It does have a new painting by David Allen Sibley to accompany his column "I.D. Toolkit," wonderful photos of breeding flamingos, and portraits of Black-backed Woodpeckers, Peregrine Falcons, Sandhill Cranes, and other great birds.
The issue is at the printer, I am at home, and it is snowing, snowing to beat the band. Work has been called off, schools closed. Plows have rolled up and down the street several times, and I am achy from shoveling.
The timing of the storm is ironic, or perfect, since it has come exactly one year after another big storm blanketed the Midwest. That storm, a carbon copy of this year's, dumped about a foot of snow, slowed traffic, closed offices and schools, and very nearly made me miss the trip of a lifetime: a birding trip to East Africa, a trip I describe in the February issue.
I flew from Chicago to Washington, DC, to Amsterdam to Uganda the day before. If the snow had fallen a day earlier, or if my departure date had been the next day, my life list today would be 307 birds shorter and I would have had shoveling to do.
As it turned out, I didn't even learn about the storm until days later, when my guides Hassan Mutebi and Johnnie Kamugisha and I reached Uganda's giant Queen Elizabeth National Park (one of Uganda's Important Bird Areas), and I got the chance to check e-mail at the magnificent Mweya Safari Lodge.
That's where I was when I made the acquaintance of the toothy fellow pictured above. I was in a deck chair on a porch overlooking Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains, studying tinkerbirds in my field guide. He rumbled over the crest of the hillside in front of me, dropped to his knees a step or two away, and started shearing off great mouthfuls of grass. And grunting.
I nearly jumped out of my skin. Then I took his picture. And this one, of a Pied Wagtail: