Category Archives: backyard fauna

Bejeweled Insects

Every so often, dear readers, the author of BV is struck positively speechless (shocking, I know) by an image from the animal world. In this case, these  include the  images of Miroslaw Swietek , Martin Amm, and Jens Kolk (see a sample of Swietek’s work, above, and photographs by Amm and Kolk, respectively, below)  and they are so exceedingly beautiful that for once, the author has nothing snarky or otherwise sideways to say about them. These photographers used a macro lens and flash in the wee hours of morning to catch “sleeping” insects wet with dew.  Follow the links above, and at the bottom of this page, and enjoy.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1260946/The-stunning-pictures-sleeping-insects-covered-early-morning-dew.html

http://seawayblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/insects-in-morning-dew.html

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Filed under backyard fauna, the strange and the beautiful

Petaluma Bird Sanctuary Threatened

There is a new asphalt plant planned for a site along the Petaluma River.

GOOD NEWS, right!? Industry, new jobs in a  ravaged marketplace… But, in this case, the costs may be too high.  Because in this case, the proposed development is slated for a site right across from Schollenberger Park, which just happens, dear readers, to be one of the premier bird sanctuaries in North America.  And, you know, sits within spitting distance of a dozen or so parks and schools.   

So when a group of mothers heard that the council was all set to vote on the building permits and zoning changes, and learned about the toxic brew of noxious chemicals for which Asphalt companies are famous, they got a good whiff of something rotten in Denmark and promptly formed themselves into an advocacy group that they dubbed “Moms for Clean Air.”

In a typical gynocolocially inaccurate rhetorical ploy deigned to minimize the credibility of  unruly females, certain critics have called  the Moms “hysterical.” … You tell me, dear readers: Someone has threatened your kids– and your BIRDS, for goodness sake– and you don’t have good cause to be just a wee bit hysterical? Just a wee bit? Or might the emotion these critics are searching for be something closer to “righteous indignation?”

Hysterical, indeed.

In any case, the city and county apparently turned deaf ears on ths Moms’ complaints, so the mothers did what every parent who has been through PTA basic training knows to do. They went over the county’s head. 
At long last, these mobilized mothers  found an advocate in California Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a Democrat from Southern Sonoma who, according to a Chanel 5 report,  “organized the first comprehensive hearing on the issue, bringing together regulators from the EPA, Fish and Game, The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and other agencies, most of which are just beginning to look at the project.”

The company that wants to the build the plant, The Dutra Group, says that “This is the right plan, and this is the right location.” Shockingly, the spokeswoman who delivered this little pearl of persuasive wisdom is named Dutra. What a coincidence.  

Isn’t it also the funniest coincidence that Dutra’s other asphalt plant has already been cited–multiple times– for environmental violations?

Need more?

In 2001, Marin County Grand Jury accused the company of illegally expanding operations.

In 2006, Dutra was fined $735,000 for dumping sludge near the Farallon Islands.

The Dutra family denies these incidents ever happened. Apparently, they have never heard of a little thing called “public record.”

So far,  only one council member (Zane) has been willing  to publicly announce  opposition  to the asphalt plant. The other four, stalwart souls all, are refusing comment.    But, s hould you have a comment, dear reader, and should you be of the same mind as the author of BV, you may follow the links to the Moms’ site, and tell them that they have your support. You may also follow this link to a PDF of their mission statement.

Go, Moms!

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Filed under backyard fauna, endangered species, human behavior, Uncategorized

I dig on Swine… Hackers?

pig_1

The author woudl like to draw your attention, dear readers, to these porcine smartypants. Smartypanteses? In any case.  Also note the swingin’ soundtrack.

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G.I. Joe: Proud Patriot Pigeon

 

It is not a frequent occurence, in the part of the country in which the author of BV was raised (and where the  spirit of the American nineteen-sixties still rules) for the US military to recieve much fanfare, or even much respect.  This is particularly true when you talk to the many animal rights supporters and activists that gravitate here, and who have much to say about the military’s animal welfare policies. The author herself is not always in concord with military policy.

Yet I will go out on a limb, here, in a blog dedicated on at least some level to cherishing and protecting the animals that populate our world, to say that whatever your politics, whatever your feelings about this or previous administrations, the men and women of the military deserve your respect and support, and yes, the dead deserve to be honored today, on memorial day.  Today, we mourn the fallen–without qualification or sneering, if you please.  

First enacted to honor Union soldiers felled in Civil War, Memorial Day was expanded  to include American casualties of any war or military action after WWI.  Anybody who has visited the American cemetary at Normandy can attest to the power of that memorial. And every country seems to have its own version of the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Indeed, there are many more unknown soldiers than you might even realize, because yes, there are animals among them. Take the Homing pigeon: many of these birds have flown and died in America’s history, including those that did so in WWII, after the holiday was expanded.  

The most famous of all American homing pigeons might just be G.I. Joe,  who flew for the United States Army Pigeon Service. Joe was one of 54,000+ pigeons in the Service, and in his official capcity he saved the lives of the inhabitants of the village of Calvi Vecchia, Italy, and those of the British troops who were occupying it it the time. 

The village, believed by Allied forces to be under enemy control,  had been scheduled for bombardedment no later than 18 October 1943. But in the nick of time Joe arrived at Army headquarters with the message that the British had triumphed there. Over a thousand people were saved by that freaking bird, if you’ll beg the author’s pardon.

G.I. Joe’s bravery was recognized by the Mayor of London in 1946, when he awarded Joe the prized Dickin Medal for gallantry.  Again, folkes, this is some freaking great pigeon. Makes you look  differently at the obnoxious objects swarming the trashcans downtown.

G.I. Joe was lucky; his story has a happy ending. He made it through the war, as so many young men and women did not, and lived out his retirement at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, alongside twenty-four of his brothers and sisters in arms. Ultimetely, Joe died at the Detroit Zoological Gardens  at the age of eighteen.  

The Cemetary at Normandy is filled with 18year old boys.  The author suspects that Joe would have liked to have saved them, too.

To Joe, and all of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Services who haven’t made it home to roost: R.I.P.  

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Filed under backyard fauna, common household pets, human behavior, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Banana Slug: “hard” life.

 

To paraphrase Brittney Spears, this banana slug is not that innocent

To paraphrase Brittney Spears, this banana slug is "not that innocent"

Beloved by alumni of UC Santa Cruz, banana slugs seem to have a pretty good thing going. Sure, they’re slow and eat detritus on the forest floor. But they’re beloved.

 …Just, you know, not by each other. In fact, as one intrepid UCSC PhD candidate put it, slugs

are constantly in an evolutionary arms race where males try to manipulate females into doing what they want them to do (for example, NOT mate with a new male) and females are constantly trying to prevent males from manipulating them.

 This is all a very messy—and uncomfortably familiar—business.  But if, dear readers, you are thinking you have caught the author in a gaffe, and that that banana slugs have developed an interesting solution to the battle of the sexes by evolving into hermaphrodites, problem solved, no muss no fuss… well then you are sadly mistaken. Because as you are by now perfectly aware, the end of the story is almost never the end of the story.

 And Banana slugs are not the nice, neat, nonexistent Barbie-genitalia sporting spontaneous generators we might like to imagine in our PG science textbooks. No, indeed. In fact, slugs are Simultaneous hermaphrodites, which means that they have both male and female primary sex characteristics. And boy, do they ever: an eight-inch slug can have an eight-inch long penis.  

Some of the male readers in the audience are doing some fast math and a little creative visualization in their mirrors, but don’t get overly excited, boys. Because even if the idea that the slugs mutually penetrate souds like a pretty good deal to you, you might be less excited to learn that sometimes a slug will also chew it’s mates member off after the deed is done.

 Chew it right on off. It’s called apophallation. And no, it doesn’t grow back.

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Filed under academia, backyard fauna, gender bending, Phobia-inducing, rated NC17, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

A Welshman, 200 sheep, and 1000 LEDs walk into a bar…

What do you get when you combine welsh shepherds, sheep, herding dogs, electricians, lighting techs, and copius light emitting diodes? Genius. Dear Readers, we don’t CARE if this is a thinly veiled  advertisement. This is, very simply put, the best. video. ever.

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Filed under backyard fauna, exceedingly cute, human behavior, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Parasitic Wasps, part deux

A friend to BV has alerted the author to the following video, as a follow-up to a recent posting on parasitic wasps. His advice? Not to watch this while eating lunch.

Dear readers, heed this wise man’s advice. But *do* watch. The effects of the “wasp virus” may be among the more bizarre phenomena of the animal world. (And far more innteresting than the swine flu, anyway).

cheers, Isk, for the tip.

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Filed under backyard fauna, parasites, Phobia-inducing, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized