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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Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls at its fiery best

February 26, 2013

Photo Tweeted from the National Park Service:

Bethany Gediman photo of Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP, glowing orange

Horsetail Fall flows over the eastern edge of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. It’s a small waterfall that many people don’t notice, but it has gained popularity as more and more people have noticed it can glow orange during sunset in mid to late February. The most popular place to see Horsetail Fall seemingly afire is El Capitan picnic area, west of Yosemite Lodge and east of El Capitan (see map below). The “firefall” effect generally happens during the second half of February. A clear sky is necessary for the waterfall to glow orange. Photo: Bethany Gediman, NPS

People living close to National Parks are lucky to do so; people who work in them luckier still, in the lifetime sweepstakes for seeing breathtaking sites.  NPS employee (Ranger?) Bethany Gediman caught this image of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park.

Be sure to see the video of Yosemite Nature Notes No. 14, posted here earlier. It shows Horsetail at sunset in full glory.  Great photography.

How to get there:

Map to Horsetail Falls, Yosemite NP

Map of Yosemite National Park, showing Horsetail Falls and hiking trail to get to viewpoint in the photograph.

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Anybody got photos of Texas’s Big Lake with, you know, water in it?

February 15, 2013

Contrary to popular rural and redneck legend, Caddo Lake is not Texas’s only natural* lake.  There’s also Big Lake, near the town of Big Lake.

Problem being, of course, that Big Lake’s water sources these days generally don’t flow.  So Big Lake is often dry.

Which produces a further problem for site like Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:  If Big Lake is really a lake, why are there no photos of the lake with water in it?

A comment at AustinBassFishing.com got me thinking about this again, no photos of Big Lake as a Lake.  In the previous post here, we featured a photo of Big Lake Playa, sans water.  I searched the internet at the time and found no photos showing water in the lake.  My authority on Big Lake, Brad Wachsmann, swore that he had recently seen water in the thing (“recent” being “in the last decade or so”).

So, sorta good news:  A few photos of Big Lake, with water, plopped onto the internet since our last search.  Here are a couple from Panaramio:

Big Lake, Texas, with water in it.  Photo by doning

Water in Big Lake, near the city of Big Lake, Texas, laps at the State Highway 137 passing nearby. This photo comes from 2004, by doning.

Water in Big Lake, Texas, June 2005; photo by evansjohnc

Photo of water in Big Lake from June 2005. Photo by evansjohnc.  This photo appears to be about midway along the intersection of the lake with State Highway 137.

Big Lake, Texas, in dry phase, by cwoods

Big Lake in its dry phase, from looking north from the southern end of State Highway 137′s transection of the lake. Photo by cwoods.

Sign noting location of Big Lake, Texas, during dry phase. Photo by cwoods

Non-historic marker for Big Lake, also along State Highway 137, looking west. Photo by cwoods. Photo taken during Big Lake’s dry humor phase.

Now:  Can we track down the rumors of other natural lakes in TexasSabine Lake?  Green Lake?  Natural Dam Lake?

And, Dear Reader, can you find good photos of Big Lake with, you know, water in it?

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* Is Caddo Lake a natural lake?  Originally, the lake seems to have been formed by an enormous blowdown of trees, probably during a hurricane, well over 400 years ago.  In that sense, it was a natural lake when European explorers first found it, and during all of Texas’s “six flags” historic periods.  Or, what is known as the Great Raft, a log jam, dammed up the Red River near the confluence of the Big Cypress Bayou, in about 1799.  By 1800, Caddo Lake was wet all year-round, and deep enough for shallow boat navigation.  In 1835, Capt. Henry Shreve blew up enough of the logjam that steamboat traffic could get past (the guy after whom Shreveport, Louisiana, is named).  After the Civil War, locals tried to expand boat traffic by completely removing the logjam.  Instead of making traffic easier, this removal led shrinking water levels in the lake, and it destroyed navigation farther up the Red River.  Several efforts to restore higher water levels achieved some success by about 1915.  When oil was discovered under the swamp, pressures came from oil companies to make drilling easier — travel in the mud was difficult.  After the invention of the Hughes drill bit (by Howard Hughes‘s father, the founder of Hughes Tool Co.) to allow drilling through water and mud into oil-bearing rock, a dam was built near where the logjam had been, to raise the level of what is known today as Caddo Lake.  What is seen today is a human-enhanced version of the Caddo Lake known by the Caddo Tribe.  This is all preface to the current Texas water wars.

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Wish we were there: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

November 6, 2012

You got the Tweet?

Miter Basin, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California; photo by Kristin Glover, NPS (public domain)

Miter Basin, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California; photo by Kristin Glover, NPS (public domain)

Photo from NPS employee Kristin Glover, at Miter Basin.

We should go see for ourselves, no?

If you go today, vote before you go.  This is one of the areas to be opened to energy exploration — oil and gas drilling or other mining — under Mitt Romney’s “energy plan” and the GOP National Platform.

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Fossil walrus porn

December 23, 2011

Walrus baculum fossil, from Retrieverman

What is it? If you were a lady walrus a few million years ago, you wouldn't have to ask!

I can’t do it justice.  Go read about the photo at Retrieverman’s site.

My students hear it often:  Truth is stranger and often much more interesting than fiction.  It certainly applies in history, and it applies in science, too.


Can the Houston toad survive Texas wildfires and droughts?

November 25, 2011

New short from the Texas Parks and Wildlife people:

The smoke may be gone but the Bastrop fires of Labor Day weekend are still a smoldering concern for biologists. They’re keeping tabs on the Houston Toad. And with only an estimated 2,000 left in Texas, this endangered species is facing its next challenge as the drought continues. More on Houston toads at http://www.houstonzoo.org/HoustonToad/

For background, see this earlier reel from TPWS on the fires at Bastrop State Park:


Theological disproof of evolution? Hornworms and braconid wasps

November 7, 2011

“Nature red in tooth and claw,” the poet Tennyson said.

Darwin thought these critters a clear disproof of creationism — no god would make such creatures intentionally!

Mark reports at The Divine Afflatus:

Hornworm Hosts its Destruction

While admiring some ground cherries outside my front door, I noticed a number of leaves had been stripped off. Not grazed on by the deer that frequent the area, more like eaten by caterpillars. After a brief search I spotted a hornworm munching away. I didn’t bother killing the hornworm because, after all, the ground cherries are weeds growing amongst the black-eyed susans, and it’s less work for me if they take care of the weeds.

I looked again a few days later, and saw that the hornworm had sprouted numerous white appendages. These are the cocoons of pupating braconid wasps. Braconid wasps are parasitoids that inject their eggs beneath the skin of the host (hornworms are favored by the braconid wasp Contesia congregatus). After feeding on the convenient meal surrounding them, the wasp larvae emerge and spin their coccons, attached to the body of the unfortunate hornworm. In a few days, adult wasps emerge from their cocoons, leaving a dead caterpillar.

I later spotted a second hornworm, which suffered the same fate as the first.

Ewwwwwwww!


Glories of Glacier N.P.

November 6, 2011

Seven-plus minutes of good reason to get your tail to Glacier National Park as soon as you can.

Produced and shot by Joshua Thompson, this is part of an award-winning film made to promote the park and get money for the research that the park hosts.

Grizzly Bears, Bighorn Sheep, spectacular sunsets and more…..

Part 3 of the recently shot Glacier DVD. This 20 min. film recently was nominated for best new nature documentary in the music category as well received an award for photography from the Wildlife Film Festival held in May of 2008. All funds for this project are being donated to the Glacier National Park Fund. For more info: http://www.glaciernationalparkfund.org/cart.php?page=glacier_national_park_fu…

I’ve been there only once.  A wise American would get there before turning 35, and return several times.


“Out of Yellowstone,” Nature Conservancy film on surviving the winter, and surviving the future

September 19, 2011

It seems like just a few months ago that Kathryn the Trophy Wife™ and I honeymooned in Yellowstone National Park, for a glorious January week.  On more than one occasion we had Old Faithful all to ourselves — it seemed like such an indulgence.

Seems just a few months ago, but that was before the 1988 fires, before our 1989 vacation there, before our 2004 ceremony casting the ashes of brother Jerry and his wife Barbara to the Yellowstone winds.

Will Yellowstone be there for our children, and for our grandchildren, as it has been for my lifetime?  The Nature Conservancy produced a 16-minute film showing much of the glory of winter of the place, and talking about the problems.

For the deer, elk and pronghorn in and around Yellowstone National Park, surviving the winter means finding adequate food and areas with low snow accumulation. But this critical winter range is increasingly threatened by energy and residential development. At stake is the very future of the Greater Yellowstone region’s iconic wildlife. This film highlights the voices of those working together to save these magnificent herds: ranchers, conservationists, scientists and others. http://www.nature.org/yellowstone

Growing up in the Mountain West, I learned to appreciate the stark beauty of the cold northern desert — but seldom is that beauty captured on film so well as it is here.  Phlogiston Media, LLC, made a remarkable, beautiful film, about a remarkable, beautiful land threatened by gritty, banal and mundane development.

This movie has been viewed only 542 times when I posted it.  Spread the word, will you?


Sky islands in Yosemite National Park

September 19, 2011

Nature Notes #16 from the good people at Yosemite National Park:  Sky Islands.

Throughout the Sierra Nevada, high flat plateaus are found at elevations around twelve and thirteen thousand feet. These isolated sky islands are the home to unique plant communities that are found nowhere else.


Yosemite Nature Notes extra: Time lapse of people visiting

September 4, 2011

Among other things one might observe from this film, one might note that Yosemite National Park’s beauty is so great that it looks good from almost any angle, even with tourists plastered all over it.

This was released between Yosemite Nature Notes #14 and #15, and I find no other description.  This remains a wonderful series showing off the geography and natural phenomena of Yosemite.  I wish there were similar programs for Yellowstone, Glacier, Denali, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Big Bend, Great Smoky Mountains, and for the Adirondack State Park in New York, among many others.


Red dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

August 9, 2011

Dragon flies are not my area of expertise:  Can anyone identify this beauty?

Red Dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas (photo by Ed Darrell)

Red dragonfly in Colorado Bend State Park, Texas - photo by Ed Darrell

_____________

Kate wrote in to say it’s probably Libella saturata.  From other photos I’ve found, that seems a good, accurate identification.  Citizens of Arizona have been urged to help identify dragon flies, odonates,  in their state, and this site explains how to do it with a camera and a notepad — with a fine picture of a Libella saturata for illustration.  And, as a reward to Kate and yourself, you may want to hop over to her blog, The Radula, and see what she’s got to look at.


Fresh from the garden: Bat faced cuphea

July 10, 2011

Bat-faced cuphea in Kathryn's garden

On a pedestal? Kathryn's potted bat-faced cuphea stands out when the mid-morning sun bathes it, but the yard in back still hovers in the shade of the live oak. Horticultural design by Kathryn Knowles; photo by Ed Darrell

Kathryn’s bat faced cuphea (Cuphea llavea) has graced our garden for several years with this particular plant, or its seedlings.  It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with regularity.

It gets its name because each blossom resembles the face of a tiny bat.

Bat faced cuphea in Kathryn's garden, IMGP5294

Each blossom of bat faced cuphea resembles the face of a bat.


Full Moon, waterfalls in Yosemite, modern cameras: Voila! Moonbows!

July 7, 2011

Dick Feynman taught in Rio de Janeiro for a while.  He was frustrated at the way Brazilian students of that day learned physics by rote, instead of in labs.  In a lecture he looked out from the classroom to the sun dancing on the waves of the Atlantic, and he realized it was a beautiful, brilliant demonstration of light refraction, the topic of the day.  Sadly, the students didn’t understand that the beauty before them was a physics problem.  (Was that story in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman,  or What Do You Care What Others Think?)

Here, a marriage of physics, moonlight, spring runoff over a cliff, and modern photography, in Yosemite.  If you don’t gasp, call your physician and find a new sensei:

(Programs and maintenance of this park are threatened by Republican budget writers, BTW.)


Cicada killers, 2011 edition

July 6, 2011

It’s slower population growth than in the past, but earlier, too.

In earlier years we’ve had cicada killer wasps — cicada hawks, in some parlance — as early as July 7.  Rains fell all spring in 2010, which discouraged the emergence of cicadas and their predators.  First certified sighting in our backyard did not occur until July 18.

Cicada Killer, with cicada - photo by Ronald F. Billings, Texas Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Cicada Killer, with cicada - photo by Ronald F. Billings, Texas Forest Service, Bugwood.org, via University of Delaware Cooperative Extension

We had modified a planter, and that may have killed some of the larvae.  Generally 2010 was a slow year for the large wasps.  My guess is that they were less active locally because the ground remained wet through July and into August.  I still get e-mails asking about how to get rid of them, and I still recommend watering the spots you want them to leave.  The females sting and paralyze a cicada, then plant that cicada in a tunnel underground with one wasp egg.  The young wasp hatches and feeds on the cicada, emerging usually the next summer to carry on the cycle (in a long summer, there may be a couple of hatchings, I imagine).  Females do not like to tunnel in wet ground, partly because it collapses on them, and I suspect wet ground is conducive to fungi and other pests that kill the eggs or hatchlings. Our wet weather kept them away last year.

I waited to say anything this year because I wanted more, but we saw the first cicada killer wasps this year on June 27, 2011, the earliest date we recorded here.  I had hoped to get a good photo, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Down at Colorado Bend State Park, the cicada killers greeted our arrival, much to the panic of the little kids in the campsite next door.  They were happy to learn the wasps don’t aim to sting them, and the kids actually watched them at work.  One of the wasps reminded me of just how much they like dry ground — she kept tunneling into the fire pit, unused now because of the fire bans that cover 252 of Texas’s 254 counties.  Covering the holes, putting objects over the holes, nothing could dissuade her from using that site.  I hope for the sake of the larvae that they hatch soon, and get out, before someone builds a fire in the pit.  Some of the cicadas in that area hit 110 decibels at least, and they badly need the discipline of a force of cicada killers, if you ask me.

Prowling the yard this morning I found two more emergence holes.  The wasps leave a smaller hole than the cicadas, so I’m pretty sure they are back in force.

Nature, red in tooth and claw, the poets say.  Or in this case, moist in sting.

It’s summer.  By the weather, it’s late summer.   Hello, cicada killers, Sphecius speciosa.

Earlier at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

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