Spectacular Ordinary Sand!

Wow, this post is totally off topic, but I thought everyone might want to see the beauty which photography can reveal. Who would have known??

“Viewed at a magnification of over 250 times real life, tiny grains of sand are shown to be delicate, colorful structures as unique as snowflakes. When seen well beyond the limits of human eyesight, the miniature particles are exposed as fragments of crystals, spiral fragments of shells and crumbs of volcanic rock.”

Note that they are as individualistic and as interesting as people or coyotes if you’re willing to look hard enough!!

Please see the full article in the Daily Mail, or Dr. Gary Greenberg’s Microphotography site: sandgrains.com 

(posted with Dr. Gary Greenberg’s permission)

Bug-In-Ear Attack

Imagine having something super irritating lodge in your ear and not be able to get it out. I watched this young coyote work on it for 20 minutes. I could feel when the distress got excruciating: the coyote ran towards bushes to dislodge whatever was in there, he ran towards another coyote to ask for help but didn’t get any response, he shook, he scratched, he galloped about, rubbed on bushes, he moped forlornly with his ears down, he tilted is head in all directions. He ultimately resorted to eating grass which coyotes do when they have an upset stomach — of course this didn’t work. I was not able to see that he solved the problem.  I really felt for the little guy.

We humans have our own worries, so we forget that even wild creatures, too, have many seemingly mundane things to cope with. I’ve seen thorns in foot pads, eye infections, ears infestated with mites, limping, skin ailments, wounds, etc. These things occur regularly in our wildlife. This series of photos, over a long twenty minute period, show how distressing it can be for animals to deal with these seemingly petty annoyances.

San Francisco Forest Alliance: Preserving Our Urban Forests & Wildlife Habitat

I hope everyone is as concerned about our wildlife habitat as I am. Please check out, and join, the new San Francisco Forest Alliance at SFForest.Net. Their goal is to preserve the forests, trees and thickets, all of which serve as wildlife animal habitat. Slated for removal in the new Natural Areas Program, NAP, plan are 18,000 trees, most of them mature and majestic specimens. They provide ecological benefits and species habitat which are still little understood by NAP. Here is the background:

Trees, forests, and dense thickets of underbrush — thickets which are impenetrable to dogs and humans — serve as wildlife habitat: they offer physical protection and food to wild animals. Almost all trees in San Francisco are non-native — there were only four native species of trees in the area when the Europeans arrived. Non-native berries such as Himalayan blackberry, cotoneaster, pyracantha, holly and others serve as food sources for birds and furry creatures. These are being ripped out in our parks for the shortsighted intention of  “restoring” the San Francisco area to what it might have been like in 1776 — mostly sand-dune grasses and understory species with little if any habitat value.

But the environment has totally changed since that time. The biggest change which altered the landscape forever has been the growth of a dense human population. This impacted the environment tremendously.  But when humans came, they also planted trees and shrubbery to help them deal with the harsh environment — mostly to hold in the loose sands which blew around everywhere, and as wind barriers. The plantings did more than this, they added greenery and beauty to the area. And they created a wildlife habitat which is now home to almost all of our wildlife. Because of these and other changes, even the original soil structure along with the microorganisms that were part of the sand dune ecosystem have been altered forever.

The new plantings grew and evolved. Ours, now, is a totally balanced ecosystem that has evolved over the last 250 years, and it is a healthy ecosystem. An indicator of the health of an ecosystem is it’s top predator. There are coyotes in San Francisco — our ecosystem is very healthy.  Now, along with our dense human population, we have paved roads, lots of automobiles, plenty of pollution  – we need our trees to combat the environmental effects of our dense population and the way we live.  San Francisco has the second smallest tree canopy of any dense urban center in the United States. Our urban forests are essential in terms of carbon sequestration and water sequestration — they help the environment and combat the effects of global warming. Every single tree counts. Yet more of our healthy, hard working naturalized trees are being ripped out and replaced with grasses and shrubs that are not sustainable in the present environment, all in the name of a clearly misguided environmentalism and false science.

Sustainability is something we all aspire to. However, in the time since the Native Plant program began in San Francisco, we have discovered that, in fact, native plants are not very self-sustainable. These native plants require a vast number of volunteer work hours to maintain them. In addition, our Recreation and Park Department is, literally, splashing poisonous pesticides on our parks’ non-native species regularly in order to accomplish their nativist goals. We have tried fighting this policy, but the use of poisons in the Park Department’s so-called “natural areas program”/NAP has actually increased 265% in one year alone, from 2009 to 2010. They are using these pesticides in parks where children play, where there is wildlife, where we walk our pets, and where there is a creek — the manufacturer of these chemicals warn strongly against this. The “natural areas program” is clearly not “natural” at all.

Critics of NAP question not only the program’s expenditures in budget-tight times but also the native plant advocates’ rhetoric, ”  ‘Restoration ecology’ is a euphemism for a kind of gardening informed by an almost cultish veneration of the ‘native’ and abhorrence of the naturalized, which is commonly characterized as ‘invasive,’ ” Arthur Shapiro, a distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, wrote city planning officials last October. (Sacramento Bee, 1/16/12). People are finally waking up to what is occuring in their parks — and they are desperately alarmed.

Images are worth a thousand words:

Coyote Interrupted

Sirens set this coyote off, with long drawn-out howls and barking, and pauses in-between.  I’ve only included part of the recording here. During one of the last pauses you will hear, unusually, a dog’s response, which surprises the coyote who stops to carefully listen. “What the. . . . . who does he think he is?”  Anyway, the interruption seems to tick off the coyote who throws herself into the next howl with a spirited leap, howls some more, and then hurries off to a place where she might get a view of her competitor. I don’t think she saw anyone. The coyote continued to howl, but the dog did not, and the siren had long since ceased, so things quieted down fairly quickly.

‘Tis The Season

Here is a little drama during mating season. The neat thing is that I sense a lot of respect and understanding between these coyotes — a respect and understanding that comes from affection, and also from a rigidly established hierarchy. In the photos, you see the male approach the female who has been observing the world go by in a very relaxed manner. Affection is often displayed between these two — kisses and nuzzling, often with the use of a paw, as here. Here, the affection begins no differently than usual: he puts his paw on her face and caresses her, nuzzling her affectionately.

Then he shifts around and tries mounting. He gives it a try, but after a short time she breaks away from his hold, barring her teeth: the answer is “no.”  She is not receptive to his advances at the moment. To emphasize her “no”, she then lifts herself and puts both her paws on his back and keeps them there in a display of dominance. When she walks away, thinking his advances are over, he runs after her — his intentions must have been obvious to her, because she now wraps her jaws around his, and he allows this. Her statement is stronger this time, and he accepts her command. There is clear communication between them. They continue hunting for a long time. Several times he became interested in her odor, and sniffed her intently, but he never tried mounting again during this observation.

I have read that mating in coyotes actually makes them very vulnerable to dangers. The reason is that there is a “tie” which occurs which prevents them from separating for an extended period. If a predator or danger of any sort were to arise, they wouldn’t be able to do much about it. Please see the following post with a video I found on youtube which shows this.

A “Tie” in Coyotes

Coyotes literally become “tied” together during mating. As you can see from this video which I found on youtube, it puts them in a very vulnerable position and could be dangerous for them if there were larger predators around.

Togetherness in the Fog

Coyotes are very family minded creatures: raising their families and interacting with family members consumes much of their time. So, seeing coyotes together is not uncommon. However, this coyote pair has been sticking more closely together than usual these days. It’s that time of year — love is in the air in the animal world!

Coyotes breed only once a year, and that time of year is now: January to February. The female comes into heat for only about a five day period. The male, too, only produces sperm for this once-a-year event. It takes about 60 days for the sperm to be created in a process called spermatogenesis. After the very short breeding season, all reproductive processes cease and recede until it all begins all over again the following year.

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