Snow bunny

Eastern cottontail hopping through the snow, captured by trail camera:


Natural History

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The task of crows

barred-owl

Trigger warning:  Even if you love birds and half-way decent nature writing, alt right special snowflakes should not read the following text. It might harm your delusions of dominance, or at the very least, it might make you angry or sad.  We can’t have that.

I don’t know what caused the old barred owl that roosts deep in the white pine thicket to let out a single haunting scream. Perhaps the weather was ready to change, and before the snow falls, they let out their little eerie screams in the gray wood. It is an odd little ritual, but one I listen for when I know it might be snowing soon.

But it was a oddly mild day in early February, and no snow was forecast.  No rain either. Just the ugly winter sun casting its sallow glares on the gray woods.

I knew they would come, but they came more quickly than I imagined. Tiny black jets zoomed sharp across the hollows and ridges until at last they found their target in the pine woods. It was a murder of crows on a mission.

The owl had stupidly positioned herself on the bow of a dead quaking aspen, and she was now exposed for the aerial attacks of the corvids.

One would distract her with its loud cawing, while one of its compatriots would zip in and peck the owl on the head.

More crows kept coming until the pine thicket had about 20 of them, each screaming its curses as the predator as a few of the braver ones dived bombed her from behind.

After about thirty minutes, the owl took flight across great hollow beyond the pines, but every crow followed her gray form, harrying her as if she were some great pestilence on the land.

A barred owl is a beautiful animal. Its soft gray feathers are streaked down the breast with darker gray streaks, and the feathers that form the dishes on its head frame the darkest brown eyes of any owl in these woods.  To us, it is an impish creature with the eyes of a cocker spaniel.

To a crow, it is perhaps the greatest of all demons. During the day, the crow’s sharp eyes and keen intellect work in tandem with its more maneuverable wings to avoid the owl’s depredations.

But at night, when the crows roost in flocks in their favorite trees, the owl becomes a gray dragon of the night. She comes swooping in on soft wings and carries off the hapless crows before they ever know she is there.

The long nights of winter must the worst sort of hell for crows. Hour after hour they sit in darkness, sleeping or trying to sleep, and at any moment,the soft wing-beats of the gray dragon could come to cast some death among the canopy.

The crows’ remedy for this terror is to go on the offense.  They spend much of their days scouting for owls. If they spot a large owl of any species, they will begin the most aggressive cawing and harrying of it they can muster. They will dive bomb it from behind until the owl, which usually wants to spend its days sleeping, will fly off. If the owl finds another roost in roughly the same vicinity, the crows will begin the same crazed harrying.

I’ve seen crows spend hours doing this behavior. I have come to think of it is as the primary activity of crows. They might spend some time in the winter searching for food, but they are always up for a good war on owls.

A single crow would stand no chance against an owl, but crows are intensely social and remarkably intelligent birds. They work together to drive the owl from their hunting and foraging grounds. They surely must have some sense of solidarity that allows themselves to risk injury in confronting the gray dragon.

In this way, crows are not too different from us. Our species has a strong sense of solidarity. We once banded together to throw stones and sticks at the great cats and giant snakes that preyed upon us. Later, we did the same toward the great predators we encountered as we left Africa. We spent many long nights, hoping that a Machairodont or a leopard wouldn’t come sailing in on one of our band and carry him off as silently and swiftly as the owl does with the crow.  We may have spent our days looking for where such beasts made their lairs and then we may have spent lots of time driving them away from our encampments.

We’ve become good at fending off threats. We started with sticks and rocks. Then we made arrows and spears. Then we rudimentary firearms, and then graduated to machine guns and tanks. We made sophisticated cannons and then intercontinental ballistic missiles.

And now a handful of countries posses the ultimate weapons– ones that will destroy virtually all of humanity and all life if we ever use them.

Most of us have no reason to fear the predators of the night, but we still live in fear. Fear drives us into madness at times, for deep down in that massive brain of ours, there is still a terrified ape that knows that a leopard could be lurking somewhere.  Our hope is that the rational parts of that brain temper the scared simian.

Right now, I see us in madness. The frightened ape mindset has taken over enough of the polity in my country to allow an absolute madman to take over. He lies to everyone, promising the moon, the sun, and the stars, but what is worse is he lies to himself..

He was elected in part to drive out the “bad dudes” as he calls them. These “bad dudes” become “bad hombres” when talking about Latinos, but they mean much the same. He speaks of the foreigner, who either wants to engage in violent jihad against Americans or steal someone’s job. Or maybe sell drugs.

He ran as a crow who sees a lot of owls. The Muslims were an owl. The Latinos another owl. The media was an owl.  Foreigners in general were owls.

And now that he’s been in power just these few weeks, I think there is an owl, and that’s the president!

We need to be good crows and start cawing away.

We need to say boldly that there is an owl, and we’re not about to be taken in the night.

We must remember that as crows we can act together to stand up to an owl.

He is not our gray dragon in the night, but with his hand on the button, that gray dragon could become a mushroom cloud.

Our constitutional system, hewed from the green wood of England and transported and modified on this system, could be threatened by a man who sees the rule of law as an encumbrance to his obvious genius and popular appeal.

The gray dragon of the night could descend upon us in one crazed tantrum or with slight winnowing away of liberal democracy one tweet or executive order at a time.

But we cannot allow the gray dragon to come and take us.

This the crows know, and we must follow their lead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Yer Big Dog Turns 36

Wait a tic I’m on central time now.  On the Eastern seaboard I’m actually 46. 
And it’s been more than a month since my birthday but  as I alluded to in my previous post, it’s been kind of a breakthrough month for me.
Turning mid 40s your body starts to say, “HEY!!! REMEMBER ME???” and it was time for me to stop and take inventory.  Maybe it started talking to me earlier but sometimes I don’t listen so good.  
Louis CK says it best in this video - it’s absolutely hilarious but as per louis, it’s a little ripe with the language.  
2018 will be the most important year of my life and that’s the reason I’m focusing intensely on getting to peak performance.  No spoilers now and probably not for months but you’ll understand soon enough.
Here’s what I’m working on.  
Body
For most of my adult life I’ve suffered from a bad lower back caused by a work related injury that was exacerbated by being rear ended by a Dodge Ram when I was en route to a deep sea fishing excursion in Corpus Christie. I was at a dead stop and he was doing about 40 mph and that herniated a lower disc to say the least.  Backpacking 4,000 miles with an FSO of 100+ lbs didn’t help and it’s been a battle since, two steroid injections not withstanding.  
Then there’s the knee but there’s no sense in going into detail – we all have to learn how to walk with wounds.  
I’ve never been a gym junkie before but I can’t go more than a day away from it now.  Plus, Planet Fitness has a hydromassage table and I could live for days on that machine.  I’m also back to walking a few miles daily typically after my workout.    
Mind
I have a hyper functioning brain which is cool at times especially when I need to summon my creativity but it also makes me highly susceptible to noise and distractions.  Just ask anyone who watches TV with me.  Advertisements – I really wouldn’t even call them that since they’re often the lowest common denominator – drive me nuts.  AND… hah – caught myself. 
Also I’m a political junkie since half my family comes from Louisiana where politics is a blood sport so I’ve had to filter that out, too.  Except for Mark Simone since he covers culinary trends in NYC and film.  Still it’s hard at times since I’ve always prided myself with being current and well read but given the volume levels nowadays, it short circuits my CPU.  And ya gotta protect that. 
Instead, my earbuds have become myelinated sheaths which both insulate my thoughts and along with workouts and walking, propagate them at greater frequencies.  More on this and music choices later…. 
Diet
You’d think after as many miles I’ve logged, I would have this figured out.  But, traveling with the fuzzybutts required me to make tough decisions about pack weight almost always to my detriment.  Their food, comfort, and safety always came first and when backpacking every gram counts.  Which meant many days and night I feasted on whatever I could find at C-Stores or not at all.  Just ask Mommy G how many boxes of nuts and dried fruits went unsent because I just couldn’t afford the pack weight and sometimes it was 30-40 miles between towns.  
No ma’am, my diet on the road consisted mostly of Pork Rinds and pickles for salt and Sour Patch Kids for sugar and that messes with you the older you get.  
Spiritual
See previous blog, Midnight with Murphy, but it won’t be my only one about it. 
Garbage In, Garbage Out
This is a common phrase you encounter in the technology world.  Basically it means crappy coding begets shitty software and that’s so, so true of your body, mind, and spirit with diet affecting them all.  I don’t pretend or presume to be an expert in any of them but I’m learning.  Nor will I turn into some freaky fitness creep that you encounter on infomercials.  
In turning 46, I have to focus on all if I hope to reach optimal performance by this time next year.   
——–
YBD’s Notes:  FSO = From Skin Out calculated by everything you carry and wear minus your nekkid self.  Couldn’t find a quick and easy link about it.    

2 Dogs 2000 Miles

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Fido + Fluffy’s Freebie Friday Prepares for the Big Game

Will you be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday? We’ll be watching (and wondering what this year’s commercials might bring)…and thinking of the Super Dog Sunday fun we had in years…



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DogTipper

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January Golden Poodle Awards

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Dogs and Allergies

In today’s environment, more and more animals suffer from allergies, from food allergies to seasonal as well as environmental. Just like in humans, some dogs will have savior symptoms, other barely show any and sometimes we don’t connect the symptoms to allergies. Here are a few different type of allergies and the symptoms you should look out for.

FOOD ALLERGIES

Food allergy is the most common allergy among dogs; It is also quite uncomfortable and painful for the dog and very difficult to cure. The components of the canine diet, which often cause allergy are, for example, specific meats and offal, pork usually is one of them, some fats, but also various kinds of ready-made dishes containing eggs or heavily processed ingredients. Some dogs also may be allergic to grain and dairy products.

The symptoms of food allergy are quite different with each animal,  it is mostly causing persistent itching and scratching by the dog large areas of hair and skin, leading up to the formation of wounds. Besides, there is hair loss around the eyes, feet, and sometimes ear infections. More and more common symptoms are stomach problems, mainly diarrhea occurring but irregularly. These symptoms may be mistaken for a number of different diseases, which is why allergy is not always the first suspect. To make sure that the symptoms stem from a food allergy, enter the dog elimination diet – serve only foods based on meat, fish, rabbit, buffalo or lamb. It is good to exclude grains like rice, and replace them with properly prepared potatoes.

SEASONAL ALLERGIES

Every year we see increasingly affect of seasonal allergies on more and more pets, just like people they are allergic to various types of pollen, dust mites or molds and fungi. Just as in humans, allergy inhaled can cause a rash, itching, but also respiratory problems and asthma attacks. In the case of this type of allergy, I would recommend performing allergy tests, which indicate specific factors your dog is allergenic to. Usually, it is impossible to eliminate the factor from your dog’s environment, but there are several ways to heal allergies – desensitization to certain allergens, the administration of appropriate drugs and non-steroidal support dietary unsaturated. Note, however, that this type of allergy practically can not be cured and you have to be aware of her relapses and the fact that it can regularly appear in your dog’s life.

 

CONTACT ALLERGY

Contact allergy also known as contact dermatitis is a skin disease that can occur when a dog or cat makes physical contact with a chemical or other irritating substance and has a negative reaction. in animals most often occurs in contact with various antiparasitic formulations, whether in the form of a collar or liquid drops. For this reason, veterinarians recommend regular changes of product so the body does not consider them an allergen. When we are dealing with a contact allergy in a dog, the main symptom is persistent itching and scratching, sometimes rash. The best way to heal this condition is to remove the allergen and wash areas with water, which will faster relief the symptoms. Sometimes if your dog has a strong reaction it is necessary to provide the appropriate medication.

 

DOG AND FLEA ALLERGY DERMATITIS

 

This type of allergy is a very common disease for both cats and dogs. You can often encounter an allergic reaction to the feces of fleas left on dogs, which lived in bad conditions or were exposed to strong and frequent contact with fleas. The symptoms are usually itching, persistent scratching and in further stages severe rash. In the case of this type of allergic reaction, it is necessary for you to visit a vet, who will prescribe the appropriate medication, mainly steroidal anti-inflammatory as well as bathe the dog in the medicated flea shampoo and also protect them from flea infestation, by using one of the available flea preventative products. It is also important to remove fleas and their larvae from the environment – dog bedding, carpets in the house and all the places that the dog had contact.

 

Either your dogs show symptoms of allergies or not it is a good idea to have them tested, especially that now allergy testing is really simple and relatively inexpensive. You can order the online kit, provide a sample of your dog’s hair as well as a saliva sample, you will receive a detail report containing food and environmental allergies. Just because your dog does not show any symptoms, that does not mean he is not sensitive to some foods or environmental products, it’s always good to know what to avoid to keep your pets healthy and happy.


PetsitUSA Blog

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Thank you for this blog. I've been so engaged …

Thank you for this blog. I've been so engaged in posting positive comments about the marches that i have neglected our own group, the Ontario "Pit Bull' Co-op. This blog puts every issue I care about together -Everything we fight for every day. I have been trying to get people to see that injustice to our dogs and injustice to people, Injustice to our planet are intrinsically linked and you have done this for me with this powerful piece. Thank you from the bottom of my Socially Conscience Heart !!!
BAD RAP Blog

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damn dog

That’ll be carved into my tombstone. 
I always found it to be a cosmic irony that I was the guy picked for this job if that’s even the right word for describing my life’s mission.  But trust me this was not the path that I chose for myself.  
Today is the anniversary of when I lost Malcolm – he was a gift from an ex from some distant land some distant time ago.  I didn’t know a damn thing about dogs back then other than I didn’t want one.  I worked 12 hours a day times 7. I was the chairman of this, the director of that… the creator and entrepreneur and my life didn’t lend itself to distractions.
And that’s what a dog was to me. A distraction.  
You see Malcolm & me was no easy thing.  He balked when I wanted him to obey and for six long months he and I were at war.  I didn’t know back then but I believe now he was fighting for my soul. 
And isn’t that the lesson?  No spirit should be secondary.  Not to anyone or because of anything.  
It’s been a decade since lung mets sent him into congestive heart failure and Malcolm died in my arms.  It was an inglorious death to a giant and only those who understand, understand.  
damn dog. i miss you. damnit. 
YBD’s Notes: What better way to celebrate Malcolm’s life than by damning him. I’m quite certain he would’ve done the same about me.  He was a beautiful boy.  

2 Dogs 2000 Miles

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The National Bird Dog Museum: a salute to sporting dogs

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Thank you. As an animal advocate I have long said …

Thank you. As an animal advocate I have long said it isn't just about the animals.
BAD RAP Blog

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