Special Education Today Newsletter 3(9)
Are you ready for more of the same old same old?
Welcome to Special Education Today, Volume 3, Issue 9. You are reading the weekly newsletter that captures recent writings I have posted at SET and a little bit of other drivel. And, yes, we are already more than 15% of the way through the third year of the project.
Aqui tenemos materia usual. There’s the table of recent posts, some notes about the status of SET, and a few comments (that will provide context for the following photo).
Table of contents
Just in case you missed some of the posts from the last week, or you want to go back to them, here’s a listing:
Aphorisms, sayings, & such #3: Is science out of our reach?
Friday photos #20-13: Joanna Williams: Is she someone who knows something about the science of reading?
The special ed beat: August 2023: What's been happening recently?
Aphorisms, sayings, and such: #4: Is going scientific easy?
For those who want a little look ahead in the publication schedule: Watch for future posts in the aphorism series as well as a reminder about the birthday of an eminent special educator. Those are two of the posts forthcoming this week.
SET status update
If you made it this far into the newsletter, you deserve to know that this is 698th post for SET. Those of you who have been subscribers since the get-go (Joel M., Ed P., Ed M., Lysandra, C., Clay K., Linda L., Julie B., Jane B., Lauren K., Dan H., Mike G., Jim K., and many others) have seen a lot of drivel pass through your mailboxes. Thanks for your tolerance and forbearance.
SET still hasn’t quite passed the 600-subscribers mark yet. It’s close. It’ll help if you folks who are reading SET pass along links to others with whom your correspond about special education, disabilities, family issues, research, and more. Speaking of such, here’s a flash of the electrons (my substitute for an in-person tip of the cap) to Jenn C.; thanks for alerting your network of NYC compatriots!
Pretty much every fall around this season for the past 40 years, I’ve gone “up on the mountain” for a few-several days to watch for migrating hawks. The photo earlier in this newsletter shows the view to the north-northeast over a ridge where hawks sometimes appear as they migrate from farther northern climate areas in North America toward their wintering grounds in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
“The mountain” was a referent used in my mother’s family to refer to Afton Mountain, an area also known as “Rockfish Gap”—it overlooks (to the south east) the valley of the Rockfish River—as well as other areas in the neighborhood (maybe even “Big Meadows?). Afton is the location of one of the passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains that separate the piedmont and tidewater sections of Virginia from the Shenandoah Valley and the more substantial ranges of the Appalachian range that are farther west. Here’s a map of the local area (approximate geo coordinates: N 38° 1' 46", W -78° 51' 31").
I shot the earlier photo from a spot at the very bottom left of this map. Pretty much due east (to the right in the earlier photo), one can see quite far toward Charlottesville—past Greenwood on the right of the map. Just to the left in the photo there is the southern terminus of “Skyline Drive,” which marks the “bottom” of Shenandoah National Park. Also, just a couple of miles down the mountain to the right (pretty close to the circle indicating Route 600 at the bottom-center of the map) is the location of the abode of Jeanmarie B. and Jim K.; they have stunning views of the Rockfish Valley from their porch.
The point of all this location info is to orient folks to Hawk Gawking. I go here, as noted, to watch hawks migrate. The birds initially appear as specs when one’s using powerful binoculars, soaring above the mountains. Sometimes, as they fly overhead, they become “naked-eye birds” and the views can be spectacular.
The birds use the thermal currents that occur along the mountains to gain altitude. When they catch a thermal, they will circle in it, flapping their wings infrequently and simply spiraling higher with the uplift. When many birds are riding up the same thermal, the formation is called a “kettle.”
When the upper birds in a kettle have gained sufficient altitude, they will leave that uplifting elevator and soar southwards. This provides a good time to count them, as they are often in a narrow line, no longer the swirling mass of the kettle.
As they soar south, they lose altitude, so they then find another thermal and ride the rise again. It’s a pretty efficient means of migration, honed by the species and the environment in which they live over a very long time.
Around this time of fall, the migration will feature relatively few birds. Sunday 27 August 2023 there were a total of 29 birds that crossed the divide and were, therefore, counted as migrants. However, in a couple of weeks, that number will (excuse me) soar upward.
Thousands of birds will cross the gap each day. The most numerous species will be Broad-winged Hawks, but there will also be Osprey, Bald Eagles, Harriers (I think the name just changed), and even Mississippi Kites, which are pretty rare (there have been quite a few already this year, though). It’s pretty exciting to attend when the big birders are training their spotting scopes on different parts of the sky and clicking their hand counters (just like those we SET folks use to count behaviors) pretty much as fast as they can move their fingers.
22 September 2022, there were 9334 birds
19 September 2021, there were 7914 birds
21 September 2021, there were 7469 birds
23 September 2021, there were 8039 birds
15 September 2020, there were 6865 birds
19 September 2020, there were 9197 birds
26 September 2018, there were 10431 birds
18 September 2011, there were 10107 birds
Yes, I cherry picked those data; I found the big days in recent years. I don’t think that either of the last two entries in my catalog here is the record day, though. I think that buried somewhere back in the data (1986?) there is a 12000 or 14000 day; I missed being on the mountain for that day...sigh. Back in time before the counts began and even before humans destroyed so much habitat for the birds, I have to bet the number of migrants was way greater.
Interested readers can learn more about the local watch site, Hawkfish Gap, or about other sites throughout North American courtesy of the Hawk Migration Association of North America. If there’s a site near you, grab some binoculars, a lunch, a folding chair, and spend a few hours gawking. You’ll likely meet some interesting people who wear funny hats, pack serious glasses, and can explain a lot about local conditions. (If you want to go with me to Afton, send me a note via back channels and we’ll see our well our schedules mesh.)
And while we are watching, please remember to take care of yourselves (e.g., wear those seatbelts and probably some warm clothing, too), take care of others, and teach those children well.
SET Editor guy
SET should not be confused with a product with the product that uses the same name and is published by the Council for Exceptional Children. SET predated CEC’s publication by decades. Despite my appreciation for CEC, this product is not designed to promote that organization.