December 31, 2009

Not blue tonight, not at all

Will Basil catch that orbed maiden with white fire laden, whom mortals call the Moon? He's giving it his best shot. Super photo by _davidh_ on Flickr, seen first at Moira McLaughlin's most excellent Dog Art Today.

Happy New Year to all! Stealing a heartfelt line from John Carlson's Prairie Ice:
I want to take a minute to thank all of you who have commented on my posts over that last few months that never received a reply back. I want you to know that I appreciate them all and I have replied to all of the with witty replies and insightful additional comments - alas they never made it out of my brain and into the comments section.
My New Year's Resolution is to get the replies out of my brain and into the comments section, here sometimes, and certainly elsewhere in Bloglandia. I follow hundreds of blogs in the totally essential Google Reader, and every day I read posts so intelligent and honest and thought-provoking and beautiful that it's practically a crime not to get off my RSS and add a comment. So that's the resolution: each day, make at least one comment on someone else's blog. Oh, and another resolution: start some kind of "365 photos of my dogs" thing, because my dogs are beautiful and wonderful and they deserve the attention.

I guess that's it for 2009, folks. [springs to feet] OMG! My Bad Rap end o' the year donation!! Gotta run — see you in 2010!

December 28, 2009

ASPCA Position Statement on BSL

I heart this photo. Zippy Hernandez and family (clockwise from left): Vanessa, Berenice, Jesse, Francisco and Eliana. Awesome photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice for Sports Illustrated.

The ASPCA is totally against it. As a wise commenter on the Bad Rap blog mused this morning, "[W]on't it be interesting when pibble-killing legislators have only PETA on their side?" For those new to this whole issue, ASPCA is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and BSL stands for "ignorant chuckleheads who missed the news that phrenology is so terribly 1800s." PETA stands for "Ingrid Newkirk thinks I'm a thug and wants my dogs dead."

From the ASPCA position statement:
[T]he ASPCA advocates the implementation of a community dog bite prevention program encompassing media and educational outreach in conjunction with the enactment, and vigorous enforcement, of breed-neutral laws that focus on the irresponsible and dangerous behavior of individual guardians and their dogs. The ASPCA believes that this approach—promoting education in the appropriate care, training, and supervision of dogs as well as state and local laws that address licensing, reproductive status, chaining/improper confinement, cruel treatment, and at-large dogs; imposing civil and criminal liability on guardians for their negligent and reckless behavior; and targeting problematic dogs and guardians early with progressively escalating penalties—constitutes the most compassionate, fair, efficient, and ultimately effective means of resolving concerns related to dangerous dogs in the community.

Read the whole thing. It's excellent. And if you ever get a chance to hear Bill Bruce talk about Calgary Animal Services, don't miss him. Quite an education, in the best sense of the word: no BSL, no mandatory spay/neuter, no limit laws regulating the number of pets a person can keep — just the best animal control program in North America.


Heartwarming story o' the day, from the fine folks at Our Pack: Life's Peachy for Peachy. Our Pack totally rocks.


A final thought that should probably have its own post [damn you, vacation DIY projects]: as someone with a fair amount of experience with intact male dogs, I disagree with the ASPCA's implication that reproductive status is by itself a contributing factor to dog bites and "dominance aggression."

In North America, intact male dogs frequently belong to a class of people that might be categorized as "irresponsible pet owners": they tether their dogs, for example. They live in poor neighborhoods and keep dogs for protection. Their dogs are unsocialized and untrained. All these factors are far more likely to contribute to a bite or attack, IMHO, than is a dog's reproductive status. When a chained-up, untrained dog is driven nearly mad by social isolation and deprivation, and that poor, neglected dog bites someone, the fact that the dog was an intact male is one of the least important contributing factors, if you ask me.

December 26, 2009

Water wars on "60 Minutes"

Above, a Central Valley vineyard from Aquafornia on Flickr. In the background, pumps at Chrisman Wind Gap send 2.1 million gallons a minute of NoCal water to pumping plants in the Tehachapi range. On the other side of the Tehachapis the water flows to Los Angeles, Antelope Valley and Lake Perris. [Some SoCal regions use local water, and famously well-managed water at that. Ha ha! She said "well"!] Check out Aquafornia's slide show — following the water from the Delta to locations in SoCalhere.

As if Sean "plump as a manatee" Hannity [don't miss Jon Stewart's slapdown] weren't tribulation enough for California's Central Valley, along comes 60 Minutes with “Running Dry.” 130,000 dead almond trees, OMG! How much more can the Central Valley take? Let's ask someone who actually, you know, does research:
[T]he Californian almond harvest this year was 1.6 billion pounds shelled (up from 1.3 billion pounds shelled last year) accounting for 85% of the world’s almond production. C’mon, Sixty Minutes. I know tractors ripping out trees look awesome, but so does the annual Almond Almanac. A few seconds of searching would have given you some perspective on this. It would have told you how big the imminent impact is going to be. And that even with the drought, there were more almonds harvested this year than ever before.

[Here's the source of that quote. Excellent reading, rated R for language.]

Watch 60 Minutes if you must. As for me, I'll stick to my water blogs. For the straight dope on water out west, go here:

On the public record

And check out all these as well, from Emily Green's most excellent Chance of Rain.

December 24, 2009

A little something to warm the heart

Merry Christmas — and to all a wonderful Nochebuena!

And what would a blog post — even a Christmas Eve blog post — be without links and hat tips? The holidays are all about linkage, people! The beautiful M comes from typographer and illustrator Jessica Hische's Daily Drop Cap, and a big H/T for the video to El País journalist Rosa Jiménez Cano.

Best wishes to all for the happiest of holidays!

December 15, 2009

Must adopt baby beluga at once

Mom and baby are both doing well. Photo from the Shedd Aquarium, via ZooBorns.

This is quite possibly the most adorable thing I have ever seen in my entire life. From [where else] ZooBorns, where you can also see a video of the birth itself. And now I must return to work, dreaming of my baby beluga...

December 13, 2009

Cats in court

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes: Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga, 1788. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Talk about a controversial story with next-to-zero coverage in the local news: a Los Angeles Superior Court judge "has banned Los Angeles animal shelters from encouraging feral cat colonies pending an environmental review."

The Urban Wildlands Group, Endangered Habitats League, Los Angeles Audubon Society, Palos Verdes/South Bay Audubon Society, Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, and the American Bird Conservancy were plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the L.A. Department of Animal Services. Here is the ABC's statement on the ruling. Excerpt:
A superior court judge has ruled in favor of a coalition of conservation groups, including American Bird Conservancy (ABC), to halt the controversial practice of Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) of feral cats in the City of Los Angeles, pending environmental review.

The court determined that the City and its Department of Animal Services had been “secretly and unofficially” promoting the practice of releasing feral cats to roam free in the city after they have been trapped and neutered or spayed, even though they were obliged by law to first conduct a review of the program under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Despite denials by the City that an official TNR program existed, the judge ruled that “implementation of the program is pervasive, albeit informal and unspoken,” and ordered them to halt their actions and complete the necessary environmental reviews.

In June 2005, the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioners adopted TNR as the “preferred method of dealing with feral cat populations.” Under the CEQA, an analysis of the impacts of the program on the environment should have been completed, but never was. Yet the Department went forward in supporting TNR operations, including discounting spay/neuter operations for TNR cats, helping establish new TNR colonies on city property, and helping promote TNR programs, while refusing to accept feral cats at city animal shelters or issue permits to trap feral cats that were not going to be subsequently released.

The City must now implement the CEQA process, which includes full scientific review, assessment of alternatives, and potential mitigation measures. The public will have the opportunity to engage in the process and ensure an open, science-based approach to the issue of free-roaming cats in Los Angeles.
And speaking of science, this article from the September-October issue of Audubon is a must-read. [Related blog discussion here.] Also check out Critical Assessment of Claims Regarding Management of Feral Cats by Trap–Neuter–Return [pdf].

Birds 1, Feral Cats 0 -- Court Orders LA To Stop Controversial Feral Cat Program

Liveblogging No More Homeless Pets Conference: Opening

Liveblogging No More Homeless Pets: What’s new in feral cats?
[Honestly, when I hear someone say, "Don’t give them a chance to argue with you. There’s only one solution, and that’s to let the cats live; proceed from there," I ask myself, Did I miss that election? The one that made feral cat colonies more important than wild birds, sea mammals, the environment, public health...? Because that position is insane, and I like cats.]

Here are three posts from Ed Muzika's L.A. Animal Watch:

Urban Wildlife Wins Lawsuit Against City; TNR illegal Until CEQA Done

Longcore Refuses to Respond to My Charge That His Call for Cat Sanctuary Is a Cynical Cover For His Death Recommendations

Longcore Attacks Every Measure on Proposed Beverly Hills TNR Ordinance--A Sample

And an oldie from the NY Times: Kill the Cat that Kills the Bird?

Bird sounds

Remember Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs? One of the finest things the Onion has ever produced, if you ask me. Turns out Aves may be another group to keep an eye on.

If you watched the terrific video on parrot intelligence [H/T Heckled by Parrots, via Pet Connection], you probably caught a glimpse of a scientist in a lab. He was on screen for just a few seconds, at 5:44 in the vid. That's Erich Jarvis. Here's his Duke U. faculty page. From the NOVA site:
Erich Jarvis is a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical Center. He heads a team of researchers in the field of vocal communication. The Jarvis Lab's research of songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds sheds light on how the brain is able to learn the behavior of sound. Jarvis's work on bird brains may have applications to the treatment speech problems in humans, such as stuttering. In October 2005, Dr. Jarvis won the National Institutes of Health's Director's Pioneer Award, which provides $500,000 per year for five years to researchers pursuing innovative approaches to biomedical research.

This summer Jarvis gave the keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union:
Vocal learners mimic sounds they hear, and then modify them to create new sounds. This may not be as much mindless parroting as we used to think—and here Jarvis singled out Irene Pepperberg in the audience, whose experiments with Alex the African Grey Parrot showed that he understood the semantics of a question like “How many total?” well enough to count and reciprocally communicate to Irene that two beads and four beads made “six.”

As for how vocal learning happens, Jarvis and colleagues reported in a staggering series of publications that while all birds use parts of the brain stem to produce songs, those with learned songs also use parts of the forebrain. Birds that learn their songs may even have more than one pathway controlling their learning. One pathway may promote variability in songs while another pathway produces more consistency, or stereotyping. The proper balance between the two pathways allows for vocal learning.
Jarvis basically threw out the window the received wisdom that humans’ large brain size and extensive brain folding are the explanation for our complex language. When he and colleagues described in 2005 how bird song and human speech actually make use of the same three forebrain regions, it made a splash. People reportedly called Webster’s and asked them to remove the term “bird brain” from the dictionary. [Source: Round Robin — The Cornell Blog of Ornithology.]

You can read more about the evolution of avian brain structure for vocal learning here, at the Jarvis Lab website.


Also on the topic of bird communication: in a thoughtful [as in, both gracious and brainy] exchange of blog posts, David Sibley and Nathan Pieplow engage in a "very interesting and, I think, important discussion about a sea change that may be occurring in how birders listen to bird sounds." [That quote is from Pieplow's blog.] Sibley writes:
I learned bird songs decades ago through countless hours of field experience, supplemented by listening to a few recordings, reading detailed descriptions, and talking to other birders. It was a subjective, holistic approach to bird songs that led to a sort of gestalt style of identification – after you hear a sound often enough the identification just becomes second-nature.

Now, it still takes countless hours, but birders have a wealth of technological aids, allowing them to study and compare bird sounds with an ease and immediacy that was never possible before. In the modern world of ipods, sonagrams, and websites like xeno-canto, birders can examine the bird sounds directly, objectively, and in great detail. This may lead (as Nathan Pieplow admits) to a slightly greater emphasis on differences in pattern rather than the more subjective and hard-to-describe differences in tone.

Given how suggestible we are, and how tiny things can influence our perception, the detail-oriented objective approach to bird sound identification is probably better and more accurate.

And Pieplow replies:
[Sibley] learned sounds in the field; I learned them on the floor of my bedroom in South Dakota when I was in high school, playing the Peterson Birding By Ear tapes over and over again. Those tapes (which remain the best resource I’ve ever seen for people who want to learn bird sounds on their own) didn’t take a holistic, all-at-once approach; instead they took an analytic approach, grouping similar sounds together and then pointing out key field marks or “handles” — here a distinctive tone quality, there a distinctive rhythm — to distinguish sounds within the groups.

I’ve used this same basic approach to sound identification ever since: recognize a pattern, then focus on a piece of it. The pattern gets you to the right group; the pieces narrow the identification to species. Tone quality is part of this analysis, but not the most important part.

In fact, in some ways I think I place a pretty low priority on tone quality. For several years now, I have been convinced that tone quality is the slipperiest attribute of sound: the hardest to analyze perceptually, the hardest to describe. And I think tone quality is responsible for most of the disconnect between most descriptions of sounds and the sounds themselves. I de-emphasize it precisely because it is so difficult to categorize. Other attributes of sound are much easier to describe and compare, so those are the ones I focus on.

For the most part, I’m just doing what works for me, but I hope it works for other people as well. I really do believe in the objective, analytic approach.


So who makes those field recordings of bird songs? Remarkable people like William Belton:
An internationally recognized ornithologist, Mr. Belton was almost single-handedly responsible for the current body of knowledge of the bird life of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Brazilian state. His field recordings and specimens from the region are today in the collections of major research institutions. His two-volume study of the birds of the area is widely considered seminal.
Each [of Belton's recordings] was often the product of hours of standing stock-still in the wild at dawn, with swarms of biting insects for company. But the rewards were considerable: over the years, Mr. Belton captured many bird songs that had never before been documented.
The bird names alone read like found poetry. Mr. Belton recorded, among others, the variable screech-owl and the southern screamer; the freckle-breasted thornbird, the sooty-fronted spinetail and the rufous-browed peppershrike; the cattle tyrant, the masked yellowthroat and the piratic flycatcher; the squirrel cuckoo, the laughing falcon, the pectoral sandpiper and the gilded sapphire.

William Belton died in October at the age of 95. As a woman of a certain age, I love that Mr. Belton's ornithological career [of more than 30 years!] began following his retirement.


A high school student asks Erich Jarvis, "African grey parrots can learn to speak, and they can be taught to tell color, and even to express themselves. And from what I observed on NOVA scienceNOW, some birds are capable of creating simple tools. But what about the other kinds of birds that are incapable of doing things like this? For example, a crow can make tools to obtain food but a pigeon can't. Why? Why is the parrot smarter than the finch? Is it brain size, the way they use their brains, or does the parrot have something the finch doesn't?"

An excerpt from Jarvis's answer:
[A]n argument can be made that having a brain means that you have intelligent behavior, regardless of whether you are a bird, mammal, reptile, or otherwise. But this is not the way many people think. There is something inherent in our human psyche that wants to make nonhumans "lower" in intelligence, and for us to form a scale of intelligence such that some species would be considered not intelligent.
In fact, it is very difficult or almost impossible to make such a scale. Yes, a crow can make tools, and as far as I know, this has not been observed in pigeons. But pigeons have incredible visual memories and abilities, including the ability to learn how to distinguish different styles of impressionistic paintings. Chickadees, which are a type of songbird, can store over 3,000 seeds in the forest, and during the winter they remember where they put them and retrieve most of them. A parrot so far as I know has not been observed to do this, yet a number of parrot species can imitate some human speech.
Different species have different behavioral capacities that vary in sophistication, Jarvis continues. However, brain size is not the main driving factor behind these complex behaviors. Instead, neural connectivity appears to be the driving force.

And bird brains, as it turns out, are firing on all cylinders.

HeroRATS to the rescue

One man's ratatouille is another man's hero. [Photo source]

They have little rat tails and little rat feet and little rat voices that go squeak squeak squeak, and when they locate an unexploded landmine, these African Giant Pouched Rats alert their handlers by sitting still and giving themselves a nice scratch. If you live in a region with landmines, these clever rodents may save your life and your livelihood.

[Oh, and let's get one thing out of the way right off the rat... er, bat: "they are too light to detonate a mine by themselves if they step on it."]
The HeroRATS are currently deployed in Mozambique where they have enabled over one thousand families to reclaim their land. They have also helped with clearing areas so that power lines can be passed through – so bringing electricity which would not otherwise have been possible to over ten thousand local citizens.

Read the whole thing here. H/T: Nag on the Lake.

December 5, 2009

Peregrine Falcon vs Snowy Owl

"Present... talons!" Photo by John Mattera.

From the most awesome Birdchick, a link to something you don't see every day: a peregrine defending its meal from a [rare] interloper. Fight or Flight: Falcon and owl aerial battle caught on camera.

December 4, 2009

And the band played Waltzing Matilda

"Bob Dylan told an interviewer in 1984, "I never heard a singer as good as Liam ever. He was just the best ballad singer I’d ever heard in my life. Still is, probably."" Liam Clancy, 1935 - 2009.

December 3, 2009

Late night links

Too good not to share.

Dr. Lucy H. Spelman is a veterinarian and all 'round amazing and remarkable person, currently working with giant otters in Guyana. That's one of her charges on the left. Dr. Spelman's blog: Saving Otters.


Storms are lining up and rain's on the way! Also: pretty maps! See Ken Clark's Western U.S. Weather Blog for all the deets. H/T: the awesome, essential Aquafornia.


Wildfire in Yellowstone: NASA astronauts are there.


What does it take to save a species? Sometimes, high-voltage power wires
. From Green Lines, by Beth Daley of the Boston Globe:
Transmission corridors have long been considered symbols of environmental degradation, with their enormous steel skeletons and high-voltage lines slicing through forests, wetlands, and salt marshes; they divide the landscapes that thousands of species need to survive. Yet now they are gaining a new reputation: As critical homes for faltering species of birds, bees, butterflies, plants, and a host of other species.
“It’s hard to explain to conservation groups that [species] are being saved in the most unpopular and disturbed kinds of landscapes,” said Robert Askins, a biology professor at Connecticut College who has studied birds in transmission corridors. “I was shocked originally to be working in them myself.”
H/T: 3 Quarks Daily.


"How is Jo, a former fighting pit bull, different from other dogs?" A Rotta Love Plus spells it out. Good read.


"[R]esearch out of Purdue University is suggesting that female dogs and, interestingly, female humans, live longer if they keep their ovaries," posts Christie at Pet Connection. A good discussion follows, with terrific comments from the most excellent Heather Houlahan. I mean, comments #34 and #35? Perfect.

In somewhat related news: Nature's Harmony Farm no longer castrates their pigs.
The controversy surrounding castration [of piglets] is one of humane treatment. In North American swine production, castration is essentially universal, although in the UK and Ireland, for welfare reasons pigs are not castrated. Additionally, legislation passed in Norway and Switzerland that banned castration of pigs starting in 2009. The majority of male pigs in Spain and Portugal are not castrated. McDonald’s & Burger King in the Netherlands both announced that they will no longer sell products containing pork from castrated pigs. According to The Pig Site, "There is substantial evidence that castration is painful and highly aversive to pigs and so is a significant welfare concern. The most painful part of castration appears to be the severing of the cords and vessels supplying testis. An assumption is often made that the procedure is less traumatic to younger piglets although the contrary maybe true."


Finally, via The Ethicurean: "When a recent UC Santa Cruz study asked grocery shoppers on California's Central Coast to rank their concerns about the food system, respondents prioritized animal welfare above the treatment of human workers on the farms." Bay Guardian reporter Caitlin Donohue reports on the irony of it all in Out of reach: How the sustainable local food movement neglects poor workers and eaters.
The average salary of the estimated 900,000 farm workers in California — the birthplace of the organic and farm labor movements in the U.S. — is around $8,500, more than $2,000 below the federal poverty line.
[Jon] Hall’s customers [at the University of San Francisco food court], college students who may eat three meals a day here, often approach him with questions about their food. Queries range from where to how the food was grown, but in no instances that Hall has been aware of, about the workers who grew it.

Labor issues are not the popular cause these days, at least in the sustainable food movement. Unlike the “eat local” and organic food movements, equitable treatment of farm workers has yet to spawn trendy slogans for tote bags or a book on the best-seller list.

One UC Santa Cruz study found that, when asked to rank their concern about food system related topics, Central Coast grocery shoppers assigned higher concern levels to animal treatment on farms than that of humans. But Hall is confident this will change as Bon Appetit and others continue to bring attention to the economically disadvantaged on the front lines of our local and organic food systems.

“This is the next frontier,” he said. “I can see it brewing.”
Somewhere, Edward R. Murrow is shaking his head in despair.

December 2, 2009

Color block prints by Frances Gearhart

Untitled (Big Sur Bridge). Click for [even] bigger.

I'm totally in love with these prints by Frances Gearhart (1869-1959). [To the left: Cuyama Country, 1935.] Her art is Californian to its marrow, and it makes my heart ache, it's so beautiful and true. Thanks to Deborah Netburn of the L.A. Times for writing about this exhibition of Gearhart's work at the Pasadena Museum of California Art [how Californian is that?]. I'd provide an LAT link, except that the post only shows up in my RSS reader and the link goes to a blank page at the Times site. UPDATE: link at last.

Here's a link to Susan Futterman’s essay on Gearhart, and here's a print that must be of Big Bear Lake:

November 29, 2009

Link Liberation

Via my fave Logcabineer, a photo essay by The Selby on a home I could move into THIS MINUTE.

Rinalia over at For the Pit Bulls has a great post on "rehabilitating" fighting dogs. Go read it. Right now. Please. I love that Rinalia doesn't just talk the talk, as they say. She actually has a rescued pit bull, the most excellent Mina [and a terrific blog].


Ranching, recreation collide in the great outdoors. If you're guessing the rancher loses, and his dogs [and many of his sheep] die as a result, you probably saw this item already over at Brent's blog. The story's a tragedy from any angle.


I'm so envious of Daniel Hernandez I could just scream.


Way cool tape art in NYC, from Indian by Design.


Nina of the Nature Remains blog is in Indiana, photographing Sandhill Cranes. Photos here, here and here. So beautiful.


How to fight. "Continue to shake it as much as you possibly can" LOLOL. H/T: Logcabineer.


The Gray Lady has 1) an article on "the urban deerslayer" [see comments here], and 2) a gear test slide show featuring shotguns. Will wonders never cease.


Last, but far from least: check out the fall colors at Indigo Hill. The joys of a 42' high birding tower...!

More coyotes: dog snatched off porch; "kid fends off pack attack with backpack"

Coyote of the First Snows, by David Cartier on Flickr.

Coyote grabs Boston Terrier from front porch as shocked owner looks on! 70-year-old sister off-roads to the rescue! Dog is saved! And the kid with the backpack is OK, too. [I swiped the post's title from commenter Mike in that same thread, because it was irresistible.]

But note: neither the Big Bear Discovery Center nor the Big Bear Lake Animal Hospital report any uptick in coyote attacks. It's the forest, for crissakes: if cats and small dogs look available, coyotes will take 'em. The local paper hasn't published any articles on coyote attacks, and the only mention I've seen of the backpack-wielding youngster was in that forum post. Not that I'm cavalier about taking the dogs outside at night, up in Big Bear. I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, "Don't Feed the Wildlife" signs are installed in Griffith Park:
In a ceremony Monday, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge installed the first of these signs. LaBonge told those assembled that he often sees coyotes on his daily hikes through the park but never feeds them. "We just say hi to each other."
It occurs to me that while LaBonge and Br'er Coyote are enjoying their Dr. Dolittle moment, we've hit Level 6 on the Risk to Human Health and Safety scale:
According to Baker and Timm (1998), there are several signs that indicate a human health and safety risk between coyotes and humans. The following, in order of occurrence, are signs that coyotes pose a risk to human health and safety:

1. Increase in taking of pets at night.
2. Increase in observance of coyotes on streets and yards at night.
3. Observance of coyotes on streets and in parks and yards during daylight hours, in early morning and late afternoon.
4. Observance of coyotes chasing or taking pets during daylight hours.
5. Taking pets on leashes and chasing joggers, bikers, etc.
6. Observance of coyotes in and around children’s play areas and parks during mid-day.
[Source (pdf): Management of Urban Coyotes and Attacks in Green Valley, Pima County, Arizona, by C. D. Carrillo, J. Schmidt, D. Bergman, and G. Paz.]
So, is chucking a rock [or worse] at every too-close coyote the best way to keep them wild? According to two studies, once coyotes have moved onto your porch, what gets rid of them isn't guns and such — what scares them off [in SoCal, at least] is trapping:
Baker and Timm (1998) and Timm et al. (2004) noted that of all techniques used in controlling problem coyotes in southern California, trapping had the greatest observed effect of re-instilling a fear of humans into the local coyote population. When 2 to 5 coyotes were trapped in a problem locality, the remaining coyotes would often disperse. [Source (pdf).]
I love wild coyotes. I love hearing them, and I love knowing that they're playing their part in forest and foothill ecosystems. But I don't want coyotes standing outside the front door and waiting for a handout or a pet dog to grab, and I don't think anyone else in Southern California does, either.

Trouble is, the concept of "re-instilling a fear of humans into the local coyote population" is offensive to many people in SoCal cities and suburbs, no matter how much it benefits coyotes. Trapping is anathema. Putting food outside [for feral cats, in particular] won't stop anytime soon. So the problems escalate, from coyotes taking pets at night to coyotes attacking pets on leashes in broad daylight, until a child is hurt or a neighborhood's cats disappear or a pet dog is snatched from an elderly owner and killed. Then something has to be done. I don't envy the biologists charged with keeping silly people and wily coyotes safe from each other.

Coyote news [from this blog]
Coyotes at home and away [from this blog]
More on coyote bounties in Saskatchewan
Special Report: On Coyote Attacks and the Death of Canadian Folk Singer Taylor Mitchell
Urban Coyote Symposium: Papers from the Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference
Information on Urban Coyotes — both from CoyoteBytes [website last updated 1/09 (?)]

November 28, 2009

I am thankful for Chet Baker

Puppy Chet wears his lucky [GIMPshopped] Lady of Guadalupe sock. Get your own pair here.

So I spent most of my Thanksgiving vacation with a 103F fever, wondering whether I would diiiiiieee, but actually I was more worried about Chet Baker. I worry about Chet a lot, partly because I'm a worry-wart border collie person but mainly because Chet Baker is the most terrific, handsome, charming, gentlemanly and doggish Boston Terrier in the history of the planet. [I rest my case. It doesn't hurt that his human is the most excellent writer/artist/photographer/birder/blogger Julie Zickefoose.] Chet Baker is, as Julie would say, totally ossum. Who wouldn't worry if he fell off a cliff or some such terrifying thing?

Chet, like your faithful blogger, was born on December 12 — a miraculous date any way you look at it, and I'm not even going to touch that impressive risen-from-the-dead business. Just let me say that I couldn't love and worry about Chet more if he were my very own, and here is proof, or at any rate proof of what certain border collie people mean by love: a tangentially related abstract from PubMed. I also worry something awful about coyotes, which snatch innocent Boston Terriers off porches; and when Julie didn't post a word for two days after his fall and recovery, I was curled up in knots [the fever didn't help], sure that Something Had Gone Terribly Wrong.

It hadn't. Chet is fine. And Julie loves him exactly the way she should. In fact, speaking of dog people who love dogs the way they should, here's a link to the best dog story ever written. [There's some white-man's-burden stuff in there, but dog people will push it off to the side for the story's sake. Also: Garm is what people today would call a pit bull.]

In a few weeks I'll be driving to San Juan Bautista for the Shepherd's Play performed in the old mission. It's wonderful. I will light candles in the mission church for Chet and for Lily who belongs to my sis and for all the dogs I love now and have loved over the years, and I'll think about how wonderful it is to have a great dog [several, in fact] waiting for me at home. Happy Late Thanksgiving and Happy Early Birthday, Chet Baker! May you have many more, and may each be happier than the last. And Chet? Watch out for coyotes, shorty. Also, did I mention you have more faithful admirers than you'll ever know? Because you do. You totally, totally do.

November 23, 2009

1913 Craftsman, restored

This old house: saved from demolition in 1989, moved to a new site, rewired, replumbed, repainted and refinished to perfection. Photos by Christine Cotter for the L.A. Times. Read the article here.

"In the living room, plywood once covered the stained-glass windows on the fireplace wall. In this family photo, homeowner Wendy Harn's father, Don Harn, uncovers the beauty underneath."

And after:

"Since 1913, it's had many different lives," Harn says. " The windows were covered with plywood. Wainscoting was plastered over. All the bookcases and cabinetry were painted white." Warms my heart, this most excellent transformation restoration.

Leopard seal wonders WTH is wrong with puny camera-wielding creature

Click here to watch the video in all its large, HD glory. H/T: Odious and Peculiar.

November 17, 2009

Coyote news

Coyote at Canyon, by jrtchris on Flickr.

From prairie naturalist Trevor Herriot's Grass Notes comes word that the government of Saskatchewan is offering a $20 bounty on coyotes. An excerpt from Trevor's post:

The provincial Environment department has ecologists who know that this kind of measure does not stop coyotes from eating livestock. Our universities have biologists and ecologists who could explain what happens when bounty hunters start killing a predator like the coyote. As a “k-selected” species, the coyote regulates its population according to food supply and mortality rates.

If there is abundant food but adults are being killed, the survivors, who are also the more successful and wise, immediately increase the brood size and numbers of pregnant females within the pack. Trying to control coyote populations by killing them has been compared to bailing a boat with a sieve.
Then why the bounty? Trevor again:
An interesting sidelight on the coyote bounty: I have heard via the grapevine that some of the loudest complaints have come from sheep farmers north of the Qu’Appelle in the Cupar/Lipton area, where British farmers have moved in recent decades to set up farming [...] They are undoubtedly a welcome addition to the local farm community, but if they come from Scotland or England they arrive with a certain set of expectations and experiences — about wildlife and about the government’s role in making the land safe for farming.
Trevor's post reminds me of the well-known [to border collie people, anyway] description of the shepherd's dog in England, written by Johannes Caius 400 years ago:
Our shepherdes dogge is not huge, vaste, and bigge, but of an indifferent stature and growth, because it hath not to deale with the bloudthyrsty wolf, sythence there be none in England, which happy and fortunate benefite is to be ascribed to the puisaunt Prince Edgar, who to thintent ye the whole countrey myght be evacuated and quite clered from wolfes, charged & commaunded the welshemë (who were pestered with these butcherly beastes above measure) to paye him yearely tribute which was (note the wisedome of the King) three hundred Wolfes. Some there be which write that Ludwall Prince of Wales paide yeerly to King Edgar three hundred wolves in the name of an exaction (as we have sayd before.) And that by the meanes hereof, within the compasse and tearme of foure yeares none of those noysome, and pestilent Beastes were left in the coastes of England and Wales. This Edgar wore the Crown royall, and bare the Scepter imperiall of this kingdome, about the yeare of our Lorde nyne hundred fifty, nyne. Synce which time we reede that no Wolfe hath bene seene in England, bred within the bounds and borders of this countrey, mary there have bene divers brought over from beyonde the seas, for greedynesse of gaine and to make money, for gasing and gaping, staring, and standing to see them, being a straunge beast, rare, and seldom seene in England.
"... about the yeare of our Lorde nyne hundred fifty, nyne. Synce which time we reede that no Wolfe hath bene seene in England." All killed.

It gives me a certain satisfaction to know [with as much certainty as I know anything] that the coyote will escape that fate and dance on Man's grave at the end, bounty or no. Check out Camera Trap Codger's photo of the trickster: Coyote beautiful.

Coyotes at home and away

Oreo: There oughtta be a law!

Animal activists protest the barbaric murder of Oreo. Oops, my bad — had a Fox News moment there. This photo is from a larger, yet remarkably similar protest.

That's the solution, people! A law that saves dogs like Oreo from murdering murders like bloodthirsty Ed Sayres and from people like you — yes, you, and don't be showing me your kid's stitches and weeping about mental-lapse aggression because I've seen Fluffy's darling picture and I know perfectly well that Cesar Millan could have fixed your dog, no problemo! How dare you order your vet to murder Fluffy! People, Fluffy could have gone to a sanctuary to enjoy a long and happy life at the end of a catchpole, in his little kennel run! We need a law! Start a petition! Call your congressmen! Damn you murdering murderers and your Culture of Death!

[Never spent any time with Oreo, but think the fate of dogs that attack their owners/caretakers should be determined by owners/caretakers and their vets, not by popular vote. Also: there is such a thing as a life not worth living; and if I am ever in a permanent vegetative state, for doG's sake, pull the damn plug.]

November 15, 2009

While you were birding [with some link goodness]

Underwhelmed: landshark Lu [the cop-charger], Bounce, Smoke, Twig [curled up in Smoky's crate] and Gray try to curb their enthusiasm.

"It's the first weekend of Project FeederWatch! This is so totally cool and exciting! OMG, I think that's a Towhee! Guys, check it out! Guys...?"

Seriously, I'm very jazzed about Project FeederWatch and the whole citizen scientist experience. My count days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Coolest bird so far: the male American Kestrel — blue-gray, brick-red, indistinct as a watercolor — that plummeted out of nowhere and banked hard around the feeders. "The death rocket came blasting past..." There was a giant explosion of goldfinches, and I went "Oh, no!" and "OMG, where's the camera -"

The goldfinches were back within twenty minutes.

"Too bad about Fred."

"Yeah, sucks to be a passerine. You gonna finish that seed?"

My dogs ignore the feeder birds here at home, possibly because they are so used to seeing birds carrying on around feeders at the cabin. The birds in both places treat the dogs as if they were garden furniture, without actually perching on them. Thank heaven for that.

Meanwhile, some favorite links:

Photographer Monte Stinnett takes great photos of birds.

Ta-Nehisi Coates keeps getting better and better, and he was a terrific writer to start with. Check out this post on The Wilderness.

Much love and appreciation to the essential KC Dog Blog. I can't praise Brent's work enough.

For the Pit Bulls is most excellent, and now in the blogroll.

And a couple articles:

"In the last year, the French bulldog population has reached an unofficial count of 32 in the Ditmars section of Astoria, Queens."

Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be. I laugh to keep from crying. H/T: Dissenting Justice.

November 13, 2009

Birds in the rain

Goldfinches gotta chow down. Note to self: do not fill feeders in the afternoon if it looks as if it might rain tonight/tomorrow. Also: get a couple of those dome thingys.

First real rain of the season. Awesome. Check out my garden:

Oh, who am I kidding [weeps]. I took that photo last weekend at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, after making out like a bandit at their annual native plant sale. I want my backyard to look like this. OK, only a bit smaller. Just give me a year or two.

November 11, 2009

Find out where the flu shots are... or aren't, as the case may be

How cool: now I know where I won't be able to get that H1N1 shot. Oh, well... it's not as if I spend every weekday in a room with dozens of kids coughing on me, or anything.

Find Nearby Flu Shots with Google Maps. H/T: Lifehack... haaack... [falls to ground coughing]

Click to embiggen:

Bad Rap celebrates double digits!

At a sake factory! I love CA.

The actual anniversary was back in April, but the party is December 5, repeat, December 5, 2009. Should be a rockin' good time. ["And we hear tell Vick dogs are busy autographing copies of Sports Illustrated mags for you to grab up"!!!] See this link for all the details, and while you're at it, grab a virtual toolbox and do your part to get the barn finished. There's a new matching challenge...!

"Recognizing Excellence in Photography through the Microscope"

John Hart: recrystallized melt mix of carbon tetra-bromide and resorcinal (33X). [Source]

The Nikon International Small World Competition first began in 1974 as a means to recognize and applaud the efforts of those involved with photography through the light microscope. Since then, Small World has become a leading showcase for photomicrographers from the widest array of scientific disciplines.

A photomicrograph is a technical document that can be of great significance to science or industry. But a good photomicrograph is also an image whose structure, color, composition, and content is an object of beauty, open to several levels of comprehension and appreciation.

Here are all the 2009 winners.

Below: "Patterned expression of wild-type and transgenic Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) embryos (200x)" by Alistair Boettiger of the Levine Lab at UC Berkeley.

Fruit. Fly. Embryos.

Related post:
Small, smaller, really darn small, so small it's like totally unreal

My clock's running a bit fast

The talented designers at Diamantini & Domeniconi create the coolest clocks ever. Here are three I covet:

Uomino Wall by Juan Carlos Viso.

Giove by Pascal Tarabay + Rafaelle Darra.

Arcoiris by Rafaelle Darra.

Room with a view: lookout cabins and towers

"View from the lookout cabin," Mendocino National Forest, California. Photograph by sf eyes, from Flickr.

God's country, all right.

"View to south from Kendrick Mountain Fire Lookout Tower," Arizona. Photograph by Al HikesAZ, from Flickr.

Hidden Lake Lookout, Washington. Click to embiggen. Photograph by Bmaas [see him resting above the clouds here], from Flickr.

Not a fire lookout — this is a lakeside home in Finland. I totally adore this photo. See more at Arch Daily.

BBC profiles Staffie breeder

BBC image grabbed from the Cold Wet Nose Blog.

For those who get BBC2, this Thursday you might want to check out a documentary on a litter of Staffie pups, their breeder, and their new owners:

Seven puppies are born to a first-time mother called Uggs in a cramped front room in East London. These aren't just cute and cuddly puppies - they are Staffordshire bull terrier crosses, the dogs the tabloids sometimes call 'devil dogs'. They are both one of the most sought-after breeds in the country, and perversely the most frequently abandoned. This film follows the fate of Uggs' puppies as her owner tries to find new homes for them at 300 pounds a pup.
Here's a link.

H/T to Beverley Cuddy, blogger at Cold Wet Nose and editor and publisher of Dogs Today Magazine [UK].

Veterans Day

From the poem At a Calvary Near The Ancre by Wilfred Owen, who was "killed in action at the Battle of the Sambre just a week before the war ended, causing news of his death to reach home as the town's church bells declared peace."
The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

[Hat tip: The Edge of the American West.]

And from Andrew, though I know you've all seen it: