August 12, 2017

Another Complicated Bear Story

Not one of the most recent bear cubs, but from a similar situation.



You saw the same story in the Colorado media and even nationally, which means that it came from a news release and that none of the reporters was actually on the scene. And how would they be, unless they had a radio scanner in the news room on Colorado Parks & Wildlife frequencies—which they don't. (Police and fire, yes.)
A mother bear died Thursday after Colorado Parks and Wildlife tried to remove her and two young cubs from a residential neighborhood just south of Colorado Springs.
Notice how reporter Ellie Mulder writes (or cuts and pastes), "The cubs, which can't survive on their own yet, will be taken to a rehabilitation facility and eventually released."

That reminds me how how my mother once told me that my cat and her kittens were being "taken to a farm." I still hate her for that lie, and hate myself for believing it.

Yet in this case it is true! I arrived at said rehabilitation facility today to deliver a load of food donations, having picked up a bag of "large breed" puppy chow myself.  (Black bears are a large breed, aren't they? Cubs need lots of calories and protein.)

They have eight cubs this year, and they are all hungry.

The cub pictured  — a different case — was hanging around a home on the edge of Cañon City with its mother. I saw a photo of the sow, and she looked emaciated. One day she was found dead at the house. The district wildlife manager (game warden) who investigated said that she had puncture wounds on her leg (fight with a bigger bear?) and broken ribs (hit by a car?).

Grimly but efficiently, the game warden and the homeowner loaded the sow's body into a culvert trap. Still seeking to nurse, the cub climbed in, was caught, and transported to the rehabilitation facility to dine on puppy chow and donated watermelon. It's doing fine thus far.

Back to the news story. The bear was in somebody's yard, and someone official had to do something, so they darted her, she climbed higher, and fell to her death — not the first time that has happened.

Some thoughts:

1. Why not use a culvert trap and catch both sow and cubs? Was the area too busy? Too much interference from people, dogs, whatever?  Or was it just a case of act now and wrap it up?

2. Not all game wardens will do even that much. They might just take their rifle out of the truck and solve the problem that way. (The higher-ups seem to have no problem with that approach.)  How much does the response depend on who is watching?

3. Some game wardens, however, will do all that they can to save bears. They counsel residents on how "bear-proof" their homes, do their best to catch and transport "problem bears," and issue citations to people who harm without cause. I can think of a couple like that in my area.

Mostly, I am just tired of a civilization(s)  that cannot coexist with other-than-human nations.

#colorado parks and wildlife #bears

August 10, 2017

Off to See the King

King bolete. Slightly past its prime, but with careful trimming and slicing,
onto the drying screen it goes.



After last Friday's hailstorm left our vegetable gardens looking bombed and machine-gunned, there was only one thing left to look forward to — mushroom season.

I envy people who live in wetter climates like Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for this one thing: they can hunt mushrooms much of the year. We get some in the early summer, but the frenzy starts in August.

The first part of the week produced a flush of "slippery jacks" (Suillus granulatus) near the house. They are boletes but low-grade ones (from the eating standpoint)  that quickly turn wormy and mushy — the window for picking them lasts about two days.  M. says that they are "too bland" but dries and adds them to her vegetable soup stock mixture.

Today M. and I  drove up to the mountainside that we call The Mushroom Store, and the first thing we saw was a car parked in "our spot," a little pullout that I like because it is is a couple hundred yards from where the picking starts, instead of right beside it. I pulled onto a nearby old logging road instead, and we got out as quietly as we could.

We started toward the first area that we always check — and saw movement through the trees. Time for another route. We wear muted colors and communicate with little whistles and hand gestures. You never know, there might be Russians.

So we faded off into the woods and in about an hour had 23 pounds of mushrooms, mostly boletes with some hawk's wings. That made for a couple of hours of processing — the dehydrator full and laboring, screens all over the greenhouse, another screen on the hood of M's Jeep in the garage — for now, because it's raining. We will be dancing them in and out of the sunshine for the next two days.

All this rain — the high water, flash floods, sandbagging — at least it's producing mushrooms here in the Southern Rockies.

August 02, 2017

iPhone versus Pentax Point-and-Shoot

M. and I went for a hike today — a mushroom reconnaissance, really — and I got to thinking about pocket cameras.

In this corner, my ten-year-old Pentax Optio E40, 8.1 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom plus digital zoom, 6.2–18.2 mm focal length.

In the other corner, my three-year-old iPhone 5s, also about 8 megapixel sensor, and a tiny lens (no optical zoom) coupled to software jiggery-pokery that produces pretty good pictures.

Both have built-in flashes, but today's comparison was outdoor photography.

Like almost everyone who has a smartphone, I carry it most of the time — especially in fire-and-flood season.

The Pentax Optio has a logged a lot of miles in my daypack, hunting vest pocket, etc. How would it hold up head-to-head against the iPhone? Should I still bother with it? With batteries, it's an extra 6.2 oz. (177 grams).

On to the test. Both cameras produced JPG images in the 4–6 MB range, about 45 x 34 inches (Pentax) or 45 x 32 inches (iPhone). For the blog, I have reduced all of them to 12 inches in width (no cropping) at 72 dpi.

1. Wildflowers
Monarda (bee balm) / iPhone 5s


Monarda / Pentax Optio E40
I have not adjusted the exposure, which was a little darker on the Pentax. Neither focused perfectly, partly due to the trouble of seeing the camera screen in bright mountain sunlight. (A through-the-lens viewfinder camera is what you really need in this situation.)

2. Long-distance landscape
View across the Wet Mountain Valley / iPhone


View across the Wet Mountain Valley / Pentax

The iPhone did a better job with the values in the clouds than the point-and-shoot Pentax did. Lightening the latter's photo to match the iPhone tended to wash out the definition in the clouds.

3. Maximum zoom
 
The town of Westcliffe from about seven miles away / iPhone



Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom 

Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom + digital zoom
The Pentax zooms more, but there is probably a spy satellite that could give a better street view of Westcliffe, Colo., on a sunny day. I wonder what sort of software jiggery-pokery they have.

4. Other considerations

Features: Both shoot videos. The Optio has built-in settings for close-up, landscape, portrait, action, night photography, etc.

Storage: With the right SD card, the Optio can equal the iPhone's storage capacity.

Weight: The iPhone5s is slightly heavier, about 5 grams. But it is a computer that takes photographs, whereas the Optio is only a camera.

Battery: Both suck in different ways. All cell phones run down their batteries too fast, even when asleep, unless you turn off GPS, wireless, etc. The Optio runs down its AA batteries just remembering the time and date, and when you change them, you have to reset those numbers. Figure on a set of batteries a day with active shooting, although you can use rechargeables.

Durability: I keep my iPhone in an OtterBox case, and so far I have not broken it. The Optio is susceptible to dust because of its zoom lens, so normally it rides in a tactical case, which is a plastic sandwich bag. If I dropped it off a cliff or it fell out of the boat, I would not feel so bad, which is a plus.

5. Conclusion

Smartphones are killing the low-end point-and-shoot compact camera market. The Optio and its competitors offer built-in shooting modes, which I like, but smartphone owners can add apps to improve their features. (I like Solocator, which adds altitude, compass bearing, and latitude and longitude to photos.)

My conclusion: I will probably keep using the Optio until it breaks, but I doubt if I will replace it, except possibly with a cheap used one. I will keep my digital SLR for the "serious" photography.