Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coal sludge: clean and sparkly!

The way the "clean coal" cheerleaders sis-boom-bah, you'd think emissions are the only thing about burning coal that is the least bit troublesome. They conveniently avoid discussing the impacts of extracting the (non-renewable) raw materials and post-combustion byproducts like toxic coal sludge, 5.4 million cubic yards of which escaped an 80-acre impoundment via a breached retaining wall last week in Kingston, Tennessee, flooding hundreds of acres of community land and waterways.

The National Research Council estimates that coal plants in America produce 129 million tons of post-combustion byproducts a year, the second-largest waste stream in the country, after municipal solid waste.

Hurray for clean coal!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Owl prowl

I guess the owl Christmas card was an omen. Friday night, we were on an evening wildlife safari on the dirt roads in the woods on my parents' farm. My niece spotted this screech owl in a chinaberry tree. We were in a very loud pickup truck about 5 feet from the branch it was sitting on. We watched it through the driver's side window for about five minutes, then decided to drive back to the house and get our cameras.

When we returned, the owl was sitting in exactly the same spot. Even with the noise and with my niece and I snapping flash photos, it didn't budge. My brother even talked to it. After a few minutes of posing for its closeup, the owl flew to a branch about 5-6 feet higher in the tree. My brother thought the bird might be sick. Dad's guess was that it was young and inexperienced with nosy people in pickup trucks.

This photo is one that my niece took. Mine were terrible.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Old Christmas card

A good one. Owls. Who doesn't love 'em? Mice, maybe.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From the archives

Found this postcard among my "keepsakes."

Frequent surprises await the Blue Ridge Parkway traveler as deer and occasionally a bear pause to forage on the beautiful mountaintop highway. 1972.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Laotian rock rat

Thought to have become extinct 11 million years ago, the Laotian rock rat is still among the world of the living, in Southeast Asia's Mekong, along with all kinds of other creatures unknown until recently. I love rodents, and this ratty-squirrelly combo is no exception. It's like a squirrel compromised and got a more conservative tail-do, and a rat decided to grow his out a little. The fur looks sooooo soft. I'd love to see one of these little guys dangling from my bird feeder. I'd be shooing the birds away.

Conservation International ranks this region among its top five "most threatened biodiversity hotspots in the world." Talk about your dubious distinctions. Click here to see a few cool photos, including a blindingly green snake and a crazy-hot-pink millipede.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Red-bellied woodpecker

Just before this guy stopped by the suet feeder, a marauding squirrel made off with a mouthful. The squirrel was guilty, apparently, of leaving the cage door open.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tufted titmouse

This was my first real attempt at birding with the new camera. It was late-day and my hands weren't steady. Plus, little birdies almost never sit still. Ideally, I'll try shooting with a tripod—some day when I can camp out long enough for them to ignore me and go about their business.

The day before yesterday I filled all the feeders for the first time in forever. I didn't feed at all last winter. That was a matter of economics. But now that I have the new camera, it's a must. I'll make it part of our "entertainment budget." I filled the hanging feeder pictured here with cardinal/songbird mix, one tray feeder with black oil sunflower, the finch feeder with black thistle, and I hung two suets. No one got wise to them yesterday, but today everybody found 'em. I saw:
  • Blue jay on suet (I expect the downy woodpeckers will find it soon)
  • Titmice and cardinals at hanging feeder
  • Towhee at tray feeder
Looking forward to more adventures in photography. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chasing unicorns and clean coal

I heard Al Gore being interviewed on the radio today about my favorite topic: that fabled "clean coal" the industry would have us believe is already powering our salvation from global warming. The way you hear everyone prattling on about it all the time, you'd think it was more than a hypothetical.

So it was music to my ears when Al told NPR's Robert Siegel: "If it can be created, if it can be paid for, if it works, then wonderful. But let's don't pretend that it exists now. It does not."

Finally, I didn't have to stick my fingers in my ears upon hearing the words "clean coal" and say: La-la-la-la-la-la-la!

Then later tonight ... the Reality Coalition aired this ad on TV.

Even when it tastes bad, sometimes reality is just the tonic you need. Drink up, people!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Yellow-berried nandina

Nandina domestica 'Leucocarpa'
Today, J.C. Raulston Arboretum

Monday, December 1, 2008

What are you looking at?

I upgraded my camera last week and gave it a trial run while visiting The Farm for Thanksgiving. It has a great 20x zoom that allowed me to get closer to this gal than she would've liked otherwise.

I can just envision her saying, "Good day, sir. I said good DAY!"