Tag Archives: Wildlife

This is what our life was like every day, once


Update: Kenn Kaufmann, whose little finger knows more about birds than I do in my entire body, has this reaction:

“A golden eagle tries to snatch a baby in Montreal,” and the video goes viral. But it’s faked. Golden Eagle is a scarce visitor in the Montreal area, but the bird in the video is not a Golden Eagle, nor anything else that occurs in the wild in North America. This was clearly a setup: using a falconer’s bird, and probably a fake toddler for the distant scene. With all the ignorance about nature that’s out there already, the last thing we need is this kind of stupid garbage.


Rabbit fight


Got the last couple of things from the Palm Springs apartment Sunday morning: the bed platform, the step stool, a handful of cleaning supplies. Spackled the few holes we made hanging artwork and bolting bookcases, vacuumed up the dust from making a couple of the holes bigger so I could spackle them properly, Tetrissed everything into the car. Walking out for the last time I looked back and tried to summon up some gratitude for the place, the way I usually do when I move out of a house. It didn’t quite work. So I left.

There’s a high, thin cover of cloud blowing in from the southeast, from the Sea of Cortez and the Gulf. We’re going to get some rain in the next couple of days. Some parts of the desert will likely get a whole lot. I have my fingers crossed for flash floods cutting through a couple of solar projects under construction.

Our new neighbor moved away—was it something we said?—and as she fed the local cottontails and quail, I decided I’d better take up a bit of the slack until they got used to it. I picked up a bird seed bell at the supermarket. It’s not cracked corn and sunflower seeds, which would be better for the quail. But it’s something. The quail never got to it: the bell was discovered within seconds by the local scrub jay, and then fifteen minutes later the jay had been elbowed aside by the Boss rabbit.

It was an interesting glimpse into rabbit interactions. I’ve only ever had one rabbit at a time before, and though I did watch him boss around a dog and a cat, and a few humans, I never saw him with one of his own species. Subordinate bun was hungry and curious, and crept up toward the seed bell. When he’d get too close Boss Rabbit would charge, and each time Sub Bun would avoid the boss by leaping directly into the air. Three, four times in a minute and a half this happened. Then Boss wandered off and fell over in the shade of the peach tree, and Sub Bun carefully went over, tried a nibble of seed bell, then a mouthful, then eight mouthfulls, digging in with his bottom incisors to pry off great chunks.

He worked at this for five minutes or so, then Boss Rabbit came back. He took Sub Bun by surprise, but there wasn’t a fight at first. S.B. made a submissive display without moving away: He stretched his head out low to the ground, and Boss Rabbit came over and nuzzled him for a moment, then they both ate. For five more minutes. The Boss Rabbit changed his mind and chased Sub Bun away again.

At length the boss wandered off to find someone else to dominate, and a covey of about 15 very noisy quail—including one quite small youngster—wandered into the yard, eating everything but the seed I’d bought for them. Sub Bun took out a bit of his frustration by chasing the quail, barreling into groups of six or seven birds and busting them up. I don’t have the patience to watch the Olympics, but why should I when I have world class quail bowling going on right here?

Though tomorrow’s bout may well be rained out.

Lichen on pallid manzanita

lichen on manzanita

There are two places in the world to which this manzanita, Arctostaphylos pallida, is native. One is a small part of the Oakland hills in and near the Huckleberry Regional Botanic Preserve. The other is where Matthew and I hiked yesterday, on Sobrante Ridge.

I haven’t been there in so long.

The species’ habitat is mostly protected from development, though some of the Oakland Hills stand is on private land, and a few got cut down to the ground by utility right-of-way brush clearers in 1992. (I found the amputated limbs lying by the roadside a day later. I don’t think anyone ever paid for that particular crime.) But a couple good fires with bad recovery conditions following, or a five degree increase in average temperature combined with more summer precipitation (a strong possibility on the coast) and these plants could be in serious trouble.

Those are possibilities, though. We sat beneath the current reality yesterday:

Pallid manzanita berries
Seeing new growth and a new potential generation on an endangered species: a good feeling.


Some Observations on Xantusia vigilis


The quartz-pebbled path blinds.
Cicada song in waves
rises shimmering hot.
Joshua limb is down.
In the sparse shade beneath,
tiny eyes watch, placid.


Lift the Joshua trunk.
It is light as balsa.
Termitary crumbles;
dust frass wafts, aimless.
Suddenly sunlit, they
make for the shade, panting.


They breed in the late spring.
They bear their offspring live,
One to three in each brood,
August through October.
Though they’re called “night lizards”
They’re active in daylight.


Janós Xantús exults.
Baird funds more collecting!
He must leave the desert,
Meet the Fort Tejon stage.
His glad boots break blackbrush.
Tiny eyes pale in fear.


What is this small dead bird
impaled on yucca leaf?
Shrike-struck, wizened, sun-dried,
left there for months, it falls.
Pale fly alights, too close:
Night lizard is hungry.


Mojave night is cold, now,
Pleiades rise at dusk,
And the hard-gained morning
is stingy with its warmth.
Hand-sized rock faces east;
Luxuriate on it.

Frontiers in completely non-ADA-compliant web authoring

Below the fold, a scan of the first story I ever sold, a piece I wrote under the title “Carving The Pelican.”

I sold it to the Japanese magazine Jidaijin for a hundred bucks.

They paid promptly, printed it in English and Japanese, misspelled my name three times in three different ways, and changed the title to “Incomoplete [sic] Sculpture of Pelican.”

I changed it back when I printed it in Terrain a year or so later, in February 1993.

Large jpg below the fold. Terry Karney offers a short observation on the piece here.

Continue reading

Public relations professionals and other goddamned liars

I’m still recovering my equilibrium from having received this in email a week ago:

Interior Department Removes Northern Rocky Mountain Wolves from Endangered Species List

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Office of Public Affairs
4401 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203
703 358 2128 Fax: 703 358 1930

Ed Bangs (406) 449-5225, x 204
Joan Jewett (503) 231-6211
Sharon Rose (303) 236-4580
Joshua Winchell (703) 358-2279

The gray wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountains is thriving and no longer requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett announced today. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will remove the species from the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

“The wolf population in the Northern Rockies has far exceeded its recovery goal and continues to expand its size and range. States, tribes, conservation groups, federal agencies and citizens of both regions can be proud of their roles in this remarkable conservation success story,” said Scarlett, noting that there are currently more than 1,500 wolves and at least 100 breeding pairs in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

It goes on from there [PDF]. You can find out what actually happened here. Please consider donating to the groups fighting the delisting. I have spent the last week looking at those phone numbers in the head of the release posted above and wondering whether “how do you liars sleep at night” is, properly speaking, a request for more information.

Today, still reeling from the duplicity, I got the release I’ve tacked below the fold. It was delivered in a personal email. After I recovered from the usual unnerving sense that I had utterly failed to represent myself properly here if this person thought in any way that CRN would be a sympathetic venue, I got angry.

Why? Take a look at this 1962 photo of Labyrinth Canyon, by Phil Pennington:


Here’s another shot from that year of nearby Dungeon Canyon, by Sarah Moench:


I got them from the Glen Canyon Institute site. There are plenty more like them in the gallery there.

Wanna go there now? Me too. Can’t. This is what it looks like now.

It won’t look like that for long, mind: study after study shows that the Colorado River, already oversubscribed by water consumers, is going to pretty much run dry in the next 12 years or so, and Lake Powell will shrink to reveal a transformed and damaged but still beautiful Glen Canyon.

So the press release below the fold is not only destructive but futile, a last gasp of the yahoos who can’t imagine going to the desert without the jet skis and the DVD player. Scratch that: they don’t even want to go to the desert. They want the desert to go away so that they can go where the desert was. And those who stand to scrape another season or two of profit out of the desecration put out “things are great come see our wonderful recreational opportunities!!!1!” press releases.

Liars. Evil, destructive, myopic liars.

For more on the Castle Rock Cut described in the release, see this.

Continue reading