February 29, 2008

Blog Stew with Extra Calcium

¶ Did you realize that it was shed-antler hunting season? Train your dog to find them! ("Horn dog" heh heh heh) Of course there is a blog about sheds.

More dog items:

¶ Military dogs are working in Iraq and Afghanistan. Finally, the military no longer requires dogs to be put down when their working days are done, but lets handlers adopt them. (Brilliant move--only took more than 50 years to accomplish.) More links here.

¶Some cultures have a problem with dogs--all the more reason to reject them.

February 28, 2008

February 27, 2008

Blog Stew with Perennials

• The Rocky calls the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel problem overblown.

Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott said he is furious at [state Senator Tom] Wiens and the commissioners, saying they "grossly mismanaged" the matter and accused them of "staging" the emergency.The fallout, he said, includes skiers canceling trips, collapsed real estate deals, and another black eye for a town still reeling from its inclusion as part of a Superfund cleanup site in the 1980s.

The trapped water is still in the tunnel, but the squabble seems to be over the urgency of removing it.

I have had the feeling before that Lake County politics can become fairly overheated. How many recall elections have there been in the last decade or so? (Hat tip: Colorado Confidential.)

• Where is the tamarisk problem? Right here in the Arkansas Valley.

• This announcement about global cooling has been getting lots of attention, especially from people who see it as a club to beat up on Democrats and environmentalists (not necessarily the same thing).

At Natural Patriot, Emmett Duffy correlates climate change with wars, etc.

February 24, 2008

Blog Stew with Cadmium

• Work has started on pumping built-up water in the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, which has been threatening to dump millions of gallons of heavy metal-laden water into the Arkansas River.

• Success or sacrifice? The federal government has taken gray wolves off the endangered species list, as mentioned here earlier. Expect lobbying and lawsuits if states declare them to be game animals.

• The smell of spring: In Florence today I sniffed burning grasses on the air. Someone was cleaning irrigation ditches. It has been 15 years since I had that responsibility, but I still get edgy in March, thinking that I have to find that good windless day for burning.

• The same (?) pygmy owl came back last Monday and grabbed a pine siskin off the feeder. All I heard was a "foop" -- I glanced down from the veranda to see the owl turn 180 degrees to avoid hitting the house and fly fast off into the pines. No photos, this time.

• Via Odious and Peculiar, a new Web resource on birds: the Internet Bird Collection. My other reliable source for bird stuff is Cornell's All About Birds.

February 22, 2008

Last Child in the Woods: The Video

We should have have a protection programme for children like this, before they are fully extinct.

February 21, 2008

Gray Foxes

Gray fox. Photo by Chas S. Clifton
Gray Fox. Photo by Chas S. CiftonI thought that we had a few gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) living near the house, but I was not absolutely sure. Now the scout camera has caught one (or two). These are the foxes that climb (leaning) trees.

Red foxes, like these two checking under the bird feeder, seem bolder and more likely to show up in the day time, compared to the gray fox.

I thought that I had had heard gray foxes (samples here), but just in the last 48 hours I got some photographs on the scout camera.

That black tail tip is diagnostic.

The Grey Fox is a fine movie too.

February 20, 2008

Environmentalism and the Politics of Fear

In his comment here, Mike at Sometimes Far Afield worries that if the environmental apocalypse does not arrive on schedule, legitimate environmental concerns may be devalued.

Political blogger Andrew Sullivan also wonders if environmental politics are producing a "totalizing ideology".

All of them more or less resort to arguing that Gourevitch may or may not be right, but it doesn't matter because (cue thunderclap) global warming is coming to get us! As Gourevitch suggests, environmentalism, when it relies on strong appeals to fear, becomes a form of antipolitics, one intended to supersede both the collective and individual choices that are part of modern politics. In this conception, environmental fear politics become a threat to both democratic populists and libertarian individualists. Gourevitch, I think, was extremely smart to frame the issue as a corollary to the war on terror.

Yeah, let's take away all their big houses/cars/babies/electricity/plastic bags/greasy food/whatever. Then humanity will live in harmony!

I do worry that more people will want to play the coercion card ("for the children," of course) instead of the education - and - economic - incentives card as a way to avoid environmental destruction.

The scientific study of climate change is needed and necessary. But I hate to see it become twisted into ideology with Our Group (good) and Their Group (evil).

February 18, 2008

Where are the Sunspots?

Spend much time looking at the surface of our Sun? I don't, but those who do report a lower-than-average number of sunspots.

Such a low number was associated with the "Dalton Minimum" (which has its own blog), a period of low solar activity and lower temperatures from about 1790-1830.

The big "minimum" was the Maunder Minimum, also known to historians as the Little Ice Age, roughly 1645-1715.

Since we hear more about "global warming" (a misnomer, since projected warming is not uniform), people talking about sunspots feel like an embattled minority.

I see three possible takes on this situation:

1. We are entering a solar-caused cool period, but human-caused climate change will override it.

2. There is no cool period coming. Please continue cutting carbon emissions.

3. There is a solar-caused cooling period that will override human-caused changes.

Still, inveterate moderate that I am, I keep thinking that cutting pollution and using renewable energy are Good Things regardless of what the Sun does.

February 17, 2008

Moon Lodge

Camper's shelter in the Wet MountainsM. and I were hiking earlier this winter on a trail near home when she spotted this "tipi" a short distance off the trail.

There was some trash near the fire pit, which she went to pick up, because she is conscientious about such things. One item was a partly burned disposable panty liner.

"Maybe this is the sacred menstrual hut," I said.

"Leaving this stuff is not very sacred," she replied.

Blog Stew with Badgers

Nude web-cam photos of hot British badgers.

¶ Colorado writer David Petersen has his own online bookstore. I read A Man Made of Elk with pleasure last fall and might return to it again this year.

But the funny part involves A Hunter's Heart, to which I contributed a chapter: I had had the same idea for an anthology around 1990 and pitched it to an editor who was never able to make the deal work for his press. My title? The Hunter's Heart. And then Dave came along and did it -- good for him!

¶ A federal judge has ruled to protect habitat for the Mexican spotted owl in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. This is personal for M. and me. From 1990-1994 we did owl censuses for the BLM. That was our summer job (sometimes on top of part-time college teaching), and we referred to Strix occidentalis lucida as "the gentleman who paid the rent."

February 16, 2008

Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is happening this weekend.

There is even a blog.

It's not too late to join in. M. will submit the count we do on Sunday and Monday anyway for Project Feeder Watch.

This habit of putting "Great" in names took off during the 1976 United States Bicentennial celebrations, a time of cheap nostalgia. You saw a lot of "Great American ..." too in business names: "Great American Ice Cream Store," that kind of thing.

So now every time I see "Great ..." in a name, I think of red, white, and blue bell-bottoms and Jimmy Carter.

But the house finches don't know what decade it is.

Saw-whet Owl

Saw-whet owl (Cornell University)
This has been an owl-y winter.

(Photo from Cornell University's All About Birds site.)

We had the pygmy owl visitation last month.

Then last night (crunchy snow, 12 degrees F.) M. and I were walking the dogs before bed and heard a saw-whet owl calling.

They get the name because the call sounds like someone filing (whetting) the teeth of a large saw with a steel file. Or like a small dog crying--but too regular a series of sounds.

Read and hear more at the Owl Pages.

February 15, 2008

Fear and Nervousness in Leadville

This developing news story of a potential environmental catastrophe in Leadville interests me, because the Leadville Mine Drain Tunnel used to be a regular stop for one of the CSU-Pueblo English classes.

An estimated 1.5 billion gallons of acidic mine drainage, laced with toxic levels of cadmium and zinc, is believed stopped up behind a collapse in the Bureau of Reclamation's Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, threatening to blow out the walls.

In the late 1990s, my colleague Margaret Barber and I taught parallel sections of English 102 (the how-to-write-a-research-paper course), and we focused them on environmental issues. Since so many students could not have told you where Pueblo's water came from, we would rent a big van and take as many as we could up to Leadville, where they got a quick tour of the old mining district.

The tour included the Yak Tunnel Superfund site and the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, both long tunnels dug to de-water the deep silver and zinc mines. Both tunnels fed waterborne heavy metals into the Arkansas River -- and thus into the drinking supplies of Salida, Cañon City, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and so on downstream.

Brad Littlepage, the Bureau of Reclamation's manager at the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel, would explain the fairly simple chemistry of precipitating out the metals to us at the treatment plant just north of town.

The kicker was that the work will have to be done forever. Forever. Until the mountains crumble or someone invents a permanent cure for water trickling down through the rocks, leaching out the cadmium, etc., and then draining through the tunnel conveniently provided in the 1940s, which drains into one fork of the Arkansas.

If it's not treated, watch out:

"Such a release," [Governor] Ritter wrote, "could result in the loss of life, cause untold human misery, threaten the drinking-water supplies for a half-million people, impact farmers and ranchers and leave the river and the recreation economy it also supports degraded for decades."

February 08, 2008

Blog Stew with Rats

¶ Idealistic college students (UC-Santa Cruz) who litter in the name of idealism. Do you suppose the last one passed her ecology exam?

¶ The mythical Old West lives on in a German brothel. "In this teepee only adults play cowboy and Indians."

¶ Anna Mills thinks about nature writing in a time of crisis. Me too.

¶ Sherrie goes up to Skaguay Reservoir to think about signage and visits the burros of Cripple Creek.

¶ A blog about raising a pet coyote in rural Wyoming. I ambivalent about the wisdom of doing so, but my sister loves this story. Apparently the little guy survived parvo this past fall.

¶ It is now the Chinese Year of the Rat. They are a delicacy, you know.

February 07, 2008

Weather Geekery

How much snow has Colorado had? Lots.

And the Weather Service can now give you animated maps!

February 01, 2008

Tell It to the Coyote

Chris Clarke explains what is wrong with much 'nature photography.'

I reacted much the same as he did when, during my grad-school days at the University of Colorado, a friend took me to a meeting of a nature-photography club in Boulder.

Check out the series on the coyote crossing the street.