Wednesday, January 20, 2016

God bless America. Let's save some of it.

Mahahaha! I'm back! Hello again! I have returned! I won't get as rant-y as I did in my last post, but I still have a few things to say. I'm still crazy livid about this Malheur hostage situation (that's exactly what it is). I want to point out that all the photos in this blog (and really, the vast majority of all photos I post) are on PUBLIC LAND. Public land which we need to fully and actively protect and support, especially after this inane terrorist situation in Oregon. National Forests, National Parks, Wilderness areas, BLM land, etc. This land is OUR land. Those who think otherwise have zero entitlement and for them to think that proves their selfishness, ignorance, and stupidity. (Above: Keeper of all Sante Fe National forest: The Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel; Ojito Wilderness; Gray Jay torpedo)
A fitting add to my (very tame) rant is this: See the photos of Sante Fe National Forest (part of it is a Wilderness Area)? Pretty, eh? Well. Some loser skier(s) figured they had the right to go ahead and annihilate(kill) thousands (THOUSANDS!) of trees and make their own ski runs. Pathetic. You'd like to think people who partake in outdoor activities have some sort of respect for the natural world and it's really rather devastating when you find out just how inherently crappy some people are. It makes me genuinely sad (and gives me the genuine rage, also). I went out there to document the destruction that these fools caused and it was pretty mind-blowing. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that sweet, sweet, beautiful justice (er, revenge? vengeance?)  will be served to these idiots, like it will to the inbred Malheur Cheeto-eaters. (Above: Santa Fe National Forest; the southwest sky never disappoints)
I've been spending some time in New Mexico on/off the last few months so here are some photos from around there/here. ...I've had lots of good family time and I've actually seen the sun this winter, which is a pretty big deal. Vitamin D. Whew. Johnny needs the sun real badly.  (the title quote is from the one, the only, the god, Ed Abbey) Above: Santa Fe National Forest; the southwest skies never disappoint; Snow White Johnny; Ojito Wilderness; Below: Santa Fe NF; Ojito Wilderness side crow)

Friday, January 8, 2016

I hope those Malheur terrorists choke on a cheeto.

*Warning: Johnny Nutcase is a little worked up*
Buuuuurds! I took some pictures of them - weird! I realized I hadn't put up any bird photos in a while, which is absurd and sad, a little ridiculous and totally uncalled for. I also said I'd try to blog it up a little more this year. Lookit me try! So, here's some friends I hung out with this week. We had some good talks, real good. (Above: This roadrunner is ready to annihilate the Bundy family and their cohorts; this Say's Phoebe is plotting sweet revenge against the fools at Malheur)
...Should we talk about this disaster in Malheur?  I'm guessing if you live in these fine states of Uhmerca, you know the deal, and if you don't and/or have decided not to be in the know (which I greatly respect), here's a real brief low down: Some crazyass inbred ranchers who are heavily armed ("and ready to kill and be killed") are holding Malheur National Wildlife Refuge hostage. They seem to be lacking all or most of their head-brains and have decided that the government should give them back "their" land (HILARIOUS!) ... please note they are holding hostage public land. Okay...whatever, my blood pressure is drastically rising as I type this and I just hit my head so hard on the wall I think I may be bleeding so just google this nonsense if you don't know what I'm talking about. I can't handle it anymore. WAIT! Did I mention that they're domestic terrorists? Cause that's pretty serious sh!t right there. (Below: This Bushtit wants, and will rightfully take, the blood of the terrorists at Malheur). 
If you're my facebook friend, the below is old news, but I'll repeat it here. Just some fine nuggets of JohnnyWisdom:

For anyone who thinks these fat white boys who are holding Malheur NWR hostage are badass (or worthy of any sort of respect at all), you should know that they're actually pathetic, cowardly pieces of shit. You know what else they are? Terrorists. 

Last time I was at Malheur, I remember spending a long time talking with the sweet, harmless, respectful, ~ 75 year old couple who had been living/volunteering there seasonally for many years. They were genuinely good people. You don't find that much these days. 

If you've never been to a wildlife refuge, please note that they are quite peaceful, happy, unobtrusive, wonderful places. What? That's right, it's a REFUGE! They are set aside to conserve flora and fauna. Extremely necessary places in this twisted world we live in. 

So if you're wanting to give these a$$holes a high five, just think about the fact that Malheur (and most other refuges) is a place where adorable, harmless, good-hearted, little old people volunteer their time. Think about that real hard. And think about what kind of pathetic person it takes to hold one of these places hostage. (Below: Western Bluebirds...you don't even know what they're capable of....)
With a healthy dose of sedatives in my system, I can alllmmoost handle reading about this crap, but if I have to see their slack-jawed faces or hear their mouth-breathing voices, seriously, I just start spewing bile all over the damn place and some awful guttural noise comes out of my math and I just start gagging. 

I spend a lot (A LOT) of time on public land (for fun and work),  I play and work on BLM land, I work with ranchers who lease BLM land...I know the deal (and thank god this isn't the norm..but still..grazing on public land? COME ON PEOPLE!??!) ...So I'm having some serious issues with this...uh, situation. I suppose the best case scenario is that they all just die of a cheeze-it or cheeto deficiency. Sigh...we can only hope. (Below: This spotted towhee is seriously just dumbfounded by what is happening in Oregon. Victory will be his). 
Also, because Yelp apparently has an issue with my extremely useful review of Malheur, here it is (they deleted it): 

This place has gone downhill real badly since my last visit. Their lack of invasive and non-native species control is really in your face and out of control. We encountered what appeared to be a hoard of rabid, hideous, large mammals. All were slack-jawed and mouth-breathing. They had somehow gained access to a dangerous amount of weapons and ammo and most were in their camo-plummage. It appears they were attempting to communicate, but failed miserably at doing so. 

Breeding season is coming up in the Oregon Outback, and we can only hope that these ogre-type creatures are infertile. Perhaps, just to make sure, authorities can take action to sterilize them all. 

(Below:  This white-breasted nuthatch ...so damn cute, I know. That bill though, that bill has big plans. It will pluck the eyes of Vanilla ISIS right out.)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Obligatory Best of 2015

Oh hey there. I suppose my nude year's, I mean, New Year's resolution should be something like...um, update the blog more? I'll make that attempt, I will! I will try. I definitely neglected this bad boy this year. It's been an ehhhh...an okay year. Not my favorite year, especially the last half., That last half of the year was a stupid, fat, asshole, to tell you the truth. I haven't really forgiven it, that bastard. So I'm hoping 2016 is a bit more of an upper. (Above: Marmot at Palouse Falls, WA; aftermath of a flash flood in southern Utah)
I am, however, grateful for my family and friends, my health, my buddy Hayduke, a flexible work schedule, sedatives, and stuff like that. I am really lucky and happy that I have been able to spend a lot of time with people I love this year.  I mean, it's not enough time, of course, but it's been good. I am craving some serious quality time with some of you, and you know who you are (if you know what's best for you...). I miss my G-nugget like crazy and losing him in August crushed my soul completely. Honestly, it made this year downright shitty. (Above: Western Rattlesnake and Short-eared Owl, both near Atomic City, Idaho)
The move to Idaho (northern part of the time, southern part of the time) has been better than expected. I am looking forward to getting back in the field in a couple months (though the likelihood of me freezing to death is high, terrifyingly high) and getting back off the grid. Wait! That may deter my resolution of updating this thing, huh? Hmm...(Above: Around Big Butte, ID; secret spot in southern Idaho)
So there it is. Here it is. Here's ten of my favorite photos from the last year. Because that's what goes on in photo blogs at the end of the year, ya know? Please forgive me for being such a lame photo blogger as of late.  I hope 2016 is the best one yet for all of you. Try to make the world a better place, because that's sort of what it's all about, in the end. (Above: male and female badgers, secret spot in Southern Idaho; Below: American Pika being ridiculously cute, gopher snake- both in southern ID)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Great Rift Will Crush You

Oh hey there.  Here I am. I realized I never really posted much, or really anything, about this past field season. That's what this blog is supposed to be all out. Who and what have I become!?  Well, I finally did get to go in the field for a few months so I was pretty pumped. Hayduke, Garfunkel and I lived in a pretty hilarious metropolis of 29 (Twenty-nine, yes) people (not all of them were civilized...) called Atomic City in Southeastern, Idaho.  A pretty comical place to call home for a while.  We dwelled in a wee trailer from year, I dunno, 1987? that had been taken over my mice. I'm really painfully happy I have insurance again and that my hanta virus test came back negative. Holy hell, I was living in fear there for a while. Gross. (Above: Big Southern Butte, where I worked, Johnny Nutcase with the cutest Horned Lizard in all the world; Below: Greater-sage grouse nest that hatched and a view from Big Southern Butte looking into the field sites, me with telemetry equipment)
I tracked sage-grouse with telemetry, looked for the nests, stuff like that. I usually hang out with songbirds and this was a little different. I enjoyed it but the hardest part for me was that it was a ton more driving around than I'm used to, not nearly as much trekking and wandering.  Nest success is unfortunately pretty low with sage-grouse, so that was not an upper. Unlike a lot of people who do what I do, I get out of control emotional and really attached to "my" birds, so it's always a mourning process when a nest is predated, or the babies are eaten, or a female is taken out. Ugh. I take it very personally. I'm not supposed to, but I always will.  That happened a lot this season. Lot of tears on my part. However, one of the birds I was following had a third nest attempt! Which is actually really rare for  sage-grouse, and even more rare that it hatched!....As you may know, the sage-grouse failed to get listed as endangered recently. I'm going to refrain from my (VERY ANGRY) thoughts on that subject because I'm trying to keep this positive tonight. (Below: A hefty, low key, and calm Western Rattlesnake; me with a really sweet, docile gopher snake)
Snakes! Oh man, soo many snakes, which I was thrilled about. I saw almost 35 rattlesnakes!!! in a matter of like, 7 weeks. Excellent! tTons of gopher snakes (good lord, those guys are the sweetest snakes ever), and a handful of olive racers (so beautiful).  I was squat peeing at one point and heard a rattle and oh heeeyyy there buddy, a rattlesnake was about 5 feet from me coiling under some sagebrush. Not the most ideal situation. But no harm done, as usual. I ended up jumping over a couple in the rocks while I was running a few times, but a lot of them I'd see early in the mornings on the dirt roads and would help them get out of the way. and most I'd just see or hear while in the field. I saw tons of rattlesnakes while working in Texas, but I only remember two of them ever rattling at me. The majority of the Westerns I saw in southern Idaho were big time rattlers. Sort of weird. Theories?  (Below: olive racer- these guys are so fast, really hard to get photos of; western rattlesnake right on the Great Rift - there were two others within ten meters of him!; and another laid back gopher snake)
The sagebrush ecosystem is really underrated and doesn't get nearly enough credit. Tons of wildlife  and birds. Big Butte (that big guy jutting out of the sagebrush) was pretty impressive. It's a rhyolitic dome over a million years old (one of the biggest on earth, actually) and is ~7500 feet high, which is pretty gnarly when you think about it.  It has a completely different ecosystem up there (obviously) than all the sagebrush around it.  It's got some huge trees and a pretty thick forest and lots of weird rock formations and caves...so many prairie falcons! There were a handful of canyons into/up to Big Butte that made for really fun runs, but I was really easily distracted by snakes and birds and badgers and elk...(Below: view from Big Butte; a healthy elk herd; me at the base of Big Butte- one of my trail runs going up into a canyon. So fun)
The field sites were close to Craters of the Moon National Park, which made things a little interesting at times. Once the nests hatched and the female sage-grouse left the area, they went southeast towards a very strange and bizarre world. I can't really explain it, but it sort of had an unsettling haunted vibe, but not all together bad. While I was tracking one of them, I found a sinkhole sort of thing (no photo, which is a bummer) that was about ten feet by ten feet or so. Upon further inspection, I saw what looked like a lava tube (maybe about 4 feet wide) , which, it probably was because those are common around there. I'm glad I was paying attention to where I was stepping because that thing would have loved to suck me into the core. A mildly frightening experience. I crossed the Great Rift lots of times at the end of the season.  Honestly, really eerie stuff. I love snakes but the rattlesnakes really loved hanging out in the rift or right on the edge. One small slip and you'd be kinda screwed. The drop-off was pretty significant.  This is really out in no-man's land and it took me 2 hours to drive there and no one is ever out there. It's BLM land until it goes into NPS property and there is just not much human activity out there at all (which is how I like it), but those sinkholes and lava tubes and giant weirdo openings in the earth area a little bit disconcerting when you're out there solo.  The Great Rift is an 85 kilometer long (2-8 km wide) rift or belt of fissures, open cracks, cinder cones and shield volcanoes. It's weird. And awesome.  (Below: the ol' Great Rift. Sometimes you could see the bottom. At minimum, it was 20ish feet down, but most places were a lot deeper and darker than that)
Speaking of lava tubes, there is a huge one nearby called Bear Trap Cave.  I checked it out one day while sage-grousing. The thing was pretty massive and has been tracked for about 15 miles. It's a huge lava tube and out in the middle of nowhere. I saw two rattlesnakes while walking into it and a Ferruginous Hawk was roosting there too. I love (LOVE!) caves and rarely get weirded out by them, but this thing made me really uneasy for some reason.  (Below:  Johnny Nutcase at Bear Trap Cave. I was sort of expecting a ghost to show up in the photo. This self timer took about 9 tries, by the way) 
Well then, there you have it. That was a wordy and lengthy bout of stuff but not even near as much as I could have blabbered. All but two of these photos are from a pretty unimpressive point and shoot, since I rarely take my good guy in the field with me. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I said I would and I did.

I promised you pikas years ago. Maybe it was months ago, it's all running together now. But, alas, here they are. Behold the Pika Cute, Cute Pika.  If you don't think they are one of the most adorable goofballs you have ever seen, please exit my page and my life right now. These guys make ME SO HAPPY I CANNOT EVEN HANDLE IT. Really, just sitting here looking at them right now is making me tear up with the cute cries. I've got issues, I can admit it, I'm okay with my emotional vulnerability. Many are not. 
It's been a rough couple months, my friends. My head is spinning in a zone I am not totally comfortable with.  As the one and only, the great, the master, Ed Abbey says: " We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope." 
I'm obviously way behind with blog type things but I'm going to try to put a little more effort in. I've been in Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and wherever else the last couple months, and I've still got a hoard of photos from the field season, so stand by.