Wednesday, August 31, 2005

COM: BlogDay2005






That's Today!

The idea is to post five links to blogs to share with anyone who comes traipsing along. This is hard -- there are so many blogs where i would send folks. Then i thought well it'd be nice to hit up some of the smaller lesser known or newer blogs. Then i thought well i want some folks in certain fields to find some neat things . . .

I ended with a mix: the little- and the well-known; the specialized and the general; the big, the small, etc.

Here they are:

For my writer friends, the environmental crew, and my Texas homies, there's the eloquence of my friend Burr Williams at:

El Llanero

For my civil rights, politics, and just plain good-hearted friends, there's the brilliance (and downright pure heart) of David Neiwert at:

Orcinus

For my hard-core naturalist friends, there's the incredible array of faunal lists and photographs at:

The Natural Stone

For my language and persuasive and writer and actor friends, there's the dissected minutiae of a crowd of linguists at:

Language Log

And finally, from another fine person whose heart is squarely in the right place, my friend Greg Moses talks about peace at:

Peacefile

Then there's the ones i wanted to nominate but i only had five, so some of the better known things got left out, like: Pharyngula, big bird blog, Burnt Orange Report, Cinemocracy, Creek Running North, Invasive Species Weblog, Kung Fu Monkey, Michael Yon, Overheard in New York, skippy the bush kangaroo, The Loom, and i'm sure dozens more.


But, please take a minute to browse one or more of the featured blogs above -- they're worth your time. Thanks . . . tg



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COM: From the hand of the great one


George W. Bush shows New Orleans how much he cares . . .

The Presidential 404 error.

"It's devastating. It's got to be doubly devastating on the ground," Bush said.

ENV: Announcing The Nature Writers of Texas



In early 2003 Burr Williams suggested the formation of an organization of Texas writers who pen stories on the state's wildlife. The result was a website featuring the archived works of a number of Texas authors.

Over a dozen authors contributed on topics ranging from birds to butterflies, snow to hurricanes, and favorites to hate 'ems.

Unfortunately, the site crashed in mid-2005 and was lost for all intents until now. The Nature Writers of Texas has been resurrected, including all of the archives, in blog format. Each author's articles will be posted as received and archived for future reference.

We'd welcome you to take a look at http://texasnature.blogspot.com

If you have a blog or website, we'd appreciate your helping us get the word out.

If you had this bookmarked before, now is the time to change the address.

And we hope this stirs more writers to action. If you are a publishing author on the wildlife of Texas, or know one who is not represented here, please give us a shout. If you are on the list but have slipped in contributing, now is also a good time to forward your articles and archives.

Submissions can be made to swallowtailedkite, or you can contact me for more information at Author's guidelines can be found here.

LIT: Susan Bright's NOLA

One of my favorite poets, Susan Bright, has blogged a sublime piece of work here.



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ENV: Announcing the Circus of the Spineless!


That's right, Bootstrap Analysis, Urban Dragon Hunters and milkriverblog are banding together to bring you another Carnival devoted to writing and photography about animals on the web.

This, the Circus of the Spineless, is devoted to all those critters in the lower reaches of the great evolutionary bush -- those that have no vertebrae. So we're talking here about insects (especially blog favorites butterflies, moths, dragonflies and beetles, plus a whole host of other critters), arachnids, molluscs (yep, blog favorites octopi and squid fit here), crustaceans, worms, mites, lice, and who knows what else folks find to blog about. We're just looking for the best writing and the best photos out there in the blogosphere.

It will appear monthly, but get this, each blogger may submit more than one post!

There's an introduction and some rules at the official Spineless site here.

Submissions for the first edition are due no later than September 28th, so start collecting now.

In addition to looking for your submissions and/or getting the word out, we're looking for some other things you might be able to help with.

First, of course, we'll need some hosts for future carnivals including a host for October 31st! Then we're looking for December and beyond. If you're interested flash me an email back.

And we're also looking to make the base site a good reference point for invertebrate info for those who come stumbling around. I already have a significant linkload based on my specialties (and on Texas to an extent). We'd love to have any more links you can pass along to add to that list.

Thanks for your help and participation -- hope to see you soon at the Circus of the Spineless!

COM: Announcing Blogarithmicly


Welcome to the first blogarithmicly, the carnival of links about links . . .

It's here: blogarithmicly

Each month (more often if there are enough links) we'll be presenting the best links we find on the net which feature comprehensive linkage to a narrow topic. This is intended to give folks a window into the opinions of a large number of folks on a certain aspect of world news.

We are not limiting these links to any particular side or viewpoint. In fact, we would most like to have significant linkage on more than one side. While this, for now at least, is not a traveling carnival, we do welcome suggestions for submissions. Please send them to milkriver.

The first blogarithmicly features: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design, John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court, Pat Robertson on assassination, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker controversy, and Hurricane Katrina.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #22

The NYT has a frumping of Bob Dylan today. It's archived here.

Also check out these archived articles on the mechanics of gecko "stickiness" (NYT), Eric Alerman's treatise on the institutionalizing of racism (Altercation at MSNBC), the George Lucas Educational Foundation's attempt to redefine education (NYT), and the discovery that some experimental mice in the MRL gene line can regrow limbs and organs that are damaged (TimesOnline.com via Clicked at MSNBC).

Here's a link to a video of the Messenger spacecraft on a flyby of earth. Stunning.

Here's some random Louisiana pics. I'm also hearing that Baton Rouge got hit harder than expected. LSU is shut down (school and football) for at least a week -- at least in part because it's being used for emergency purposes.



Thanks to Clicked.

And moving to the archives are:

Army Pamphlet Spoof

NORAD's Sensitivity

Ibrahim Ferrer Obituary

On Bret Easton Ellis' Lunar Park


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Monday, August 29, 2005

ENV: Observation time

Early this morning, while the Great Horned Owl was hooting close by, i was startled by a whack at the screen on the back side of the window i leave open. It was another Imperial Woodpecker Moth (you know where my head has been), Eacles imperialis. It's the third i've photographed here now, of about a half-dozen seen -- i don't have immediate access to my notes to check all the dates, but the three i've got photos of have all been in a little over a week's span in late August. I guess i'll be keeping an eye out at this time every year.

The Axis bulls were making a ton of racket this morning also, and this evening when i walked to the office, a cow made a few high-stepping, stomping steps toward me before snorting and sending the herd of 30 to the hills.

I guess the fall insect season is upon us. While it didn't reach biblical proportions there was a decent emergence of crickets last night, and tonight i noted a new "hatch" (really an emergence) of a dark mayfly. The bright yellow large ones have been out for a few weeks, but these are about two-thirds that size and distinctly brown, and they're swarming to the lights. I'll take a walk later tonight to see what predators may be out taking advantage.

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COM: Jackson's word on Ivory-bills

Ivory Bill or Not? The Proof Flits Tantalizingly Out of Sight
By JAMES GORMAN, The New York Times, August 30, 2005


SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Aug. 26 - When a four-second snippet of video showing a black and white blur in flight was shown to an auditorium full of ornithologists here on Thursday night, it drew a collective Ahhh! - a murmur of awe seldom heard at scientific meetings.

But this wasn't just any blurry video. This "ornithological Zapruder film," as one researcher called it, gives a glimpse of the much mythologized ivory-billed woodpecker, thought extinct, sought after for a half century, and - just in the past two years - rediscovered, doubted and accepted again.

Or else it doesn't.

John Fitzpatrick and colleagues at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and elsewhere who reported the rediscovery last April, say the blur is an ivory bill. The video is central to their paper, published in the journal Science last April, which claimed the bird was alive in Arkansas, and they came to the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, to present their findings to their professional peers.

Although the public mood at the presentations ranged from awe-struck to friendly, there was no unanimity about the evidence.

Earlier this summer, three ornithologists had prepared, and then withdrawn, a research paper disputing the evidence presented in Science. Two of the three had been convinced by audio recordings that the ivory bill did survive in Arkansas.

But, said Richard Prum, a Yale ornithologist and one of the three, while he found the audio convincing it did not change his opinion that the bird in the video is a pileated woodpecker. A co-author, Mark Robbins of the University of Kansas, said only that he found the audio compelling. Jerome A. Jackson of Florida Gulf Coast University was out of the country when the paper was withdrawn. He still does not accept the video or the audio evidence. All three were at the meeting here.

It is enough to make someone trying to follow the ivory bill case feel like Wile E. Coyote, with the woodpecker playing the role of the Road Runner.

Does the bird live or does it not? Is it time to start wearing an ivory bill T-shirt (one version says, "found!") or should the celebration wait? Is the $10 million for preservation of the bird's habitat going to explode?

With luck, the questions will be answered with a renewed search in the Cache River and White River National Wildlife Refuges in Arkansas this fall and winter. And everyone is hoping that it will produce the glossy close-up that even a nonbirder will recognize.

Russell A. Charif of the Cornell Lab, who presented the audio recordings of bird calls and rapping on wood in public for the first time here on Wednesday, said, "What we need, what we need is a photo."

And the coming field season is crucial, Mr. Charif said. "It's make or break, I think."

He added, "Right now we're sort of the heroes, but if we come back next year and don't have something, that's going to be awkward."

On the other hand, obsession with the ivory bill has survived setbacks before.

The ivory-billed woodpecker was, or is, the largest American woodpecker, 20 inches tall, with stark black and white markings and a tufted red crest on the male.

It was a favorite of John James Audubon and other early observers when its range covered the Southeastern forests, particularly swamps and bottomland.

As the forests were cut, the woodpecker population decreased. The last accepted sighting of the bird in the United States was in 1944, and in Cuba in the late 1980's.

Over the last half century, many sightings in this country have been reported, some credible, none confirmed. That was until Feb. 11, 2004, when Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Ark., saw what he thought might be an ivory bill while kayaking in Bayou de View in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

Tim Gallagher, editor of Living Bird magazine, published by the Cornell Lab, and Bobby Harrison, a professor of photography at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., each a passionate birder but neither an academically trained ornithologist, pursued Mr. Sparling's lead. On Feb. 27, they said they saw the bird fly in front of their canoe.

After a year of secret research and several more sightings, but no clear photos, a group led by the Cornell Lab, and including the Nature Conservancy and state and federal officials, announced the rediscovery of the ivory bill on April 28, to near universal rejoicing.

But dissent bubbled beneath the surface in the closely linked worlds of academic ornithology and passionate bird watching.

Earlier this summer, Dr. Prum, Dr. Jackson and Dr. Robbins had a paper that was critical of the evidence submitted to the Public Library of Science. They were joined in their skepticism by some birders, like David Sibley, the author of "Sibley's Guide to Birds."

But the Cornell Lab headed them off by providing audio recordings of the call of the ivory bill - a tooting, known as a "kent," that resembles the sound of a toy trumpet - and the bird's characteristic double rap. Dr. Prum and Dr. Robbins were convinced - not that the video was valid, but that there was an ivory bill there somewhere. They withdrew the paper, saying it was not wrong but moot.

Mr. Charif presented the audio evidence that had convinced the two skeptics at a scientific session here.

It was the first time the recordings had been played in public. They were also made available on the Web site of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at www.birds.cornell.edu.

He described the processing, still continuing, of 18,000 hours of sound recorded digitally by remote automated devices in the Cache River and White River refuges.

First, the recordings were filtered by software, then by humans, to come up with several of the kent calls and 54 double knocks.

While the video is blurry, the recordings sound to the untrained ear exactly like old recordings of ivory bill calls. But, Mr. Charif said, both blue jays and nuthatches have calls that sound like kent calls.

On the positive side, the double knocks sounded as an ivory bill should. But there were more before dawn and after sunset than expected from earlier accounts of the bird's behavior and, Mr. Charif said, it was not possible to rule out other sources for the sounds.

"Our interpretation of these data is that they provide suggestive and tantalizing, but not conclusive, new evidence of living ivory bills in this region," he said.

Tantalizing is the way even the most serious critics describe the evidence so far. Dr. Jackson, the author of a book titled "In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker," who was not invited to participate in the Cornell Lab search, says there may be ivory bills out there, perhaps in Arkansas, but, "in my opinion, the evidence that has been presented thus far is not conclusive."

He concurs with Dr. Prum on the video. He says that witness accounts are not as conclusive as scientific proof, and he is not convinced by the audio recordings.

Dr. Jackson says that a blue jay could possibly have made the calls, something the Cornell Lab agrees with. As for the double knocks, the characteristic communicative rapping on wood of the ivory bill, he said, "I've heard pileated woodpeckers make that kind of sound, I've heard crows make that kind of sound in breaking open a nut."

Several incomplete or inconclusive lines of evidence do not add up to conclusive evidence, Dr. Jackson said, adding, "The bottom line is we simply can't know yet, we don't have the conclusive proof."

There is a lot at stake here. The Department of the Interior earmarked $10 million for preserving the ivory bill's habitat, and some ornithologists say that other species, like the Kirtland's warbler, are losing out as a result.

Dr. James Tate Jr., the science adviser to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, was at the ornithological meeting. Asked whether money had been moved from programs for other species in trouble, he said, "That's going to be a difficult question to answer."

He continued: "The budget is complex. The budget is multifaceted. I don't think you can say we have really moved money to the ivory-billed woodpecker so much as we have emphasized and maybe speeded up some things for this entire ecosystem."

Conservation activity in the Big Woods area of Arkansas has been strong for some time, without the ivory bill. The Nature Conservancy is active in buying land there. The reason there is enough forest for ivory bills is that there are the two national wildlife refuges.

But the bird is now the face of conservation in that area for the Nature Conservancy, for the Cornell Lab, and for the state of Arkansas. You can buy ivory bill T-shirts, hats and polo shirts. Arkansas offers an ivory bill license plate. In themselves the products are trivial, but their use is not. The bird is what conservationists call a charismatic species, one that captures public attention and devotion. In other words, it is a creature that looks good on a T-shirt, like a wolf or a whale. It catches both eyes and donations.

Even though scientists, government officials and environmentalists agree that it is habitats, not individual species, that need saving, they all use appealing animals to gather support.

Half a year ago, the ivory bill was extinct as far as the public was concerned. Now it is a symbol of hope. What happens if it is never seen again?

Meanwhile, for those who want to find the ivory bill, not just hear about it, Little Rock Tours and the Mallard Pointe Lodge are offering guided ivory bill tours by Mr. Sparling, the man whose sighting began the furor.


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COM: Oh my . . .



This is about 9 a.m. as they report the roof of the Superdome leaking. Accumulated rain around New Orleans varies from 4 to 8 inches.

Sancho posted a link at his Hacienda del Gringo for New Orleans live cams. The only one that really gives a view right now is the QuarterCam. The bridge cam is completely obscured by rain, and the others seem to be wiped out. Check 'em out here.


This was at about 7:30 a.m.




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COM: Blogarithmic #21

John at A DC Birding Blog sends out a final reminder:

I and the Bird Reminder -- Next Thursday, September 1, will be the fifth edition of I and the Bird, the blog carnival for birders. If you have a post you would like to submit, please send it to John by tomorrow, Tuesday, August 30. Rules for submissions can be found here. Note that you do not have to be a birder or have a blog that is principally about birds; all that is necessary is a post that shows some enthusiasm for birds or birding or that describes an encounter with birds or birders. (Entries can be submitted to John or to Mike at 10,000 Birds.)

Here's Brendan Loy liveblogging the hurricane.

At 4:30 a.m. it looks like this:




There are some fast-moving doses of heavy rain on the radar loop, but the cumulative look only shows 2-3 inches in New Orleans so far. Rainfall total, coupled with storm surge will make the difference in a lot of lives.

Sent facebook messages to John Edward Hibbert (MS), Ben Thurber (AL), David Osborne (LSU), and Stuart and Scott Davis (MS) to stay out of the storm. Hopefully they're all safe.

Interesting article in today's New York Times about the trade in rare cycads. It's archived.

These posts are moving to the archives:

Peter Jennings Obituary

Little Milton Tribute

About Hurricanes

Brock Peters Obituary

Joe Ranft Obituary

Raymond Nakai Obituary

Hunter Thompson Memorial

Robert Moog Obituary

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ENV: Katrina at 1 a.m.

Check this NWS site to see the accumulation of rainfall:
http://radar.weather.gov/radar/loop/DS.80stp/si.klix.shtml











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Sunday, August 28, 2005

ATH: What a game . . .

Hawaii storms back for Little League crown
3-run rally vs. Curacao forces extra innings, sets stage for Memea's homer
The Associated Press, Updated: 8:17 p.m. ET Aug. 28, 2005

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Michael Memea rounded third with his right hand held high, barreling toward his jubilant teammates after his home run in the bottom of the seventh capped a stunning comeback to give West Oahu of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, the Little League World Series title.

Memea lined a pitch over the center-field wall with nobody out to finish the 7-6 win Sunday over the defending champions from Willemstad, Curacao. The homer completed the rally from a three-run deficit in the previous inning.

Down 6-3 with runners of second and third and nobody out, Vonn Fe’ao scored from third on a bunt base hit by Ty Tirpak. Zachary Rosete then hit an RBI single to left close the gap to 6-5.

Three batters and one out later, Alaka’i Aglipay hit a bouncer to second that looked like it would be an easy double play, but he beat out the throw to first, allowing Rosete to score the tying run.

Sorick Liberia had broken open a 3-3 game in the fifth with a two-run homer that soared beyond a short hill past the left-field wall. Darren Seferina added a solo shot to give Curacao its three-run lead.

The homers drew loud cheers from the small contingent of Curacao fans holding the country’s blue and yellow flag and wearing hats of the same color.

Braves slugger Andruw Jones was hooked to the game on television in Milwaukee after hitting his major league-leading 41st and 42nd home runs during Atlanta’s 5-2 win over the Brewers.


Jones is also from Willemstad, and most of Curacao’s players at the Little League World Series call him their favorite player.

“It’s great to see,” Jones said in between yelling at the TV and playfully taunting his teammates. “There’s a lot of talent down there.”

The Curacao team from the Pabao Little League was trying to became the first repeat winners in South Williamsport since Long Beach, Calif., won back-to-back titles in 1992-93.

Down a run with two outs in the third, Curacao held a 3-1 lead thanks in part to a confusing play that started with an RBI single to right by Jurickson Profar.

The ball got by outfielder Rosete for an error and on the throw in, Rayshelon Carolina got caught in a rundown but scored after pitcher Quentin Guevara appeared to miss the tag at home.

Profar moved to third amid the confusion, then was singled home by Liberia.

West Oahu’s big bats erased any bad memories and the two-run deficit when Kini Enos and Aglipay led off the bottom half of the third with consecutive homers.

West Oahu had a tournament-leading 10 home runs coming into the game but relied on two singles and a wild pitch to score its first run.

Also on Sunday, Ryan Gura lined an RBI single with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a tie and lift Rancho Buena Vista of Vista, Calif. over Chiba City, Japan, 5-4 in the consolation game.

Johnny Dee started the winning rally with a one-out walk. Daniel Gibney blooped a single into left field just out of the reach of Yusuke Taira before Gura hit the game winner.

COM: Taylor and Will, and more friends

Just got a note from Taylor Overbey. They won their first game of the season 40-8. Bang! What a score. BUT, Taylor found out that he's got a back problem and will have to sit out the rest of the season. He'll be ready for baseball though. Hang in there T!

Will's Highland Park Scots (ranked #4 & #5 in state 4A by some polls) pulled a huge upset, beating the #19 5A team 40-14 yesterday in the Tom Landry Classic at SMU. No word yet from Will on how he did, but i'm posting the Dallas Morning News article below. Interesting that their starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is already being touted as a possible 4A player of the year, was out with an injury. The win was directed by number two QB William Webb.

Went to see Jeff Scott's show at Fredericksburg Theatre Company -- The Compleat Works of Wm Shakespeare (Abridged). It was hilarious. Missed seeing Jeff -- i suppose he's on his way back to Lubbock, but did meet up with Ruthie Schmuck, Maggie Meek, Sarah Tacey and Ambra Freeman at the show and then went to dinner with them post-show. Had a great time -- that's one funny bunch of ladies. Sarah's just off the successful run of her show Little Shop of Horrors at The Point. I reviewed that last week. Will post a review of Jeff's show sometime today.

In other football news, Ingram blasted out of their 2-8 slump last year with an overwhleming 47-13 win over powerhouse Comfort. J.T. Aspra threw three TDs, two to Kris Hicks.

Tivy meanwhile got slapped by state-ranked Pflugerville 21-6.

Football: Out of reach
Seven turnovers plague Raiders in blowout loss
By Chuck Cox / Staff Writer, Dallas Morning News, 09:27 AM CDT on Sunday, August 28, 2005

UNIVERSITY PARK — For the first time in the Joey Florence era and in this decade, the Ryan Raiders are 0-1.

Highland Park turned a six-point game at the half into a blowout 40-14 victory, stunning Ryan on Saturday night in the sixth annual Tom Landry Classic at SMU’s Ford Stadium. The Raiders didn’t help their cause any, committing seven turnovers, including one on each of their four second-half possessions.

The last time the Raiders started the season with a loss was in 1999, when they were blanked by Mount Pleasant, 28-0.

Highland Park quarterback William Webb, who was playing for injured star signal-caller Matthew Stafford, gave the Raiders fits both on the ground and through the air.

Webb finished the game 15-of-19 passing for 204 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, while also rushing for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

Running back Alex Carroll also had a huge game for the Scots, rushing for 95 yards and three touchdowns on 13 attempts.

Meanwhile, Ryan quarterback Austin Knight, who was not named the starter until earlier in the day, had a tough debut. Knight was 14-of-30 for 250 yards and four interceptions, although he did throw a pair of touchdown passes.

Both teams struggled in the early stages of the game, trading punts for most of the first quarter before the Scots finally drew first blood on their third possession, as Webb scored on a 37-yard run.

The Raiders needed all of one play to take their first lead of the game. After a delay of game penalty pushed Ryan back five yards, Knight connected with Justin Fenty on an 88-yard touchdown pass. Fenty used his blazing speed to elude several Scot defenders for the score. Tony Adams’ PAT made it 7-6.

After a fumble on their next possession, the Raiders added to their lead with a five-play, 85-yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Knight to Nathan Uland.

But things then began to unravel for Ryan.

Highland Park (1-0) answered with a five-play drive that culminated with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Webb to Holt Martin. The Scots missed the 2-point conversion attempt again, allowing Ryan to maintain its 14-12 lead.

But it didn’t last much longer as the Scots turned a Knight interception into another touchdown. Webb scored on a 3-yard run that was set up by a 31-yard Carroll scamper.

The Scots scored all 20 of their second-half points off Raider turnovers, relying primarily on their running game.

Fenty finished with five catches for 116 yards for the Raiders, while Jerome Worsham had three grabs for 81 yards. Worsham did not have a reception in the second half.

The Raiders will look to get back on track next Friday when they take on Denton at 7:30 p.m. at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.

ENV: New Orleans about to get hammered

Okay pardon me for being really dumb, but here's the New Orleans forecast straight from the website of the National Weather Service for tonight. Then glance at the current radar images below and left. Can anyone say Category 5?

"Tonight: Occasional rain. Low near 77. Windy, with a north wind 35 to 40
mph increasing to between 50 and 55 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

Monday: Occasional rain. High near 79. Windy, with a north wind 55 to 60
mph decreasing to between 35 and 40 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%."


Here's the view you should be watching:

http://radar.weather.gov/radar/loop/DS.p19r0/si.klix.shtml

This from Chris Fisher over at The Scarlet Left:

"I was watching the weather before hitting publish. Hit central pressure is now
902mb (26.64in.) making her the fourth most intense hurricane ever in the
Atlantic."


If i were there i'd be skedaddling . . .


I love hurricanes, i hate flooding. If one begets the other, then i'm outta there.




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Saturday, August 27, 2005

COM: Friends again

Whoa! I was just sitting here checking links and John Baumann appeared at my window! He was up the road at Mo Ranch for a leadership conference, and decided to stop by to try and retrieve his summer-lost guitar (no luck). We had a great talk, covering the Vista Bubble edge to edge, before he had to take off for work. Among other things he told me, his dad and his sister Sarah are both in the play Love Thy Neighbor which will playing at STAGE in Bulverde, October 6-23. You can bet i'll be there. John also said he's going to be trying out for the Churchill Soccer Team. Get after it John!

William Lawson nearly had a TD pass in last Saturday's scrimmage but it got picked off. Otherwise sounds like he had a decent day.

Today they play Denton Ryan at SMU. I played in that stadium (in fact it was a big jumpstart in my short career) in about 1973 i believe -- long story for another time. But best of luck to William -- it's Friday Night Lights time now.

You guys be sure and check out Thomas Boydston's blog Second Edition -- cool pictures, cool ideas.

Clifton Fifer came by this week and we transferred his old website material to a new blog. It's here at Seven Thunders.

I'll be off to see Jeff Scott's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare tonight in Fredericksburg. Will post a review.

Claire Mestepey's in need of a camera and editing room for a short film of a play she's doing. She's in the Houston area if that's something someone can accomodate . . . Update: She has a camera now. And she's filming a piece to use in her new corporate seminars. She's put up a website at Disability Insights.

Friday, August 26, 2005

ENV: Big Fish




The top catfish may be the largest ever recorded. It's a Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) caught in Thailand. It was 9' in length and 646# according to the biologist, Zeb Hogan, who is working on documenting giant freshwater fish and was on the scene. The New York Times reporter who said it was the size of a grizzly bear has been hitting the sauce a bit (unless he meant a bear cub).

The lower catfish is the largest cat ever caught in Texas waters (Lake Texoma by Cody Mullenix, right) and is a world-record Blue Catfish in all line categories. It's possibly the largest Blue Catfish ever caught at 121#, although a report of another Blue Cat from the Mississippi this summer is also at 121# -- ounces may make the winner.


Truly, It Was a Whopper, but Are There Bigger Fish?
By SETH MYDANS, The New York Times, 26 August 2005

HAT KHRAI, Thailand - The monster fish announced itself with four huge whacks of its tail, thrashing against the net that had trapped it in the pale brown water of the Mekong River.

It was a rare giant catfish the size of a grizzly bear, and it took five boatmen an hour to pull it in and 10 men to lift it when they reached the shore in this remote village in northern Thailand.

Only after their catch had been chopped into pieces and sold did they learn how special it was. At nine feet in length and weighing 646 pounds, it may be the biggest freshwater fish ever recorded.

But in one of the world's more surprising mysteries, nobody really knows which is the biggest species of fish lurking under the waters of the Mekong or the Amazon or the Yangtze or the Congo or the Colorado or Lake Baikal.

When the giant catfish was caught in May, a biologist named Zeb S. Hogan rushed here to take a look. It was his first trophy in a project to identify and study the world's largest freshwater fish in the hope of slowing their extinction.

Sponsored by the National Geographic Society and the World Wildlife Fund, Mr. Hogan has embarked on an 18-month expedition that will take him to five continents and more than a dozen rivers.

"I guess it's like looking for Bigfoot," he said. Some species may already be too rare to study.

He has started with the Mekong, which he said has seven species of giant fish, more than any other river, along with at least 750 other species. All of them are threatened - like river fish around the world - by overfishing, pollution and development, including major dam projects.

The Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) may be the first to disappear from the river, he said. The few that remain can be spotted now only in central Cambodia and here, just below the Golden Triangle, where northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet.

No one has made a credible claim to top this year's trophy, Mr. Hogan said.

It is five times the size of the biggest catfish recorded in the United States, a 121-pound Mississippi River fish that was also caught in May.

"I keep expecting people to send me photos or records of larger fish, but nobody has," Mr. Hogan said. "But that's kind of the point of the project. Let's gather all the information that's out there and decide which is the largest freshwater fish."

The candidate species must grow to at least 200 pounds or longer than six feet - creatures like sturgeon, lungfish, gars, stingrays, carp, salmon, perch and paddlefish.

Already Mr. Hogan has a collection of unconfirmed fish stories about 10-foot catfish in Bulgaria, thousand-plus pound stingrays in Southeast Asia and 15-foot arapaima in the Amazon.

While many people say the arapaima is the largest freshwater fish, Mr. Hogan says there is no reliable record of any weighing more than 450 pounds and certainly not more than 650 pounds.

He has his own personal candidates, the Chinese paddlefish in the Yangtze and the giant stingray here in the Mekong.

"I saw a stingray in Cambodia in 2003 that was 4.13 meters long," he said, or about 131/2 feet. "That fish could have been it, but we couldn't weigh it. It was too big."

When he began to spread the word in Cambodia that he was looking for giant fish, Mr. Hogan said, it was the stingray he had in mind. "I thought I'd get 50 phone calls the first week, but nobody contacted us," he said. "So they're more rare than I thought they were."

The giant catfish have been disappearing fast, from more than 60 a year caught here in the early 1990's to a scattered few. Their decline coincides with the completion of the first of a series of dams being built upriver in southern China.

"The damming and the blasting of rapids have changed the habitat and the river flow," said Boonluen Chinarath, 58, the village chief in Hat Khrai, who said he had caught as many as 100 giant catfish in his long career as a fisherman.

"The river rises and falls more quickly than before," he said. "Maybe it's up today and maybe it's down tomorrow."

Many fish cue their migrations to the rise and fall of the water, Mr. Hogan said. The giant catfish are caught in April and May when they swim upriver to spawn just north of here.

The monster fish was one of just three giant catfish caught in Thailand this year.

Before he headed out on May 1, one of the men who caught it, Thirayuth Panthayom, 29, made sure luck would be on his side. He said he prayed at the shrine of the God of Catfish and begged his boat to help him, "Please, Miss Boat, let me catch something today and I'll sacrifice a chicken for you."

He said he had only been out for 15 minutes when he saw the fish smack the water four times with its tail - "Pung! Pung! Pung! Pung!" It took his crew an hour to pull it in.

His father, as owner of the boat, earned nearly $2,000 for the fish from the village fishing association, a fortune in rural Thailand. Mr. Thirayuth, like the other four members of the crew, got $175 of this, which he said he gave right back to his father.

As required by its permit to fish for these endangered catfish, the village association then sold it to the Department of Fisheries, which harvests their eggs and sperm as part of a captive breeding program.

After that, the fish are to be returned to the river, but few have survived the harvesting process, in which hormone injections are administered and the belly is vigorously massaged and manipulated.

The monster fish was returned dead to the fishermen, who cut it into giant steaks and sold it.

When he tried a bit, Mr. Thirayuth said, it tasted soft and sweet and mild.

"It's hard to describe," he said. "You have to try it yourself."



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ENV: Katrina in the Gulf


A current look . . .


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ENV: Ivory-bills sounds Part II

Birders Hear Call Linked to Good News on Ivory Bill
By JAMES GORMAN, The New York Times, August 25, 2005


SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Aug. 24 - For half a century, bird-watchers have longed for a glimpse of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird long given up for extinct but recently rediscovered in Arkansas. Now they may be able to hear it.

On Wednesday, at the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union here, a Cornell researcher played newly recorded sounds that were believed to come from an ivory bill: a toy-trumpet call sounding like the word "kent" and a double knock on wood, made when the woodpecker hammers a tree.

It was these sounds that persuaded some skeptics this month to withdraw a critical paper and state that they were now convinced of the bird's existence.

The sounds are online at the Web site of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: www.birds.cornell.edu.

Russ A. Charif, a research biologist at the lab who played the sounds at the meeting, did not claim that they were conclusive proof of the bird's existence. There is further analysis to do and more acoustical evidence to gather, Mr. Charif said.

But together with a blurred, heavily analyzed video, and personal sightings, the evidence for the bird's existence is now conclusive, he said.

John Fitzpatrick, the head of the Cornell lab, said after the presentation that the researchers were not retreating from their conclusion that at least one ivory bill existed in Arkansas, that it was the weight of the combined evidence that had convinced him.

The ivory-billed woodpecker, the largest American woodpecker, starkly patterned in black, white and red, had acquired near mythical status as a reminder of lost Southern forests until it was sighted twice in February 2004 in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

Although other sightings had been made since the last documented one - roughly 50 years ago in Louisiana - none were confirmed and accepted by ornithologists.

In 2004 an ivory bill was sighted by Timothy Gallagher of the Cornell lab and Bobby Harrison of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., as they searched the Cache River refuge in a canoe. Both men had been pursuing the bird for years and had gone to this area because of a report from Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Ark., who thought he had seen it while kayaking earlier in the month.

The sighting by two expert birders led to a extensive but secret search and an announcement in April 2005 at a news conference and in an article in the journal Science that the bird had been found.

Serious doubts were later voiced by other ornithologists and birders, including Richard O. Prum of Yale and Mark Robbins of the University of Kansas about the evidence presented in the science paper.

But Dr. Prum and Dr. Robbins were convinced of the bird's existence after they were provided the recordings that Mr. Charif played on Wednesday.

The recordings were from the Cache River and the White River National Wildlife Refuges, and Dr. Prum and Dr. Robbins were still not convinced that the Science paper, which had not used the recordings as evidence, was conclusive. But since the larger point was moot, they withdrew a critical response to that paper.

Mr. Charif said after his talk that the "kent" sounds alone were not conclusive because scientists could not completely rule out a blue jay mimicking the sound of an ivory bill, and that there was no earlier definitive recording of the double rap.

"Our interpretation is that they provide suggesting and tantalizing evidence," he said of the recordings.

"We regard the video as being conclusive," he said, even though it was the acoustic recordings that had persuaded skeptics who found the video analysis lacking.

The recordings were made from December 2004 to May 2005 with remote recording units in the Cache River and White River refuges.

The 18,000 hours of recordings were combed, first by computer and then by humans, to pick out more than 50 double knocks and several "kent" calls.

These were more thoroughly analyzed and compared to known ivory bill recordings, and double knocks of similar species outside of the United States.


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COM: Blogarithmic #20

Here's a big reminder from A DC Birding Blog:

I and the Bird Reminder -- Next Thursday, September 1, will be the fifth edition of I and the Bird, the blog carnival for birders. If you have a post you would like to submit, please send it to me by next Tuesday, August 30. Rules for submissions can be found here. Note that you do not have to be a birder or have a blog that is principally about birds; all that is necessary is a post that shows some enthusiasm for birds or birding or that describes an encounter with birds or birders. (Entries can be submitted to me or to Mike at 10,000 Birds.)I will post one more reminder next week.

Okay, i'm non-violence 100%, but i support troops doing what they have to do (humor me for a moment about the "have to do" part on this). I have been intrigued by Michael Yon's reporting on his blog about day to day action in Iraq and have linked to it several times here. Well, his name is floating around the blogworld today with the word Pulitzer being bandied about. War is hell -- here's why.

I hate pencils. Never use them. Used to to draw. But never to write with. Nevertheless i have an aapreciation for them. And this blog just reinforces that, plus adds some new wrinkles to pencil lore. Pretty fascinating -- Pencil Revolution.

Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus . . .

Thanks to Clicked.

August 31st is BlogDay2005. Check it out here. Blogs that day are to each deliver unto their readers a selection of five other blogs with an encouragement to check them out. I'm already making a list . . . and i'll focus on some excellent blogs that get little outside exposure and some well known, but very special blogs.






Moving to the archives . . .

Schreiner Volleyball Schedule

Schreiner Soccer Schedule

Stevens on Death

Hawaiian Sovereignty II


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ENV: Banner Day amongst bad news

Jeff Mundy, Austin birder and lawyer was a key player in yesterday's big news in Austin. A stealth proposal to sell about 45,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Natural Area to a private developer was unanimously voted down by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission. That is . . . the appointed board that is the public oversight over the regulatory TP&W Department turned down the agency's proposal to make the sale. That's the good news . . .

The bad news is that the state was trying to sell the land (out of public earshot apparently) in order to raise funds to keep a bunch of other state parks functional. The department is hurting for money. So it was a not win-not win kind of deal. The fallout probably means losing some other parks.

Nevertheless Big Bend Ranch is the jewel of the system, and for good reason. But more importantly it, and Big Bend National Park, are significant chunks of an endangered ecosystem -- the Chihuahuan Desert (for which i not only have a particular soft spot, but years of research invested in).

Now i want to post here a copy of an email sent to the TexBirds listserv by Ted Eubanks, one of the true heroes of Texas conservation. His take on everything environmental in this state is always based on a depth of understanding few others have, and a wisdom unparalleled.

From Ted:

For most of today I attended the TPW Commission meeting in Austin to hear
about the dire straights of our parks. I must admit I heard nothing new;
this brew has been fermenting for a decade. However, the prospect of selling
a portion of a state park brought a new sobriety to the discussion. This
evening I pulled together a few numbers to help illustrate the fix we are in
(yes, we are in. How many birders in Texas have never birded in a state
park?). These are pulled from a number of sources, and they should be
relatively accurate. I will continue to massage these numbers, and I accept
all blame for any mistakes.



The State of the Parks in Texas

In Texas in 2001,

. 5.7 percent of land in Texas public.

. 2.6 percent of public lands owned by the Federal government.

. 3.0 percent of public lands owned by the state.

. 0.14 percent of public lands owned by local governments.

. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department managed 0.6 percent of the public lands.

. 2.5 % of public lands in Texas were categorized as parks, forests and refuges.

Of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's lands,

. Total TPWD's State Parks, Natural Areas, Historic Site Acreage (600,497 acres)

. Texas Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) (776,099 acres)

. Texas Parks and Wildlife facility (8,577 acres)

I should note that of the TPW park acreage, half (approximately 300,000
acres) is contained in one park in West Texas inaccessible by most of the
state's population - Big Bend Ranch State Park.

The total acres under TPW management and/or ownership are 1,385,173 acres.
However, TPW does not own all of this acreage. A significant percentage of
state park and WMA land is owned by the federal government and is only under
lease by the state. Of the 600,497 acres in state park, natural areas, and
historic sites, 43,276 are leased from the federal government. Of the
776,099 acres in WMAs, 463,212 are leased. Therefore TPW actually owns only
878,685 acres for state parks, natural areas, historic sites, WMAs, and TPW
facilities.

How do we rank nationally? Of the 167 million acres within the state,
federal and state government owns 7,078,000 acres or 4.2%. Compared to the
nation, Texas ranks 44th in this regard. When considering only state-owned
lands, Texas ranks 46th.

Let me offer an illustration. There are approximately 23 million people
residing in Texas. If we divvied up the TPW land per capita, each of us
would have around 2500 square feet in state park, natural area, historic
sites, and WMAs. Go into your front yard and walk a box 50 feet on a side.
That's your slice of the Texas pie. By 2030, when the population is
estimated to increase to 37.5 million, without aggressive acquisitions your
Texas park slice will shrink to about 1600 square feet or a box 40 feet on a
side. Given that fact that much of the land is west of I-35, and away from
the major Texas population centers, you will also need to drive some
distance to visit your slice.

As for state spending, Texas fares even worse. Texas ranks 49th in per
capita spending on parks, sixty-three percent below the national average.
Texas state government spent $2.71 per person in 1998 and 1999 on parks and
recreation, while the average state spent $14.12.

Yet for the past decade the Texas legislature has routinely cut TPWs budget,
and the agency has instituted what amounts to a moratorium on new
acquisitions. For example, one of TPWs important programs is the TRPA -
Texas Recreation and Park Account. A number of community support programs,
such as local park grants, are funded through the TRPA. In 2002-2203, the
legislature "fully" funded the account at $20,447,165. In 2004-2005 the
legislature decreased the account to $13,025,929, and in the next biennium
the amount will be lowered to $5,646,805. The result of these decreases? Of
the 16 local park grant applications, only 4 communities were funded this
year. There were 3 regional park applications, with only 1 partially funded.
In fact, TPW is recommending suspending this program. Of the 35 small
community grant requests, only 15 were funded. In other words, local parks
are impacted by these budget decreases just as are the state parks.

TPW personnel have been equally affected. In the new budget TPW is
eliminating 171 unfilled positions, with an additional 12 filled positions
lost as well. No one can argue that TPW will be able to perform its duties
and responsibilities adequately at this level of staffing.

With the problem identified (TPW is on life support), there needs to be a
concurrent set of solutions offered. Here are mine. First, completely
eliminate the cap on the revenue received by state parks from the state
sporting goods tax. Although there is no dedicated sporting goods tax in the
state, using data supplied by the National Sporting Goods Association it is
estimated that Texans pay around $100 million in associated sales tax
annually. The legislature capped the amount that TPW could access in the
mid-1990s at $32 million. My suggestion (and I have argued this for a
decade) is to completely remove the cap and to dedicate all Texas state
sporting goods sales tax to state parks. I would even go so far as to
recommend an additional 1 cent dedicated sales tax be placed on sporting
goods to augment this revenue source.

Second, present the voters of Texas with a bond package that once and for
all time will place the state parks on a healthy footing. Let me offer an
example - Pennsylvania's Growing Greener initiative. In May Pennsylvania
approved a $625 million bond initiative for conservation and recreation enhancements.
Under the leadership of Governor Rendell Pennsylvania DCNR will have over $200
million to invest in the next five years for state park and forest improvements,
recreational trails, environmental education centers, and the like. If Pennsylvania
can be this progressive, why not Texas?

Third, rather than sell state park land consider a broader range of
potential alliances with organizations and the private sector. There are
numerous partnering opportunities that have positive revenue implications
that TPW has not explored. Rather than sell the state's natural patrimony,
let's get creative.

In summary,

. Remove the state sporting goods sales tax cap, and dedicate all of these
revenues to Texas state parks,

. Offer the voters of Texas the opportunity to vote on a bond package that
will place Texas state parks on a sound and healthy footing,

. Explore a broad range of collaborative approaches before considering the
sale of Texas state park land.

Ted Eubanks
Austin, Texas

ENV: Not-Really-a-Cat-Friday

Imperial Moth, Eacles imperialis




Yep, it's time again for Not-Really-a-Cat-Friday, and my weekly submission to the all-things-critters carnival The Friday Ark at The Modulator. And it's gonna be another frothy, mothy, special critter week.


If all i do is keep a window open i may someday be able to document the entire fauna of the county without leaving the office. This week several cool insects flew in. The highlight was this gorgeous Imperial Moth, Eacles imperialis (it's about the fourth i've had in the county -- i thought one i photographed 21 August 2003 was the southwesternmost record of the bug, but Dr. James Adams let me know he had published a record from Bracketteville about 80 miles further SW).

Then there was this grasshopper and this Katydid, neither of which have i identified as of yet. . .

Update: Potential identities appended:



cf. Obscure Bird Grasshopper, Schistocerca cf. obscura



This critter is in the False Katydid family, Phaneroptinae, and is probably a Greater Anglewing, though i don't have access to a comprehensive key. This ID and the one above are based on Capinera, Scott and Walker (2004) Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets of the United States, and are the first IDs i've attempted to make using this guide (but i have hundreds of photos to go . . .)

cf. Greater Anglewing, Microcentrum cf. rhombifolium

Thursday, August 25, 2005

REV: Upcoming area shows

Here's what's in store to the best of my knowledge:

Jeff Scott's The Complete Works of Williams Shakespeare has its final run this weekend in Fredericksburg at the High School Auditorium . . . I haven't seen it yet but will this weekend. It got a great review in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Sarah Tacey's Little Shop of Horrors is in its final week as well. It's at The Point in Ingram. This is a really fun show with some fine new area actors, and the set is dynamite.

The Ingram Tom Moore Thespians will be doing Vanities as soon as they get settled in at school. I'm not sure who's directing on this one, but i think it's Holly Riedel.

The Thespians will also follow with Our Town under the direction of Roy Burney, and will possibly be doing Dancing at Lughnasa for One-Act play competition in the spring.

The Hill Country Players, under the eye of Marie Cearley, will be doing The Lion in Winter this . . . uh . . . winter.

The Point will also be doing Taming of the Shrew this fall. Auditions are this weekend i believe.

COM: Blogarithmic #19

With a quick one-two punch today, Lynn Barber hit 500 species in her quest to set an all-time US Big-Year record. She was hard at it the year (2003) that Eric Carpenter set the current record of 505. It was only a matter of time (and super effort) before someone topped the 500 plateau, and i felt like Eric was going to do it. Now Lynn, with the experience of getiing 485 in '03 behind her, stands an excellent chance of increasing the record, especially with a range of non-review species available (like all three scoters, which should be findable on Bolivar in late December). We'll keep up here -- but you can too at her site here.

I'll start up a new observations post later in the week, but thought i'd mention now that yesterday i had a six dove day -- pretty scarce in these parts (although an eight dove day is possible in the valley). Of course two of those are non-natives. But the rarity was a pair of Common Ground-Doves here on the property -- i have a couple dozen records for the county, but 95% of those are from the Kerr WMA in west county. I do have a record from between Ingram and Mountain Home some years ago. The others for the day are: Inca Dove, Mourning Dove, White-winged Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove and Rock Pigeon (and an aviary with Ringed Turtle-Doves that i didn't count). Cool.

Update: it's early a.m (26th) and a big Axis buck is slapping a crepe-myrtle around about 50 feet outside my window. The Great Horned Owl and a couple of Easter Screech-Owls are hollering on the hillside and a Ringtail Cat is barking up a storm.

Yesterday and today there seems to be a noticeable influx of Lesser Goldfinches as well.

I'm no fan of raves, but i think government overkill is the greater danger. The videos (check out the media page) from this example of heavyhandedness look like a bunch of wannabe tank jockeys pretending they're in Iraq. This is simply another example of what has come of the license meted out by our wild west moron-in-chief. Thanks to Clicked, as always.

Here's some posts headed to the archives:

Bush on ID

Posner on Media

Black Theatre

Robertsian Redux

Kansas: Catering to Morons

The Hues of LA Playwrights







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ENV: Ivory-billed Woodpecker soundfiles

I've spent a while on the Cornell site this evening listening to the recordings made recently in Arkansas, and which were presented today to the AOU in Santa Barbara.

While i can't say conclusively anymore than anyone else (since no one was there to pair these recordings with a sighting) that these are definitively the bird -- i, as many others do now, believe that this is just additional strong evidence which, combined with the other materials already presented, points far more strongly to Ivory-bills than any other explanation, including Blue Jays, nuthatches (and i certainly think distant gunshots can be ruled out), or other birds or animal species.

Skepticism is good. It focuses the efforts of those who are doing the analyzing. I'm sure Tom Nelson will have more to say and will post a link in the comments. I have to say that i disagree strongly with his analysis of recent days, yet his voice needs to be heard.

In any case, as i said when i first saw Guy's video, i got goosebumps listening to the recordings.

From the NYT

Sound Files Ease Doubts on Elusive Woodpecker
By JAMES GORMAN, The New York Times, August 25, 2005


SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Aug. 24 - For half a century, ornithologists and birders have been searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker. Now the public can hear online what scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology say are the calls and rapping on wood of living ivory bills in Arkansas.

Since the sighting of an ivory bill in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was reported in April in the journal Science, doubts have been expressed by some ornithologists about the evidence presented. But after hearing the sounds now available, two of the leading skeptics, Richard O. Prum of Yale and Mark B. Robbins of the University of Kansas, said they had no doubts that the bird still lived.

They withdrew a critical paper, but said they still did not agree that the Science article had sufficient evidence. It was the sounds, not part of that paper, that convinced them.

The researchers presented those sounds today at the meeting of the American Ornithologists' Union here at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

They are also making the recordings available on the Web site of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, birds.cornell.edu.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #18

Science and Politics with an astounding collection of links on the New York Times ID Series, with excellent background and followup. Fantastic work!

The Tangled Bank #35 is due out today at Cognitive Daily . . . will update when it's been posted. It has -- it's here. One of the great pleasures of reading blog carnivals (besides the many great posts that can be found) is finding some really fine new blogs (not that i need any more to keep up with). Today's Tangled Bank is no exception -- and i'd list and link to some that i found here, except that i don't want to preempt your taking a look at everything there -- so go visit! Update: and i should have pointed out, and forgot, that Dave was uncomfortable posting the more overtly political stuff in this week's TB and so there really are two(!) editions this week -- the more potent political posts are at WordMunger here. So check them both out . . .

August 31st is BlogDay2005. Check it out here. Blogs that day are to each deliver unto their readers a selection of five other blogs with an encouragement to check them out. I'm already making a list . . . and i'll focus on some excellent blogs that get little outside exposure.





After frying three hard drives last spring i lost all the IPs that were inextricably linked to about 30 websites i hosted. Some of those i have now relocated on the web. But some, like my personal sites, have morphed into blogs. Yesterday, way behind on posting articles for a group i hosted -- the Nature Writers of Texas -- it occurred to me that this could also be done in blog form. And so, still needing a huge archive transplant, but ready for reading of the more recent articles (mostly by the legendary Ro Wauer) is the Nature Writers of Texas blog.

You just gotta have complete and total respect for a national college ranking that puts Texas A&M in 7th place and UT in 23rd (yeah, i know that's politically the opposite of my lean, but i sorta graduated from the most conservative school in the nation). MIT tops the list, but you gotta love Yale and Harvard at 15 and 16.

Thanks to Altercation, The Project on Defense Alternatives and Carl Connetta here's a collection of full-text links to thousands of documents on these subjects:

Terrorism, counter-terrorism, homeland security

Defense Strategy Review

Chinese Military Power

Revolution in Military Affairs

Occupation Distress

War Report (Iraq & Afghanistan)

A number of my regular readers are aware that i hosted a blog carnival, I and the Bird, this week. It was quite a fine experience, and i'm gearing up now for my second, The Tangled Bank, in about a month. Anyway, in the last couple of days i've read two different lengthy posts about hosting carnivals (both of which i wish i'd read before this week, but which nevertheless confirm that many of the things i did were right). Anyway, if you've thought about hosting one here's the link to the one i found today (thanks to Clicked), and i'll dig around and find the link to the one i read yesterday. Update: I still haven't recovered that other link . . . but i did refind this one by Science & Politics' Bora Zivcovic, one of the carnival revolution's pioneers. . . ah . . . i found it -- at CoyoteBlog.

And here's Jon Stewart on the success of his show via Wired (and Clicked again) . . .


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ATH: Shame on the NCAA

Chickens. Institutionalized hatred (to be served with a plate of ID i guess). Has anyone associated with FSU or the tribe considered the message this sends to the youngsters who idolize the players on these teams. So, it's okay that we teach them this, in the 21st century?


Seminole decision
NCAA will allow FSU to use Native American nickname
Associated Press, Posted: Tuesday August 23, 2005 4:43PM; Updated: Tuesday August 23, 2005 7:45PM


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The NCAA will allow Florida State to use its Seminoles nickname in postseason play, removing the school from a list of colleges with American Indian nicknames that were restricted by an NCAA decision earlier this month.

The NCAA said it was recognizing the relationship Florida State has long enjoyed with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which assists the university with its pageantry and celebration of its culture and supports the school's use of its name.

"The staff review committee noted the unique relationship between the university and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a significant factor," NCAA senior vice president Bernard Franklin said in a statement released Tuesday. "The decision of a namesake sovereign tribe, regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used, must be respected even when others may not agree."

Florida State president T.K. Wetherell had threatened to sue the NCAA immediately after its Aug. 5 announcement that the school's highly visible nickname, "Seminoles," was defined as "hostile and abusive" by a committee.

"The two things we requested in our appeal were granted," Wetherell said. "I'm ready to play football, start school and have classes begin and all that kind of stuff."

Lee Hinkle, vice president for university relations, said the school e-mailed 250,000 alumni and friends of the NCAA decision.

"I don't think anything has brought them together quite as much as this," said Wetherell. "Whether you're a Gator, Hurricane or Bulldog, those entities believe it's a Florida decision."

Gov. Jeb Bush also applauded the NCAA's reversal.

"When you make a mistake it's important to realize it and move on," Bush said. "They came to the right conclusion ... the Seminole mascot and the tradition at Florida State, is not offensive to anyone."

The NCAA said it would handle reviews from other schools on a case-by-case basis. The Illinois Fighting Illini, Utah Utes and North Dakota Fighting Sioux are among other prominent school nicknames that remain affected by the edict.

Utah athletic director Chris Hill said Tuesday that the school is expecting a similar ruling now that the university is moving ahead with its appeal to remove Utes from the list.

"We think we've done it the right way. If we're not doing it the right way, we'd like to know," Hill said.

Hill said Utah has been working on its appeal with the Ute tribe and it should be filed within a week or two.

"We want to do it as fast as possible, but we want to do everything thorough," Hill said. "We felt all along that we would get a favorable ruling."

Under the NCAA restrictions, teams with American Indian nicknames would not be able to display them on uniforms or have their mascots perform in postseason tournaments.

"The NCAA remains committed to ensuring an atmosphere of respect and sensitivity for all who participate in and attend our championships," Franklin said in the statement.

Wetherell said he has had some contact with the other schools.

"I think they [NCAA] understand, there will be other requests," Wetherell said.



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ENV: Two new Colombian Tapaculos

Via A DC Birding Blog

New tapaculos from Colombia
BirdLife International, 23-08-2005

Two new bird species have been described from the Cordillera Central mountains of Colombia, both of them tapaculos in the genus Scytalopus.

The first, published in The Auk (122(2): 445–463), is Stiles’s Tapaculo Scytalopus stilesi. Unidentified tapaculos have been observed in the northern Cordillera Central for a decade, and when Niels Krabbe examined recordings of their songs, his suspicions arose that they were a new species. Stiles’s Tapaculo’s song is considerably faster and lower-pitched than that of the closely related Ecuadorian Tapaculo S. robbinsi. Furthermore, it is genetically distinct and retains its integrity throughout a 300 km stretch of the Cordillera Central where it occupies montane forest between 1,420 and 2,130 m altitude. In this limited area it is a common understorey bird and is known from 21 localities, including several protected areas.

The second new species is the Upper Magdalena Tapaculo S. rodriguezi. Its discovery is similar to Stiles’s Tapaculo, since the presence of an unknown tapaculo in the Finca Merenberg mountains of the southern Cordillera Central has been known since the 1980s. Although recordings were made in 1986, ornithologists were unable to rule out the possibility that they were the unknown song of the confusus race of Northern White-crowned Tapaculo S. atratus, since political instability meant access to the area for further study was unsafe during the 1990s.

"It was frustrating, waiting for years knowing there were new species to be discovered and protected", says Paul Salaman of Fundación ProAves, one of the expedition members who describes the Upper Magdalena Tapaculo in Bull. B.O.C. (125(2): 93–108). "Then we learned it was safe to visit the Finca Merenberg mountains and soon found the new species in dense understorey of primary forest. In appearance it’s very like other Scytalopus tapaculos, but has a distinctive voice."

The song is amongst the simplest of any Scytalopus, consisting of a single note repeated at a pace of 4–5 per second, usually given in bouts of 2–5 phrases.

Currently the Upper Magdalena Tapaculo is known from two localities on the east slope of the Cordillera Central at 2,000–2,300 m elevation. The species’ presumed area of occupancy is heavily deforested and its remaining suitable forest habitat may cover 169 km2 or less. One of the locations, Merenberg Reserve, was Colombia’s first private protected area, although the site is known to be rapidly deteriorating through selective logging, and the authors have recommended the Upper Magdalena Tapaculo is classified as Endangered.

Tapaculos are generally dark coloured and skulk in thick forest undergrowth, making them notoriously difficult to study in the field. They have subtle plumage variations, some of them age-related, although there is much individual variation, as well as differences between species. Some taxonomists regard Scytalopus tapaculos as the most complicated of all Neotropical genera. Voice is the most important aid to their identification, and study of birds in the northern Andes has already led to the description of three new species, and the elevation of several former subspecies to specific level in Ecuador.

The proposed specific status for stilesi and rodriguezi will be assessed by BirdLife International in due course, noting any decision made by the South American Classification Committee of the American Ornithologists’ Union. If treated as full species, their conservation status will be evaluated by BirdLife, the Red List Authority for birds on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.


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