Crested caracara (Ramphastos aurantius)
Notes: Seemed to be observing me. Noted it noting me on a sort of list.

Cinereous owl (Erythrorhynchos magnificens)
Notes: Seen at 1:32 PM. Did not give a hoot.

Magellanic diving petrel (Acrocephalus macronyx)
Notes: Patagonian species. Reverse migration?

Slaty-mantled goshawk (Fytchii desmaresti)
Notes: Observed swimming in circles at the bottom of the lake. Reverse flight pattern?

Robust reticulated woodpecker (Glaucescens corvus)
Notes: Was seen pecking Medusa worms out of petrified wood.

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Halmahera swiftlet (Auritus chacuru)
Note: Sonic boom was audible, so bird was within +/- 1 mile.

Scaly-throated honeyguide (Albeola dactylatra)
Note: Did not guide me to honey. Possibly a misidentified scaly-throated misguide.

Spotted thick-knee (Aberti leptotila)
Note: I knew it by the bones strewn in its wake.

Somber greenbul (Petroica goiavie)
Note: In summer plumage, therefore a cheerful greenbul.

White-headed mousebird (Platyrostris badius)
Note: This just squeaked in at the end of the day.

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Long-billed dowitcher (Autumnalis cinnamominus)
Note: Seen at sunset, so it was unable to sing its song of servitude. I did notice two thrills attending it, though.

Shelley’s francolin (Caesia ptilinopus)
Note: Did not see the francolin, but saw Shelley.

Spot-throated flameback (Pictus crecca)
Note: Extinguished.

Tow-headed lesser bobolink (Bairdii exulans)
Note: Smelled only.

Yellow-spotted barbet (Turnix Palmerstoni)
Note: 10.5 individuals seen in small flock. Winter morph, meaning yellow spots are present but birds will not be barbets until April.

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“I’d make a terrible vampire, really,” said Aloysius, backing away. “I’d suck at it.”

“That’s the idea,” said Graf von Reißzähne as he approached, fangs bared.

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Lazily it droops
Nostrils over sagging mask
Each breath a pestilence
How surprised they will be
When it is time for intubation
And they discover the nose
Is connected to the lungs

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Swanson continued to unpack the long case on his hotel bed, setting out an increasing array of elaborate telescopic sights and mounting brackets.

MacCauley held out a slip of paper. “This is your target,” he said.

“You’re sure it’s accurate?” Swanson didn’t look up,continuing his assembly. Metal clicked against metal, tubes locking solidly into frames.

“This is where Young left them, precisely. I got it from my cousin who works as a secretary at the AWC.”

“Excellent.” Swanson handed over the briefcase of cash he’d prepared earlier. “Check it if you want, it’s all there in Aussie hundreds.”

MacCauley handed over the paper, which Swanson greedily read. It was a latitude and longitude, as well as a grainy image of a small parrot amid some desert grass.

“Now we’ll see who has the best life list at the ornithologist club,” he said, hefting his telescope. “The critically endangered night parrot is about to be mine.”

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“Katarina,” Xanthor said, pointing at his bird. “You know what to do.”

“Ha! The bird does nothing,” shouted Strasser. “You said so your–”

He was interrupted by a tsunami of feathers, flapping and diving and pecking at his face. Strasser, crying out in shock, let his firebolt fly into the roof as he struggled to get the bird out of his face–an opponent too close and too fast for a spell.

Xanthor hauled himself to his feet, bracing himself on a table. He muttered a spell of warding before whistling Katarina to him. As the bird arced across the room, the old wizard let loose a powerful lance of arcane energy that sliced through his distracted rival like a scalpel.

“The bird has no magic,” Xanthor said, breathing heavily. “But that doesn’t mean my friend will do nothing.”

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Xanthor was not just any old hedge-wizard with cantrips and palmistry. No, he was a real war mage who had seen fire and death with the Imperial and Royal Magic Corps, and in his retirement was content to live simply in his hometown of Edelschloss. Keeping to himself and his experiments, he occasionally deigned to do some service at the request of the burgermeister but usually just strolled around town.

Everywhere he went, though, Xanthor had his bird on his shoulder. A large pigeon or dove, pure white, it was forever perched on the shoulder of the old army dress robes Xanthor wore. And as much excitement and speculation occasionally swirled around the old mage, it was as nothing compared to the gossip about his bird.

The butcher insisted it was an infernal familiar, a demon in animal form like the one that had been unleashed upon the czarists at the Battle of Mumnifia Pass. Any time he wanted, the claim went, Xanthor could unleash a wave of destruction from the beast that could level Edelschloss to the ground.

On the other hand, the baker and his good friend the miller held that the dove was Xanthor’s wife, transfigured for some transgression and kept close at hand. It was true he had mentioned a wife from time to time, and no one had seen her, wasn’t it?

Siskel, the railway guard and auxiliary constable, spoke for many others when he described the bird as an enchanted weapon of war, an ordinary messenger pigeon that had been ensorsceled to be able to speak and cast spells. If ever the need arose, it could serve as Xanthor’s personal Imperial and Royal Flying Corps, bombarding enemies with spells from the safety of the sky.

No one, from the washerwoman who occasionally handled Xanthor’s toughest stains to the burgermeister himself, suspected the truth.

The bird, Katarina, was a simple pet whose company amused the old man.

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“Mississippi A&M is the largest, richest, most prestigious school in the state,” said CJ.

“And by that, of course, she means we have the best football team that’s able to beat Alabama almost 10% of the time,” Tadlow broke in.

“Yes,” CJ said. “Now, all the colleges and universities in Mississippi are overseen by a statewide Board of Directors. The BOD was put in place back in the segregation days to keep everyone in line, and it does pretty much the same thing today. But what they did with President Brice was different.”

“They fired the old president without cause,” Tadlow said. “At-will employment state and all that.”

“Then they hired Brice to replace him. He doesn’t have a doctorate, has never headed a major university, and is the immediate former president of the state Board of Directors for Colleges and Universities. Oh, and he was also the person they put in charge of finding a new president, meaning he took a $100,000 salary to hire himself.”

I whistled. “Damn. That’s the sort of corruption you don’t see much anymore. It’s almost impressive in its brazenness.”

“And that was before all this got started,” CJ continued. “They wanted someone in their pocket to oversee a calm period, reassure our big racist donors, and spend the football team to glory. Instead, we have someone incompetent at the helm during the worst crisis A&M has faced since integration.

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The symptoms of anxiety
Are the same as the
Symptoms of the virus

When I think of the fall
Student superspreaders
In enclosed spaces

I feel a sudden rush
Of the same symptoms
They will feel

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