In late July and August, something remarkable happens in the air above Lake Murray, South Carolina. Around sunset, hundreds of thousands of purple martins come streaming towards the center of the lake from every direction, swirling together in a massive flock that darkens the sky. After an hour of wheeling and singing they settle down on a small island.
For the past 25 years, Lake Murray has boasted the largest purple martin roost in the United States. The birds gather there in the hundreds of thousands before beginning their epic migration to South America. Every year hundreds of boats full of purple martin admirers crowd the waters around the island. Every year 500,000 birds put on a breathtaking aerial performance.
But not this year.
This year, the boats went out as usual. But the birds didn’t show up.
And so Skunk Bear (NPR’s science tumblr) has gone mobile in search of the missing martins. We – that’s photojournalist Maggie Starbard and science reporter Adam Cole – have vowed not to return to HQ until we’ve located the errant flock … or until Tuesday morning. Whichever comes first.
We’re starting our search where the birds were last seen: in American backyards. Purple martins on the east coast rely entirely on human-built dwellings to breed, and thousands of humans have taken it upon themselves to provide these nesting colonies. We’re hoping this slightly crazy fellowship of purple martin “landlords” (that’s what they call themselves) can point us in the right direction.
Maybe we’ll find out where the birds went. Maybe we’ll find out why they are so dependent on humans. And maybe we’ll find out why all these people are so invested in their survival. Stay tuned.
The Borowitz Report: Congress Blocks Obama’s Attempt to Order New Office Supplies
The House panel that mandated the office-supply freeze denied that it was politically motivated, citing “budgetary concerns.” “It’s time President Obama learned a tough lesson,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. “Being President does not entitle you to a spending spree at Staples.”
Read more: http://nyr.kr/1jZvseS
Photograph by Pete Souza/The White House.
I can do everything at ninety that I could at fifty, which shows just how pathetic I was at fifty.
Architect Philip Johnson, as quoted by Austin art philanthropist Michael Klein during Klein’s address to the University of Texas School of Architecture graduates. Read the whole, rather remarkable speech here.
"I’m a ghost". That’s Tom Goldman under that sheet, taping a report for our newscast desk about Brazil’s victory over Chile. Normally, our stories are recorded in pristine radio studios where you really can hear a pin drop. But out here on the road, you improvise. In this case, it’s a sheet over his head to keep his voice from echoing off the walls. You never know we do this … but if we didn’t, you probably would ask yourself, "why does this news report sound so funny?"
Uncovering the Rock Churches of Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia
Nine hundred years ago, workers set out to construct a new holy city in the northern highlands of Ethiopia. Instead of building from the ground up, they began chiseling down into the red volcanic rock. Believed to be built with the assistance of angels working through the night, the 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were carved into giant blocks of sandstone and connected through a series of tunnels, ceremonial passageways, drainage ditches and caves.
Today, Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s most holy cities and carries the nickname of “New Jerusalem.” It has been a pilgrimage site for Christians for centuries and continues to be a destination for worship and daily devotion for the priests, monks and orthodox Christians who comprise the town’s population. Tourists from around the world now also trek to Lalibela to marvel at its stunning architectural accomplishments. Though all of the original churches are still in active use, many of the structures are considered to be in critical condition as a result of water damage and seismic activity. UNESCO declared Lalibela a world-heritage site in 1978 and has organized support to restore the monuments. A number of the churches are now protected under temporary light-weight shelters.
Late Night programmers are always playing the wrong country singer named Paisley. For the record, this is the one.
“We’re going to represent Austin in the worst way we can. Every time we get on stage, we tell ‘em we’re from Austin, and they’re afraid.
We the new George Bush!”
The Upper, Upper, Upper West Side
Upper West Side, which began construction this month, is a Canadian building company’s second New York City-themed development in Barrie, Ontario: http://nyr.kr/1qABFR0
“Many features of today’s Upper West Side are, unfortunately, impossible to replicate. In Barrie, one of the few pizza options is called Boston Pizza; for bagels, there’s either Tim Hortons or the Great Canadian Bagel.”
Photograph of Barrie’s Upper West Side, at top, by Pratt Homes.
Whale Tagging: Handstyles on a fresh canvas in Trout River, NL
Before the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) scientists came to cut the beached blue whale into pieces, somebody tried their hand and knife at personal expression. (May 1, 2014)Contributed by Annie McEwen