Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For Merinz: Red Squirrel à la Grand Tetons

Here's what we mean when we say "red squirrel" (as opposed to the cute, Euro-style, tufty-eared eeckhoorn, below) in the U.S. This one's clearly a mama, and she held and devoured the pine cone like corn on the cob, but amazingly quickly. She was really fun to watch from the front porch of my little cabin at Signal Mountain Lodge, GTNP.

To my knowledge the only squirrel in the U.S. (and possibly, all of North America) that has significant tufts of fur on its ears is the Kaibab squirrel. I hope some day to visit the north rim of the Grand Canyon again and to get lucky enough to photograph one of these distinct black-furred squirrels

Click on the image to get a good enlargement of the triptych.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Zestien prentbriefkarten (Sixteen postcards)



Common Yellowthroat




Evening Grosbeak

Great Horned Owl









I've had this lovely packet of postcards for many years. The images, dated 1979, are by Dutch nature artist H.J. Slijper. On Google search I'd say he (or she) is underappreciated. There's not even a Wikipedia entry (in English, at least) for this obviously talented painter. Some day I'll look for the translations of the subjects identified in Dutch, though I can speculate that "kraanvogel" are cranes, the blauwborst might translate as bluebreast, and that the image of the squirrel is somehow identified as an acorn... The scientific names are there. Stay tuned, and enjoy these luscious graphics, until I can do my homework, or please feel free to supply some answers if your Dutch is good or you know your British, European, and Eurasian species. Click on the images for an enormous burst of detail on your screen.

Addendum: For interesting updates on this post, see http://veronicawaldsamusingmusings.blogspot.com/2011/02/musings-on-bloggings.html

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pat Pending, prolific designer

Did you know there was a very famous designer named Pat Pending who signed his or her name on this great variety of interesting items? Sometimes he/she just signed Pat Pend. Jewelry, electric guitars, golf clubs, cookware, toys, my goodness what an amazingly prolific and widely creative individual!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I wasn't a literature major and I don't think I ever took a poetry class. Though I certainly recognize glorious language, I often have to have a poet's allusions, or rhythms for that matter, pointed out to me. I'm just a bit of a lunk in that department (though I have my favorites, like John Donne). But I was taken with the bittersweet cleverness of the following exquisite poem by 17th century American poet Anne Bradstreet. I came across it in a Karen J. Winkler article in The Chronicle Review: A Weekly Magazine of Ideas (April 10, 2009) but the full work is readily accessible on the Web:

I had eight birds hacht in one nest,
Four Cocks were there, and Hens the rest,
I nurst them up with pain and care,
No cost nor labour did I spare
Till at the last they felt their wing,
Mounted the Trees and learned to sing.
Chief of the brood then took his flight
To Regions far and left me quite.
My mournful chirps I after send
Till he return, or I do end.

Anne Bradstreet, from "In Reference to Her Children," 1659

I admit it, I don't instantly understand whether the "Chief of the Brood" refers to her firstborn (son) or to the children's father. (On investigation, I find those knowledgeable about her life say the reference is to her oldest son.) In either case, it appears that all eight chicks survived to fledge, in itself extraordinary in her day. And these are just the first 10 of 94 lines...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Needed: A Dose of Mother Nature

This morning while coffee-ing (like breakfasting, minus the bacon and eggs) in front of the TV, I happened mid-movie upon World Traveler on IFC (Independent Film Channel, which often screens films of interest). I paid attention because of the luscious settings in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho, and Colorado, and because I recognized renowned actors Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup. The premise and script are very slight: a married-with-child, urban, and successful young man ("Cal") from a paternally-deprived childhood suddenly comes down with a terrible case of ennui that can only be cured by upping and leaving on a cross-country journey of self-discovery. What was a little bit rewarding and a little bit subtle in this take on the age-old theme was the curative power of Nature. Cal's semi-estranged father just happens to live in a wonderul log cabin a few hundred yards from the Oregon coast where, at last, our hero's load of emotional baggage is lifted. After the long and winding journey from New York, Cal confronts, then reconciles with his father (played by David Keith, who looks to be at most 10 years older than Crudup; in their first scene together, I thought he was his brother) in this stunning setting.
Glad as I am for Character Cal that it took so relatively little to put him on the path to emotional and family health and happiness, I was stricken with a terrible case of Nature-envy of my own. After all, on his way to his father's place, Cal passes roadsigns that point to Big Sky and Bozeman, for me both iconic gateways to the Greater Yellowstone area. And his father's cabin could be any-healing-where: the North Woods of Wisconsin/the Michigan UP (where I've been invited to visit this summer, contributing to my current restlessness), anywhere in Yellowstone or the Tetons, or near the Haystacks on the Oregon coast. But I can only be fully cured by going to Yellowstone. It's been nearly a year. Soon, soon, but not nearly soon enough, I will be there again.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sometimes it's not how much you look...

...but when you look. These guys (actually, they look like bison cows, not bull guys) wandered in front of the Web cam at Mammoth Hot Springs this morning and were gone within two one-minute refreshes of the images. It was awfully nice to see them anyway!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I spend too much time...

Far too many hours of my life are spent staring at Web cams. Some day, when I'm retired (psst! Economy! Pick up fast, will you please?!?), I can spend my time in situ, off my behind in front of my computer and on my feet in front of the land- and wildlife-scapes I love so much. I've mentioned several of my favorite Greater Yellowstone area Web cams before: the Henry's Fork cam with its periodic moose and bird sightings; the Corwin Springs cam pointed from outside Yellowstone National Park at Electric Peak that is within its borders; and the camera in the fire lookout on top of Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone (out of commission at the moment, until the snows melt and technicians can get up up to fix it). Others I keep a sharp eye on include many in the Grand Teton area. The scenery, often dramatic with mountain weather and light, is heart-lifting; the geology-in-the-making around Yellowstone's Old Faithful (the Upper Geyser Basin) is amazing. But the opportunity to observe wildlife, sitting here in Chicago glued to my chair, is the best thrill of all, at least until I can be there in body as well as spirit. The live streaming Old Faithful-Upper Geyser Basin cam, when unattended, is pointed at (drum roll) the Old Faithful geyser scinter cone, ever ready to catch an eruption. Happily, it is occasionally attended by alert operators in Yellowstone and elsewhere in the country, who can zoom, pan and tilt it. Once in a while we get lucky, and wildlife happens by when the cam is attended; David M recently posted a few minutes of a coyote's visit. In the last few days, friends who work at the UGB report a grizzly bear hanging out. Yesterday numbers of people saw it on the live streaming cam (while I was out doing errands, drat!) and one got this still capture.

These are the quiet weeks in Yellowstone. The gates have been closed to oversnow vehicles, and deep in the interior, park and concessionaire staff are readying for opening day, when the roads (at least those at lower elevations) open to auto traffic again. My friends who live in the area are champing at the bit for the day when they can again visit the heart of their favorite place on earth, April 17 this year. I, however, love the peace of the in-between season as viewed through the cams. Humans rarely come into view once snow mobile season has ended.
So what is the bear doing in this normally heavily touristed site? When grizzlies awaken from their winter snooze, they've very, very hungry. The easiest source of quick high quality nutrition is winter kill, mostly ungulates that didn't make it through the deprivations of the season, perfectly-preserved bear food thanks to persistent subfreezing temperatures. Because of the warmth of the ground and air, and thus the thin snow cover, ungulates such as bison and elk do well to spend the winters in there. In spite of the less harsh conditions in the thermal areas, though, come the end of winter there is still an attractive concentration of carrion. Some creatures just collapse from undernnutrition and exposure, and others slide into a boiling hot spring and cook to death.

Counting the days (51) until I can be there again to see for myself.

Thanks to the National Park Service for this wonderful reference photo (for the still cam).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


A friend and colleague, born abroad but raised in this country, is maybe 15 or 20 years younger than I, so his elementary education is out of synch with my own by about that many years. His education, of course, extends beyond - waaayy beyond - grade school. He's an MD, MPH, and MBA, a well educated and smart guy if there ever was one.

I recently enjoyed an online photo album of his and his wife's travels to places like New Zealand, Bora Bora, Vietnam, and China. One of his photos, taken very recently in a Beijing food market, shows a layout of what look to me to be tiny sharks on skewers, fried scorpions, some cricket-looking things (or are they waterbugs, aka, giant cockroaches??) on a stick, and so on. (Honestly, we never saw any such things for sale when we were in China in 1980 or in 1983. This is probably a good thing.) His own caption identifies the items on the tray as "scorpions, grasshoppers, and weebles."

By weebles, I suspect he meant weevils. Now every American who grew up with my cohort has heard of BOLL weevils. I gather my friend's elementary education occurred just long enough after mine that boll weevils had, for reasons unknown, been dropped from the fourth grade American history curriculum. Today I asked a girlfriend, who is just about my age, if she remembers boll weevils. She said, "oh, sure, they were some kind of insect infestation of the cotton crops of the South." That is all I too remember, but neither of us had the slightest idea of why this particular plague was important enough to make the history books (or when it was, or anything about its context). So much for history pedagogy!

I've since Wikipedia-ed it, and refreshed my memory of the evil weevils' story. It turns out that the plague occurred in the 1920s, approaching the Great Depression (could the timing have been worse?) and was a major part of the economic history of the cotton-growing states. Something I could not appreciate at the age of 10. I wonder, though, where the weebles went as far as the enlightenment of fourth-graders a half a generation later is concerned?

ADDENDUM April 4, 2009
It turns out the generational joke is on me. I talked to my friend who I thought was identifying weevils and weebles, and it turns out he was thinking of Weebles, a line of roly-poly toys that came out in the 1970s. Had I been of the roly-poly toy age in 1973, I might have caught on sooner!