Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts

September 21, 2017

Smashing Painted Ladies

I was driving up the canyon into the Wet Mountain Valley, flinching every time that a Painted Lady butterfly hit the windshield.

They are migrating this time of year, headed south, and apparently this summer produced good breeding conditions.

"I must have killed millions of them," said the FedEx driver as she passed a package to the café owner in Westcliffe.

"We'll call her Butterfly Killer," said the owner facetiously, after the driver went out the door.

As usual, we go smashing along through beauty.

UPDATE: The migration was large enough to create radar echoes. That's kind of wonderful.

July 03, 2016

I Miss Goth Coyote, But Her Urban Cousins Are Fine

Coyote in Douglas fir and oak brush.
This coyote turned up on a scout camera last week, which vindicated what I was thinking — that although I had not heard one for a couple years, I thought that I had seem some scat along the Forest Service road.

Their howls used to provide the soundtrack of pre-bedtime dog walk. At one time, a few years ago, there was an individual whom I named Goth Coyote, because his/her howls had extra wavers and quavers that spoke of torn lace, high-heeled boots, and heavy eye makeup.

Then it all stopped. Did someone trap them? Someone was doing some trapping, because there was the time I found four skinned carcassses in the gully on the national forest that functions as "Boneyard Gulch."

I wondered if the resent absence of coyote howling connected, alternatively, to the arrival of a couple of families in the neighborhood who embraced the whole neo-chicken-raising lifestyle, which includes the precept that Predators Must Die — also, neighbor dogs who encroach upon the Precious Fowl, even when said precious fowl are walking around on the margins of the county road.

But that is just my little area. Across North America, coyotes are expanding their territory. As Dan Flores writes in his new book Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History,
they have successfully urbanized: "In the Chicago metropolitan area, a whopping 61 percent of coyote pups survive to adulthood." But contrary to popular perception, they don't survive by eating Fluffy and Fido. (Of course, if opportunity presents itself, they will.) Golf course and city park geese and eggs are a favorite choice, along with urban deer and human trash.

His chapter "Bright Lights, Big City" collects a lot of research on urban populations, and some parts will surprise you. The best course, he suggests, is "to learn everything possible about living with the animals, then kick back, be cool, and enjoy them."

Meanwhile, some friends a couple of miles away have joined the chicken cult. M. and I stopped by a couple of days ago, and the husband was pouring concrete around the shed that he has converted to a chicken coop. He has built a stout wire enclosure with a concrete footing, and the top will be covered for both shade and protection from hawks. And I don't think that he is particular trigger-happy.

Our friends the wildlife rehabilitators, whose fawn enclosure would be a snack bar for coyotes and other predators, surround it with an eight-foot chain-link fence. But mountain lions and some coyotes and climb (bears prefer to smash their way in), so on top of that are three strands of barbed wire and one of electric wire. So far, so good over there.

That's what you have to do before you can "kick back, be cool, and enjoy them."

May 08, 2014

Blog Stew with Scottish Bones

Jake's Bones is a blog by/about a Scottish boy who picks up bones in the woods and takes them home. "I've been collecting bones since I was six, and I started blogging in July 2009 when I was seven." Now it is a book as well.

¶ On the locavore-new woman hunter axis, Kristen Schmitt's blog City Roots to Hunting Boots chronicles her journey to become a hunter, a bowhunter in particular.
Thumbing through back issues of Deer & Deer Hunting, I find myself stumbling over terminology related to archery, bowhunting, and rifle hunting – all words I need to start familiarizing myself with for my future goal (and also so I sound like I know what I’m talking about). Considering that I didn’t grow up within a hunting family, it’s all new to me. Luckily, my husband has been hunting since childhood and is one of the most valuable resources I have. - See more at: http://www.deeranddeerhunting.com/blogs/locavore-blog/locavore-blog-chasing-arrow-archery-terms#sthash.qRQdfUSg.dpuf
Thumbing through back issues of Deer & Deer Hunting, I find myself stumbling over terminology related to archery, bowhunting, and rifle hunting – all words I need to start familiarizing myself with for my future goal (and also so I sound like I know what I’m talking about). Considering that I didn’t grow up within a hunting family, it’s all new to me. Luckily, my husband has been hunting since childhood and is one of the most valuable resources I have. - See more at: http://www.deeranddeerhunting.com/blogs/locavore-blog/locavore-blog-chasing-arrow-archery-terms#sthash.qRQdfUSg.dpuf
Thumbing through back issues of Deer & Deer Hunting, I find myself stumbling over terminology related to archery, bowhunting, and rifle hunting – all words I need to start familiarizing myself with for my future goal (and also so I sound like I know what I’m talking about). Considering that I didn’t grow up within a hunting family, it’s all new to me.
¶ Part of a discussion on the question "Does hunting make us human?" from David Stallings at The Center for Humans & Nature website. You can read more responses as well from Mary Zeiss Stange, Steve Bodio, Tovar Cerulli, and others.
Thumbing through back issues of Deer & Deer Hunting, I find myself stumbling over terminology related to archery, bowhunting, and rifle hunting – all words I need to start familiarizing myself with for my future goal (and also so I sound like I know what I’m talking about). Considering that I didn’t grow up within a hunting family, it’s all new to me. - See more at: http://www.deeranddeerhunting.com/blogs/locavore-blog/locavore-blog-chasing-arrow-archery-terms#sthash.qRQdfUSg.dpuf
Thumbing through back issues of Deer & Deer Hunting, I find myself stumbling over terminology related to archery, bowhunting, and rifle hunting – all words I need to start familiarizing myself with for my future goal (and also so I sound like I know what I’m talking about). Considering that I didn’t grow up within a hunting family, it’s all new to me. - See more at: http://www.deeranddeerhunting.com/blogs/locavore-blog/locavore-blog-chasing-arrow-archery-terms#sthash.qRQdfUSg.dpuf
Thumbing through back issues of Deer & Deer Hunting, I find myself stumbling over terminology related to archery, bowhunting, and rifle hunting – all words I need to start familiarizing myself with for my future goal (and also so I sound like I know what I’m talking about). Considering that I didn’t grow up within a hunting family, it’s all new to me. Luckily, my husband has been hunting since childhood and is one of the most valuable resources I have. - See more at: http://www.deeranddeerhunting.com/blogs/locavore-blog/locavore-blog-chasing-arrow-archery-terms#sthash.qRQdfUSg.dpuf

April 22, 2014

Fire Fungus after the Black Forest Fire

Wandering through the burnt woods around their school, students at the School in the Woods in Black Forest, northeast of Colorado Springs, discover a "fire fungus" never before seen in Colorado.
Experts identified it as the rare Neottiella hetieri, a fire fungus that has been found only twice before in the entire country and never in our state.
Video at the link from KKTV, Colorado Springs.

October 28, 2013

Blog Stew: Now with Quicksand!

¶ Trapped by quicksand: A hunter tells Denver Post columnist Scott Willoughby how he nearly died along the South Platte River.

¶ The Bureau of Land Management offered some big solar-power sites for auction — and there were no bidders.

I wish that we could understand that the best place for solar power is at the point of use — on top of the office buildings, etc. Not tearing up the desert (or in this case the near-desert San Luis Valley) and then building more transmission lines, etc.

¶ Evidently if you are Chinese, you set the bar for "harmony with nature" pretty low. Other funny stuff about Americans at the link as well.

¶ Ammonia from feedlots, big dairy farms, and other ag operations is affecting Rocky Mountain National Park.  At least they are not totally pretending that there is no problem:
“So if we can just get more exact data about how and when that ammonia is moving into Rocky Mountain National Park ... and then develop a warning system ... that could really go a long way in fixing the problem,” said Bill Hammerich, CEO of the Colorado Livestock Association. “We know we’re not the only contributor to the issue, but we certainly want to do our part to help fix it.”

April 25, 2013

Forest Therapy — You Don't Need to Be Japanese

In Japan, "forest therapy" is a formal process, complete with leaders. "To help us along, Kunio—a volunteer ranger—had us standing still on a hillside, facing the creek, with our arms at our sides."
In an effort to benefit the Japanese and find nonextractive ways to use forests, which cover 67 percent of the country’s landmass, the government has funded about $4 million in forest-bathing research since 2004. It intends to designate a total of 100 Forest Therapy sites within 10 years. Visitors here are routinely hauled off to a cabin where rangers measure their blood pressure, part of an effort to provide ever more data to support the project.
But just do it yourself. You don't need to write haiku, unless you want to.

The "nature as a gym" crowd is doing it wrong.
And don’t think you’re off the hook if you exercise outdoors. You are quite likely still tethered to civilization. Perhaps you’re strapped to a heart monitor or headset. Admit it: Have you brought your phone? Are you clocking wind sprints? Sure, you are deriving some mental and physical benefits, but evidence is mounting that to get the most out of nature, you really need to be present in it, not distracted by your own great story of self.

December 23, 2012

Drop the Smart Phone, Go Hiking, Be Smarter?

I am not sure how you measure creativity — it's not like saying how many pull-ups you can do or something like that, but if being outdoors enhanced creativity, then I will support the meme.
Earlier studies have shown that children spend only 15 to 25 minutes outdoors daily and that outdoor recreation has declined over the past 30 years. People ages 8 to 18 spent more than 7.5 hours daily watching TV or using cellphones or computers.
But I always feel a little guilty about now in writing such a blog post, because guess where I am at this very moment.

OK, tomorrow, serious hike. It's supposed to snow too.

October 19, 2012

Telling the Deer to Cross the Interstate is Irresponsible

Want to hear a talk-radio host with nothing to say? I heard about this episode when I arrived in North Dakota Tuesday. Now it has gone viral: Donna the Deer Lady.

Another example of being disconnected from the larger world.

June 14, 2012

Too Much! Too Much! Not Enough!

I am always telling people that the stream of social media is like drinking from a firehose, which is why I try to keep my Facebook feed to a minimum, don't tweet, don't read tweets, and don't do much else. I'm a jumpy person by nature as it is.

As Diane Ackerman wrote in the New York TImes recently, "The new technology, for all its boons, also bedevils us with alluring distractors, cyberbullies, thought-nabbers, calm-frayers, and a spiky wad of miscellaneous news. Some days it feels like we’re drowning in a twittering bog of information."

On the other hand, she continues, "One solution is to spend a few minutes every day just paying close attention to some facet of nature. A bonus is that the process will be refreshing.

"When a sense of presence steals up the bones, one enters a mental state where needling worries soften, careers slow their cantering, and the imaginary line between us and the rest of nature dissolves. Then for whole moments one may see nothing but the flaky trunk of a paper-birch tree with its papyrus-like bark.

"Or, indoors, watch how a vase full of tulips, whose genes have traveled eons and silk roads, arch their spumoni-colored ruffles and nod gently by an open window."

Yes, like that. Get your attention span back.

I have,  however, been letting the scout cameras develop their attention spans, and some interesting things have turned up, which I will blog soon. In little chunks.

June 05, 2012

Mysterious Radiation in 775

It's already in Wikipedia: Something happened in or about 775 CE — a burst of radiation that affected Carbon-14 levels.
The only known events that can produce a 14C spike are floods of γ-rays from supernova explosions or proton storms from giant solar flares. But neither seems likely . . . because each should have been large enough to have had other effects that would have been observed at the time.

A massive supernova, for example, should have been bright enough to produce a 'new' star visible even in the daytime, as was the case for two known supernovae in ad 1006 and ad 1054. Such an explosion would have needed to be brighter than either of these . . .  because those events were not large enough to leave traces in the 14C record.
Read the rest.

December 25, 2011

Top Colorado Nature Photographers



Colorado Outdoors contributor Vic Schendel offers some photography tips.

Meanwhile, the Denver Post lists its five top Colorado nature photographers, leading readers to suggest plenty of others in the comments.

September 06, 2011

GPS: Better on Foot than in the Car?

Getting ready for the first of two fall road trips, I won't be using a GPS, other than for a little geocaching at various destinations.

I can find Yellowstone National Park without a map. Just go north-northwest for two days until you hit it—either east of the Wind River Range or west.

This article from The New Atlantis discusses ways in which GPS makes people worse driver and navigators.
Aside from the growing mounds of anecdotal evidence, there is some research to support the idea that GPS navigation weakens driving ability, and that, as a 2008 review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put it, “the mere presence of a navigation system in a vehicle might encourage increasingly frequent and unnecessary use of the system, including browsing through lists of attractions.” However, most of this research only compares different types of navigation systems to each other (and to using a paper map during the actual act of driving); as of yet, there seems to be no research comparing GPS navigation to internalized navigation, nor are there any comprehensive statistical studies on the effects of GPS on accident rates. But one 2008 survey found that GPS devices had contributed to 300,000 crashes in the United Kingdom, and over a million drivers veering dangerously while following GPS directions. And a 2007 Dutch study found that GPS devices increased traffic accident casualties, and “purposely put the driver into a situation of unacceptable social behavior.”
But I mentioned geocaching.  This piece from the Durango Herald makes the case that it brings kids outdoors:
During the last three years, interest in “Trail Trekkers” – a children’s hiking program offered by Durango’s Parks and Recreation Department – had cratered. John Robinette, supervisor of youth recreation, was flummoxed
.
“When I started 10 years ago, the hiking program was really popular,” he said. “But then last year, almost no children signed up. We had to end it. It just wasn’t cost-effective.”

Through seminars and literature on continuing education in parks and recreation, Robinette learned about geocaching.

“I bought the starter kit, went to the website,” he said. “We decided to offer a six-week geocaching program for kids three days a week. Three of four sessions totally filled up.”
Robinette said the program had been a great success.

“Kids nowadays, they want a little bit more from the outdoors,” he said. “Some of them had their own GPS devices. We’re definitely going to offer it again next summer, and maybe this fall.” 
I admit to mixed feelings there—should you need the gadget?—but the old rule of teaching is that you have to start where your students mentally are.

July 23, 2011

Watching Thunder

The orchestra of thunder is tuning up behind the Wet Mountains. Like a tardy stagehand, a fire-fighting helicopter crosses from stage left to right—north to south—carrying a bucket.

Where is the fire? M. and I are at the firehouse, dropping off small appliances and boxes of kitchen ware from the "peculiar cabin" for the next fund-raising yard sale. We watch the copter pass. The telephone is silent. The alarm siren is silent. We drive home.

The lighting is flashing now with the thunder only five seconds after. I unplug the computers and the modem, take a bottle of beer out to the long veranda.

We watch rain move through the little mountain valleys, obliterating  one with mist and showing another ridgeline row of pines in sharp relief. It is moving toward us, north to south.

Then spoke Holt Mountain: DA.  And it's raining on the waste land of the Sand Gulch Fire and the Mason Fire, while the unnamed ridge behind us answers: DATTA.

Mountains are talking as the gray wave passes over us. The veranda's metal roof gives its applause.

It is raining on the ridges, where the hermit thrush sings in the pine trees. Here at the bottom of the unnamed ridge, the rufus and broad-tailed hummingbirds do not cease orbiting the sugar-water feeder. There is not even silence in the mountains.

The storm moves off to the southeast. The fire-fighting helicopter returns, that sound high in the air. It is flying fast to the north, to its base, the bucket trailing behind on its long cable, responding gaily to a hand expert with stick and throttle, the air is calm.

We need to hear the sound of water over a rock this summer.

July 19, 2011

Places Where You Can See the Stars

An interactive map of locations with dark enough skies to really see the stars. Another reason to appreciate the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

June 08, 2011

The Woman, the Goshawk, and Death in its Varieties

Falconer and writer Rebecca O'Connor interviews falconer, writer, and scholar Helen Macdonald about the latter's life in falconry, which began at age eleven. Here is a taste:
But as for the writing – yes, I’m hammering out a kind of modern-day version of TH White’s The Goshawk — oh the presumption. My story’s simple. In 2007 my dad’s sudden, unexpected death sent me off the rails. And I decided to eschew bereavement counselling in favour of training a goshawk. Yes, Helen; like that would solve everything. Um.
Looking back on it, I was trying to escape being human, because humans grieve and hurt, and hawks don’t. It was an … intense experience. I went feral. Became more than half-hawk myself. As the season went on I cut myself off from friends, family, everything. All that was left was Mabel and me, out on hillsides slaying rabbits and pheasants. Slowly, unknowingly, I sank into a very deep depression. I was so hawkish then I didn’t recognise it for what it was. Couldn’t work out why I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings, or why, in the evenings, Mabel fast asleep with a full crop on her bow on the living room floor, I sat in floods of tears. How dumb was I?
It wasn’t until November, when I attended my father’s memorial service in St Bride's in Fleet Street, standing there at the lectern giving an address to family and all dad’s friends and colleagues in the congregation, that it dawned on me what a fool I’d been. I’d bought into that old nature-writer’s chestnut that after a great hurt you should flee to the wild to heal yourself. I’m thinking now this is a dangerous lie. Human hands are also for other human hands to hold; they should not be reserved exclusively as perches for hawks.
Read it all here.

May 19, 2011

I Contain Multitudes

Computer artwork and colored electron microscope images of bacteria in and on the human body.

"The human gut alone contains almost four and a half pounds of bacteria. We are in essence only ten percent human - the rest is pure microbe."

Think of the "Song of Myself" that Walt Whitman could have written had he known that fact.

February 21, 2011

Magnetic North Keeps Changing

Magnetic north keeps changing. But you can compute the declination (difference between magnetic and true north) for any location by using this page.

September 21, 2010

First, Let's Kill All the Carnivores

"But if suffering is bad for animals when we cause it, it is also bad for them when other animals cause it," argues Rutgers philosophy professor Jeff McMahan in a recent New York Times opinion piece, "The Meat Eaters."

In other words, for the lion truly to lie down with the lamb, as Isaiah prophesied, we have to kill the lion. I say "we have to," because the lions are not going to do it themselves voluntarily.

Only then will we have a truly moral world.

Bang bang. No more lions.

"I am therefore inclined to embrace the heretical conclusion that we have reason to desire the extinction of all carnivorous species," the professional ethicist writes.

 Once rid of wolves and weasels, however, Professor McMahan's work is not done.

Got to hurry the seals and orcas to extinction. Bang. And all the toothed whales. Kaboom!

After the mammals, the birds are next. No more eagles, hawks, owls, shrikes. Rat-tat-tat-tat. Bang bang. Same with the carrion-eaters. No carrion, no vultures, condors, ravens, and other species who might upset the desired moral equilibrium.

And then the bugs. Ladybugs—kill them all. Praying mantises. Predatory wasps. Spritz 'em.

So now we have a world of (compulsorily) vegan humans, rats, cockroaches, and crows.

But wait. Are white blood cells carnivores? They eat the bacteria, right? They're not a "species," but they are still eating living organisms.

Kill everything! Ah, what purity. What a clear understanding and acceptance of the natural world.

What cruelty in the name of ethics!

April 19, 2010

Brits Discover Nature Deficit Syndrome

An article in the British newspaper  The Independent argues that being a "walker-friendly country" is not enough to stop nature-deficit disorder in the UK.

I call it the Don't Touch culture. The don'ts include picking or playing games with wild plants, catching pond life or flying insects, foraging for wild food, climbing trees, or burning wood on a campfire. Many people seem to think such activities are illegal. Doubt has even been raised about the legal position of picking blackberries by the wayside. Personal, direct contact with nature is being discouraged by fusspots and busybodies and control freaks who seem to want to regulate every waking moment of our lives. You can read their disapproval in the small print under the welcome sign at the entrance. Look but don't touch. You know it's illegal.