 34 years. On call comes into play during our practice years as well. We had a call rotation for the weekends. During that time I would be covering for my partner internist's patients if they had emergencies. Some of this duty involved answering patient's phone calls. Other duties involved admitting people who had come to the emergency room and whose doctor I was covering for. Then I would be responsible for examining them, forming a diagnosis (though the emergency room physician had often already figured out was going on,) and then beginning treatment and monitoring the patient for how the treatment was helping. Sometimes I would have to call in specialists to contribute to the treatment. On Sunday I would make rounds on my partners' patients who were already in the hospital as well. And sometimes I would arrange to see patients who called that were sick, either at the clinic if it was open, or I would meet them in the emergency room and take care of them, prescribe antibiotics for their infection or whatever was required.
     During these early years, perhaps the worst annoyances of call were the patient phone calls. Sometimes they could be quite ridiculous. The notorious example was the one where it is 2:30 in the morning: "Hello, this is Doctor Smith calling you back."
     "Doctor, I can't sleep."
     I usually felt like saying, "Yuh, well now I can't either." But I didn't say that. I would talk to them a little bit and try to find out what was going on that led to this phone call in the middle of the night.
     Often patient's thought that we were just sitting somewhere waiting for their phone call. They had no idea that we were asleep ourselves and that we had to work the taking care of other patients in the office the day of our night on call and the next day. This would result in ridiculous calls in the middle of the night, to try to make an appointment the next day, or to cancel an appointment. Well, you can just use your imagination knowing what you know about people. Needless, to say being on call could be very annoying dealing with some of the requests intermixed with taking care of very sick patients at the hospital.
     As the years went by during my practice, on call improved considerably. We hired a cadre of phone nurses who worked in shifts to cover a lot of these nuisance phone calls. That meant that when we were awakened it was usually for a significant problem. Then we arranged call schedules where we covered for each other even during the week. And on weekends, we divided the days up so that our exposure was only for one 24 hours period of time, then someone else came on duty.
    Toward the end of my practice years two things happened that seemed to balance each other out. First, as I grew older, if I was awakened during the night by a phone call or had to go in to admit a patient, I often found it difficult to go back to sleep when I was back in bed, or back home. This meant that most nights on call I would lose much of the night of sleep even if not working the whole time. Also my husband worried about me if I had to drive into the hospital in the middle of the night. The neighborhood around the hospital was changing and he feared that I might run into difficulty either on the way, or in the parking lot at the hospital. Also sometimes the winter weather made the roads difficult to maneuver and he worried about me. Therefore during my last years in practice, sometimes he would get up and drive me into the hospital and wait for me. Wasn't that a great thing to do? But during those last years, hospital practice changed. We had a hospitalist there on call, and they would take the admission, work it up and start treatment and report back to us at home. So there were many times that we did not have to go in during the night and we could take over the patient's care in the morning. All of these things began to make on call duty easier. And it was a good thing, because I was getting older and handling it less well.
     For any aspiring doctors out there, I would say that most specialties usually still require some off hours work, some more than others. Patients do not get sick by the workday clock. So almost all doctors will need to be available and to serve on call times. But there is some special feelings about being there for your patient when they are most in need of you. It is one of the great rewards of a medical practice. It just is not easy, that is all. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Birds of Central America

     On our trip to Central America, we did the most birdwatching that I have ever done on a trip. And my husband who is not really a birder, also enjoyed some of our hikes. He was able to do a lot of bird photography so I have much material for this blog.
     Let's start with Guatemala. We were so lucky that our guide in Tikal is a birder of some renown. So he showed me a lot of birds that I am sure I would have missed if I was doing the watching on my own.
The beautiful large scarlet macaw

red lored parrot

lineated woodpecker

oscellated turkey

Montezuma oropendola
The Montezuma oropendolas' nests
   Let's move on to Costa Rica. As I said on a previous post, Costa Rica is all about nature. We saw lotts of birds, many of them quite unusual. The first group was sighted at Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean. We went there to see the sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, but we were a little early. None were arriving. But it didn't matter. We saw many birds and other interesting insects and animals.

These are bats hanging on a tree trunk. You can see their faces tilted toward us.
They have white spots on their backs but they are called long nosed bats.

A lovely large praying mantis

The anhinga drying its wings. Interestingly it does not have the oily feathers that
other diving birds have, so it must dry out its feathers after a dive for fish.

I think this is one of the loveliest birds -- the little blue heron

Just an artistic view.

The Northern jacana which walks and nests on top of these rafts of water hyacinth.
   Next we are going to Monte Verde, a birding destination for many people in the highlands of Costa Rica.  Here we met Carlos outside Stella's Bakery in St. Elena, neighboring Monteverde Park. Apparently this is a common place for birdwatchers to meet. Several different guides showed up with their tourist charges. There is good birding right their in the middle of the rustic little town. There is a large fig tree which was bearing fruit so the birds of all kinds are coming and going. After a while birding, Stella had opened up and we all took a coffee break with some bakery of course. Then it was time to ascend to the intermediate zone just below the cloud forest. There we would see a different habitat with different birds. But Carlos was on a motorbike. So he called a taxi and we were escorted to the foot of a trail for more birdwatching. It looked like this was going to be a long and productive morning.

This bird looks like a bump on the tree branch. It just sits here
during the day as it is nocturnal -- the great potoo. We were
lucky to get this photo.

A common bird, but I couldn't skip this lovely photo. The great egret.

We see these birds out in California commonly. They are black necked stilts.

The green basilisk lizard of Costa Rica. I know this post is billed as birds
but I couldn't resist this photo. 
   I must write a little bit about this lizard. In Costa Rica, there are three species of this lizard, of the type called basilisks. This one is the largest (can reach 32 inches long) and the prettiest. The other two species are more olive or brownish. Another name for all three species of this lizard is "the Jesus Christ lizard." The reason it is called this is because it can actually walk on water. Its toes have webs which increase the surface area and due to the fast pumping of its legs (at 5 mph) it can actually stay on the surface of the water for short distances. When first seen, it usually freezes as this one has done, but if further threatened it will escape  into the forest, under leaves or across water surfaces to disappear quickly. It also is an excellent swimmer so sometimes it just swims away. They can often be found along water courses and are omnivorous eating insects, small invertebrates, and small mammals and birds as well as vegetation and fruits.  With its sail like decorations on its head, back and tail it certainly is an attractive fellow.

Another birding group preparing to start the trail at
one of the Monteverde sanctuaries. Notice the size of
the tree. 
The local version of the jay. A pretty gregarious bird.

The resplendent Quetzal. A hard to find bird in Central America, but Carlos
knew where to look. 
   This magnificent bird deserves a little elaboration to match its beautiful dress. It is found from Mexico to Panama, but is often a little reclusive in the deep and thick forests. It likes the heavy rain forest and therefore even if present is often hard to see. This is the male with its iridescent green back, wings and head, a crimson lower breast and belly, black outer tail feathers, white tail covers underneath, and two long iridescent green central tail feathers that can't be seen here but extend out beyond the bird when it flies at least twice its body length. The female is a drab brown color. It became known among the indigenous peoples here as a flying snake. It is very important in both the Aztec and Mayan culture and is the source of the name for the primary god of the Mayan people, Quetzalcoatl. Because it does not survive in captivity it has become a symbol of liberty throughout the region. Here is a website in case you are interested in this birds natural life history and cultural history.     Click on this address and I think you will be offered an option to go to the site.

   The Respendent Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemal, perhaps because it is so prominent in their historical culture. Of course, we saw it in Costa Rica. Interestingly, the national bird for Costa Rica with all of this country's dramatically colored bird life, is the clay-colored thrush. Here is a photo of this bird.

The clay colored thrush looks almost identical to our robin both in appearance
and behavior, just minus the red breast. 

The crested guan. Not such a good picture but
a pair were in the treetops near the quetzal. Just
goes to show the density of wonderful birds
in this rain forest.

The three wattled bellbird, actively calling.

   This was the last bird we saw on the Monteverde bird walk. We heard it constantly during the walk, and I asked Carlos about it. He just kept saying, "We'll get there in good time." Then as I knew we were nearing the end of the walk,  I began to worry, because we kept walking along the path and seemed to be passing the bird by. Finally near a large dead snag along the trail, Carlos said, "OK, Amos you can put your folding chair right here facing that snag. Ann, you can wait here or come back along the trail with me, either one, but you will do fine just to wait here." I was tired so I waited. But Carlos was gone for quite a while. I did walk backwards along the trail just to see what was happening. I saw Carlos off trail traipsing through the undergrowth a little bit. After maybe 10 minutes or so, guess who showed up near that snag. Yes, indeed, it was Mr. Bellbird as pictured above. And as you can see he is calling with a wide open mouth. Apparently the bellbirds use about 3 different perches. If they are threatened on one perch, they will move to the second one. And if threatened there they will move to the third which happened at this time to be the one along the trail near the snag. So Carlos just went back and spooked him out of the other two perches in succession and predictably he showed up right in camera range where we were waiting. What a nice climax to this productive rain forest walk. Just to show  what this bellbird sounds like here is a YouTube video showing him calling and you can hear the reason for his name.

   Now, as you may know from my previous posts,  our trip to Central America also included Panama where our guide for the whole 6 days, Archibald V. Kirchman is an avid birder as well. So we saw some excellent birds in Panama as well, but I will post those at a later time in another post. This one is getting unwieldy. But don't forget, look for the second post on Central American birds soon.