August 06, 2007

This Ain't the Damned Lake Road

Here is the driveway of someone who is tired of tourists who leave their brains back in Kansas or Colorado Springs. (The actual signed and marked turnoff to Lake DeWeese is about 100 yards further south on Colorado 96, near Westcliffe.)

Full text: Private Drive Stay Out. This Ain't The Damned Lake Road. Stay Out.

In the background, a thunderstorm moves over the Wet Mountains.

I used to wonder about rural residents who were always putting up "Private Drive -- Keep Out" signs. Then I became one.

Every sunny Sunday there would be someone blundering up our little two-track driveway. The dogs would bark, we would go outside to see who was visiting, only to see a vehicle rapidly reversing away.

Once it was a Cañon City bank president in a red convertible with a much younger blonde in the passenger seat. His daughter, perhaps.

So I put up a "Private Drive" sign, which discourages most of them.

Roadkill, 'Bambinos,' and Lyme Disease

Eric at the Classical Values blog makes a persuasive case about hunting, roadkill, and Lyme disease's spread.

It is not mentioned here, but I have also seen the case made that fire suppression in Eastern forests has also created a more tick-friendly environment. Up through the 1600s, many Eastern forests were burned by Indians to create a more open environment for hunting, travel, and agriculture, resulting in fewer, larger trees. (On the west side of the Appalachian Mountains they were also able to encourage buffalo to graze and thereby be hunted.)

Lyme disease is not a big Colorado problem--yet. We get along fine with our hantavirus, bubonic plague, and West Nile virus. (Hat tip: Querencia)

Update: Here is a little more on the deer-car collision problem.

When I first moved to Fremont County, Colorado, in 1986, the district wildlife manager said that one deer or elk was killed nightly somewhere in the county.

Intelligent fencing is about all that works in high-risk areas.

August 05, 2007

It's Better to be Pure than Effective?

The June 25, 2007 issue of High Country News carried Hal Herring's piece on a group of Western "predator hunters for the environment," who claim they do a better job of defending wildlife that either "cattlemen . . . who did not want to see larger deer and elk herds" or, obviously, animal-rightists.

Anti-hunting groups cite studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showing that “watchable wildlife” interests — non-hunting tourists drawn to parks and rural areas — spend more on their trips and are an increasing presence, while expenditures by hunters are declining. But this does not negate a simple reality: The majority of the wildlife being watched by non-hunters has been restored and sustained by hunter dollars, paid through the decades into a variety of revenue streams. (Emphasis added.)

Herring's article points out that such groups have pushed for habitat restoration that benefits all species, not just game species.

The issue here is whether Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife's focus on predator control is really biologically accurate or not. But that is not the real issue for some HCN readers, who are more interested in preening displays of moral superiority.

Mary Sojourner, an occasional HCN contributor herself, informs us that she does not trust herself to own a gun. (Fine, Mary, no one is forcing you.)

Bob Wood of Sedona tells us that "Ed Abbey was a gun nut," but evidently his heart is big enough include Cactus Ed anyway, nuttiness aside.

Will Nobauer of Aspen froths at the mouth about "lunatic hairless apes," "psychotic mutant retards," and "mad killers," while the noble-minded Crista Worthy of Pacific Palisades, California, suggests that the people interviewed should take their "probably illegally modified" (how does she know?) rifles and kill each other. She would smile at the slaughter, she says.

Fortunately, other letter-writers were more rational. For instance, Rod Mondt of Tucson asks "all hunting and angling groups to put aside their differences and work together to protect wildlife habitat on public lands. And that truly is what it's all about.

It has long been one of the environmental movement's weakness that it is larded with people who would rather be morally correct than politically effective.

I do not agree completely with Roger Scruton that all conservation issues are best handled locally, but he is right about one thing:

Environmentalism certainly has the character of a movement, something you join that offers membership. It also has a militant wing. Aggressive organizations like Greenpeace, corrupt and unaccountable though they are, nevertheless appeal to young people because of their image of purity. Their publicity says, “Join us, and we will offer you salvation from environmental sin.” The redemption that they offer resembles initiation promises throughout history, from the knightly orders of the Middle Ages through to the jihadists today. . . .

These movements also provide an enemy, and enemies are useful for defining your place in the world. While it is difficult to share friends, you can easily share enemies, since hatred is far less demanding than love and requires no shared judgment—only a common target.

August 03, 2007

"All My Flycatchers," Season 3 Final Episode

I was away on August 1st. On the morning of the 2nd, I found a dead fledgling beneath our nest of Cordilleran flycatchers.

The rest were gone. (The photo was taken on July 31st. Only three fledglings show, but the fourth could have been blocked by the others.)

Once again, four babies and three survived--we hope. Maybe we can catch a glimpse of them if they are still near the house.

And that wraps up this season of All My Flycatchers.

Going all Medieval on my Feet

On the way to Colorado Springs today, I said that I wanted to stop in at Mountain Chalet. When I told M. why exactly I wanted to, she laughed for about two minutes straight. She has voiced her views on Crocs before.

But I bought some, because they are the contemporary equivalent of the medieval peasant's hand-carved wooden shoes. They let you walk in the mud, and then you can kick them off at the threshold.

And mud we have. It is raining as I write this. At least six inches have fallen in the past two weeks. That amount might mean gentle showers in some locales, but in the semi-arid Southwest, it's a lot. Hardscrabble Creek is running high and brown--it looks like spring again.

For deep snow and mud duty, I have rubber irrigation boots. And I have some zip-up pac boots, which were made on some weird Chinese last and fit well in the ball of the foot are but are huge and sloppy in the heels, even with heel inserts.

Now with les sabots Croc. I am ready for a rainy summer dog walk.

Liatris and Melancholy

Liatris or blazing star
Liatris is one wildflower that I started calling by its genus name before I knew any common names. (The common name is blazing star.)

For that I blame my old grad school friend Hank Fabian, second-generation flower grower and now head of the biology department at Merritt College in Oakland.

Before he started teaching, he went back to the family business and started growing flowers wholesale for southern Colorado florists. During a period of my own under-employment, I occasionally worked for him doing grunt work like stripping and bundling flowers. Yep, just like Maria Full of Grace but without the cocaine.

Hank grew a variety of Liatris, which florists like as a cut flower because it holds its bloom for a number of days, slowly opening from the bottom up, and it's easy to process and handle.

When they start blooming here, it signals the final arc of summer. Purple Liatris and purple asters joing all the yellow-gold asters. Purple and gold, the colors of Fort Collins High School. I attended four high schools but graduated from FCHS. Its school teams are the Lambkins. Evidently, back in the 1890s, someone must have reasoned that the sports teams would play harder if they were named for a plush toy. (Sort of like "A Boy Named Sue," I suppose.)

(And the school song was to the tune of "Deutschland Uber Alles". How did that escape the anti-German hysteria of World War One? Someone must have pleaded Papa Haydn's case.)

Those memories: Childhood's end. The summer of poverty in Cañon City. The falling arc of every year.

August 01, 2007

Our Forgotten Holiday

Wet Mountains columbine.I almost forgot that today is Colorado Day. I bet that you forgot too. No one makes a big deal out of it, although the state parks division cut the admission fee at Cherry Creek State Park outside of Denver. Woo hoo!

If Colorado Day fell during the normal school year, there might be more of an observance.

The photo is of the state flower, Aquilegia caerulea, the Colorado blue columbine, growing at a relatively low elevation in the Wet Mountains, but on a damp, north-facing slope.

UPDATE: In its weekly "Peaks of the Past" retrospective, the Wet Mountain Tribune has this:

100 Years Ago -- 1907

Colorado Day witnessed no great demonstration here. Some bunting was in evidence but business was conducted about the same as on any other day.


Blog Stew

¶ 10,000 Birds tries some myth-busting about handling wild birds.

¶ Birds are good for trees. What a concept! No wonder our ponderosa pines grow so fast--it's thanks to the nuthatches and chickadees whom we subsidize with our bird feeders.

¶ An amazing dog story. This collie-mix had to outwit a forest fire.

Irony rules the world. Too bad for the cougar.

Why the Roads Run Straight on the Plains

Strange Maps link explains the Land Ordinance of 1785, which is why one Colorado blog is called Square State.

Actually, it is rectangular, not square, and a little narrower on the north side due to converging lines of longitude. But why quibble?

According to Thomas Jefferson-impersonator Clay Jenkinson, President Jefferson imagined a West full of rectangular states. Jenkinson once solicited names for these imaginary states: I suggested that at least one of them should be called Artemisia, for Artemisia tridentata. (Just look at the distribution maps.)

Once I was on a London-to-Denver flight sitting ahead of two English guys who had booked a ski trip in Breckenridge, their first visit to Colorado. The airplane began its slow descent towards DIA, and somewhere over Sterling I heard one of them exclaim. I turned around, and he was staring down at some road, maybe Colorado 71 north of Stoneham, as it ran ruler-straight towards Wyoming. Miles of straight road--not a common sight in the UK.

You can blame the mapping of the American West on the post-revolutionary French, with their mania for straight lines and "reason." France itself almost ended up looking like this.

July 24, 2007

What the Bears are Eating

Bear turd with squawbush berries. July 2007. Custer County, ColoradoOur intrepid team of southern Colorado nature-bloggers is examining what the bears are eating. The sample above, photographed near the Nature Blog World Headquarters guest house, is full of the berries of Rhus trilobata, also known as squawbush.

Squawbush berries, Custer County, Colorado, July 2007The word "squaw" is hardly ever complimentary, although the idea that it means vagina is apparently an urban legend of the 1970s. The bush's common name came from the use of its branches for basket-making by American Indian women.

To the USDA, it's skunkbush sumac. Skunk? Allegedly from the odor of the leaves.

Dave Van Manen, author of our much-used Plants of Pueblo Mountain Park, calls it "threeleaf sumac" (Rhus aromatica ssp. trilobata). But Betty Derig and Margaret Fuller stuck with "squawbush" in their Wild Berries of the West. Since the word "sumac" usually means the bush or small tree Rhus glabra, whose leaves turn a spectacular scarlet in the early fall, the name threeleaf sumac is a little confusing. I don't think that it has caught on yet.

Meanwhile, the berries are sharp-flavored--edible but not palatable, as the saying goes--and I wonder how much nutritional value the bears get from them.

July 22, 2007

Get Colorado Outdoors

If you are reading this blog and you live in Colorado or come here a lot, you really do need a subscription to Colorado Outdoors.

It is ridiculously cheap, thanks to its state subsidy. Two years (12 issues) costs the same as 5.9 gallons of unleaded regular, as priced today at the Loaf 'n Jug in Florence.

And its writers get paid too.

July 21, 2007

A Walk in the Wets

Rain threatened, but M. and I set out around noon to see if recent wet weather had brought up any mushrooms nearby in the Wet Mountains.

Yarrow was blooming, mixed with wallflower.

One fir tree displayed a yellow ball of dwarf mistletoe (not the kind that Druids harvest).

M. moved into hunting-and-gathering mode and started spotting mushrooms.

The boletes were coming up. We ate all that we harvested tonight. When we get more, we will dry them.

On the way back to the Jeep, we encountered a ferocious beast. (Note to British readers: this is not the kind of skunk that you smoke.)

This half-grown skunk ran down the trail ahead of us with its tail in the air, just like a house cat. It seemed to have no clue about using its main weapon.

July 19, 2007

Doggie Dining

Civilization progresses in Missouri: Dogs are now permitted in sidewalk cafes.

The so-called "Doggie Dining Bill" was signed into law by Mayor Francis Slay at Forest Park Sunday. The measure does not allow dogs to occupy a chair or sit on the table, and they must remain on a leash. Still, under the table, they are masters of all they survey. Restaurants must post their participation and provide hand sanitizer.

(For a brief time in high school, I lived doglessly adjacent to Forest Park. Via Mirabilis.)

An Automotive Hate Crime

But this direct action was good, you see, because the perpetrators held the moral high ground. I am sure that they would tell you that! (And so would the KKK have said in its day.)

Via Ann Althouse.)

July 18, 2007

Where Did You Locate the Thermometer?

The Surface Stations project seeks photos of climate-monitoring stations around the country, pointing out that many are located, for example, next to air-conditioning units or exhaust fans. Others are located in more open areas. The viewer (in some cases) may contrast the readings obtained in each location.

Related: The author of Eco-Scam says he is no longer a skeptic.

UPDATE: It looks as though this paper from a meteorological journal addresses the siting of monitoring stations.