Treasure Hunt


For ten weeks, WC engaged in a treasure hunt. WC strove to find and photograph as many different state license plates as he could find in Boise, Idaho’s North End. Bounded on the east by Hill Road, on the west by State Street, on the north by 31st Street and the south by 6th Street,…

The Pillars of Rome


It’s just a little over-hyped. Rome, Oregon – a country store in southeastern Oregon – is probably best known as a launch point for raft trips down the main stem of the Owyhee River. The place was named by William F. Stine for the nearby hoodoo formations that suggested to him the ruins of Rome, Italy. It’s a…

R.I.P. The Capitol Steps, 1981-2020


The Capitol Steps didn’t invent musical political satire. But in the tradition of Tom Lehrer and Mark Russell, they popularized it, maybe more successfully than anyone else. The Capitol Steps were founded by a group of Washington, D.C. staffers to perform in December, 1981 as entertainment for Senator Charles Percy’s Christmas party.1 It turned out…

Trump Loses to a Walrus


Pacific Walrus, the largest member of the Pinniped (“fin-foot”) family of sea mammals, is in serious trouble. The species depends upon Arctic sea ice as a platform for foraging, resting, breeding, pup-raising and transport to new foraging ground. As Arctic sea ice vanishes, the jeopardy to Pacific Walrus increases. The risk isn’t new: the species…

DESI 3D: A Very Cool Toy


DESI is the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument. It’s the most sophisticated attempt yet to understand Dark Energy, the label given to the mysterious and very poorly understood force that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. At the risk of oversimplifying, DESI is the world’s most sophisticated spectroscope attached to the 4-meter Mayall Telescope at…

Rice Crispies™ in the Owhyees


They aren’t a cricket. So far as WC knows, they aren’t Mormons. But the Mormon Crickets are swarming in Idaho’s Owyhee Mountains. Driving the back roads last week, the car wheels generated a sound a lot like a bowl of Rice Crispies™ , as Mormon Crickets got squashed under tire tread. You know, “Snap, crackle,…

Return of Bird of the Week: Gila Woodpecker


The Gila Woodpecker doesn’t quite have to have Saguaro Cactus to survive – an “obligate” relationship – but it’s the species’ preferred habitat. Nest cavities in the big cacti are preferred; saguaro fruit are a favored food, and there’s some suggestion that the saguaro are themselves dependent on Gila Woodpeckers for pollination and to disperse…

World Population: Moderately Good News


WC’s last post of every calendar year since at least 2010 has been an itemized list of wishes for the coming year. Dominating that list for those eleven-plus years has been WC’s concerns about overpopulation, and the danger that our seemingly ever-increasing world population has been and is imposing an insupportable burden on our planet.…

Maybe the Rarest Bird


WC was recently asked what was the rarest bird he had photographed. That’s hard to say; so little is known about so many New World species that it’s hard to know what species are rare, let alone the rarest. But a candidate, certainly, would be the Jocotoco Antpitta.1 WC has written about this species before,…

Gaslighting


gaslighting (v) To manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity. Etymology: The title of George Cukor’s 1944 film Gaslight (a remake of Thorold Dickinson’s 1940 version, in turn based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, first performed in 1938), in which a man psychologically manipulates his wife into believing that she…

WC should get a new photo for this recurring topic.

Following Up and Following Down: May 2021


There went May, just like that. In Boise, it was wet, windy and cold for much of the month, making spring migration more of an ordeal for the poor birds than usual. Which demonstrably didn’t stop WC from taking photos. But it’s time for a look back, a look at stuff WC didn’t blog about…

Why Deregulating Monopolies Is a Bad Idea


At a terrible cost in human suffering, we’ve had recent lessons on why it is a terrible idea to deregulate natural monopolies. There are also object lessons in how poorly politicians sometimes respond to emergencies involving those natural monopolies. WC will explain. A natural monopoly is a monopoly in an industry in which there are high infrastructure costs and…

R.I.P. Roger Hawkins, 1945-2021


Roger Hawkins was the backbeat for the Muscle Shoals Sound, the drummer for one of the most famous and highly regarded studio bands in American history. The list of famous acts and famous songs recorded at Muscle Shoals is long and distinguished. That drum sequence behind Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”? That’s Hawkins.…

WC’s Epic Fails: Felix and the Moose


A reader pointed out that it had been a while since WC provided a new Epic Fail story describing WC’s consistently sketchy judgment. The complaint was likely triggered by WC’s recent link to his adventures with the Eugene Police Department. While WC’s supply of stories of this kind only appears to be infinite, here’s another…

Why Camas Prairie Has Its Name


Camas Prairie, an east-west valley between the Bennett Mountains on the south and the Soldier Mountains on the north, is graced most springs by spectacular blooms of camas lilies, Camassia quamash, which has lovely blue flowers and, more importantly, produces a bulb about the size and shape of a tulip bulb. Camas bulbs are highly…

Devin Nunes Has a Cow (Again)


America’s Most Litigious Congressman, Devin Nunes (R, Defamation), who has seemingly filed more slander and libel cases than the rest of his colleagues combined, had mostly fallen out of the news after his idol was kicked out of the White House. But there have Been Developments and it’s worth revisiting Devin Nunes, his cow and…

Help! Police!


There’s an especially vivid scene near the end of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, when Heller’s despairing protagonist, Yossarian, is wandering through the streets of Rome, after it was liberated by the Allies during World War II. In a nightmarish landscape of destruction and human suffering, Yossarian encounters a man surrounded by menacing police. The man…

Return of Bird of the Week: Red-breasted Sapsucker


Another woodpecker that isn’t called a “woodpecker,” the Red-breasted Sapsucker is the west coast cousin of last week’s Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. In fact, until 1983, Yellow-bellied, Red-breasted and next week’s bird, the Red-naped Sapsucker were regarded as one species. But audio work and genetic analysis showed they were separate. The Red-breasted Sapsucker’s range extends along the…

Beaver Fever


They are North America’s largest rodent. They are environmental engineers that are so effective that it’s only in the last 150 years or so that humans have surpassed them in overall environmental impact. In some stream courses, drilling has revealed buried beaver dams, one on top of another, more than 1,500 feet thick. There is…

WC’s Favorite Patch


Every birder and bird photographer has a favorite spot, their “patch.” The place they go to because it’s their favorite. WC’s favorite patch – at least in Idaho – is Camas Prairie/Centennial Marsh.1 In the spring, before things start to dry up, it’s a pretty special place. All of the photos in this post were…

The Enemy of My Enemy


The king who is situated anywhere immediately on the circumference of the conqueror’s territory is termed the enemy. The king who is likewise situated close to the enemy, but separated from the conqueror only by the enemy, is termed the friend of the conqueror.  Kautilya, Arthasastra, Book VI (4th Century BCE) The aphorism is nearly…