Monday, August 31, 2009


Robert Macfarlane, from The Wild Places:
Woods and forests have been essential to the imagination of these islands, and of countries throughout the world, for centuries. It is for this reason that when woods are felled, when they are suppressedd by tarmac and concrete and asphalt, it is not only unique species and habitats that disappear, but also unique memories, unique forms of thought. Woods, like other wild places, can kindle new ways of being or cognition in people, can urge their minds differently.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Review: Urban Bear

This is the story of a bear who discovers her blackberry/napping field has been razed and replaced with a planned community (or, suburban nightmare). Just like me (remember, I'm a bear), she decides to leave the forest and immigrate to the City. The story is told in single black and white panels.

Urban Bear is short and funny, not something to hang a master's thesis on, but clearly a labor of love by artist Paula Krauss. Available only through Booklyn, a non-profit publisher/exhibitor/distributer and alliance of people who love homemade books.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Anyone who tries to improve the lives of animals invariably comes in for criticism from those who believe such efforts are misplaced in a world of suffering humanity. --Jane Goodall

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Life of crows

Here's a link to a beautiful gallery of photos of the Seattle Arboretum.

Walk the waterside trails of the Arboretum at night. Look up, and you will see hundreds (thousands?) of crows perched in the laced branches of the overgrowing trees. At night the Arboretum is home to the (baziillions?) of crows that commute to the University of Washington campus every day. Being surrounded by so many crows is awe-inspiring, and eerie. Birds are...unsettling. They have changed very little in 150 million years, and they are the closest thing to a dinosaur you will ever see.

Crows are corvids--related to the granola-loving gray jay that populates the subalpine Cascadian forests--known for their intelligence. This intelligence is demonstrated in their aptitude for problem-solving, their ability to communicate and work in groups, and in that way they look at you. (Think of the khaki-clad game warden, in "Jurassic Park", describing a velociraptor: "That one... when she looks at you, you can tell she's working things out. ") And crows--without being domesticated--have adapted their foraging skills to suit urban life. Just take a look at this video:

Crows have also inspired lots of Pacific Northwestern artists. Here are some papercut works by Nikki McClure, a (locally) well-known artist who lives in Olympia:

The Aboretum crows forage during the day all over the UW campus, where they often encounter perennial crow frenemy, research scientists. John "Corvid Man" Marzluff, a UW wildlife researcher, recently found that crows will remember the faces of individual people who have harassed or helped them, and respond to them accordingly, even years later. Here's an article about his research in the New York Times (and the answer to Dick Cheney's question: "Why do crows hate me so much?")

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is Mayor Greg Nikels a threatened pica?

These were the photos accompanying the Seattle Times lead stories this morning:

"Nickels concedes in race for Seattle mayor"

"Feds review mountain-dwelling pica for threatened-species list"

The adorable scree-dwelling pica is an indicator species, since a slight elevation in temperature can have a devastating effect on their population by the end of the century.

Another interesting thing about picas is that they are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and twilight. Other crepuscular animals include moths, cats and deer.

It is unknown whether or not Greg Nikels is more active during the waxing and waning hours, but he is a threatened creature. The carved wooden profile behind him is Chief Sealth, who has something to do with Seattle.