October 9, 2010

Sweet Jeebus on a dinosaur [with Finals vids and Dewi Tweed goodness]

Because actual scientists are just big old snobs. jesus horses by wullagaru for threadless.

For decade after weary decade there have been chuckleheads claiming that working border collies aren't all that, and who needs a real stockdog nowadays, anyway, and oh — remember to buy a pup from my non-working kennel! It's such an unoriginal, predictable sort of background noise that by now most people with working stockdogs simply tune it out.

Retrieverman is the latest to troll these waters, with a post entitled, of all things, Intellectual honesty on the effects of trials and shows. [H/T: For the Pit Bulls.] The one bit of intellectual honesty you'll find in his post is this admission: "I know next to nothing about actual herding trials."

And I'll be darned if he doesn't proceed to write paragraph after paragraph demonstrating just how little he knows about working stockdogs and actual herding trials. Seriously, I can't wait for his "Don't know much about geology" post.

A few points. First: nice to know that the press coverage of the USBCHA Finals has made an impact. Working border collies are amazing dogs, and it can't be repeated often enough that the border collie's brains and biddability and athleticism are a direct result of rigorous selection for stockwork, as opposed to rigorous selection for a pronounced stop.

Point Two: if you think the following comment by BC Board moderator Eileen Stein is "the funniest bullshit [you've] ever seen," you might be as ignorant of working stockdogs as Retriever Man:
[Border collies] are like Alaskan Huskies in that they are bred to a working standard rather than an appearance standard, and they are a breed rather than a type in that they have been bred to that working standard long enough that they almost always meet that working standard better than any other kind of dog.
Alaskan Huskies don't have a registry and border collies do -- that's the only significant difference.
I think the part he missed is that working sheepdogs and racing huskies are bred for different purposes, but who the hell knows. And not that racing husky people concern themselves with bloodlines or anything like that.

Point Three: there is nothing esoteric about a USBCHA sheepdog trial. Any stockdog remotely deserving of the description should be able to gather stock, drive the stock to specific areas, and help sort and pen the stock. This isn't rocket science: I've seen Lhasa Apsos manage it in a small corral with tame sheep — which, I should emphasize, doesn't mean that Lhasa Apsos represent the gold standard of stock work, however proud of their efforts you may be. A really good stockdog will be able to accomplish those tasks in wide-open, unfamiliar terrain, in an efficient manner, with unfamiliar stock. That's what a USBCHA sheepdog trial tests, and if that's hard to understand, I'm Lady Gaga.

Finally, if you'd like to see some of the best stockdogs in North America demonstrating their prowess in September's 2010 National Sheepdog Finals [and I would dearly love to watch some of those runs again], head over to the Finals Web Cast page and sign up for their pay-per-view. As Heather Nadelman reports, "You can skip around in the video and watch it in chunks at your leisure — the clock only ticks against your purchased hours if you're logged into the player." At 400-some yards the Belle Grove trial field was smallish [to this westerner], but the sheep were plenty challenging and the best work was awesome. Yes, I'm looking at you, Riggs and Patrick Shanahan :~)))


This isn't from our Finals, but what a nice vid it is: Richard Millichap's most awesome Dewi Tweed gathers sheep in the Welsh mountains. Enjoy! [For those interested in the border collie's "genetic bottleneck," Kinloch has a link to Tweed's pedigree, with the inbreeding coefficient numbers listed for his ISDS parents and grandparents.]

September 23, 2010

2010 National Sheepdog Finals

Now with live streaming video of the 40 semi-final runs on Saturday and the double-lift final on Sunday! Awesome.

Jenny Glen is providing great play-by play here, and Heather Nadelman is doing yeoman's work and much more here. Check out additional reports from top competitors Bev Lambert and Robin French.

Have I mentioned that the splendid border collies at the National Finals are the best working sheepdogs in North America? Slick-coated, rough-coated, wire-faced [Polly Matzinger's James ran in the Finals on Wednesday] — yet for all their diversity in appearance, how similar they are in their aptitude for the work! Eileen Stein explains:
[Border collies] are like Alaskan Huskies in that they are bred to a working standard rather than an appearance standard, and they are a breed rather than a type in that they have been bred to that working standard long enough that they almost always meet that working standard better than any other kind of dog[...] Alaskan Huskies don't have a registry and border collies do -- that's the only significant difference.
[As you can imagine, this sort of talk gives conformation breeders apoplexy.]

Here's a lovely sheepdog trial photo, though there are no sheep in sight: this is Dennis Birchall with Mossie and Flash, the 2009 International Brace Champions. Yes, those are border collies. How I love slick-coats:

Dennis Birchall has won the Irish National six times, and is one of four most excellent judges at Belle Grove for our 2010 National Finals. Dennis, Mossie and Flash represented Ireland again this year at the International Supreme Championship in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, a county whose motto, fittingly enough, is "Through trial to triumph," but the triumph in brace this time went to Richard Hutchinson with Roy and Sweep. Michael Gallagher and Cap were 2010 International Supreme Champions — you can find more results at the ISDS website here.

Yes, I am insanely jealous of all the handlers, dog bloggers and others attending the Finals at Belle Grove. Thank god for that streaming video, is all I can say.

Great read: The Dog Wars by Donald McCaig
Zamora Hills [and some dog show]
This is not herding.

September 6, 2010

Walla, trois de la fourrière [translation: it's a Costco dog bed!]

Yes, it's hard for the dogs to stay put, what with the fun-house floors and all. They keep me awake all night with their rolling from one end of the cabin to the other [sigh].

Walla, I'll have y'all know, is not just an Indian suffix indicating a person involved in some kind of activity, or half the name of a county seat in the northwest. No, readers, "walla" is a loan word, and this most excellent spelling was invented by a west coast rancher and sheepdogger. He was headed to Canada to judge a trial in 2002:
For me it started getting on the plane from San Francisco, California, USA. I knew it was going to be a challenge because my passport hadn't come in and the officials said I needed 2 federal picture I.D.'s. After all the hoopla and dance the official asked if I had a Costco Card with my picture on it and walla, I had it and on we go. [From Sheepdog-L.]

Can't see that happening in today's police state land o' the free, now, can we?

But anyhow. I can't think of Costco these days without 1) saying Walla! to myself, or 2) thinking of cheap dog-beds. Huge, cheap dog-beds. Bounce was sleeping on one of them this morning, and then Smoke curled up next to her, and then the landshark came diving in for some Smoke-wuv, and there I was trying to aim over my shoulder with the little point 'n' shoot. Good times, good times ;~)

September 5, 2010


My best girl ever takes a snooze at the cabin. Labor Day weekend, 2010.

August 31, 2010

SB 250 is dead, yay [whew!]

According to a nice phone person in Assemblymember Monning's office as of 7:35 or so.

I sure hope this is the final stake through the heart of [state-wide] mandatory spay/neuter. From my lips to doG's ear...

UPDATE: Then again... see Save Our Dogs for the latest.

UPDATE II: It's 10:15 PM, and darned if this crappy bit of legislation isn't being voted on again. Sheesh.

Aaaaaaand UPDATE III: SB 250 not only merely dead, it's really most sincerely dead.

Huge props to Laura S of Save Our Dogs for all she's done and continues to do for dogs and the Californians who care about them.

And so to bed.

August 15, 2010

Home range

In the San Bernardino Mountains, looking north towards Big Bear Lake from the high country along Forest Road 2N10. Click photos to embiggen.

The San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California are a transverse range, which means they run east-west, unlike most mountain ranges in North America. If I remember correctly, California has the only transverse ranges in the nation. Geology is hella hecka interesting in these parts. Thank you, tectonic plates! The east end of Big Bear Valley is lower in elevation, hotter and drier — Mojave Desert to the east, Sonoran Desert to the south — but the west is green and high and wonderful.

If you're feeling adventurous you can reach Big Bear Lake from the south via Forest Road 1N54: Clark's Grade. Back in the early 1900s this dirt track was the main road to the lake, and visitors generally traveled in the motorized stages operated by White's Mountain Auto Line. My mother's father drove a stage for the Mountain Auto Line every summer while he was a student at USC. I'm looking at his badges right now, along with a photo of Grandpa and his fellow drivers in front of the Freight & Passenger Station at Big Bear Lake. "Registered Chauffeur": 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919. It was in 1919 that my great-grandmother got the lot lease for the cabin.

Clark's Grade was [is] a series of dusty switchbacks, and it must have been an experience to drive up the Grade in an open stage. The descent from Clark's Summit [elevation 8000'] into Big Bear Valley is beautiful. Bluff Lake and Metcalf Meadows are as lovely today as they must have looked to visitors escaping the inland valley heat back in 1916. [Speaking of which: 99F down the hill today — 79F at the cabin.] The stages used to rumble down Mill Creek Road [below our cabin] and pass through the toll gate at Oak Knoll Lodge, and then they'd roll on a few more miles to the other lodges and hotels by the lake.

Nowadays the main roads to Big Bear are City Creek [Highway 330] and Highways 18 and 38. Clark's Grade, the toll gates and the old dirt roads are ancient history. Those roads belong to mountain bikers now, and to high-clearance vehicles like my trusty Ford pickup. On a recent drive to Bluff Lake [it's two/three miles from the cabin] and then east for seven miles to Moonridge via 2N10, we saw maybe a dozen mountain bikers, and just three or four motor vehicles.

A marshy meadow at the east end of Bluff Lake.

Ferns along the north shore. I was birding here in early June [a month before these photos were taken] and there were no ferns in sight — just pine needles and scattered banks of snow.

From the gallery of Unfortunate Family Photos: my sis holds a confab with Lily the Pug at one of the forest's countless boulder formations.

Bluff Lake, with mallards.

I know what you're thinking: this rock would look better with a pug.

And walla, as we say here in California. Much better.

Home, sweet home: old cabin on the north shore of Bluff Lake. From left: Grayling the border collie [who turned eleven in July], my beautiful sis, and the always photogenic Princess LilyPug.

Adventure is her middle name

Danger Pug takes care of navigation as we prowl the forest roads.

The cuteness: my favorite nuthatch

More from the cabin deck. Pygmy Nuthatch photographed by Dianna of L.A. Audubon.

A good dad: Purple Finch and fledgling

Purple Finch dads totally rock :~) More photos by Dianna of L.A. Audubon, with a curiously colored Purple Finch added for good measure.

What but fear winged the birds...?

Been summering, off and on, at the family cabin in the San Bernardino National Forest near Big Bear Lake. A most excellent group from L.A. Audubon spent some time on the cabin deck a few weeks ago, and photographer Dianna took this great shot [click to embiggen] of a Cooper's Hawk:

Pine Siskins, beware!

[Jeffers: The Bloody Sire.]

August 5, 2010


He'll be two in September. Photos from the last few evenings here in God's country, the San Bernardino National Forest near Big Bear Lake.

August 4, 2010

In other news

Baby mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo by the good folks of the National Park Service.

Three words: Radioactive. wild. boars.

"When I write to tell you to go outside and experience nature, I am writing inside and you are reading inside and neither of us is outside experiencing nature." True dat.

Mountain lions of the Santa Monica Mountains. Great overview by Gary Valle [H/T CougarMagic]. On second thought, maybe I'll stay inside. [Near midnight here in the San Bernardino National Forest. Plus: radioactive wild boars.] The cuteness! [And oh, the humanity.]

Oklahoma Pre-wash Cycle. Awww.

And finally: Goodbye, Snaffles. Splendid and deeply moving eulogy for a wise, wonderful horse.

Shoot-out at the... dog park? This week's edition of cops killing dogs

Honestly, it's enough to make me fear for my pups. Over at The Agitator, Radley Balko covers the latest cases of puppycide:

In Willits, CA an officer serving a search warrant shot and killed a family pet, an 8-year-old half-pit bull mix named Tonka:

According to resident Anna White, Tonka’s owner, the police shot her pet while it was in a fenced area on her front porch. “We found the shell casing outside by the fence area. Tonka then ran into our house, got onto my bed and died.”

White described her bedroom following the search, claiming Tonka’s body had been dumped from the bed onto the floor and items from her room dropped onto the body and into the dog’s blood. “They destroyed our house and found nothing,” says White. “Tonka lived long enough to die on my bed, which we shared each night.”
Does that tear your heart out, or what? Oh, and this: "When agents searched the home, they found nothing," reported the local paper.

Agents. found. nothing. They tore up the house and killed the family dog, and didn't find a damn thing. Gotta love that War on [some] Drugs.

"Finding nothing" seems to happen with depressing regularity when the family dog is gunned down by police, which brings us to the next case of dog killed by cop:
Stunned dog owners and residents of a Severn neighborhood are shocked that authorities won't be charging a federal police officer who shot and killed a Siberian husky Monday night at a community dog park.
The federal police officer panicked when the husky started playing "fighting" with the officer's German shepherd. According to the husky's owner Rachel Rettaliata, local animal control officials reported that they found no scratch or bite marks on either dog.

And no charges will be filed...! Try to imagine how you'd feel if some panicky Nimrod emptied his gun into one of your dogs for no sane reason under the sun. And got away with it. Damn.


From this blog:

["Holy Crap" by Marc Johns.]

Something important and something good

May 26, 2009: Day of Decision Protest in Hollywood. Photo by Tom Andrews/LAist.

"Yesterday’s anticipation has turned into today’s joy," wrote the most excellent political blogger Marcy Wheeler when she got the news. "The court, in a historic opinion and verdict, has declared California’s Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional."

"Fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections." Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker

Read Wheeler's terrific analysis here. Excerpt:

The opinion is, again as predicted, extremely well written, consummately detailed, brilliantly structured and contains a foundation of extremely well supported findings of fact and conclusions of law. In short, Vaughn Walker has crafted as fine a foundational opinion as could possibly be hoped for, and one that is designed with the intent to withstand appellate scrutiny not just in the 9th Circuit, but in the Supreme Court as well.

Obviously this is but a step in the process because there will be appeals, and the case will, without question, go to the Supreme Court. But, that said, you could not ask for a better platform and posture for a case on this issue to go to the Supremes on. It is all that and more [...]

Today is one of those rare seminal days where something important and something good has occurred. Fantastic. The beauty and joy of equality, due process and equal protection under the Constitution of the United States of America.

Gov. Schwarzenegger issued a statement saying, "For the hundreds of thousands of Californians in gay and lesbian households who are managing their day-to-day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves."

Yay, Governator! Yay, California! And a big, giant, standing ovation for the beauty and joy of equality, due process and equal protection under the Constitution of the United States of America.

July 19, 2010

From Cosmic Quandaries with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Hat tip to the most excellent Southern Fried Science, where you can watch the entire Cosmic Quandaries panel discussion as well as the following excerpt:

As the man says, "You can't be a scientist if you're uncomfortable with ignorance, because we live at the boundary between what is known and unknown in the universe."

June 25, 2010

I like her

Brenda Barnette, the new GM of Los Angeles Animal Services, meets the press with a big ol' love bug/lap dog of a pit bull.

Hate! Hysterics! Hyperbole!

And firebombs! Welcome to Los Angeles, Brenda Barnette, and have fun dealing with some of the most vindictive, sanctimonious, self-absorbed "animal lovers" in North America.

Brenda leaves the Seattle Humane Society with a remarkable record of success. Under her leadership, in 2009 the Seattle Humane Society had the best year in its 113-year history with the placement of 6,091 animals and a Live Save Rate of 91.4 percent. Much of this success was due to a robust Foster Care Program that allowed more than 4,300 animals to benefit from home care while they waited for homes of their own. [Source.]

What's not to like, right? But wait! News of Barnette's ties to the [oh noes!] American Kennel Club
caused a collective gasp by the small group of invitation-only spay/neuter advocates present, most of whom were longtime animal devotees who celebrated with Lakers-style cheers and tears in 2008 when Councilman Richard Alarcon spearheaded, and the City Council passed, what is termed the toughest spay/neuter ordinance in the country.

For all the good that's done. [And just for the record, "the ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law."]

An anonymous commenter frets over Barnette and her ilk:
"Note what [a group in favor of No-Kill in Seattle] proposes [...] 'county should open up the county code and reevaluate the regulations related to licensing, pet limits, and special permits...so that the county can ensure that none of its existing regulations are inhibiting the development of a model, No Kill program.’

"Do you know what that means? Take AWAY animal control laws, like breeder licensing, pet limit laws (that prevent hoarding situations). Watch the puppy mill breeders, dog fighters, and hoarders escalate with NO LAWS to deal with them."
Because the state of Washington has no animal cruelty laws! And dogfighting is legal there, apparently. Los Angeles is doomed! I'm trying to imagine how much these critics must hate someone like Bill Bruce of Calgary Animal Sevices.

The last two blockquotes above are from this article. [By this familiar voice.]

I wish Barnette the best, and I'm glad she got the job. Most people in SoCal have the sense to know that hate and hysterics don't help shelter animals find homes. Why not try good leadership and smart policies for a change? The Bill Bruce model has done wonders in Calgary — let's see how a similar approach works at Los Angeles Animal Services.

Related [and rated R for language]: Can't post the title on this here PG-rated blog, but Judy Mancuso's husband biggest fan weighs in. Yeah, that helps animals.

June 23, 2010

Arc kicks, karate chops, and thirty cops

Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith do the bonding and the kung fu fighting this summer in The Karate Kid, from Columbia Pictures.

Last week Dwayne Betts was filling in for my fave author/blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates over at The Atlantic, and shared this poem for Father's Day:

by John Murillo
Los Angeles, California, 1976

For me, the movie starts with a black man
Leaping into an orbit of badges, tiny moons

Catching the sheen of his perfect black afro.
Arc kicks, karate chops, and thirty cops

On their backs. It starts with the swagger,
The cool lean into the leather front seat

Of the black and white he takes off in.
Deep hallelujahs of moviegoers drown

Out the wah wah guitar. Salt & butter
High-fives, Right on, brother! and Daddy

Glowing so bright he can light the screen
All by himself. This is how it goes down.

Friday night and my father drives us
Home from the late show, two heroes

Cadillacking across King Boulevard.
In the cars dark cab, we jab and clutch,

Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee with popcorn
Breath, and almost miss the lights flashing

In the cracked side mirror. I know whats
Under the seat, but when the uniforms

Approach from the rear quarter panel,
When the fat one leans so far into my father's

Window I can smell his long day's work,
When my father this John Henry of a man,

Hides his hammer, doesn't buck, tucks away
His baritone, license and registration shaking as if

Showing a bathroom pass to a grade school
Principal, I learn the difference between cinema

And city, between the moviehouse cheers
Of old men and the silence that gets us home.

Commenter Michael offers a link to the scene.

And the most excellent Nag posts a rather impressive screen test. Yowza. Just... wow.

The police definition of "pit bull" often seems to be "any dog we shot."

And don't forget [as if we could] the Merritt Clifton corollary: "A 'pit bull' is any dog the newspaper says is a pit bull."

Title of this post was swiped from the most excellent and essential Radley Balko, whose latest commentary on the epidemic of cops shooting dogs can be found here. Excerpt:
Last July I wrote a piece for The Daily Beast on the continuing cops-shooting-dogs problem. While it's difficult to say just how often this happens (police departments tend to be less than forthcoming with the data), it's often enough to produce a regular stream of news stories. What I did discover while reporting that piece is that very few police departments provide training for their officers on how to deal with dogs, something I found astonishing given how often your typical cop is likely to come into contact with one. By contrast, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman told me all of their employees get annual training on interaction with dogs. Probably not coincidentally, he also said serious dog attacks on postal workers are vanishingly rare. The other problem is that there's rarely any accountability for these shootings. If a police officer says he felt threatened by the dog, that's usually enough to justify the shoot, even if the dog was a miniature Dachshund, or a Jack Russell Terrier.

Read the whole thing, and be sure to follow Radley's link to a terrific post at Popehat, where Patrick notes that "[i]n police reports, it appears that there are only two breeds of dogs, pit bulls and rottweilers":
I’ll bet that in some bureaucratic Newspeak seminar for police department internal affairs or public relations personnel, officers are taught, always, to characterize dogs shot by the police as “pit bulls,” “rottweilers,” or if they can’t jam it into one of those categories, “German shepherds.”

It's a good thing to see police thuggery and media fear-mongering addressed by respected, dare I say mainstream, journalists and bloggers. And huge props to the commenter at Popehat who says what every pit bull owner knows:
People associate [pit bulls] with black and latino people. The racist undertones of the ban in Denver (where I have lived) are not really undertones at all, but pretty openly racially motivated by the advocates of the ban when they discuss it.

Another essential Balko post: More Militarized Than the Military. Gotta love that War on [some] Drugs.


"Susie's Law" signed by NC governor

Susie greets a supportive legislator. Photo by Jerry Wolford for the Greensboro News & Record.

Contributor keithan81 over at Pam's House Blend tells it:

Susie isn't a person. She's a pit bull mix who bears the scars of torture. In August, 2009, Susie, just a puppy, was found by passers-by in a Greensboro park, badly beatened with her jaw and teeth broken, and with second and third degree burns on over 60% of her body. Maggots infested her wounds; maggots that had been there for two weeks.

What on earth would cause a human to do this to Susie? Apparently, her attacker went crazy after she licked the face of his newborn baby. He beat her, then sprayed her with lighter fluid before setting her on fire. His mother turned him in; he accepted a guilty plea and was sentenced under the state's burning of property law. He will be in prison for 6-8 months. Yep, months. He would have gotten the same punishment for setting a couch on fire and more for setting a mailbox on fire.

Susie's Law changes all of that. Starting December 1, in North Carolina, the malicious abuse of animals will be deemed a Class H felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison, even for first-time offenders.

H/T to the Blend, where proprietor and pit bull owner Pam Spaulding advocates tirelessly for pits and pit mixes.


[Here in SoCal, some legislators actually support mandatory mutilation... er, spay/neuter for anything that looks like a pit bull, no matter how responsible the owner or how blameless the dog, but that's another story.]

Susie's Law Signed After Months In The Making
Susie’s Law passes

June 10, 2010

Cute sheltie + small, cheerful human = classic zoomies vid

What a sweet dog. Sheltie must be thinking, "This has gotta be the slowest carbon-based organism I have ever tried to play with in. my. life."

June 6, 2010

June 6th 1806

"[T]he red has the appearance of being laid over a ground of yellow": Western Tanager by Phae on Flickr.

In what is now Lewis County, Idaho:
This morning Frazier returned having been in quest of some roots and bread which had left at the lodg of the Twisted hair when on his way to the fishery on Lewis's river. the Twisted hair came with him but I was unable to converse with him for the want of an interpreter, Drewyer being absent with Capt. C. This Cheif left me in the evening and returned to his village. Capt C. Visited the Broken Arm today agreeably to his promise; he took with him Drewyer and several others. they were received in a friendly manner. The Broken Arm informed Capt C. that the nation would not pass the mountain untill the latter end of the summer, and that with rispect to the young men whom we had requested should accompany us to the falls of the Missouri, were not yet scelected for that purpose nor could they be so untill there was a meeting of the nation in counsil. that this would happen in the course of ten or twelve days as the whole of the lodges were about to remove to the head of the Commeâp Creek in the plain near Lewis's river, that when they had assembled themselves they would hold a council and scelect the young men. that if we set out previously to that period the men would follow us. we therefore do not calculate on any assistance from them as guides, but depend more upon engageing some of the Ootlashshoots in the neighborhood of Travellers rest C. for that purpose. The broken arm gave Capt. C. a few dryed Quawmas roots as a great present, but in our estimation those of cows are much better, I am confident they are much more healthy. The men who were with Capt. C. obtained a good store of roots and bread in exchange for a number of little notions, using the Yanke phrase, with which their own enginuity had principally furnished them. on examination we find that our whole party have an ample store of bread and roots for our voyage, a circumstance not unpleasing. They retuned at 5 P. M. shortly after which we were visited by Hohâstillpilp the two young Cheifs who gave us the horses in behalf of the nation some time since and several others, who remained all night. The Kooskooske is about 150 Yds. wide at this place and discharges a vast body of water; notwithstanding it high state the water remains nearly transparent, and it's temperature appeas to be quite as cold as that of our best springs.

Western Tanager by The.Rain.Man on Flickr.

we meet with a beautifull little bird in this neighbourhood about the size and somewhat the shape of the large sparrow. it is reather longer in proportion to it's bulk than the sparrow. it measures 7 inches from the extremity of the beek to that of the tail, the latter occupying 2½ inches. the beak is reather more than half an inch in length, and is formed much like the virginia nitingale; it is thick and large for a bird of it's size; wide at the base, both chaps convex, and pointed, the uper exceeds the under chap a little is somewhat curved and of a brown colour; the lower chap of a greenish yellow. the eye full reather large and of a black colour both puple and iris. the plumage is remarkably delicate; that of the neck and head is of a fine orrange yellow and red, the latter predominates on the top of the head and arround the base of the beak from whence it graduly deminishes & towards the lower part of the neck, the orrange yellow prevails most; the red has the appearance of being laid over a ground of yellow. the breast, the sides, rump and some long feathers which lie between the legs and extend underneath the tail are of a fine orrange yellow. the tail, back and wings are black, ecept a small stripe of yellow on the outer part of the middle joint of the wing, ¼ of an inch wide and an inch in length. the tail is composed of twelve feathers of which those in the center are reather shortest, and the plumage of all the feathers of the tail is longest on that side of the quill next the center of the tail. the legs and feet are black, nails long and sharp; it has four toes on each foot, of which three are forward and one behind; that behind is as long as the two outer of the three toes in front.

Observed equal altitudes of the sun with Sextant.

The first description for science of my heart bird, the Western Tanager, written by Captain Meriwether Lewis. You can read the journals of his expedition here.

H/T: Idaho Birding Blog.

June 1, 2010

Why are bear cubs so adorable?

Dunno. They just are. I wuv them.

Now that the snow is melting, wildlife is popping up all over the SoCal nightly news reports: bears, mountain lions [see links below] and what-do-you-mean-this-isn't-New-Mexico far-ranging birds. [Shout-out to fellow birder S-, who photographed a Greater Pewee — is that an oxymoron? — up at Arrastre Creek today in the San Bernardinos. Since 1900 only a dozen or so of these Central American flycatchers have been spotted in California, according to the latest eBird stats. Darn day job... I'll get you anyway, Pewee!]

Topic. Bear cub adorableness:

Local mountain lion link fest:
"Just feet from my front door"
This just in: Wild animals live here
Woman survives mountain lion scare
Staring down nature's nose

Jonah 2010

Found this at Aquafornia, where you can watch the wide-screen version and be even more depressed impressed.

May 18, 2010


White bird in an orange tree.

This albino House Sparrow has been in and around the yard since May 12. In the photos her eyes look black — after looking at her through binoculars I'd say those eyes are very dark red. I think she's quite beautiful.

She does stand out, though. I hope some predator doesn't finish her off before she's had a chance to enjoy a bit of the world, if House Sparrows can be said to do such a thing.

Rose Red on the left, Snow White on the right, with sparrow and finch kids in between. Click for big.


Plumage variations: Albinism or Leucism?

Leucistic birds, from Stokes Birding Blog

White albino swallow sets twitchers a-flutter

Albinism in birds

May 9, 2010

Love your mother

Snowy Plover, by Jim Urbach for Audubon. [Click for big, and get the screensaver here.] In its report Gulf Oil Spill Pictures: Ten Animals at Risk, National Geographic writes that the Snowy Plover "has been identified by the National Audubon Society as one of the species most vulnerable to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Snowy plovers risk not only direct contact with the oil but might also be poisoned by eating small invertebrates and oysters tainted with oil."

Updates on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico:
Workers on Oil Rig Recall a Terrible Night of Blasts

BP suffers setback in attempts to stem Gulf of Mexico oil flow. “I wouldn’t say it has failed yet,” Doug Suttles, BP’s chief operating officer, said at a news conference in Robert, La. “What we attempted to do last night hasn’t worked.”

Learning to Love the Sea, Then Torn From It. The Gulf oil spill "has stalled, and possibly ruined, the livelihoods of thousands."

Regulator Deferred to Oil Industry on Rig Safety

Gulf Coast Fishermen Fear That They Will Be Left With 'Crippled Industry'

Sabotage! Conspiracy! And Other Ways to Spin the Oil Spill. I laugh to keep from crying.

Happy Mother's Day!

"The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is seen from a helicopter." Photo by Rick Loomis for the Los Angeles Times.

May 8, 2010

International Migratory Bird Day

Above: Cerulean Warbler, Rufous Hummingbird, American Redstart. Below left: Wood Duck, American Oystercatcher, Puffin, Whooping Crane. All by Robert Petty for EFTA's Bird Day 2010.

Truth be told: every day is bird day here in Southern California. OK, every day is [or should be] bird day everywhere, but especially here. From the mountains to the sea [as a SoCal news icon used to say each evening] there are beautiful local birds and cool migratory birds everywhere you look.

International Migratory Bird Day "highlights and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean," and to quote from the essay Coming together to protect birds, "IMBD is not only a day to foster appreciation for wild birds and to celebrate and support migratory bird conservation; it is also is a call to action." We celebrate Bird Day [every day] by working toward:
• Protecting and managing green space.

• Landscaping with native plants in backyards and parks.

• Adopting architecture and lighting systems that reduce collisions.

• Making our communities hospitable to breeding, wintering and migrating birds that seek safe places to spend time and find food.

"Birds can save the world," writes Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell:
[B]irds represent our most accessible and sensitive indicator of environmental health and ecological change. Today, thanks especially to the Internet, individual citizens have unprecedented opportunities to provide real data that answer important questions about bird populations at continental scales. Humans literally are beginning to serve as worldwide biosphere sensors. The question is, do we also have the will to self-correct? Birds present us with numerous motivations to do so, and an excellent barometer for measuring our successes and failures.
The real data Dr. Fitzpatrick is talking about can be viewed and explored at eBird, which is quite possibly the coolest data-gathering program of all time [and I'm not just saying that because I'm one of this year's top 100 eBirders in my county. Though I am]. To see just one example of eBird's citizen scientists at work, check out the eBird Gulf Coast Oil Spill Bird Tracker. The gadget displays recent sightings of ten focal species — data provided by a dedicated army of eBirders, citizen scientists providing "a real-time snapshot of the region’s birdlife, helping conservationists and researchers understand where, when, and how many of each species are currently occurring on local beaches and wetlands."

Wild birds embody the wonder and beauty of nature, its mystery and its miracles. The challenges wild birds face are challenges that sooner or later will confront us all. We owe it to ourselves, if not to the life of the skies, to celebrate Bird Day as if our future depended on it — because odds are, it does.

George Divoky's Planet. "This is a story about global warming and a scientist named George Divoky, who studies a colony of Arctic seabirds on a remote barrier island off the northern coast of Alaska. I mention all this at the start because a reader might like to come to the point, and what could be more urgent than the very health and durability of this planet we call Earth? However, before George can pursue his inquiry into worldwide climate change; before he can puzzle out the connections between a bunch of penguinesque birds on a flat, snow-covered, icebound island and the escalating threat of droughts, floods and rising global temperatures, he must first mount a defense -- his only defense in this frozen, godforsaken place -- against the possibility of being consumed, down to the last toenail, by a polar bear while he sleeps. He must first build a fence." A hands-down, must-read classic, even more important now than when it was first published back in 2002.

Media helicopters force Gulf birds to abandon nests. Holy crap, news people.

The know-how and materials already exist. We need to do the right thing

Efforts under way to douse nighttime lights on downtown Cleveland skyscrapers, saving millions of migrating songbirds

H/T to Mike McDowell for the JSOnline link.

Family portraits

Click on the images to embiggen.

These photos are quite wonderful. From China Hush:
This is a “Family Portrait” of China’s 56 ethnic groups. Chen Haiwen, a photographer, recently lead a team of 14 photographers to create a book entitled, “Harmonious China: A Sketch of China’s 56 Ethnicities.” The team spent one year traveling all over China to complete the project. They ended up taking over 5.7 million photographs.

Visit this site to see the large versions. H/T: Nag on the Lake.

News Flash

Click for big.

Climate change is [hello, Congress] still real. California's essential water/politics blogger Emily Green reported this week that 255 of the country’s leading scientists, including 11 Nobel laureates, are doing what they can to get the message across:
(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.

(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.

(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.

Lead Letter Published in Science magazine, May 7, 2010
From 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences

In related news, California has some of the greediest and most dangerous initiative-pushers on earth. Rule by initiative is the first two or three thousand reasons my poor state is in such bad shape these days.

Image above: Carbon Dioxide Concentration [screen grab] from NASA's Global Climate Change website.

What I want:

Leitfaden project, by designers Monika Jakubek and Anna Müller.

And on the left, why I want it. Awesome Paintbox Quilt by the most excellent blogger [and author] at Oh, Fransson!, where you can also find instructions and much more cool stuff for quilters.

H/T: Pratt// Liam Jeff Rubio.

May 6, 2010

Sick pervs

A while ago Brent asked what I would think of a new and improved law to ban "crush videos." For the record, few things horrify me as much as the sight of brutal creeps killing pets that are screaming in fear and pain:

So I'm all for criminalizing videos, because what this nation really needs is more excuses for jackbooted thugs to break into homes in the middle of the night, and more reasons for goons in body armor to shoot your dogs and place you under arrest.


The seven year old child in that video will hear his dogs screaming for the rest of his life. Oh, and check this out: after the cops broke the door down, terrorized the family, shot the house up and killed one of the family dogs [the other was shot but survived — you gotta love when grown men wearing enough body armor to stop a f*ing tank have to shoot a corgi], the parents were charged with child endangerment. I repeat, the PARENTS. were charged with child endangerment. On account of a bag of dope, for crissakes. Yay War on [some] Drugs! I feel so much safer. Shit.

"If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch." [Thurgood Marshall]

Here's how things are right now. We have entire websites devoted to the corruption and brutality and militarization of the police. Reporting on pets killed by cops is a growth industry. And in spite of all this, our legislators, in their boundless, staggering idiocy, want to give MORE power to the state to invade homes and arrest people.

And this will help animals? How, exactly?

I would bet money that cops on raids kill more dogs in a month, in the U.S., than there are people selling crush videos online. Want to reduce animal cruelty? Then don't give cops even more power to invade homes, arrest people and kill pets.

Fun fact: downloading the video above could totally have led to your arrest and imprisonment under the animal-cruelty video law [pdf] ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Edited to add: fallout.

Radley Balko [Essential reading. "There are 100-150 of these raids every day in America, the vast, vast majority like this one, to serve a warrant for a consensual crime."]

"This is what evil looks like" [from Obsidian Wings, with a terrific comment thread]

And this, on another police development: "[The] whole thing appears, rightly or wrongly, to be law enforcement doing the bidding of a private company."