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Archive for the category “The Natural World”

Chasing Whales

Spent the last week of April and the first week of this month chasing after Biggs Killer Whales in Hammersley Inlet and Oakland Bay.  Biggs Killer Whales are a species sub-type of Orcas.  Orcas prefer salmon as their diet, while the Biggs prefer to feast on marine mammals such as otters and sea lions. Biggs-Outbound-Backflip-050617

This transient pod of Biggs Killer Whales had an adult male, two or three adult females and several juveniles.  They were basically cruising the various channels and inlets of the South Puget Sound hunting.  T-67 (The designation given to this Biggs pod.) consistently arrived in Hammersley Inlet and Oakland Bay just before sunset, which made photography challenging.  (I apologize for the motion blur on the photos, part of it was the lack of light, part of if was the whales taking me by surprise when they breached.) It was still exciting to watch them breaching and hunting in such close quarters.   I’m sure they significantly reduced the surplus populations of California Sea Lions that have been hanging out in the South Sound.  The native salmon runs may show some recovery, thanks to their efforts.

I don’t know who was more excited about the Orcas — they boys or Brenda & I. Brenda had never experienced Orcas in the wild before, and it had been over four decades since I had experienced them wild & free.  I much prefer to see them that way than at a marine park.

If you want more information on the Orcas of the Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, there are multiple sources:

History Repeats Itself

Especially for those who refuse to learn from it . . .

RollaKS04141935-Duster-FDRPresidentialLibrary

Dust storm approaches Rolla, KS – April 14, 1935 – Photo courtesy of the FDR Presidential Library Collection.

Hubris

I just finished watching a show about the American Dust Bowl Years titled “Black Blizzard” on History Channel.  It was a pretty good analysis of the disastrous Dust Bowl years in the Great Plains, as well as the government policies and programs that lead up to them.  “Plant more wheat!  Eat more bread!,”  “Breadbasket to the World!,” etc.

For anyone unfamiliar with that portion of our history, I highly recommend the 2-hour documentary.   Right at the end though, there is a bit of irony:  The narrator says “Others need to learn from our experiences, as today we are seeing giant dust storms in Western China and Sub-equatorial Africa.”  To give them their due, they do cut back to a pair of Dust Bowl survivors from Oklahoma and Texas who warn that we are experiencing years as hot & dry in the High Plains now as they were in the years leading up to the Dust Bowl.  One says that the only reason we are not seeing dust storms like they had in the 1930s is because they are pumping water out of the Ogllala aquifer at unprecedented rates to irrigate crops and pastures.   He warns: “When the water runs out – and it will – we’re going to be in trouble.”

But, there is more to the story than that.

I remember my oldest son & daughter’s great grandfather telling me in 1980 that we were heading back to the Dust Bowl just as fast as farmers could rip out shelter belts, fill in water retention ponds and runoff waterways, and flatten contour terraces.  The culprit?  High wheat prices and new large-scale machinery that let one man farm more acres of land.   We were pheasant hunting in Northern Kansas, and he showed me a one-lane county road that ran between two large wheat fields:  “See that road?  Five years ago, it was two lanes wide with a ditch on either side.  You can’t drive on it for a week after a rain, now.  If the county doesn’t stop these guys, it will be gone in a couple years.”

Yet, it’s the people in China and Africa that need  to learn from our mistakes?

AbandonedFarmCimarronStripOK1940

Abandoned Farm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1937  –  US Library of Congress Prints & Photographs On-line Collection

An Appropriate Graffiti Companion

To Yesterday’s Post:

BeesLeave

The commentary is accurate.  Most food & forage crops require pollinating.

Rare NW Bumblebee Bouncing Back

Bombus flavifrons on a lupine flower.

They think it (the bumblebee population decline) may have been due either directly to competition from imported honeybees or from the parasites they carry, but either way, the wild bumblebees are making a comeback:

Rare Bumblebee P.N.W. Bumblebee Populations Rebound

Here is a StartPage search for Bumblebee-friendly garden plants:

Bumblebee-friendly Plants

 

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