January 27, 2008

If Nature Calls, Put It On Speaker Phone

Good morning and welcome to another week of the Santa Cruz photo experience. I always like to start off with a superlative sunrise so today we’re going to take a look at two from the month of January. That’s right, two for the Mark price of one. The first is from the morning of January 11th as some beautiful color filled the skies of Monterey Bay. The third shot captures the reflection of the clouds in the pools of water by Bird Rock along West Cliff Drive.

Shots #4, 5 and 6 are from this past Saturday morning. The waves were pumping and the wind was crying Mary and really blowing hard into my delicate face. How windy was it? It was so windy that I saw sea gulls walking up the coast. You can get a feel for the power and fury of the wind in the final shot as the high surf crashes against the cliff and Lighthouse Point. I wondered what caused these radical weather conditions until I realized that the answer my friend, was blowing in the wind.

I always like to stay atop the animal news from around the planet. A new study suggests that the expansion of human development that began five centuries ago with European colonization has resulted in a sharp fall in the number of large mammals around the world. Scientists from Princeton University and the conservation group World Wildlife Fund examined records dating back to the year 1500 and found that at least 35 percent of all mammals over 44 pounds in weight have seen their range cut by more than half. The species that suffered the greatest loss included tigers, leopards, lions, American bison, elk, wolves and beavers. According to John Morrison of the WWF, “They have been pushed out by exploding human settlement and hunting.” Only one-fifth of Earth’s surface is today home to the same diversity of large animals as five centuries ago. Those areas, which include Siberia, the Canadian Arctic and the Amazon basin, have largely escaped human encroachment, WalMart and the disappearance of pro hockey from national TV. The other WWF, the World Wrestling Federation, had no comment on this story.

Moving along, the United Kingdom’s Wildlife Trust warned that animals such as bats, balls, lizards and dormice will need human assistance in moving to new territory as global warming shifts their habitable ranges north and west. “Wildlife has done it before, after the last ice age, but this time there are unexpected barriers; the cities, motorways, expanses of hostile countryside and the proliferation of Arby’s restaurants,” says John Everett of the Wildlife Trust. He says his organization is trying to link up woodland, shrub land and pasture to enable these creatures to extend their habitat as the climate warms. I would definitely go to bat for this cause.

A group of scientists warned that the largest mass extinction since the end of the dinosaur period is sweeping thru the world’s populations of frogs, newts, gingrichs, salamanders and caecilians. The chytrid fungus has caused mass deaths in six countries, including Britain, where the effects are the subject of an urgent research project. The disease has so far proved unstoppable in the wild and can kill 80 percent of native amphibians within months once it has taken hold. “Widespread extinction of amphibians would be catastrophic,” says Jeffrey Bonner, the President of the St. Louis Zoo. He is leading an ambitious plan to move the most vulnerable species into protected areas in zoos, aquariums and other institutions to guarantee their survival. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times, it’s not easy being a young salamander growing up in today’s world.

A new study reveals that some California ground squirrels have learned to wear the scent of one of nature’s more terrifying creatures to scare off their natural enemies. Barbara Clucas, a graduate student in animal behavior at UC Davis, says she observed the squirrels chewing up rattlesnake skins and smearing it on their fur to mask their scent from predators. And here I thought they spent all their time gathering nuts and acorns for the upcoming winter. Scientists at the university also say they have discovered that the squirrels have evolved to become resistant to snake venom and the urge to purchase anything over the internet.

And finally, an extremely rare plant that can eat small rats was found in an isolated area of Australia’s Cape York Peninsula. Botanists found the species in an undisclosed swamp location and are keeping the exact location secret to protect what they have dubbed “Tenax” from collectors. The carnivorous plant grows like a vine to about 10 inches in height and mainly eats small insects, ants, lizards and an occasional pepperoni “Hot Pockets.”

So that’s it for sunrise Monday. Coming up on Wednesday we’ll look at some flight action before we weigh in on Friday with something on the spectacular scale. So thanks for tuning in and we’ll catch you for the midweek Larry Bird experience.


  1. Nice Pictures!

    Comment by Jason Kidd — January 29, 2008 @ 12:03 am

  2. Gingrich endangered eh? What’s spactacular Friday? I got to know.

    Comment by 12 sports — January 29, 2008 @ 8:21 am

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