Nene, once again more than just a crossword answer

March 26, 2014

Caption:  USFWS Refuge System ‏@USFWSRefuges -   Nene hatchings on Jas Campbell #Refuge are 1st in Hawaii in centuries http://bit.ly/1jBxFrT  pic.twitter.com/PK2l9PVa3v

Caption: USFWS Refuge System ‏@USFWSRefuges – Nene hatchings on James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge are first in [Oahu] Hawaii in centuries http://bit.ly/1jBxFrT pic.twitter.com/PK2l9PVa3v (this photo taken on Kaui, at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge). Photograph by Brenda Zaun/USFWS/Flickr Creative Commons

These great looking geese, known as Nene,  are thought to have descended from Canada geese blown off course; once they were common on many of the Hawaiian Islands, but by 1952 there were only 30 left.

Bones found on Oahu show they once thrived there.  A few birds — blown off course again, or looking for more territory? — moved to Oahu a few months ago, and have raised young.  Scientists are watching to see how it works out.

With short name featuring only two different letters, “Nene” is a popular crossword answer, and clue.  Some ornithologists half-joke that the familiarity among crossword enthusiasts was a huge aid in getting aid for the wild populations of the bird, and in getting the Endangered Species Act passed into law.

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Just ducky! It’s turtles, all the way down . . .

March 5, 2014

From the U.S. Department of Interior:  Friends come in all shapes & sizes in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. #California #nature pic.twitter.com/CvUkY6HoxF

From the U.S. Department of Interior: Friends come in all shapes & sizes in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. #California #nature pic.twitter.com/CvUkY6HoxF

Watching the wildlife can be endlessly entertaining.


Ready for his close-up, on the Anhinga Trail

February 27, 2014

Department of Interior caption:  Everglades National Park --   This Alligator decided he wanted to stand out from all the others along the Anhinga Trail! (SD)

Department of Interior caption: Everglades National Park — This Alligator decided he wanted to stand out from all the others along the Anhinga Trail! (SD)


Grizzly on the Snake, in the Tetons

January 15, 2014

A Grizzly Bear crossing the Snake River at sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park.   Photo: Donald Higgs (www.sharetheexperience.org)

A Grizzly Bear crossing the Snake River at sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park. Photo: Donald Higgs (www.sharetheexperience.org)

From the U.S. Department of Interior’s Great American Outdoors Tumblr:

A Grizzly Bear crossing the Snake River at sunrise in the Grand Teton National Park.
Photo: Donald Higgs (www.sharetheexperience.org)

I was born on the Snake River, farther south and west, in Burley, Idaho.  It’s a grand river, not so much in the water it moves as the way it moves through the landscape and becomes a part of grander parts of the American west.  Kathryn and I honeymooned in Yellowstone, and stayed in Grand Teton on the way out.

There is nothing grander on Earth than a sunrise in the Tetons.  Do you think a grizzly appreciates that?

Yeah, gotta get back there.


Sunrise at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania

October 4, 2013

Photograph posted on Facebook by the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association:

Sunrise at Hawk Mountain, Quelia Paulino, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Planning a trip to Hawk Mountain this weekend? Arrive early to enjoy great views of low-hanging fog and to see the sun peek out over the valley. It’s a great way to start any day. — with Quelia Paulino at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association.

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Perfect autumn walk, Rachel Carson NWR

September 24, 2013

Department of Interior  Twitter Photo: Rachel Carson NWR in #Maine

US Dept of Interior Photo ‏@Interior: Rachel Carson NWR in #Maine is the perfect place to see the leaves change this time of year. #nature pic.twitter.com/5kL9EArPaA

While we’re talking about Rachel Carson’s legacy, gander at this gorgeous fall walk at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, in Maine.

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Yosemite NP’s Rim Fire time-lapse

September 18, 2013

USDA/Flickr photo via Mother Jones: A National Park Service fire crew builds a sprinkler system around a grove of sequoias. USDA/Flickr

USDA/Flickr photo via Mother Jones: A National Park Service fire crew builds a sprinkler system around a grove of sequoias. USDA/Flickr

It’s a rolling tragedy, in time-lapse.  Fire always offers a chance at beauty, if we don’t think about the destruction the fire wreaks.

A lot of cameras around Yosemite, and some were set to do time-lapse photos of the recent Rim Fire.  One hopes there is some academic value to these films, perhaps in demonstrating how the diurnal rhythms of the atmosphere changes the behavior of fire (notice how smoke often changes directions at sunset, and then at sunrise, and back again).

All that smoke.  Much of it was living plant material just a few weeks ago, and we watch it turned to tiny particles and gases, and spread by the winds.

More information from the filmmakers and posters:

Published on Aug 28, 2013

Time-lapse photography shows various perspectives of the 2013 Rim Fire, as viewed from Yosemite National Park. The first part of this video is from the Crane Flat Helibase. The fire [was]  . . .burning in wilderness and  . . . not immediately threatening visitors or employees. The second half of the video is from Glacier Point, showing Yosemite Valley, and how little the smoke from the fire has impacted the Valley.

In this next piece, you’ll see footage of fire fighting operations, including a back-burn, and helicoptering of supplies to firefighters on the front lines.  It’s the non-time-lapse version, with wildtrack sound.

Published on Sep 7, 2013

Fire crews in Yosemite conducted firing operations along the Tioga Road this week to provide a buffer of protection from the Rim Fire. As you can see in this video, the fire mostly burns debris on the forest floor rather than the trees. It’s only when the forest floor accumulates too much debris or too many young trees that a small fire like this gets hot enough to torch mature trees and spread from treetop to treetop.

Later in the video, we give you a behind-the-scenes peek at Yosemite’s Helicopter 551 ferrying supplies from the Crane Flat helibase.

The timelapse, from August, has over a million-and-a-half views on YouTube; the non-timelapse, a few weeks later, has fewer than 6,000 views, as I write this.  Time-lapse is very popular.

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Mountain goat nemeses everywhere!

August 12, 2013

Normally I might just let this beautiful photo slide by without comment.

In this case, I find this particularly frustrating.  See that creature?  That’s the same goat that blocked my trail in Glacier National Park.  I’m sure of it.  I’d recognize those beady eyes and horns anywhere! (See the first story linked to in the “more’ section; maybe this goat stopped in Washington on the way to Alaska.)

He’s probably in Alaska now under the Federal Goat Protection Program.

Harding Icefield Trail @KenaiFjordsNPS. #alaska pic.twitter.com/yozsSLnrcD

Interior US Dept of Interior 6h Caption from the Department of Interior: That’s quite the hike to the top. Harding Icefield Trail @KenaiFjordsNPS. #alaska pic.twitter.com/yozsSLnrcD

He probably thinks he’s safe there at Kenai Fjords National Park.  Ha!  He’s farther away, but that just means I have farther to travel to find him!

I’m taking a longer telephoto, a wide angle, and a first aid kit, next time.  I’ll be prepared!

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Return of the roadrunners

July 13, 2013

Our move to Texas in 1987 offered as one amenity, local roadrunners.

Camp Wisdom road was mostly two lanes then — it’s six, now.  Clark Road was two lanes.  It’s expanded to six, with a direct link to the freeway Spur 408.  Wheatland Road was two lanes.  You guessed it: Six now.

Not sure about baseball fields any more, but with roads, if you build ‘em, people will come.  The empty prairie and cedar forests favored by golden-cheeked warblers, and favorable to lizard-eating roadrunners, gave way to bulldozers putting up apartment complexes, strip shopping centers (still mostly vacant), self-storage businesses, and more roads.  Roads bring automobiles, and autos provide collision courses for roadrunners.

In the summer, I used to see a roadrunner at least weekly at the intersection of Camp Wisdom and Clark; once watched one hunt down a very large Texas fence lizard and dash off with the lizard dangling from either side of its beak.  In the era before electronic cameras.

All that development takes the habitat of roadrunners, and that is the slow death of much wildlife.  Roadrunners dwindled down.  About 2009 we discussed how rare they were.  In 2011 Kathryn and I saw one lone roadrunner along Old Clark Road in Cedar Hill, precariously living in a 50-yard swath between two roads (which are slated to be widened), sharing a railroad track.  Nothing since.

Mama and chick roadrunners

Mama roadrunner gives me the eyeball from the safety of the cedar tree, while the chick grooms. Is it safe to go out into the sun?

Until two weeks ago.  Kathryn called me, excited that she’d seen a roadrunner crossing Mountain Creek Parkway, where Wheatland Road dead-ends into it.  It’s good roadrunner weather.  We were happy to know at least one survived.

Then, last Thursday I was driving along Old Clark Road.  I brought along the Pentax K10D because I was hopeful of catching the hawk family living a block off of Wheatland and Cedar Ridge Roads.  A roadrunner dashed across the road from a small ranchette into a “vacant” field of wild prairie grasses dotted with Ashe cedars.  My experience is they are reclusive, and don’t like to be watched.  I grabbed the camera and got a couple of shots of the bird, running under a tree and meeting up with another, smaller one — a chick!

I doubled back and u-turned, hoping they might at least dash.  The larger one danced on the edge of the shadow of the tree for a minute, then uncharacteristically strutted out, hunting something to eat.  She got something that looked like a lizard, or a fantastically large grasshopper, and a few other tidbits from the grass.  She strutted around, and headed back to the shade, and to the younger one.

Mama Roadrunner flaps happily after ingesting a large something.

Mama Roadrunner flaps happily after ingesting a large something.

Roadrunners, the greater roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus (which means “Californian Earth-cuckoo,” a description of many politicians in the Golden State, perhaps).

I shot stills, with a 50-200 mm telephoto zoom, and I got a bunch of shots.  I strung them together in Windows Moviemaker.

Are the roadrunners doing okay?  Not really.  They’re not gone, but much of their old habitat disappeared from this hill, the highest point in Texas between the Louisiana border and the Rockies — swallowed by human development, homes, suburban shopping, and the roads that go with that development.

How are roadrunners doing in your area?  Got pictures?  (Cindy Knoke has a longer telephoto than I’ve got, and photos to prove it; go see.)

Greater Roadrunner running

Greater Roadrunner doing what roadrunners to, back to the shade of a cedar tree and her chick. It was 102 degrees F, after all.

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Grosbeak!

May 1, 2013

Our goldfinches left several weeks ago.  The cedar waxwings came through in at least three big waves, starting in February (and the last just over a week ago).  House finches moulted, and the breeding males have bright red heads. Migrating robins left us by the end of January, but a lot more residents stayed with us.

We have at least one, and maybe three cardinal families.  A black-capped chickadee family stuck around.  Haven’t seen a titmouse in a month, but I think they’re still in the neighborhood.  The black-chinned hummingbird family is back, and maybe a few other hummers.  The resident blue jays and white-winged doves duke it out every day.  Carolina wren stayed, and may have already fledged; but there are too many wrens for one family — is that a Bewick’s wren?

What’s THAT?

White winged dove and rose-breasted grosbeaki

White-winged dove, left, can’t scare away the rose-breasted grosbeak from the songbird feeder. Photo by Ed Darrell

IMGP4861

Look closer. Photo by Ed Darrell

It’s a rose-breasted grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus.  It seems late for migrating birds, but only because so many migratory species migrate earlier these days.

Haunts of the rose-breasted grosbeak, from Cornell University's ornithological laboratory.

Haunts of the rose-breasted grosbeak, from Cornell University’s ornithological laboratory.

Would love to have a grosbeak family, but the Cornell ornithologists say this is fly-through territory.  Maybe that explains why it won’t scare by the white-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica.  Dallas is the western edge of the grosbeaks’ migratory path, but the eastern edge of the dove’s territory.  They probably don’t see much of each other.

We don’t even advertise clean restrooms.

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Annals of global warming: No, polar bears are not “fine” — suffer from loss of sea ice

March 20, 2013

Press release from The Journal of Animal Ecology (links added here):

For polar bears, it’s survival of the fattest

One of the most southerly populations of polar bears in the world – and the best studied – is struggling to cope with climate-induced changes to sea ice, new research reveals. Based on over 10 years’ data the study, published in the British Ecological Society‘s Journal of Animal Ecology, sheds new light on how sea ice conditions drive polar bears’ annual migration on and off the ice.

Led by Dr. Seth Cherry of the University of Alberta, the team studied polar bears in western Hudson Bay, where sea ice melts completely each summer and typically re-freezes from late November to early December. “This poses an interesting challenge for a species that has evolved as a highly efficient predator of ice-associated seals,” he explains. “Because although polar bears are excellent swimmers compared with other bear species, they use the sea ice to travel, hunt, mate and rest.”

Polar bear and two cubs wait for ice to reform

Caption from EurekAlert: An adult female polar bear wearing a GPS-satellite linked collar with her two 10-month-old cubs waits for the sea ice to re-form onshore in western Hudson Bay, Manitoba, Canada. Photo Copyright Andrew Derocher, Univeristy of Alberta.

Polar bears have adapted to the annual loss of sea ice by migrating onto land each summer. While there, they cannot hunt seals and must rely on fat reserves to see them through until the ice returns.

Dr. Cherry and colleagues wanted to discover how earlier thawing and later freezing of sea ice affects the bears’ migration. “At first glance, sea ice may look like a barren, uniform environment, but in reality, it’s remarkably complex and polar bears manage to cope, and even thrive, in a habitat that moves beneath their feet and even disappears for part of the year. This is an extraordinary biological feat and biologist still don’t fully understand it,” he says.

From 1991-97 and 2004-09, they monitored movements of 109 female polar bears fitted with satellite tracking collars. They tagged only females because males’ necks are wider than their heads, so they cannot wear a collar. During the same period, the team also monitored the position and concentration of sea ice using satellite images.

“Defining precisely what aspects of sea ice break-up and freeze-up affect polar bear migration, and when these conditions occur, is a vital part of monitoring how potential climate-induced changes to sea ice freeze-thaw cycles may affect the bears,” he says.

The results reveal the timing of polar bears’ migration can be predicted by how fast the sea ice melts and freezes, and by when specific sea ice concentrations occur within a given area of Hudson Bay.

According to Dr. Cherry: “The data suggest that in recent years, polar bears are arriving on shore earlier in the summer and leaving later in the autumn. These are precisely the kind of changes one would expect to see as a result of a warming climate and may help explain some other studies that are showing declines in body condition and cub production.”

Recent estimates put the western Hudson Bay polar bear population at around 900 individuals. The population has declined since the 1990s, as has the bears’ body condition and the number of cubs surviving to adulthood.

Young polar bear challenged by lack of sea ice, Andrew Derocher photo

Caption from EurekAlert: This is a subadult polar bear on a lake on the shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada in November waiting for the sea ice to re-form. Copyright Andrew Derocher, Univeristy of Alberta.

Because polar bears’ main food source is seals, and these are hunted almost exclusively on sea ice, the longer bears spend on land, the longer they must go without energy-rich seals. “Climate-induced changes that cause sea ice to melt earlier, form later, or both, likely affect the overall health of polar bears in the area. Ultimately, for polar bears, it’s survival of the fattest,” says Dr. Cherry.

He hopes the results will enable other scientists and wildlife managers to predict how potential climate-induced changes to sea ice freeze-thaw cycles will affect the ecology, particularly the migration patterns, of this iconic species.

###

Seth Cherry et al (2013). ‘Migration phenology and seasonal fidelity of an Arctic marine predator in relation to sea ice dynamics’, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12050, is published in the Journal of Animal Ecology on Wednesday 20 March 2013.

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Hog wild in Texas: Ranchers, guns, and science working against environmental disaster

February 25, 2013

Unusual?  No, this is really a typical marriage of agriculture, government agencies, science and hunters, working on problems of wildlife management, feral hogs in this case.

Notes from Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Feral hogs are running wild across Texas, at great cost to farmers, ranchers, and native wildlife. Hunters are helping, but science may prove critical to controlling the invasion on a broader scale. For more information on feral hogs and feral hog control, visit: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/…

When it comes to feral hogs, every Texan turns environmentalist.

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English: Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Dep...

Sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department headquarters – Wikipedia image


Occasional Tuesday tweet: Wren on the rose, Bewick’s or Carolina?

January 22, 2013

I’ve been calling these guys Bewick’s wrens (Thryomanes bewickii) for a couple of years, based on an identification I made a couple of years ago — but checking today to be sure, I’m thinking this is a Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) instead.

In any case, a couple of days ago it paused for a few minutes in our backyard rose arbor, long enough I could try to get a good shot with just a 200mm telephoto, and with colors dulled by the window.

Carolina wren, perhaps, in Dalls

Wren in the rose arbor — ruddy color suggests it’s a Carolina wren, but I’ve been calling it a Bewick’s wren; pausing for its photo on Inauguration Day – Photo by Ed Darrell

Bewick’s wrens probably have more grey on their bellies; this one looks ruddy enough to be a Carolina wren.  (I just learned “Bewick’s” is pronounced like “Buicks.”)

Wrens stick around all winter now; they didn’t just over a decade ago.  This family has been with us for at least three years — two young this year successfully fledged.  By now it’s almost impossible to tell which are the young, which the parents.

Gulf fritillary on blue porterweed, Dallas, Texas - Ed Darrell photo

Gulf fritillary butterfly on blue porterweed — a few feet from the rose arbor where the wren posed, but months apart. Photo: Ed Darrell

On our patio we have a saga continuing with Gulf fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae), their larva, and passion vine.  It seems our neighbors eradicated passion vine, so when the frits start moving north in the spring, they find our passion vines as the only ones in town.  The females go nuts laying eggs, and at some point we have a surplus of larva who denude the vines in a week.  Late hatching larva probably die off.

The butterfly books suggest that we cull the larva, but we don’t have the heart.  At some point in the spring the wrens wake up to the issue, and they cull the larva for us.  The vines recover, a new wave of frits hatch out, and the cycle begins again.  From June through September, the passion vine loses any leaves it puts out within 48 hours, usually.  But the wrens probably eat well.

The wrens seem never to perch where we can see them when they sing.  I suspect these little guys of having a much better voice than most wrens, but the great arpeggios I hear may be another bird, perhaps a warbler, that I just don’t know (good reason to go spend time at the local Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, yes?).

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Montreal baby experiences terror of being ‘lifted up by eagle’s wings’ (hoax?)

December 19, 2012

East Coast son Kenny sent this video, noting his reaction was the same as the guy in the film; an encounter with a golden eagle in a Montreal park:

You can take the eagle out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the eagle.

Looks mostly like a golden eagle to me — anyone want to make the case it’s a different bird?

What’s going on in Montreal, I wonder, that would make a golden eagle think a human baby might make a good meal?  (No, I don’t think the bird was trying to give the kid a thrill.)

Other reports of similar incidents around Montreal?

Update:  WHAT?  IT’S FAKED? Thoughtful reader Luisa in comments refers us to Chris Clarke’s Original Blog™ Coyote Crossing, which updates from expert birder Kenn Kauffman who says, as I wondered, it’s not a golden eagle, and other things look hoaxed. (While you’re looking around, check out Luisa’s Crow and Raven; bird photos that will make you jealous.)  You’d think an incident like that would have made it to the newspapers and television stations in Montreal, but I’ve found nothing — have you?)

Update, December 19, 2012:  Now the CBC covers the tale,  noting that it is most likely a hoax.  The film’s maker or YouTube poster has not defended it that I can find.  Watch carefully — the “baby” doesn’t move during the time it’s on the ground, through the bird’s plucking it up and dropping it.  There’s plenty of time to swap a dummy out with a real kid in the stroller while the camera is pointed away.  CBC found a Montreal ornithologist who claims it looks more like an osprey than an eagle.  I’ll buy that.

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Note to hikers in Provo Canyon: This is not Bigfoot

November 26, 2012

Not Bigfoot:

Bear on the Misty Falls Trail, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks - photo by Spencer Darrell, rights reserved

Bear on the Misty Falls Trail, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks – photo by Spencer Darrell, rights reserved

Assume that thing in the brush is a bear if it looks vaguely like a bear; if you’re filming, do so as you back up, and only through a very long telephoto lens (bears can sprint up to 30 mph; you want a 300-yard head start).   A bear can do more damage to you than Big Foot; don’t mess up the bear’s thing with tourists looking for cryptofauna.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Spencer Darrell, one of Our Men in California.

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