Archives for natural history

Recent writing for the BAASICS blog

Posts related to BAASICS‘ 2015-16 programming theme, Borderlands, and our upcoming production, BAASICS.6: The Edge Effect, are regularly appearing on the BAASICS blog. All of the posts are worth reading, but I’m highlighting four of my contributions here. “Border Gazing” — Looking at a photograph of the U.S.-Mexico border and pondering “the folly and dignity of our human constructs.” “Thriving In Dystopia” — Borders, climate change, dystopia, and E.O. Wilson. “Walking City Alleys” — How is a city alley a wilderness? Why should we explore them? “The Anthropocene, Conservation, & Paradox” — Considering one of the more significant Anthropocene-related scuffles.
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Categories: BAASICS, conservation, natural history, science, and writing.

Hitting the Jacksmelt

Reviewing the San Francisco Bay tide tables last Monday, I noted early afternoon high tide numbers for the weekend and asked two buddies if they had any interest in chasing herring in the North Bay. They did, and yesterday afternoon, at Point Tiburon’s Elephant Rock Pier, we failed to find herring but made the acquaintance of Pacific jacksmelt aplenty. There’s something about getting into a school of “forage fish” that turns you into a 12-year-old, and a soft-spoken local teenager who fished alongside us with rod and reel could only gawk at the three man-children with their cast nets and
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Categories: California, fish, natural history, and photography.

A Santa Cruz Island weekend

On a Friday morning in early September, I was awakened by the hoarse calls of a great blue heron and the barking of a California sea lion. I found the juxtaposition disorienting. Great blues and sea lions aren’t animals I associate with one another. Half asleep, it took several seconds for me to recall that I was in the berth of a sailboat docked near Oxnard, California, where it’s perfectly natural for the two species to keep company in the predawn twilight. Because my formative years were spent in Tidewater Virginia and my 20s and early 30s in the boroughs
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Categories: California, conservation, fish, invasive species, mammals, natural history, photography, sharks, and writing.

The Bass At Heron’s Foot

Last week, I wrote about the pleasures of pond-side rumination, a pastime that’s generally solitary in nature. During my recent visit to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, however, I didn’t exclusively appreciate “the canal” at Heron’s Foot on my own. One morning, I enjoyed the pond’s terrific largemouth bass fishing with my friend, Fred, and his wife, Jill. It was Jill’s first bass fishing experience, and I got a kick out of seeing her beam as she reeled in her first largemouth.
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Categories: conservation, Eastern Shore of Virginia, fish, invasive species, natural history, and photography.

Pond Reveries

I marvel at ocean life and enjoy time spent offshore, but I’m a freshwater man, at heart. I’m particularly drawn to ponds and streams. They’re neither formidable nor spectacular, but they stir me nonetheless. Oceans, the world’s mighty rivers, and even great lakes can leave us dumbstruck with awe, but ponds and streams offer humility and wonder aplenty, albeit on different, more intimate terms. Because they reward attentiveness and quiet, and dole out their delights to the patient, I like to settle on a pond or stream bank and drift into ruminative reverie, all the while remaining keenly aware of
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Categories: birds, Eastern Shore of Virginia, insects, natural history, photography, and wonder.

The Shifting Baseline

While visiting the Eastern Shore of Virginia this August, I did some offshore fishing with my father and a friend. In my father’s 19-foot Boston Whaler, we ran 8 1/2 miles out from the Wachapreague Inlet to an artificial reef comprised of sunken subway cars, liberty ships, tanks, and other retired military vehicles. We drifted over and alongside this underwater structure, bouncing bottom with swimming lures and hooks baited with live mummichogs and other killifish species that we’d trapped in the brackish water of Finney Creek that morning.
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Categories: conservation, Eastern Shore of Virginia, fish, natural history, photography, and science.

Eastern Bluebirds, House Sparrows, & Tough Choices

When I was a child, our farm’s bluebird nesting boxes were most often used by tree swallows, eastern bluebirds, and European starlings; occasionally, they would be claimed by Carolina wrens. The bluebirds, swallows, and wrens were welcome nesters, but my father waged war against the introduced starlings. During the spring and summer months, routine surveys of the bluebird boxes are important. If a bluebird pair has already brought off a brood and vacated, the empty box should be cleaned out so that another mated pair can more easily take up residence and build a nest. If a nesting starling was
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Categories: birds, Eastern Shore of Virginia, invasive species, natural history, and photography.