Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Wildlife Transmitter Beats an Arrow In the Neck

Re-posted from 2009.

Remember, when we were kids and people said the birds "flew south" for the winter?

Well, believe it or not, that was about all we knew for a lot of species.

Birds disappeared flying south in the Fall and came back, flying north, in the Spring. Where these birds went, exactly, and what they did when they got there, was a bit of a mystery.

Beginning in the 16th Century or so, some bird owners (pigeon fanciers and falconers mostly) began banding or ringing the legs of select birds to establish ownership.

The first record of a metal band attached to a bird's leg was in 1595, when one of Henry IV's banded Peregrine Falcons was lost in pursuit of a bustard in France. It showed up the next day in Malta, 900 miles away!

In the early 19th Century, the world began to get a glimpse into the scope of avian winter migrations, thanks to an arrow in the neck. Atlas Obscura tells the story:

Until the 19th century, the sudden annual disappearance of white storks each fall had been a profound mystery to European bird-watchers. Aristotle thought the storks went into hibernation with the other disappearing avian species, perhaps at the bottom of the sea. According to some fanciful accounts, “flocks of swallows were allegedly seen congregating in marshes until their accumulated weight bent the reeds into the water, submerging the birds, which apparently then settled down for a long winter’s nap.” A 1703 pamphlet titled “An Essay toward the Probable Solution of this Question: Whence come the Stork and the Turtledove, the Crane, and the Swallow, when they Know and Observe the Appointed Time of their Coming,” argued that the disappearing birds flew to the moon for the winter.

On May 21, 1822, a stunning piece of evidence came to light, which suggested a less extra-terrestrial, if no less wondrous, solution to the quandary of the disappearing birds. A white stork, shot on the Bothmer Estate near Mecklenburg, was discovered with an 80 cm long Central African spear embedded in its neck. The stork had flown the entire migratory journey from its equatorial wintering grounds in this impaled state. The Arrow-Stork, or Pfeilstorch, can now be found, stuffed, in the Zoological Collection of the University of Rostock. It is not alone. Since 1822, some 25 separate cases of pfeilstorches have been recorded.

What happened next? Well, quite a lot.

The 19th Century was a period of explosive scientific discovery, and people began to move beyond simple banding to establish ownership, to banding as a method of tracking birds across time and space.

Among the first to step forward in the name of Science was John James Audubon, who attached small ringlets of silver wire to the legs of a brood of Phoebes near Philadelphia so he could firmly establish that birds raised in one area were the same ones who later returned to nest in that same area.

In 1899, Hans Mortensen, a Danish school teacher, took the idea of bird-banding one step farther, and began banding wild birds with metal rings that had his name and address on them. It was Mortensen that invented the system of bird banding we use today, though it should be said that it was the Smithsonian Institution, here in Washington, D.C., which really popularized bird-banding, and made it an avenue of mainstream scientific inquiry.

For about 100 years, bird banding was how we tracked bird migrations around the world, and to tell the truth, it was not that great a system.

In a world of billions of birds, only a small fraction-of-a-fraction were ever going to be banded, and most of these were ducks or geese which had an obvious economic value. Smaller birds of no obvious value were much less likely to get banded, and only those birds shot or netted ever had any hope of having their identifications seen, much less returned to the proper data-keeper.

The result: until only a decade or so ago, we still had a very imperfect knowledge of where birds went when they "flew south" for the winter, and we knew even less about where they stopped and fed along the way.

The good news is that in the 1990s, the process of electronic miniaturization progressed to the point that scientists could begin to put transmitters on really large birds like hawks and cranes, and data from those transmitters could be uploaded to satellites. Today, the science of miniaturization has progressed to the point that it's possible to put a transmitter on a hummingbird -- even a dragonfly -- although we still need an airplane or car to follow on behind the smallest of transmitters.

It is hard to overstate how important electronic tracking is to wildlife management and protection. A small story, however, might give a clue.

Three of the very first miniature electronic tracking transmitters capable of linking up to a satellite were attached to Swainson's hawks back in 1994. Within a few days, two of the transmitters conked out, but the transmitter on the third bird retained power and showed the hawk traveled from southern Canada down the American Midwest into Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and past Ecuador into the Pampas region of Venezuela.

Scientists quickly scurried off to see if they could locate the animal.

What they found in Argentina was both amazing and disturbing.

The amazing part was that Swainson's hawks, which are solitary hunters in North America, assembled into large communal flocks of as many as 7,000 birds on their winter hunting grounds.

The disturbing part was that in Argentina Swainson's hawks lived on swarms of locust-like grasshoppers, which were being systematically poisoned by organo-phosphate pesticides.

The bug spray, in turn, was killing off the Swainson's hawks in droves.

As they drove into the area where the hawk's signal had last been heard from, scientists were alarmed to find thousands of hawks already dead under their roosts.

To make a long story short, that year 25 percent of all the Swainson's hawks in the world were killed by pesticides in Argentina -- a phenomenon that would never have been known had it not been for wildlife tracking telemetry.

The good news is that by switching to different types of pesticides, Argentina's farmers were able to sharply reduce grasshopper infestations while doing little serious harm to wildlife --a "win-win" for all sides.

As you might suspect, the brave new world of wildlife transmitters is still giving us a lot of new information, and great stories as well.

For example, one of fifteen Black-tailed Godwits released in the Friesland area of the Netherlands in 2009 arrived in Senegal West Africa three days later. The distance of 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometres), was covered by the bird in two days of nonstop flying.

Today, scientists are able to track bird populations around the globe, and load this information into graphics-based data bases so the general public can follow these epic migrations.

And it's not just birds that migrate, is it?

On every continent mammals, birds, fish and even insects migrate extraordinarily long distances.

It's not just Monarch butterflies that fly south for the winter for example -- it's a lot of dragonflies as well.

And it's not just herring and salmon that migrate out of oceans and up our rivers and streams -- it's perch and eels too. Out in the oceans, shark, tuna, whales, penguins, and sea turtles are swimming vast distances in never-ending seasonal circles, as they have for millions of years. On land we have long-distance migrations by caribou, bison, pronghorn antelope, elephant, wildebeest, and zebra.

How do the animals find their way? No one is quite sure.

No doubt there are a lot of factors that help guide them -- the position of the sun, wind, smell, temperature, sound, and visual landmarks, for starters. We know, for example, that when pigeons get closer to home, pigeons will actually follow roadways, same as you and I.

Migrations at night, when most birds fly really long distances, however, may be due to an internal magnetic compass that is hard-wired into the brain and working off of a bit of superoxide.

And it's not just birds that have this bit of electro-chemistry firing off in their brain -- bats do too.

And if bats (mammals) have electro-magnetic compasses in their brain, why not fish?

The main benefit of wildlife transmitters, of course, is that by tracking animals -- so many of which move about only at night -- we are better able to protect vital wildlife and ancient migration corridors.

That's a benefit for everyone -- the wildlife, hunters, and Mother Nature included.

On a more personal level, of course, the tremendous strides made in wildlife transmitters over the last two decades, have been an enormous benefit for those of us who engage in highly-skilled primitive hunting with dogs, hawks, falcons, and ferrets.

Yes, hawks and falcons are still lost rather routinely, but falconry transmitters and Yaggi locators offer some hope of recovery.

In the world of terriers and ferrets, the development of small low-frequency transmitters means long layups underground and long and dangerous digs are less frequent than they once were.

Even houndsmen and pet owners have benefited, thanks to tracking collars to serve their various needs.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Want to read another amazing bird migration story? Check out A Shearwater's Endless Summer from a March 2007 post to this blog.

Let Us Give Thanks for Wild Turkey and Uncle Sam

Wild Turkey Feathers. This is a repost from Nov. 2008

Let us give thanks to the Wild Turkey, America's largest ground-nesting bird.

Back when my grandfather was born, the Wild Turkey was teetering on the edge of extinction. Today we have more Wild Turkeys in America's woods than existed in pre-Columbian times.

How is that possible?

Good question. But before we get there, let's dwell a little bit longer on the miracle.

You see, it generally requires a lot of forest -- 2,000 acres or more -- to maintain the kind of food crop and cover that Wild Turkey need to thrive.

The reason for this is that in the dead of winter, Wild Turkey depend on acorns and other nuts and seed for survival. This food is only produced in abundance by mature hardwood trees -- oak, beech, dogwood, cherry and gum.

So what's the big deal? We have a lot of forest in America.

True enough now, but not as true a century ago in the Eastern U.S. and much of the Midwest. Back around 1900, virtually all the big stands of large trees had been logged out in the Eastern U.S. and across much of the Midwest as well. As the trees vanished, Wild Turkey populations plummeted.

Wild Turkey populations were further pushed to oblivion by rapid improvements in gun accuracy, and weak game laws that had yet to catch up to the changing dynamics of landscape and technology.

By 1910, there were fewer than 30,000 Wild Turkeys left in America.

Then, an amazing turnaround occurred. That turnaround started with passage of the Lacey Act in 1900. The Lacey Act ended commercial hunting of wild animals.

Commercial hunting is not sport or recreational hunting -- it is the opposite of that. In commercial hunting, the goal is not having a fun day in the field to fill your own freezer with wild meat, but a full year in the field to fill the freezers of 10,000 people whose primary concern is the price per pound.

To put it simply, commercial hunting is to sport hunting what gill-netting is to fly fishing. One comes with a factory ship attached; the other a simple wicker creel.

No single action has done more to improve the status of American wildlife than passage of the Lacey Act. Prior to its passage, commercial hunters bled the land white, shooting everything that moved. Wild game merchants sold pigeons for a penny apiece, and ducks for only a little more.

Hunters, using cannons loaded with shrapnel, would shoot 400 ducks in a day in Maryland's Eastern Shore marshes, while market deer hunters would set up bait stations near roads and shoot 20 deer in a night.

The Lacey Act helped put an end to this kind of unrestricted slaughter of American wildlife, but it did nothing to restore badly degraded habitat.

Wildlife without habitat is a zoo.

Habitat without wildlife is scenery.

America -- still a young nation -- remembered when it had both, and it wanted it all back.

The second steps on the road to wildlife recovery occurred between 1905 and 1911. It was during this period that Theodore Roosevelt set aside 42 million acres as National Forest and created an additional 53 National Wildlife Refuges as well.

It was also during this period that Congress passed the Weeks Act authorizing the U.S. government to buy up millions of acres of mountain land in the East that had been chopped clean of its forest in order to obtain wood for railroad ties, paper, firewood and timber.

With the Depression of the 1930s, and rapid migration of millions of people from the rural countryside to the city, more and more marginal farmland began to revert back to woody plots.

Spontaneous forest regeneration in Appalachia, along with tree-planting by the U.S. Government-funded Civilian Conservation Corps, helped restore more than 6 million acres of hardwood forests on denuded land purchased under the Weeks Act.

In 1937, the Wildlife Restoration Act (aka, the Pittman-Robertson Act) initiated a new tax on rifles, shotguns and ammunition, with this dedicated revenue going to help fund wildlife conservation.

Pittman-Robertson Act funds were used to purchase millions of acres of public hunting lands and to fund wildlife reintroduction efforts for Whitetail Deer, Canada Geese, Elk, Beaver, Wood Duck, Black Bear, and Wild Turkey.

In the case of Wild Turkey, initial restocking efforts were not successful. Turkey eggs were collected from wild birds, and the poults that were hatched were released into the wild. Unfortunately, these pen-raised birds were quickly decimated by predation and starvation.

New tactics were tried. A few adult Wild Turkeys were caught in wooden box traps intended for deer (picture of deer trap at right). These Wild Turkey were then moved to suitable habitat, but these adults birds also perished under the onslaught of predation.

The reintroduction of Wild Turkeys was beginning to look hopeless.

After World War II, game managers began to experiment again. This time, cannon nets -- large nets propelled by black powder rocket charges -- were used. These nets enveloped entire turkey flocks at once.

Moving an entire flock of Wild Turkeys seemed to work. The first few flocks that were relocated out of the Ozarks (the last stronghold of the Wild Turkey) began to thrive, in part because regrown forest provided more food stock for the birds to live on. The millions of acres of mountain land purchased in 1911 under the Weeks Act had, by now, become large stands of maturing hardwoods in the National Forest system.

Turkeys caught in a cannon net.

Systematic restocking of Wild Turkey continued through the 1950s and 60s, and by 1973, when the National Wild Turkey Federation was formed, the population of wild birds in the U.S. had climbed to 1.3 million.

With the creation of the National Wild Turkey Federation, more sportsmen and private land owners were recruited for habitat protection and Wild Turkey reintroduction.

Today, the range of the American Wild Turkey is more extensive than ever, and the total Wild Turkey population has climbed to 5.5 million birds.

Wild turkey hunting is now a billion-dollar-a-year industry, with 2.6 million hunters harvesting about 700,000 birds a year.

And so, when we are giving Thanksgiving this Thursday, let us remember not only the Wild Turkey and America's hunting heritage, but also such "big government" programs as the Weeks Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Pittman-Robertson Act, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Clean Water Act.

Without Uncle Sam -- and your tax dollars -- much of America's wildlife would now be gone.

It was Uncle Sam -- and Mother Nature's natural fecundity -- that brought back the Wild Turkey, the Beaver, the Elk, the Whitetail Deer, the Black Bear, and the Bald Eagle. Ted Nugent and the National Rifle Association were nowhere to be seen, and neither were Bass Pro Shops or salesmen pushing Yamaha ATVs.

So next time you are in forest or field, remember Uncle Sam, and thank God for Mother Nature. Whether you know it or not, your hunting and fishing has always depended on both of them.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Let Us Give Thanks for Fish and Game Laws

In 1937, there were not a lot of whitetail deer on the East Coast of the United States, and this Pennsylvania hunter probably counted himself lucky to bag a button buck.

Between 1850 and 1900, rapid improvement in guns had outstripped our fish and game laws, and the land was shot out, not only of deer, but of turkey, beaver, duck, and geese.

Today, things have have turned around and there are now about 30 million whitetail deer in the U.S. -- a deer population in the East larger than there was when Columbus first set foot in the New World.

Comic Book Villains in the White House

Coffee and Provocation

Black Walnuts 
Black walnuts are all over the forest floor right now, and they are a dense source of nutrition,with over 180 calories per quarter cup of nuts.

The First Dogs Came With Leashes?
It's claimed these are the world’s first images of dogs, and that they’re wearing leashes.  Domestic dogs are over 20,000 years older than these 8,000-year old images, and other desert images of dogs may be older, however.

New Zealand Mass Killing for Life 
New Zealand wants to eradicate all invasive mammal predators by 2050, and gene-editing technology could help.

Phony Wildlife Photographers
Chas Clifton found out about them the same place I did -- at the Outdoor Writers Association annual meeting.

Nazis Drank Decaf
One of many reasons there is no decaf in this house.

Darwin Was Right About Bird Vomit
Of course he was.  Chuck did the work.

Low Water

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Windy Day With the Dogs

It was an iron gray day, with winds 25-35 miles per hour, under dramatic skies, over fresh-cut fields.

Not much was moving in fields or forest, and even the birds seemed to have the good sense to tuck in out of harm's way.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stealing and Poisoning the Land

Last Thanksgiving, Native Americans were being beaten with batons, bitten by dogs, soaked by high pressure water hoses in winter, and plowed over by vehicles as they tried to protect their access to clean water.

This Thanksgiving these same native people are cleaning up a 200,000 gallon oil spill on their South Dakota reservation, courtesy of the oil pipeline that they were protesting.

This is the world of Trump.

Remember. Vote.


A couple walking on the streets of New York City, 1914

Get Along Little Doggy

This Jack Russell was raised with Kelpies.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Electronic Lynching of Al Franken

A friendly coincidence? 

I sometimes joke
that the Burns family motto is Quaedam postulo occidere; "Some things need killing."

And yet, while our family recognizes that there is a place for hanging, there is never a time for lynching.

What's the difference between a hanging and a lynching? It's a few days or weeks of time, and a reasonable examination of the facts within a logical process and structure. It doesn't have to take long, but it should take at least a few days.

Which brings me to the Lunatic Left which, today, was so quick to toss Senator Al Franklin on the pyre.

It seems a woman has accused Senator Franken of being both a bad comic (he took a mugging forced-perspective picture that was in very poor taste) and of forcefully kissing her in an unwanted manner during a comedy skit rehearsal.

A comedy skit rehearsal?

Well, let's back it up for a bit of context.

LeeAnn Tweeden is a young woman who wanted fame and fortune (who doesn't?) and her good looks were a possible ticket to that end.

All good, and nothing bad is implied.
She wanted to be an actress.  Excellent. Here's her bio on IMDb:

Born to parents of Spanish, Filipino, and Norwegian ancestry, Miss Tweeden grew up in Virginia as a self-proclaimed "tomboy". After graduating from Osbourn Park Senior High in 1991, she pursued a career in modeling. Upon moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, she worked briefly as a Hooters waitress before winning her modeling job, gaining first place in the Venus International Model Search in 1992. From there, she traveled the United States doing promotional appearances and hosted the 1993 Venus Model Search competition, which she returned to host in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997. During this time, she relocated to Los Angeles, modeling for Fredericks of Hollywood, Hooters (appearing in their 1993 & 1994 calendars), Playboy magazine (as a cover girl), and Playboy's Book of Lingerie, in the November/December 1994 issue. She also appeared in the video Edenquest: Pamela Anderson (1995). In 1996, she landed a spot on the ESPN2 show Fitness Beach (1998), as well as a layout in the August 1996 issue of Playboy magazine. In 1997, she was chosen as the model for the lead character in a No Mercy comic book, titled "Coven 13". She continued modeling for various magazines, including Playboy, and put out her first calendar in 1998, featuring the photographs of Mario Barberio.

Returning to the small screen, she became a regular on the half-hour Fox Sports Net/Speed Channel motor-cross show High Octane (2002) and also hosted Fox Sports Net's Bluetorch TV (2000), an extreme sports show. In addition, Leeann was a correspondent for an installment of E!'s Wild On... (1997) series. She can currently be seen on The Best Damn Sports Show Period (2001) also on Fox Sports Net, and her pictorials can be found all over the Internet.

Here's her web site where she sells para-cord bracelets, posters, magazines, and post cards of herself.

I am not judging her choices, but I can say I am glad my daughter made different ones.

To Ms. Tweeden's credit, she has done a number of USO tours, which is a way for grade B, C, and D celebrities, comics, show girls, and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders to get a little more exposure.

It was on one of these USO tours that, she alleges, Al Franken kissed her in an unwanted way during a skit rehearsal in which kissing was to be part of the sight-gag.

What she describes is gross and wrong, but so far no one has come forward to vouch for a contemporaneous accounting of it, nor has anyone come forward to say Al Franken has a habit of doing this kind of thing. Maybe they will tomorrow, or the next day, or five days from now. Can we wait and see?

This last part is important.

Grabbers, fondlers, mashers, and perverts are not "one and done" kind of people.

Whether it is Bill Clinton or Roy Moore, Jim Bakker or Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby or Dan Crane, Donald Trump or Elliot Spitzer, Bob Packwood or Anthony Weiner, Harvey Weinstein or Jimmy Savile, there tends to be a pattern and practice when it comes to sex.

Is there a pattern and practice with Al Franken? Time will tell. If there is, the metaphorical hanging tree will be ready. But let's give it a week and see, eh?

A rush to judgement is called a lynching, and there's no place for that when there is (as of this writing at 9:50 pm) so little corroborating evidence, or other examples voiced by other women, outside of this one comedy skit routine.

If all it takes is one person to make a claim in order to destroy a career without evidence, then all of civilization is well and truly dead.

To be clear, I am not saying I do not believe LeeAnn Tweeden.

What I am saying is that there is no reason to voice belief or disbelief this early in the game. Al Franken has a pretty long and exemplary history in the public eye. LeeAnn Tweeden's exposure has been a bit... different.

Which is not to say LeeAnn Tweeden is lying.

It is to say that it does not take much research to wonder if politics might be involved in this particular instance.

This case is not parallel to the Roy Moore case no matter how convenient the timing.

The Roy Moore story had 30 sources at the start, with half a dozen women (all of them Republicans) who did not know each other, and who were each independently discovered and interviewed by The Washington Post.

None of these women volunteered themselves, and all told more-or-less the same story.

Since then, we have learned that Roy Moore was such a raging pedophile and reprobate that the local mall had banned him from admission. The Alabama papers are now on the story like a terrier on a rat.

Ms. Tweeden's story is of a lesser quality. She thrust herself out there, she is highly partisan and, as of now, we have no other contemporaneous corroboration, nor has there (yet) been any surge of people telling similar stories.

This is not to say that Franken is in the clear, but "one swallow does not a season make."

One 11-year old allegation of an unwanted style of a scripted kiss during a comedy skit rehearsal is interesting, but not very determinate. If two more credible people show up with similar stories, then Senator Franken is in trouble.

We shall see.

As for Ms. Tweeden's story, one does not have to believe her, or disbelieve her, to wonder at how many times she has appeared on Fox TV's Sean Hannity show, and what her relationship with him really is.

Hannity is a notorious liar and a Putin Puppet of the first order. Ms. Tweeden is herself a "birther" who claims Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Are we to ignore this chummy and highly partisan association entirely?

It sure is a... coincidence.  Statistically it's about as likely as finding out that every other person entering and leaving the White House is a Russian.

Finally, I am reminded of the reason we do not rush to judgment in matters of importance.

I write from Virginia, where the University of Virginia was tarred and feathered based on an incredibly reckless and never-fact-checked piece in Rolling Stone magazine that alleged a young woman was gang-raped at a fraternity.

In fact, the young woman did not even exist, but the rush to judgement by the Loony Left was so quick that this reality was washed-over by the self-righteous who were hell-bent on outrage that anyone would even question this woman (who did not even exist) or say "hold on, let's check this reporter out a bit more."

Rushing for the rope without slowing down to consider the quality of the evidence or the likelihood of the transgression is the very definition of a lynching.

But don't take my word for it; ask Emmett Till.

Emmett Till was the young black man who was hung based on the testimony of a white woman who said he raped her. That woman has now said that she lied. But you know what? Emmett Till is still very dead. And you know why? Because folks were a little too quick to rush to judgment.

So, to get back to it, there IS a place for hanging, but there is no place for a lynching.

The testimony of anyone should be listened to and not ignored.

But neither guilt nor innocence requires action without evidence or process.

The rope and the tree can wait for a few days. 

In fact it must, or else this nation is well and truly lost.


Post script: 

It's four days later and this video and still picture have come out.  Is that Ms. Tweeded engaged in unwanted groping, sexual shaming, and assault? And does she look like she is being assaulted by Al Franken in the still picture, below?  Oh sure, Al Franken's jacket is an assault on fashion, but beyond that? 

Both photos from the same stage on the same USO tour. 

Bottom line: The preponderance of the evidence is more fake news and contrived controversy from Sean Hannity who is desperate to turn America away from the Trump treason investigation and the Roy Moore fiasco playing out in Alabama

Fox at the Door

The wee ones want to go outside and chase a fox in the back yard.

The Failure of Fenton's Owner

I am told that the "Brits are celebrating the 6-year anniversary of a dog chasing some deer."

The celebration involves the posting of the now famous "Fenton" video in which a man's dog bolts off to chase a herd of deer across a very busy multi-lane highway.

Ha ha!

Did the deer die?
How about the dog? Any humans killed or cars wrecked?  How many limbs mangled?

Oh yes, this video is a laugh riot.

Here's the background to this story: a lot of British dogs are not reliable off-lead, the same as a lot of American dogs are not reliable off-lead.

The result is a lot of lost dogs, dead dogs in the road, dead cats on the porch, kids with serious bites, and a heck of a lot of sheep-worrying going on in rural parts of Britain.

In all fairness, it's not easy to train a game-bred dog to not chase wildlife and farm stock, and it's nearly impossible if all you have to use as a tool is a treat bag and an all-positive training manual.

Karen Pryor, the queen of clickers, who now sells franchise dog training opportunities across the nation, never got her own Border Terrier to stop chasing squirrels, and she could not even keep her own terrier in the yard until she put an Invisible Fence shock collar on it.

The good news is that technology has come along to help.

For example, a flexi-lead is pure crap as walking leash, but in the right hands, it is a very useful tool for teaching recall.

Of course, teaching recall is only half the job.

PROOFING recall is the other half.

A recall for a dog cannot be a suggestion; it has to be a Commandment.

When you tell a dog to "down" or "come," it has to be so solid that you know for certain that you can walk your dog past squirrels and deer right next to the freeway.

Fenton's owner failed Fenton in this regard.

So what's the good news?

The modern e-collar.

These are not the cheap Chinese jobs sold on Ebay, and which are based on 40-year old off-patent design. These modern collars are more expensive (about $200) and come from companies like E-Collar Technologies and Dogtra, with 100 levels of stimulation, as well as tone and vibration.

These things work like new money provided you follow directions, start with some actual actual training (see flexi-lead, above), and use a very low "tap" level of stimulation (which is actually much less aversive than the vibration mode).

Heads up, however.  When it comes to modern e-collars  there is a very vocal cabal of dog trainers who make their living based on a dependency model. 

For these "pure positive" dog trainers, "time is money" and it's YOUR money and time that they are most interested in getting a great deal more of. 

The efficiency of e-collars are a threat to their business model.

To be clear, an e-collar is not a universal spanner that fixes every nut.

You still have to learn how to train a dog, and an e-collar is just like a 6-foot leash, a bag of kibble, a harness, a flat collar, a slide collar, or a pinch collar in that it can be abused by fools and willful ignorants. 

But can it save lives and could it transform the life of dogs like Fenton and his owner?  Oh yes! Absolutely.

The Internet, 1917

100 years ago, this was the Internet.

Jesus Wept

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are pretty liberal. Of course you would have to read them to know that

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Urban Foxes Are Out of Control

Old Gardens and Young Men

As an old man, I will be a young gardener.

The line is not my own, but within those 10 words is a lot of story.

I have bought and sold a number of houses over the course of my life, and with each one I have been cognizant that while I was sure to make this yard my own, I should also pay attention to the fact that 250 years of gardeners had already worked my home soil.

Why were the drains placed where they were?

Why was this tree chosen for this location, and why had it survived when clearly there had been other options and other trees that had not made the cut?

Look at the ancient bush sprawled next to the path. Was that wisdom or ignorance, industry or sloth, inspiration or failure of imagination? And how was I to know?

What is certain is that every garden has mistakes.

I can say with some confidence that an ancient magnolia planted in my own yard 40 years ago was a very bad idea. The ground on top of my hill is too dry, the climate too cold. My hill is not a swamp, and I do not live in South Carolina.

With equal certainty, however, I can say that a pile of winter sticks in the far corner of my yard is a beautiful bush in August, and that the slate path set in mortar in my back yard is of a clever design that drains sheets of water off the hill in a heavy rain.

I would never know why things are the way they are if I had not spent a year observing and listening to the gardeners that came before.

And so it is in nature, I suppose.

Before we chainsaw and plow, rip and drain, build and burn, perhaps we should be required to study the land for four full seasons so that we can truly understand what is in the yard -- and why -- before we move to sweep it all aside.

There were gardeners here before us.  Surely they were not all crazy, hazy, stupid or blind? 


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Please Do Not Feed the Animals

Lyme Disease is Rare and Easy to Treat

The above map shows each confirmed case of Lyme disease between 2008 and 2015, with each dot placed in the patient's home county. Nationwide, there were more than 30,000 cases — including unconfirmed reports — of the tick-borne illness annually during this period.

Although those clusters of cases in the Northeast and the upper Midwest might look a bit alarming, there's good news: Reported rates of Lyme disease contraction have been stable or decreasing in these regions, according to new data from the CDC. Researchers aren't sure, though, whether that's because the disease is actually on the downturn or because of changes in how states report cases.

The odds are less than 1 in 10,000 nationally or, to put it another way, you have twice as high a chance of hitting a hole in one or to slip, fall, and kill yourself in the shower this year.

As the folks over at Science News note:

  • Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, and those that do have to be attached 36 to 48 hours to transmit the disease -- that's a very long time to be on a human who actually showers once a day.

  • Lyme disease is generally easy to treat, and if it's not easy to treat, it may not be Lyme which is why science has shown that in those cases, lengthy courses of antibiotics don’t seem to help. Most Lyme disease presents, or does not present, in such a mild form that it passes without notice; a human or dog seems a bit run down for a day or two, and then their immune system kicks in, fights in back, an life continues on as before.

  • Prevention is easy; tuck in your pants, spray Deet bug spray on your pants legs before going out, check yourself over after coming back from forest or field, and wash your dogs in Pyrethrin shampoo and check them over a few days after coming back from forest or field.
Want to know more, especially about Lyme disease testing and vaccination? Read The Billion Dollar Lyme Disease Scam from this blog.

The Kids Can Take Care of Themselves

Energy Through a System Organizes the System

My daughter flew down from her high-pressure job in NYC to spend two and a half days going door to door canvassing for voters here in Northern Virginia where she grew up.

The result of efforts like hers? A New York Times article about How the ‘Resistance’ Helped Democrats Dominate Virginia.

The foot traffic — not just the usual folks from D.C. or Maryland, but people who came from California, Florida and Iowa — was so steady that the campaign began to run out of clipboards. Volunteers would arrive, muddy and soaked, peel off their clear ponchos and hand over their unreadably macerated voter rolls. By midafternoon, they were almost finished with the fifth complete pass they’d done, over their 11-day “mobilization window,” of all 10,000 doors in their universe. Most returnees declared that everyone on their lists had either voted already or was just waiting for a spouse to come watch the kids; some of them stopped Sorenson to tell her stories about how they took a moment at the end of their shifts to circle back around and check on these promissory replies, and more often than not they encountered “I voted” stickers. Then they’d be handed a new packet and sent back out into the rain. Someone in need of reprieve asked Sorenson when she planned to wrap things up for the day. “When do you stop? If your nearest polling place closes at 7:00 and is two minutes away, you stop at 6:58.”

My daughter also flew to Houston to help hurricane victims there after the storm put people under 5 feet of water. 

To quote Pete Townsend: the kids are alright.

The Continuing Crisis

I don’t blame the Republican party. I’m divided about these Alabama sex clams too. Truthfully, I am torn between horror and amazement. What is wrong with people?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Winter Wear for Bald Men

Bill Heavey writes for 
Field and Stream, and he notes that bald men need at least four types of winter hats:

  • The House Hat. Bill's is an olive green SmartWool beanie; mine is a Moroccan taqiyah or round skullcap, one of several I acquired in Morocco.
  • The Man-About-Town Hat. Bills is from from Kohl’s and is a Chinese-made something-or-other from Tek Gear. Mine is "Men's Classic Herringbone Tweed Wool Blend Newsboy Ivy Hat" bought on Amazon for under $12.
  • The Carhartt 40-Gram Thinsulate-Lined Hat. Bill's uses this type of hat. Mine is one of any number of very heavy knit caps that are long enough to cover my ears. I sometimes pair it with a fleece neck gaitor that comes up to leave very little uncovered.
  • The Arctic Spaceman Balaclava. Bill and I both like lightweight balaclavas under another hat to keep wind from blowing up or down the collar on really cold days.  I use these about 10 days a year, tops.

Fields and Falls

Just playing around with the panorama setting on my iPhone 7.  These two pictures are from Sunday -- click to  enlarge. 

Shooting Falling Water on an iPhone

This is a lock on the C&O Canal. I've been playing with my new iPhone 7 camera, and learning a few new tricks that come with this gadget, including making flowing water look like this using the "Live Photos" and "long exposure" part of iOS 11.

Death Above the Highway

These are Black Vultures jungled up in a tree over the highway.  It was a cold morning, and they were not going to be able to soar for at least an hour or two, yet the abundance of roadkill and gut-shot deer is keeping them in the area longer than is probably normal absent the presence of cars and guns.

Twenty years ago, all the vultures around here were red-headed Turkey Vultures, but global warning seems to have moved the Black Vultures north from the Carolinas and points South.  Not nearly as many Turkey Vultures are around any more.

The Fall was over in a blink.  In 10 days we went from full trees to bare branches thanks to a cold snap and rain.  The mixed flocks of black birds are starting to assemble and move south in numbers, and the Saw Whet owls are coming down from Canada now, but the Robins are still hopping about, though they too appear to be assembling.

A group of vultures is called a committee, venue or volt if in a tree or an a cliff or barn roof. In flight, soaring in a circle, they are called a kettle, but when the birds are feeding together on a roadside deer or downer cow, it's called a wake.

A River Runs Through the U.S. Capitol

No, this is not the mighty Zambezi; this is the Potomac River about two miles up from my house. This is only part of the flow.

All of this water and more rolls past the cliffs below my house.

If you put a boat in the water just below my house, up river from Georgetown in Washington, D.C., you can sail to Paris, London, Stockholm, Cape Town, Hong Kong, or Tierra del Fuego.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Instruction from God to Dog Owners

These are the signs outside of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Welcome to Colorado

This is a real road sign in Fountain, Colorado.

When Airedales Were the Dogs of War

Edwin Hautenville Richardson trained Airedales to be military service dogs in Britain during World War I. Richardson's Airedales were used in both World Wars to find the wounded and carry medicine out to the injured, to carry messages, as guard dogs, and even to pull gun and barbed-wire laying carriages.

Tracking the Mammoth

These are the fruit of the Osage Orange, which is not only great wood for primitive long bows and fence posts, but are the living legacy of Mammoths that once roamed these hedges.