May 15, 2022

What Happens to Wildlife in Wildfires?

Here is District Wildlife Manager Travis Sauder talking about wildfire and wildlife at the site of the High Park Fire in Teller County (west of Colorado Springs and closer to Cripple Creek), which at this writing has burned a little less than 1,200 acres.

I don't disagree with what he says, but I think his view point is slanted towards larger animals, such as deer, elk, mountain lions, etc. Smaller critters may not know until it's too late. But they tend to reproduce faster too. Maybe it works out.

When it comes to the ungulates, he is right about the improved feeding conditions post-fire, after a few months. I have joked that all fires turning mature conifer forests back into a mixture of trees, grass, and brush are set by the Mule Deer Foundation. For evidence, I offer the fact the Colorado's MDF former Colorado regional director has lived in several residences close to major wildfires, or as they say on the internet, he "has links" to them.

Of course, no reputable conservation group would set fires. I do but jest. But their flagship species does benefit from the changes in foods available to them!

May 14, 2022

Negotiating with a Chesapeake

A couple of weeks ago I was unloading Marco at "the pond" when I met a guy preparing to leave, along with his friendly chocolate Lab. Noting Marco's breed, he recited — like I had never heard this before — "You ask a golden retriever. You train a Labrador retriever. You negotiate with a Chesapeake Bay retriever.

Bear in mind that Marco arrived as a 10-month-old whom I don't think had every experienced water outside the baths he got at the breeder's kennel during his short career as a show-puppy. 

It took him two or three visits to get accustomed to bigger water, but there is something to the idea of breed predelictions. Collies like to herd other critters, and Chessies like to splash and swim.

Now we are at this stage:

Marco: I'm ready. Throw the bumper!

Me: You need to sit here by me. Marco! Come!

Marco: Are you kidding? I'm in the water. Throw the bumper! 

Me: Marco! Come!

Marco: You going to make me? You and whose army? THROW THE BUMPER! 

Splash! 

He brings it to the water's edge, but he does not want to come out himself, until I start to leave while offering him a treat. Then he is right there.

We will keep working on the fine points. It is just so good to see him in the water.

May 03, 2022

Tarantula Tourism Is Taken, Why not Tumbleweeds?

Migrating tarantua in southern Colorado (12News Denver).

For polar bear tourism, Churchill, Manitoba, is the spot. For grizzly bears, probably Yellowstone. For sandhill cranes, try western Nebraska or the annual festival in Monte Vista, Colorado. For snow geese, it's Lamar, Colorado.

For tarantulas, it will be La Junta, Colorado. The financing is in place.

Adding to the news of the new logo, director Pam Denahy said the board has received $20.000 in a grant from the Colorado Tourism Board, La Junta matched it with $5,000 for an educational campaign on the Tarantula. It would include creating a microsite with the Visit La Junta Site that would focus on inspiring responsible and respectful visitation during the migration season. That includes advice on how to visit the tarantulas and how to leave them alone.

Denahy said that information became much needed. "We even got a call, I think, last summer from a pet shop in Denver saying that people were taking the tarantulas from here and trying to sell them up in Denver," she replied.

 OK, so tarantulas are taken. What about tumbleweeds? The migration takes place in the early winter, and it is "oddly terrifying."

 

May 02, 2022

What the Spring Breezes Bring Us

Some National Weather service video from Saturday afternoon, April 30, 2022. As three fires burn west of Las Vegas, New Mexico, a dust storm rolls south from Baca County, Colorado, the heart of the 1930s Dust Bowl, and continues across the Oklahoma Panhandle.

April 18, 2022

Amber and Her Arborglyphs

M. and I were poking around in the Wet Mountains two days ago, at the site of a now-vanished picnic ground that I think dated from the 1920s creation of campgrounds and picnic grounds under the guidance of landscape architect Arthur Carhart.

Here he launched his vision of national forest recreation for people driving Model T Fords — as opposed to arriving by train at big resort hotels in national parks.

I wrote some posts about that, so if you want the history, go here.

This site, however, was apparently a victim of Reagan-era Forest Service budgets, where recreation was de-emphasized and the message to the San Isabel National Forest was "get the cut out," in other words, sell timber. Back then, there were more sawmills in the area. Now there are not.

When I started visiting the area in the early 1980s, my friends referred to the "[Blank] Picnic Ground" as a real place, even though there was nothing there but a capped-off well. 

But Amber, whoever she is or was, must have liked the place.

Amber came with Aaron . . .

. . . and Amber came with William. I don't know the sequence.

Assuming it was the same Amber. I like to think so. The trees are barely a yard apart. 

The technical term is "arborglyphs." Quaking aspen is a good species for such carving. (If you do it now, it's vandalism, but if you did it a century ago, it is a historical record of American diversity.)

A lonely sheepherder mourns a lost love by carving a poem to her in aspen bark. A Cherokee man, forced from his home and leaving on the trail of tears buries his possessions at the foot of a tree, marking the tree so he can find it later. A young couple celebrate their love by carving their initials in a nearby sapling. The scars left in the bark of trees by these activities are called arborglyphs, literally "tree writing", and the study of these markings is revealing much about our history. . . .

Another common source of arborglyphs were the young Basque and Irish who immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Many went to work as sheepherders in remote mountain meadows, and carved poems, names, dates, faces and other images telling of their lonely, isolated lives into the Aspen trees. Some of the most famous Basque arborglyphs are found in Southern Oregon,

There is a digital archive of aspen carvings from southwestern Colorado, and also a book, Speaking Through the Aspens: Basque Tree Carvings in California and Nevada.

So does Amber count as "history" or "vandalism"?

April 13, 2022

A Big Burn Down by Bent's Old Fort

Fires everywhere in southern Colorado this week. I myself was "toned out" of bed at 2:27 a.m. yesterday, soon to be loaded into a brush truck (Type 6 engine) with three other volunteers, headed up the canyon as "mutual aid" to a grass fire running in front of 50 mph winds. 

A concentrated attack from three fire departments soon knocked it down, and after that we were just wet-lining and chasing flare-ups. 

The fire burned right up to the walls of the reconstructed trading post (National Park Service).

Meanwhile, down the Arkansas, two big fires blew up in southern Colorado, one around John Martin Reservoir and the other upstream at Bent's Fort.  This famous 1840s-1850s trading post was rebuilt on its original site in time for the 1976 American Bicentennial — now the reproduction has outlived the original. (And it has flush toilets).

Fire in cottonwood groves along the Arkansas River (La Junta Fire Dept.)

The Bent's Fort fire has burned more than 1,000 acres today.
  No threat to the fort really, and no homes lost in the area. 

“There is no threat to Bent Fort, it is being protected so I want that to be the main point. Mainly the fire has been in the river bottom, it has gotten out to some farm land but we’ve contained it off some farm land so its maintained to the river area,” [La Junta Fire] Chief Davidson said.

Funny thing, a fire like this probably would make the area around Bent's Fort look more like it did in its heyday, when the horses of trappers, traders, travelers, and visiting Cheyenne Indians no doubt nibbled all the grass and the riparian cottonwood groves were picked over for firewood. I have been told by Park Service staff that the wetland area east of the fort was not there in those days — it is a result of changing drainage patterns.

An old pole barn at Oxbow State Wildlife Area (Colorado Parks and Wildlife).
 

Across the river, much of the Oxbow State Wildife Area burned over too. It's a place where I once had a good duck hunt with my old dog Jack, and I was thinking of revisiting it with Marco this year. And maybe we will, just to see how it looks after a summer's regrowth.


Further down, another fire was burning around Fort Lyon and John Martin Reservoir. More old stomping grounds. 

The fire near Cheraw was contained Tuesday. (KOAA-TV)
 

It's time to become reacquainted with all that area, come September or October.


April 10, 2022

A Quick Video Trip through Colorado Geology


Colorado used to be south of the equator — about 300 million years ago. Things were a little different then: "a low-lying area, periodically inundated by the ocean." 

Since I live smack on top  of (not beside) the Fountain Formation, it is nice to see it get some attention. 

Also  I like the image of Colorado 9 through Summit County with glaciers on it.

A project of the Interactive Geology Project at CU-Boulder, which has its own YouTube channel.

April 04, 2022

Blog Stew: Who Has Enough Water to Cook It?

 

 


 • A new drought map.
January-March 2022 precipitation hit some record lows. I am relieved to be living in one of the green areas on the map.

 • If you grow up in a city grid, your navigational skills are not so good, says Science.

 • Navajo law enforcement jammed up by the "lure of outdoor recreation":

More people are visiting tribal lands throughout the West and adjacent public lands to hike, bike or boat, and they’re accompanied by concerns about trespassing and vandalism at cultural sites, as well as traffic accidents and other issues. 

March 20, 2022

Check Out Colorado's State Trust Land Map Server

From a news release:

Our public map provides data about our 2.8 million acres of surface trust land and our four million acres of mineral estate. We’ve made our GIS layers available to the public with tabular information about leases, rights-of-way, Stewardship Trust designations, the Public Access Program, acquisitions, patents, and more.

Plus, you can overlay your own Shapefile, CSV, or KML files on top of ours. Zip your files and use our new ‘Add Data’ tool, located in the top right corner of our map

If you go to the basic map, there will be a menu of map layers on the right-hand side of screen. You can check "SLB leases-recreation," but be aware of one thing — not all "recreational" leases provide public access for hunting and fishing.

Some State Land Board lands are leased to individuals or hunting clubs, etc. So click on the parcel to get the leasing info, as shown in the screen shot here.

March 17, 2022

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Fishing

When life give you lemons, squeeze the juice onto your trout.

Caught in a traffic jam last month on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, angler Dylan Hayes fished — and put the episode on his Instagram, Eat Work Fish.

I carry a little telescoping spinning rod, reel, and lures in the Jeep in warm weather. Maybe it should be in there in the winter too!

March 15, 2022

Somebody Tell Me Why My Zippers Have Two Sliders

OK, gear-heads, this is for you.

I never made a "Things that Annoy Me" category for this blog, but if I did, it would include coats and jackets with double zipper sliders.

Double zipper on a Patagonia parka.

There I am, dressing for the winter, with the dog bouncing around my knees — "Oh boy, a walk! I have to pee!" —trying to line up the "insertion pin" with two, not just one,  "sliders," and then push it down into the "retainer box." 

Easy to do with one slider, but getting the two to line up, expecially with stiffer, bulkier zippers is a chore. Sometimes pulling downward on the "retainer box" helps.

The top-fastening look from 1871.

The double zipper lets you open the coat from the bottom. That used to be fashionable, although in the case of Mr. Henry Edwards above, it seems like the tactic of a gentleman of increasing girth who is reluctant to discard his favorite velvet-collared coat.

"Buttoned at the top" was not just a look
for the older gent, however (1880s "sack suit").


Here again, a young man's look.  That is a box camera he is holding —
his selfie stick would not fit into the photograph.

The outdoor brands seem to love their double sliders. My coat rack holds the afore-mentioned Patagonia jacket, a Cabela's down-filled coat, and an Eddie Bauer fleece-lined coat, all with double zipper sliders. And there is a double set on my waterfowling parka down in the basement as well.

But why? It is just more bother for no clear gain.

I never see anyone on the street with the coat zipped only at the top, its bottom floating free in the breeze.  Jacket and coats are either unzipped completely, zipped up completely, or open partway down from the neck.

We do not fasten coats only higher up so that they expose the elegrance of their linings or our fashionably cut waistcoats — not for the last 125 years or so.

Nor is this I look that I see on cross-country ski trails, in the marsh, or in the woods. I could maybe see it for horseback riding, but Eddie Bauer doesn't go for the "winter equestrian wear" niche.

So somebody tell me why the outdoor brands keep doing it.

Meanwhile, the dog really needs to go out!

March 13, 2022

Where in the Riparian is the Redtail?

Another patient in the Raptor Center "ICU."

The injured red-tailed hawk, the game warden said, was somewhere in the riparian cottonwood grove near where the power line crosses the little gravel road to the fishing pond.

What color is a red-tailed hawk sitting on the ground? Streaky brown and creamy white. What color(s) is the landscape? Shades of tan and brown.

He couldn't help because he was two counties away at some other activity. Luckily, he did have the phone number of the man who found the hawk,  and luckily that man answered and agreed to meet me at the site. 

The finder led me to a spot near the bird, which was impersonating a small stump in the tall grass beside the winter-clear water of the Arkansas River.

I laid my cotton flannel capture net on it, and it rolled into claws-up defensive position, which actually makes a hawk easy to pick up if you have your heavy gloves on. It footed me, but not very strongly. 

Into the bright blue carrier it went — I like this model because you can lift the top and set birds into it, instead of having to stuff them into a smaller end opening. 

Off to the Raptor Center we drove, where the hawk was pronounced dangerously underweight. 

"He's been on the ground [not hunting] a few days," the director said. Hydration, rest, and food come next. 

The hawk probably collided with the aformentioned power line, maybe burning a wing tip and injuring a foot. Human infrastructure strikes again.

March 12, 2022

Wolverines! They Might Be Coming Back to Colorado

Wolverine in Glacier Nat. Park (NPS)
Fictional southern Colorado high schools may no longer be accused of using an almost non-existent animal (in this state) as their mascot.

The last confirmed wolverine sighting — and it was a rare one—  was in 2009. A tagged male wolverine left northwestern Wyoming, wandered intp Colordo, and then headed for North Dakota.

Indeed, from his starting point near Jackson Hole, M56 took less than a month to arrive in the Centennial State, where his kind was last reported in 1919.

The venture confirmed what was believed of wolverines’ tendency to cover vast ground. Still, researchers were astonished by the speed. And more than that, they marveled at watching in real time the animal of mythological lore that had always evaded their view. (Recent estimates suggest low densities, small numbers in big places — between 250 and 350 moving across rugged, remote fringes of the Lower 48 states.)

Colorado Parks & Wildlife (back then the Colorado Division of Wildlife) formulated some reintroduction plans, but did not carry through. Now, wolverines are back on the table, so to speak. (You would not want a live one on your table.)

Wolverine reintroduction has not come up in Colorado Wildlife Commission meetings for more than a decade. The agency began a wolverine reintroduction process in 2010 and created “an extensive plan for how reintroduction could be accomplished,” said CPW spokesman Travis Duncan. 

Recently, the agency has been reviewing that plan and process to find possible update and what remains workable, Duncan said. 

“We will be working with a wolverine expert who is going to take on updating and providing greater detail on a wolverine restoration and management plan,” he said. “The contract isn’t in place yet, but we hope to be able to say more on this soon.”

Meanwhile, in Lewistown, Montana, urban wolverines? We're not there yet. 

UPDATE: And in Utah this month, a wolverine killed or wounded 18 sheep in one morning before being captured, radio-collared, and released.

February 23, 2022

Blog Stew with Lynx*


 • Here is a short video about lynx in Colorado.**

Is your toothache really Lyme disease?

• The history of outdoor life in the Nordics is long and really incorporated with the culture, since we have a lot of land and a small population." Emphasis addded. Anyhow, they have a word for it. We don't, but we have the concept.

-------------------------

* If I remember right, the first text-only hyperlink browser I ever used was called Lynx (get it?).  Wikipedia says it was launched in 1992 and is still being maintained.

** I think that biologist at the beginning is married to my cousin. I have a lot of cousins — can't keep track.

February 21, 2022

New Mexico Newspaper Noir


Clickbait? That is nothing new. Watch Kirk Douglas as obnoxious, erratic, but talented reporter Chuck Tatum in the 1951 noir film Ace in the Hole (directed and co-written by Billy Wilder) and set somewhere west of Gallup, New Mexico.

Chuck Tatum's brilliant plan is to extend a mine-rescue story over multiple days to benefit his new Albuquerque employer, even though it means putting the victim at greater risk.

In this case, a pot hunter (still an honorable job in 1951) is trapped by a cave-in. Apparently, when the Ancestral Puebloans were not hauling pine logs for many many miles to build kiva roofs, they were hauling them to timber hand-dug adits where they buried their dead. Who knew? 

The trapped man, who with his family runs a little diner and curio shop on Route 66, tell Tatum that the ancient pot he just found is worth "fifty bucks." (That's $553.44 today, according to the gummint, if you believe them.)

So instead of the private investigator in the dusty office, we have strong-jawed but amoral Kirk Douglas at a dusty movie-set ciff dwelling, the location of which you can find on Google Earth, etc. at  35°23'53.6"N, 109°01'12.0"W.

Jan Sterling plays the equally amoral peroxide blonde wife of the trapped man, who wants nothing more than to get out and head for the bright lights. She gets lines like "I don't go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons."

Iron Eyes Cody, that American Indian film star from Sicily, makes a brief appearance as a newspaper copy boy.

The movie's trivia page at the Internet Movie Database includes this observation:

This film's utter and unrelenting cynicism so repulsed 1951 movie audiences that it lost Paramount a fortune. Writer/director Billy Wilder later admitted that it had a negative impact on his career...while also citing it as one of the best films he ever made.

Wilder had other big successes like Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot, and given that this was the era of Film Noir, maybe audiences just could not swallow a "noir" approach in an non-urban setting.

As something of a film-location nerd, I was impressed that it was actually made in New Mexico, years before New Mexico's state government got into the film-and-TV promotion business.