Running Commentary 6/6/2022
It’s June, which means the spring migration is pretty much over and nesting season has arrived. The orioles have disappeared. All the interesting ducks have moved on to Canada. The trees are all leafed out. And, the first wave of mosquitos has emerged. So, prime birding season is done until fall. Time to just go for walks and enjoy whatever you happen to see.
We’re halfway through the show already. Here are my notes:
- There was a lot of tension in this episode, which is quite a feat to pull off, considering we know that both Obi-Wan and Leia will definitely survive anything the show throws at them.
- Ben’s lucky he was facing off against Screen Vader and not Comics Vader. While Screen Vader can easily be outrun, and can't walk through fire, Comics Vader can jump twenty feet in any direction.
- Ben’s also lucky that the coal on Mapuzo doesn’t burn as hot as the lava on Mustafar.
- Talking over the episode Thursday it came up that stormtroopers should be able to recognize Kenobi. I think it would be weird if they did. The official line from the Empire is that all the Jedi were destroyed. The Inquisitorius handles the few remaining in secrecy; that's why the other Inquisitors were so upset when Reva put a public bounty on Kenobi. Even Imperial troops aren't told about renegade Jedi unless they're assigned to catch them. So, while Kenobi was a particularly prominent Jedi, I wouldn't expect random stormtroopers to recognize him.
- As I was worried, as soon as Vader showed up, the Inquisitors all got sidelined. Admittedly, I was expecting that to happen in the finale, not here at the mid-way point. I’m hoping this means that Reva will get something more to do in the last half.
- I’m confused as to the logistics of that tunnel, a little bit. It’s not clear to me how the Third Sister got to the other end before Leia did, or how she knew where the other end was. But, more than that, I’m not sure what she still wants with Leia, now that Obi-Wan’s been drawn out of hiding. Maybe she senses the Force’s connection to her?
Bird of the Week
With summer coming on again, I’ve once again taken the opportunity to draw a beach scene. This year, we have Mission Beach, along the eastern shore of Cape York in Queensland, Australia (where it’s soon to be winter, but whatever). Australasia is home to a dazzling density of beautiful birds, but we’re not looking at a beautiful bird today, exactly. The Southern Cassowary is one of three extant species of cassowaries, and the only one found on Australia proper; it lives on Cape York as well as the southern part of New Guinea, and on smaller islands nearby. It can be distinguished from the dwarf cassowary by its larger size and from the northern cassowary by its lack of yellow coloring. Cassowaries are odd birds, even among their cousins in the Palaeognathae clade, which also includes other large, flightless birds, such as the ostrich and the emu. They have a prehistoric look about them, seemingly the closest living thing to a velociraptor, right down to the long, deadly claws at the end of their powerful legs. Atop their heads sits a bony growth known as a casque, which is thought to aid in their vocalizations (the deepest of any bird), among other purposes. Their feathers are barely feathers; their bodies are covered in a long, wispy, shaggy down.
Cassowaries have a fearsome reputation as one of the only kinds of bird known to have straight-up killed large animals, including, in a few instances, people. But, despite their dinosaur-like appearance and lethal capability, cassowaries are actually not very violent creatures. They do not hunt, in packs or otherwise; while they may opportunistically feed on small prey, their diet is primarily made up of fruit. The fruit-bearing trees in their range are, in fact, largely dependent on cassowaries to distribute their seeds throughout the jungle. Adult cassowaries have no natural predators; those large claws are primarily used to defend their chicks (which hatch from emerald-shelled eggs and which are raised by their fathers) from predators such as pythons. large monitor lizards, and wild dogs. Generally, cassowary attacks on humans happen when the birds involved have come to expect people to feed them. Kicking attacks are generally made in defense. Fatal attacks seem to mostly happen when a person is unlucky enough to get kicked in the neck; Jurassic Park-raptor disembowelments aren’t really in the cassowary wheelhouse.
Despite/because of their dangerous nature, cassowaries have long fascinated people. The region just south of Cairns, Australia is known as the “Cassowary Coast”, and local tourism promises beachgoers a glimpse at the birds, who sometimes step out from the jungle onto the sands. Walter, the 2nd Baron Rothschild, prized cassowaries above all other birds, keeping 65 of them, even after a downturn in his finances forced him to sell off most of his private zoo. Many of the peoples of New Guinea (there are over a thousand societies on the island, each with its own language) have made cassowaries a part of their culture in one way or another. Some keep them as semi-domesticated poultry, some hunt them for ritualistic sacrifice. One group, the Karam, who live in the mountains in north-central Papua New Guinea, consider cassowaries (kobity in their language) a special group, distinct from other birds. Traditionally, the Karam discouraged cassowary hunting; those who killed cassowaries had to speak a sort of parallel, euphemistic language, and could not raise or go near crops for a month after killing the bird.
“Cassowary” is an Anglicization of the Malay name for these birds, “kasuari”; the scientific name for the southern cassowary, “Casuarius casuarius” is a Latinization of the same word. The southern cassowary is called the equivalent of “helmeted cassowary” in many other European languages, due to its especially large casque. As I mentioned, many languages are spoken in the southern cassowary’s range; this is probably the most-named bird I’ve featured since the turkey.
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