Category: Category #2

Turds, Trash, and Tire Tracks: The Car-Camping Pendulum Swings Again

By Bambam
1925 Ford Model T touring car (Wikipedia).

A century ago, our national forests had a problem. Behind the wheels of their Ford Model T’s and other cars, Americans re-discovered camping. Soon over-used favorite camping areas were littered with trash, human waste, multple firepits, unauthorized roads, and all the other bad effects.

The US Forest Service was fifteen years old and trying to get a handle on “scientific” forest management, firefighting, and grazing management. It was part of the Department of Agriculture. (“We’re tree-farmers,” an old-school district ranger once told me.)

Recreation management was not on their to-do list. That was the National Park Service’s job—different agency, different department—the Interior Department. 

Davenport Campground, 1920s, San Isabel National Forest,
southern Colorado, designed by Arthur Carhart as one
of the first automobile campgrounds.

The Model-T generation changed all that, driving and camping everyplace instead of taking the train and shuttling to a big resort hotel like the Old Faithful Inn.

By the early 1920s the Forest Service hired landscape architect (and wilderness advocate) Arthur Carhart to figure how to manage these automobile recreationists.

For more on Carhart’s influence on southern Colorado, start here: “Looking for Squirrel Creek Lodge, Part 1.”

The Forest Service built campgrounds up through the 1960s and 1970s, but the 1980s — the Reagan years — saw the pendulum swing the other. A couple of Carhart’s recreational areas near me were closed in the early 1980s “due to lack of funding for maintenance.” In the 1980s and 1990s, local Forest Service managers sang the praises of “dispersed camping.” 

(But Daveport Campground, pictured above, was re-built in the early 2000s to re-create its 1920s appearance. Retro-camping with federal dollars — who knew?)

Everything Old Is New Again, Including Turds and Trash

Some people blame the COVID pandemic. I don’t know, but suddenly car-camping (and hiking) is really popular. Some headlines:

“Nature ‘more important than ever during lockdown'”

More than 40% of people say nature, wildlife and visiting local green spaces have been even more important to their wellbeing since the coronavirus restrictions began.

“Colorado public land managers rely on education, then enforcement to deal with a crush of long-term campers”

Closing heavily used campsites is public lands “triage” as Forest Service and local officials struggle to protect natural resources from a growing wave of backcountry campers and explorers this summer.

Consultants present potential solutions to mitigate overcrowding issues at Quandary Peak and nearby trailheads

As events were canceled last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, other activities — like hiking Quandary Peak, McCullough Gulch and Blue Lakes trails — skyrocketed in popularity. The influx of visitors to these areas last summer caused a barrage of issues like speeding, congestion, lack of parking and safety concerns

“Reservations will be required for Brainard Lake, Mount Evans beginning in June”

Some areas of Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests that allowed “dispersed” camping will be converted to day-use only

“Which Public Lands Are Right for You?”

Your bucket list should go beyond national parks. This decision tree will help you find lesser known locations with half the crowds. [Also more Instagrammable.—CSC]

Even if it is true that headliner national parks (like Great Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon) saw fewer visitors due to COVID-related shut-downs, camping on close-in public lands has exploded.  Here in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park visitation is up 44 percent over ten years, and the NPS wants a reservation system permanently. Not everyone likes that idea.

Suddenly, that loosely managed “dispersed camping” is being managed, heavily. There is a new term: “designated dispersed.”

 
“Managed Designated Dispersed Camping Begins on South Platte Ranger District

Rocky Mountain Recreation will begin managing 99 designated dispersed camp sites on the South Platte Ranger District portion of Rampart Range Road starting Friday, May 21. Each campsite is numbered, and designated parking areas are marked. Thirty of the campsites are available for reservation through recreation.gov and 69 sites are first come, first serve. Campers will be issued a tag to hang in their vehicle. Reserved sites will have a “Reservation” card posted at the campsite with the name of the visitor.

 On the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, the popular Rampart Range dispersed camping area near Woodland Park now has a complicated map. (Facebook link here.)

In the long run, maybe the USFS just needs more developed campsites, with regular maintenance, campground hosts, the whole business — or else a concessionaire to run them.

Death of a Wildlife Protector

By Bambam

 

I started donating at the “get a logo ball cap” level.

In 2018 I went with some other Backcountry Hunters & Anglers volunteers to clean up a cartel-run marijuana grow on national forest land in southern Colorado.

Although the growing crew had been arrested and the plants pulled up and piled. there was a lot of non-biodegradable trash to be collected for later helicopter pickup: a mile of plastic irrigating pipe, soggy sleeping bags, wire, chemical containers, food trash, etc.

We hiked in escorted by two Forest Service law-enforcement rangers armed with pistols and a AR-15 rifle. They scouted ahead to see if anyone had snuck back in (nope), and then we went to work. I thought at the time that with all the public-lands volunteer work I have done since Boy Scout days, this was first time that I had had an armed escort.

Central Africa, of course, is a different story. Armed escorts are a fact of life.

Rory Young (Chengeta Wildlife)

I learned about Chengeta Wildlife from Alan Bunn of African Expeditions magazine, which tracks a lot of poaching issues.

Unlike some well-known groups fighting poaching (mainly for the rapacious Chinese market) in East Afica, Cengeta works in central and western Africa — in nations such as the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

Chengeta trains and equips anti-poaching rangers while also conducting “Education and outreach to ensure that the current generation and the next are aware of the need to conserve wildlife and protected areas” and attempting to create “Social pressure to deter and prevent wildlife crime: Working through traditional and religious leaders to positively influence local behavior..”

Its co-founder, Rory Young, was born in Zambia to Irish parents. 

On April 26th, Young was with two Spanish documentary filmmakers, Roberto Fraile and David Beriain, working on a film about anti-poaching efforts in Burkina Faso, when they and their escort were attacked by fighters from Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, yet another Muslim jihadi group. All three were killed.

According to Chengeta’ Wildlife’s statement,

Rory was leading a wildlife protection patrol in Arly National Park, Burkina Faso on 26th April 2021 when they were attacked by terrorists, which resulted in his death and that of two Spanish journalists who were capturing his efforts to protect precious wildlife. 

The Spanish government flew their bodies back to Madrid. Here is video of their arrival at the Torrejón  Air Base. The cooperante irlandés would be Young.

The work will go on. Meanwhile, you can donate to a separate fund for help Young’s wife and children. I did. I wouldn’t feel right about wearing the cap unless I had.

If Looks Could Kill . . .

By Bambam

 . . . then these tom turkeys would be dead, because they are engaged in a hostile stare-down with their own reflections. Angry gobbling was heard.

Some mule deer in the background. Southern Colorado foothills life, at some friends’ house.

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Richard Nelson

By Bambam

Earlier Posts:(1) Barry Lopez (2) Pentti Linkola 

I am fudging this one just a little. The anthropologist Richard Nelson (b. 1941) actually died in November 2019, but I did not hear about it until January 2020, when an archaeologist friend sent me a link to a number of news items in his field.

Reading email on my laptop in some coffeehouse in Colorado Springs, I was skimming the news items when I read of Nelson’s passing —  “having asked that he spend his final minutes, after being taken off of life support, listening to the recorded sound of ravens.”

Richard Nelson recording a gray jay, up close.
(Liz McKenzie for the Rasmuson Foundation).

The type got all blurry after that, and I don’t remember any of the rest.

I did not know him, never heard him speak. His radio program, Encounters, was not on any station around here to my knowledge, but you can get samples online, such as here.

The Alaska-based Rasmuson Foundation  has a good page about Nelson.

I knew him through books: he wrote a number of them, first in a more anthropological vein, such as Hunters of the Northern Forests

As his Wikipedia page puts it, “[he] moved from anthropological studies to a more literary style” with Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest.

That was the book that pulled me in, with bits such as the Koyukon people telling him that it was impolite to point at a mountain. (The Koyukon speak a related language to Navajo and Apache; evidently they are the ones who said, “Fine, you go south. We like it here.”)

The video above is based on that book. It is one of a series that you can find on YouTube.

He also wrote Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America, among others, with its often-quoted statements that ““When it comes to deer, wildness is the greatest truth. And tameness is a tender, innocent lie.” 

A reviewer on Goodreads wrote, “It’s a really interesting look at people’s relationships with deer from all angles (our spiritual and ecological connections with wildlife, the dilemma of controlling overabundant deer, trophy hunting, hunting deer for venison, the anti-hunting movement, etc.).”

I remember the passage about hunting blacktail deer in the coastal Alaska forest with his Border collie Keta:

Now . . . rather than staying close, Keta sidles off and lifts her nose as if there’s a faint musk drifting in the breeze. She comes reluctantly when I gesture toward my heel. Taking her cue, I pause and watch ahead, then move when a sigh of wind in the trees covers the sound of our footsteps. Luckily, the ridge is well drained and densely carpeted in sphagnum moss, so it’s fairly quiet going.

Keta’s behavior telegraphs the scent’s increasing strength: she moves forward, catches herself and looks back, falls in beside me, then shunts away to my left or right like someone pacing at a line she’s been warned not to cross. She probes her nose into the breeze, occasionally reaching to the side for a stronger ribbon of scent. She hesitates and stares intently, aware that something is nearby but unable to pick it out. And most telling of all: she leans back and anxiously lifts a forepaw, possessed by her desire to charge off but yielding to the discipline she’s learned, as if an inner voice were ordering her to wait.

By this time I’m convinced it must be a deer. If it were a bear, Keta would refuse to keep still and she’d woof suspiciously, deep in her throat. I edge along, furtive and stalking, as if I’d already seen the animal. At one point I even try sniffing the air, but for me there’s not a hint of smell. It’s strange, being completely numb to a signal that’s as obvious to Keta as walking into a cloud of smoke. I stop for several minutes to study the ravel of shrubs and trees and openings ahead. But despite Keta’s certainty, the place looks vacant to me.

And that passage concludes,

No scientist, no shaman, no stalker, no sentimentalist will ever understand the deer . . . and for this I am truly grateful. I am possessed by a powerful curiosity about this animal, but what I desire most is to experience and acclaim its mysteries. In our explorations of scientific and practical information about deer, we should always keep in mind what the elders and philosophers teach: that while knowledge dispels some mysteries, it deepens others.

I just wish someone had kidnapped him from the hospital to let him spend his last days with friends on that island, beneath the open sky, hearing real ravens, letting his spirit float free.

What’s Wrong with Arbor Day?

By Bambam

Born in southern Colorado, I spent much of my childhood in South Dakota, living where the Black Hills met the prairie. When it came to trees, the ethos was Trees Are Good — Absence of Trees is Bad

One Arbor Day we pupils at Canyon Lake Elementary School in Rapid City were marched out on the front lawn to watch a tree-planting. As best I can tell from Google Maps, that tree is still there, although its top looks a little drought-damaged.

Two hours south of Rapid City is Chadron, Nebraska, gateway to the Nebraska National Forest, “the largest hand-planted forest in the U.S.” Not-coincidentally, the first Arbor Day in America was held in Nebraska and marked by massive tree-plantings throughout that state.

President Theodore Roosevelt thought that Arbor Day was a splendid idea and issued a national proclamation to that effect in 1907.

Trees Are Good, right? Or as the bumper sticker has it, “Trees Are The Answer.

Yet even in Nebraska, not everyone thinks so.

Chris Helzer, who is the Nature Conservancy’s director of science in Nebraska, speaks out against the Trees Are Good attitude beyond Arbor Day, when it affects prairie ecologies, in a blog post titled “The Darker Side of Tree Planting in the Great Plains.”

Euro-American cultural attitudes, once again, collided with ecological realities, he writes,

In 1907, a combination of those [western Nebraska] tree plantations was designated as the Nebraska National Forest, something many Nebraskans were and are proud of.  I’ve always seen that whole process as a kind of sad appeal for respect (‘See, we DO have forests in Nebraska!’)  It’s like an accomplished and popular actor, musician, and philanthropist feeling inferior their whole life because they’re not good at basketball – and repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) trying out for teams. . . .

We have a lot of work to do if we’re going to get the public to support prairie conservation. Tree planting isn’t the problem, and neither are the people and organizations who advocate for it. Trees are very nice. Some of my best friends have trees.

The problem is that tree planting is linked to an unsavory and unfortunate legacy in the Great Plains that still colors perceptions today. We need to separate the reasonable practice of planting a tree for shade, shelter, or fruit from the concept that white Europeans have a God-given right and duty to convert barren prairie wastelands into neat rows of corn and trees. I’m sure most people aren’t consciously making that connection as they dig a hole for their new apple tree seedling, but that doesn’t mean the cultural influence isn’t lurking in the background.

He makes a good argument: healthy prairie ecosystems are wonderfully complex, and yes, they do store CO2, if that is on your mind. We could let prairie be prairie without “improving” it  — although even Helzer admits that shelterbelts are OK around farmsteads.

Summit County Skier Sets Vertical Ski-Mountaineering Record & Where to Get Colorado News

By Bambam
Grace Staberg, left, of Summit County, skins uphill with Nikki LaRochelle on Copper Mountain, Tuesday morning, April 27, 2021, near Frisco. (Hugh Carey, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Earlier this week, Grace Staberg of Summit County, Colorado, set a women’s American record for climbing 56,153 vertical feet on skis in 24 hours, reports the Colorado Sun.

Starting at 9 a.m. Monday, the ski mountaineering superstar and 2020 graduate of Summit County High School skied up and down Copper Mountain more than 21 times. Paced by a team of friends  — a sort of Who’s Who of Colorado ski athletes — she climbed from Copper’s Center Village to the top of the Storm King lift at 12,441 feet.

I am impressed. But at that age you do have energy. I can remember my modest accomplishment of climbing Mount Hood (the easy way, up from Timberline Lodge) after tripping on LSD all the previous night, getting only a nap in the back of someone’s car as we drove from Portland. I was 20. It seemed normal.

The Colorado Sun — not to be confused with the Colorado Springs Sun, a daily newspaper published 1947–1986 — is a “journalist-owned” news website. With the Rocky Mountain News gone, the Denver Post a shadow of what it used to be, etc. etc. etc., it’s one of the few choices left for statewide coverage. 

For $5/month, the basic level, you get a daily Colorado news digest.  I do it. It’s not astounding — pretty much the usual stories about the usual suspects from the usual MSM viewpoint. But you can counterbalance that with Complete Colorado, a statewide news-aggregation site with a crankier, small-l libertarian bent.

Who Needs Bigfoot? We Have Mystery Beasts

By Bambam

 I know what they are, but where did they come from? 

First, an orange cat. He looks a lot like Charlie, a neighbor’s cat who frequently visited people staying in the guest cabin in the early teens. Then he vanished, as semi-feral cats often do. But now there is another orange cat, presumably the source of cat tracks seen on snowy mornings.

Then this yellow dog has turned up a few times this spring on a scout camera near the house. We don’t recognize him — and M. is the sort of person who walks a lot and knows the local dogs better than she knows their owners. But I can’t believe he is living on his own.

Another camera, which was set to video, picked up some visiting black dogs — and then this, which definitely is not a dog.

That was on March 31st, between snowstorms. Obviously a pig. M reminded me that certain neighbors, who keep making inept experiments at homesteading, had two piglets last summer — once or twice they came visiting and then trotted home. 

One piglet was black, she said. I don’t remember. But this one does not look like it’s trotting home. In fact, it is moving in the opposite direction in a determined manner.

I have not picked it up again on a camera since then. Is it running free? Maybe there will be a good acorn crop this year, but not for six months, so root, hog, or die.

Just something else to watch out for. Like stray tortoises.

Look, Ma, a Titmouse!

By Bambam
Juniper titmouse (Baeolophus ridgwayi) Cornell Univ.

The Juniper Titmouse is sort of the ultimate Little Gray Bird (LGB), although I suppose that Dark-Eyed Juncos would contest that ranking. (And here I go capitalizing bird names like some kind of birding writer, which I am not.)

M. and I have been loyal citizen-scientists for Cornell University’s Project Feeder Watch since shortly after we moved up here, first sending in paper forms and now doing it online.

The computer generates a group of likely southern Colorado birds, and of course you can add something that is not on the list.

They don’t really migrate. We live in the pale purple area—
“scarce,” whereas the dark area is simply “year-round.”

Every year, grouped with the Mountain Chickadee and the Black-Capped Chickadee is the Juniper Titmouse. What’s that?

Until on March 12 when I looked by the lower sunflower-seed feeder, at the edge of a patch of Gambel oak, juniper, and piñon pine, and there was this triangle-headed LGB. A titmouse, clearly! And it has shown up occasionally since then.

A titmouse “cool fact”: 

Like many other members of the chickadee family Juniper Titmice don’t migrate and instead stick out harsh winters on their breeding grounds. One of the ways they survive the cold, virtually insect-free season is by storing seeds in crevices of trees or other places to eat later.

But the name! While “mouse,” the small rodent, comes from the Proto-Indo-European *mus,” meaning mouse, the small rodent, the “mouse” in titmouse has another ancient root, from “Proto-Germanic *maison (source also of Dutch mees, German meise), from adj. *maisa- “little, tiny.”

 As for “tit,” the Online Etymological Dictionary says this:

1540s, a word used for any small animal or object (as in compound forms such as titmouse, tomtit, etc.); also used of small horses. Similar words in related senses are found in Scandinavian (Icelandic tittr, Norwegian tita “a little bird”), but the connection and origin are obscure; perhaps, as OED suggests, the word is merely suggestive of something small. Used figuratively of persons after 1734, but earlier for “a girl or young woman” (1590s), often in deprecatory sense of “a hussy, minx.”

The British would call all the chickadees “tits” as a generic term. North Americans generally don’t.

If you run into anyone named Titmouse (it happens), be sure to say it “TIT-mus.”

Since I don’t live on the Pacific coast, I never see boobies.

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Pentti Linkola

By Bambam

Of the three writers I am discussing (Barry Lopez was the first), the deep ecologist Penti Linkola (1932–2020) is the least cuddly. In fact, he was pretty crusty. One Finnish academic described his writing as “a very Finnish and dark version of ‘an inconvenient truth'” (from the title of Al Gore’s environmental book).

Linkola wrote in Finnish, and the only work translated into English that I have seen is a collection of essays, Can Life Prevail? published by Arktos Media and available as a printed book, ebook, or audiobook.

In American terms, you might find in him Henry David Thoreau’s skepticism about “progress,” Ed Abbey’s distrust of authority and “the experts,” and  Wendell Berry’s valuing of small-scale sustainable farming and traditional life style — plus a healthy dose of your favorite author of After the Big Collapse distopian novels.

And with Rachel Carson’s eye for scientific observation and making connections.

Linkola made his living as an inshore fisherman from 1959 to 1995 — it is hard to imagine him taking orders from any boss. His father and his grandfather were both university administrators; he studied biology and worked as a research ornithologist for a time. He started a preservation organization that functions something like The Nature Conservancy. 

So, for example, his observations about the decline of bird populations in his lifetime — favoring those birds such as crows and jays that thrive in human-altered landscapes versus those that do not — or about the damage of invasive species or industrial logging are based in science and on personal observation.

In his preface, he condemns his fellow Finns’ version of progress: “Finland is switching to the most horrid forms of market economy, to an uncritical worship of technology, to automation and media vapidity; with information technology pervading all human exchanges” (20). 

He refers to present-day circumstances as “Suicidal Society.”

He jumps from how bureaucratic hygiene regulations damaged small fisherman like himself, who could not afford and did not want big seagoing boats with million-euro ice machines on board, and likewise damage small grocers, butchers, etc. to arguing that an ultra-clean home environment produces people with poor immune systems (in which he is far from alone).

I myself tend to dismiss all nutritional controversies — surrounding meat, vegetables, salt, butter, sugar — with one simple statement: if you don’t eat, you die, and if you eat, you survive. It is enough to clarify that objects that harm teeth and internal organs, such as iron nails and glass fragments, should be avoided (25–26).

But there is one thing about Linkola that spooks mainstream environmentalists  — his politics.

He spent his life in Finland’s parliamentary democracy, a center-left Scandinavian welfare state. He rejected it. 

Democracy, to Linkola, was a “suicidal” form of government, because people will always vote for the leader who promises more free stuff, “bread and circuses, regardless of the cost and consequences” (154). He adhered to principles of deep ecology:

There is nothing above the requirements of the continuity of life: all other interests fall below it. As the deep ecologist emphasises those factors beneficial to the preservation and continuation of life, his arguments will always be above all others. . . . What the deep ecologist loves is the whole. Therein lies the greatest beauty, wealth, and love. The deep ecologist does not understand the Christian-Humanist love of man, which even at its best only extends to a nation or mankind: this he sees as a form of inbreeding, egotism, masturbation (165).

Linkola was not the Unabomber. He admits that he has never dared to do more than speak, write, and peacefully demonstate. Yet he wrote, “The crippling human cover spread over the living layer of the Earth must forcibly be made lighter: breathing holes must be punctured in this blanket and the ecological footprint of man brushed away” (170, emphasis added). 

I have heard such sentiments expressed by North American enviros, when the whiskey is being passed around the campfire. But they don’t put them in their grant applications, their legal filings, or their conference papers.

At times, he yearned for a something like Plato’s Republic: a small-scale society led by a class of Guardians who are well-educated (and trained in the martial arts to balance mind and body), yet who live materially simply. Somehow, if the perfect Green dictator could arise, that person could supervise a “world made by hand,” to borrow a post-Collapse book title.

At other times he echoes the ancient Chinese book of the Tao, the Tao Te Ching (Legge translation) — which is at base a political manual, not a self-help text:

In a little state with a small population, I would so order it, that, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men, there should be no employment of them . . . .

Though they had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they should have no occasion to don or use them. . . .

They should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common (simple) ways sources of enjoyment.

There should be a neighbouring state within sight, and the voices of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us, but I would make the people to old age, even to death, not have any intercourse with it (Chapter 80).

That sounds like Linkola. Yet he also was quoted as saying, “If there were a button I could press, I would sacrifice myself without hesitating, if it meant millions of people would die.”

It is not surprising that a resident of a Scandinavian welfare state who says that his own society is not only ecologically destructive but destructive of human health and well-being as well is not the sort who is invited to speak to the United Nations or the graduating classes at universities. At least in the abstract, he has advocated dictatorship:

Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent dictator, that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. Best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and government would prevent any economical growth.

I am reminded of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot (1925–1998) and his war on cities in the 1970s. Not a model to follow.

Yet I can understand Linkola’s call for Something Different as born from a deep love of the natural world and deep pain at its destruction. 

As with Plato 2,500 years ago, sometimes we wish for the Philosopher King who would set things right. But do we ever get one? Plato once thought that he had found such a man, but everything went sideways, and the famous Athenian philosopher had to flee for his life.

 It is not a bad thing, however, to keep his book on the shelf and to look at aspects of your life and ask, “What would Pentti think?”

Next: Richard Nelson.

3 Nature Writers Lost in 2020: Barry Lopez

By Bambam

This is the first of three linked entries. First, Barry Lopez, 1945–2020. Second, Pentti Linkola. Third, Richard Nelson.

One day in the early Eighties I was browsing in the Chinook Bookshop (1959–2004) in downtown Colorado Spriings and picked up what I thought was a work of creative nonfiction, perhaps a memoir.  I read a chapter titled “Buffalo.” The last paragraph convinced me I was wrong. 

I wasn’t in the habit of buying new hardback books back then, but I took this one back to the sales counter.

The book was Barry Lopez’ Winter Count (1981). If I had looked at the back cover, I would have read Bill Kittredge’s blurb: 

Through these elegant stories, Barry Lopez gives us over to a concrete and particular landscape which is luminously inhabited by mystery, radiant with possibilities which transcend the defeats we find for ourselves.

Wikipedia: “In a career spanning over 50 years, he visited over 80 countries, and wrote extensively about distant and exotic landscapes including the Arctic wilderness, exploring the relationship between human cultures and nature.”

Of Wolves and Men (1978) made Lopez’s reputation, but Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986) was even finer.  Reading it one warm early spring day, where I could bask in a folding chair next to a melting snowbank, I thought that I would have given my hand to have written anything so intriguing and well-constructed. To quote Wikipedia again,

Arctic Dreams describes five years in the Canadian Arctic, where Lopez worked as a biologist. Robert Macfarlane, reviewing the book in The Guardian, describes him as “the most important living writer about wilderness”. In The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani argued that Arctic Dreams “is a book about the Arctic North in the way that Moby-Dick is a novel about whales.”

He also wrote what would be a graphic novel if it were fiction, but maybe it’s “graphic creative nonfiction” — Apologia (1997), which is about roadkill. From the dust jacket:

“It has long been a habit of writer Barry Lopez to remove dead animals from the road. At the conclusion of a journey from Oregon to Indiana in 1989, he wrote Apologia to explore the moral and emotional upheaval he experienced dealing with the dead every day.”

It’s no surprise that as a young man he considered the Catholic priesthood or even monastic life. But then we would not have his books like these.

I do that too when I can safely pull off. I keep an old Army entrenching tool behind the the driver’s seat. Even with that and gloves though, sometimes I have resumed my trip while realizing that my fingers smell like death.

The links in this post go to Amazon. I keep this blog ad-free, but I do have hosting bills, so any purchase from a blog link is a help. Thanks.

Mushrooms and More

By Bambam

Low clouds with periodic rain. After a call this morning I went out to Blue Lake road with the intention of going up to Heart Lake. Multiple cars in the Heart Lake parking lot prompted me to drive up to the end of the road first. There were some bright yellow spots in the alpine … Read more

The post Mushrooms and More first appeared on Sitka Nature.

Heart Lake Observations

By Bambam

It rained overnight, but for most of the day it was merely overcast. I made a trip to Heart Lake late this afternoon. There were a couple plants (including the variegated horsetail pictured above) on my hit list for the year that grow along the lower section of the road, so I parked along Sawmill … Read more

The post Heart Lake Observations first appeared on Sitka Nature.

Sitka Nature Show #244 – John Chapman

By Bambam

Download Radio Show The August 29th show featured a conversation with John Chapman, a marine biologist who focuses on marine invertebrates and invasive biology. In town surveying blue mud shrimp (Upogebia pugettensis) to look for presence of an invasive parasitic isopod, Orthione griffenis. Thought to have been brought across the Pacific from Asian in ballast … Read more

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Starrigavan Revisited

By Bambam

Overcast for much of the day. Partial clearing for a time in the afternoon, though it never got beyond mostly cloudy before the clouds closed back in. A little bit of rain early this evening, with steady rain starting later. I had tentatively planned to get up a mountain today. Looking out to see marine … Read more

The post Starrigavan Revisited first appeared on Sitka Nature.

Recent Dark-mantled Gulls

By Bambam

I am someone who is interested in knowing and keeping track of what shows up in Sitka. Gulls can be abundant around town during some times of year. Thousands often loaf along the tide flats, work the salmon streams, or pick scraps from the fishing industry. The vast majority of gulls we see here are … Read more

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Sitka Nature Show #242 – Kaeli Swift (encore)

By Bambam

Download Radio Show The August 1st show featured a conversation with Kaeli Swift, who studies corvid behavior and ecology, with a particular focus on and passion for crows. This conversation was originally recorded and aired in September 2019. You can learn more about Kaeli’s work on her site Corvid Research or follow her @corvidresearch on … Read more

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Sitka Nature Show #243 – Elizabeth Graham

By Bambam

Download Radio Show The August 15th show featured a conversation with Elizabeth Graham, entomologist with the Forest Service working out of the Southeast Field Office in Juneau. We spoke about the current western black-headed budworm defoliator outbreak affecting many places in Southeast Alaska, and how it fits into a pattern of prior outbreaks in the … Read more

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Tidepooling in Heavy Rain

By Bambam

Very rainy with gusty winds early. Winds and rain tapering off through the day. Temperatures warmed into the lower 60s overnight, but dropped down to the upper 50s this morning. My day started early, as I had agreed to meet PN, and visiting iNaturalist user @muir to head out for low tide. If weather permitted … Read more

The post Tidepooling in Heavy Rain first appeared on Sitka Nature.

Shorebirds, including the fantastic Wilson’s Snipe

By Bambam

 

I made a trip to the St. Marys Fish Hatchery last Wednesday, September 1, a place I have birded myriad times for many years. The hatchery is in western Auglaize County, Ohio, along the eastern shore of massive Grand Lake St. Marys. The hatchery is a magnet for migrant birds, and many a rarity has been seen here over the years. The site’s reputation as a bird magnet goes way back. In 1970, Clarence Clark and James Sipe published a booklet, Birds of the Lake St. Marys Area. It’s a gem, although tough to lay hands on now.

Hatchery staff obviously have fish production as their major goal, but as part of operations they routinely draw down impoundments. When draw-downs coincide with shorebird migration, birding can excel. The staff is birder-friendly, just stay out of the way of hatchery activities.

Several ponds have been recently lowered, including one of the large ones, and shorebirding has been interesting of late and should remain so for a while.

A Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) strikes a pose. This one was foraging out on the open mudflats; normally they are more reclusive and lurk in vegetation. And thus are easily overlooked. Dozens or even triple figures sometimes haunt wet meadows in migration, but remain largely out of view. Snipe come out of their shells on breeding grounds, where they engage in fantastic aerial courtship flights accompanied by a surreal winnowing sound produced by their tail feathers.

A beautiful little Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) in its favored milieu, a rich mucky mudflat. Several of these elfin “killdeerlets” with the single band were present. Like most of the shorebirds – plovers and sandpipers – that appear in Ohio during migration, this species nests FAR to our north, across the upper reaches of the Canadian and Alaskan tundra regions. Like most of our plovers, Semipalmated Plover winters mostly along coastal zones: Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, and coastal zone of much of Central and South America, as well as throughout the Caribbean.

A trio of our other “half-webbed” shorebird, the Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla). Semipalmated refers to the partial webbing between the toes. If you enlarge the Semipalmated Plover shot you can see this webbing. While the scientific epithet pusilla means “tiny”, the Semipalmated Sandpiper is not the smallest of the five species of “peep” sandpipers that pass through Ohio. That honor goes to the Least Sandpiper (C. minutus). The latter was the most frequent of the peeps at the hatchery on this day.

I was especially pleased to encounter two Baird’s Sandpipers (Calidris bairdii). This is one of our larger peeps, although we’re not talking eagle-sized here. A hefty Baird’s stretches the tape to about 7.5 inches in length and weighs little more than an ounce. But those wings! They span a whopping foot and half! You can see how the wingtips project beyond the tail in the photo. This is a bird meant to fly, and fly they do. Baird’s Sandpiper is one of the world’s great long-haul migrants. They breed in the northernmost reaches of the North American tundra. This incredible sandpiper winters along the Andes in Ecuador, all the way south to the southern tip of the world: Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Some of these animals probably fly 9,000 miles – one way! – between breeding and wintering grounds. Rich mudflats where they can rest and refuel along this long journey are vital, but mudflat conservation for shorebirds seems to get little conservation attention in this region.

The Baird’s Sandpiper is named for one of North America’s great scientists and educators, Spencer Fullerton Baird. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution, and was widely regarded as one of the country’s leading naturalists. He richly deserves having this bird named in his honor, as well as the Baird’s Sparrow and at least 14 other animal species.

A quartet of Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) rests on a mat of desiccated Chara algae. This was the most common shorebird on this day – perhaps 150 yellowlegs were present. Only perhaps five of their rank were the much larger Greater Yellowlegs (T. melanoleuca), but they generally are greatly outnumbered by their lesser brethren.

A Lesser Yellowlegs shows off its namesake legs. In the olden days of unregulated market hunting (late 1800’s, primarily), this species along with many other shorebirds was shot in large numbers. The Lesser Yellowlegs recovered well following establishment of wildlife conservation laws, but not all shorebirds did. The Eskimo Curlew, which may be extinct although there are glimmers of hope, is a sad case in point.

 Finally, here’s a video of that Wilson’s Snipe putting its LONG bill to work, probing the mire for invertebrate animals. Note its gait: bouncy coolness that verges on avian nerdiness. Maybe there should be a national Walk Like A Snipe Day, and we’d all have to mimic that walk everywhere we go. Probably take our minds off all the STUFF going on, temporarily.

Hummingbird confronts fly!

By Bambam

On the long-term bucket list is photographing Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at every major native plant nectar source with which the birds have an intimate co-evolutionary history. Thanks to a friend who lives nearby, I was able to obtain images of this female/immature male Ruby-throat at the beautiful flowers of Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens.

NOTE ABOUT NATIVITY: Trumpet Honeysuckle is a southerner, and reaches its northern limits in southernmost Ohio. In my opinion, there is only one indisputably native Ohio population, in Scioto County (and not all botanists would agree with my opinion of that site, but that’s another topic). So, this planted honeysuckle patch in Columbus is clearly beyond the species native range, but the hummingbirds don’t care.

Anyway, it didn’t take long after I set up my rig for the hummers to start hitting the flowers. There was also an adult male, but he didn’t visit as often and never gave me a good shot. This bird was pretty easy to work, and I obtained a number of nice images. Of them, I liked this one the best. As I waited for its visits, I noticed that the “greenbottle” fly favored this group of flowers as a perch. When the hummer came in and I made this particular shot, she/he took umbrage at the fly, confronted it accompanied by loud chitters, and sent the fly packing. The bird then proceeded to plumb the deep floral nectaries with its long bill and tongue. While perhaps some larger sphinx moths might visit Trumpet Honeysuckle at night, and be effective pollinators, it’s hard to think of pollinators that would be more effective than a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Because of their relationship with flowers, hummingbirds come into confrontations with large insects constantly. Bumblebees in the genus Bombus are common rivals, as are larger species of wasps. Sometimes big insects clearly win out, as when a large bumblebee is working a flower – the hummers usually wait for it to depart. This fly was no match though, and the bird quickly drove it away.

PHOTO NOTE: I generally do not like the look of flash on birds, and rarely use it on the feathered crowd. Hummingbirds are an exception. The flash does not seem to bother them at all, and the light makes the feather iridescence really pop. However, on this day light was abundant and well situated, so I did not use flash. This image was shot at 1/6400, f/8, and ISO 3200. While the ISO is beyond what I would prefer, the camera is the (fairly new) Canon R5 mirrorless, and it handles higher ISO ranges pretty well. I made a series of shots – since my little subject was so cooperative – ranging from shutter speeds of 1/1600 clear up to 1/6400 (maximum shutter speed for the R5 is 1/8000). When a hummingbird is really working those wings hard to maneuver around flowers, a speed of at least 1/5000 is necessary to mostly freeze the wings.

 

Ladybird recording in Newcastle

By Bambam
Keen to further explore Newcastle’s ladybirds as part of the North East Ladybird Spot, last weekend I set off for two local sites that I seldom visit. The first, Newcastle’s Great Park, a new suburb of the city located four miles from the city centre, and the second, the well-known Havannah Nature Reserve near Dinnington….

Community Vs. Mega-landfill

By Bambam

What were the odds that small rural towns and villages could successfully unite to save their communities and environment from a mega-landfill? Dismal at best! When Walker Industries came to town and said they were situating a 17 million tonne mega-landfill on the border of Ingersoll, South-west Oxford and Zorra Townships, a small group of …

The post Community Vs. Mega-landfill appeared first on Ontario Nature.

Ep. 333 – Variability in Plant Coloration

By Bambam

Plants come in a bewildering variety of colors. Even within species, colors can vary from individual to individual. How and why color can differs are exactly the kinds of questions that intrigue PhD student Cierra Sullivan. Join us as we explore ideas relating to topics such as leaf variegation and the influence of climate change on flower color. This episode was produced in part by Jeremy, Suzanne, Kristina, Christine, Silas, Michael, Aristia, Felicidad, Lauren, Danielle, Allie, Jeffrey, Amanda, Tommy, Marcel, C Leigh, Karma, Shelby, Christopher, Alvin, Arek, Chellie, Dani, Paul, Dani, Tara, Elly, Colleen, Natalie, Nathan, Ario, Laura, Cari, Margaret, Mary, Connor, Nathan, Jan, Jerome, Brian, Azomonas, Ellie, University Greens, Joseph, Melody, Patricia, Matthew, Garrett, John, Ashley, Cathrine, Melvin, OrangeJulian, Porter, Jules, Griff, Joan, Megan, Marabeth, Les, Ali, Southside Plants, Keiko, Robert, Bryce, Wilma, Amanda, Helen, Mikey, Michelle, German, Joerg, Cathy, Tate, Steve, Kae, Carole, Mr. Keith Santner, Lynn, Aaron, Sara, Kenned, Brett, Jocelyn, Ethan, Sheryl, Runaway Goldfish, Ryan, Chris, Alana, Rachel, Joanna, Lori, Paul, Griff, Matthew, Bobby, Vaibhav, Steven, Joseph, Brandon, Liam, Hall, Jared, Brandon, Christina, Carly, Kazys, Stephen, Katherine, Mohsin Kazmi Takes Pictures, Manny, doeg, Daniel, Tim, Philip, Tim, Lisa, Brodie, Bendix, Irene, holly, Sara, and Margie.

When Do Squirrels Mate & Have Babies? (mating calendar + 3 behaviors to look for)

By Bambam
One of the secrets to really understanding squirrel behavior is knowing when they have babies in your local forests. Squirrel mating behaviors are a frequently misunderstood topic in the life of squirrels because their breeding habits have such incredible diversity that all depends on each individual squirrel. As a general rule most Gray and Fox […]

Turquoise Lakes & Alpine Meadows of Banff & Yoho National Parks

By Bambam
As you venture forth into the Canadian Rockies, you’ll be entering a realm of turquoise lakes and wildflower meadows. Grand mountains rise into the clouds, and glacier-fed rivers run through deep valleys as you hike through the alpine wilderness. WILDLIFE Wildlife inhabits every corner of Canada’s national parks, from brown bears and wolverines to elk, [&hellip

Good News: Pikas Now Predicted to Persist

By Bambam
A relative of rabbits, tiny, cute and charismatic American pikas typically live in cool, mountain environments and find refuge from the hot sun under boulders and rocks. Because the animals are sensitive to high temperatures, some researchers in the recent past have predicted that as the climate warms, pikas will have to move to ever-higher [&hellip

Whale Species You Can See on a Quebec Nature Tour

By Bambam
Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is one of French Canada’s best-kept secrets. Home to more than 2,200 species, this National Marine Conservation Area offers some of the best whale-watching in the world. From May through October, these giant marine mammals congregate where the Saguenay River meets the St. Lawrence Estuary. This watershed is a gateway between [&hellip

Seattle Experiences Driest Spring and Summer Ever Recorded in 77 Years

By Bambam
In the Northwest, record-challenging dry weather and warmth have been predominant for almost all summer, but AccuWeather forecasters reveal a change in this pattern will finally provide some relief, meaning there will both lower temperatures and required precipitation. Since scientists started record-keeping at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, it has been the driest spring and summer ever witnessed in 77 years.

Researchers: Migrating Bird Prefer Routes with the Best Atmospheric Condition

By Bambam
With the use of GPS tracking technology, researchers observed five species of large land birds as they journey all over the globe, completing long sea crossings. They discovered that every bird exploited wind and uplift to decrease energy costs while flying, they even adjust their migratory path so they can profit from the best atmospheric conditions

Wildfire Burn Scars Can Initiate Thunderstorms, Increasing Risk of Flooding

By Bambam
Every year, wildfires consume millions of acres of land and it leaves changed landscapes that are susceptible to flooding. But it is less known that these regions already left susceptible can also intensify, triggering thunderstorms in some cases. Wildfire burn scars are usually left with small vegetation and very dark soil surface that is likely to repel instead of taking in water.