Hot, muggy weather returned to my realm this past weekend, and with it came an abundance of wildlife.
Yesterday, while spending the day with Daughter No. 4, we caught four turtles, one rat snake, one glass lizard, wildflowers galore, and, the highlight of the day, a baby turkey, or poult.
(Of course, we rang up a big fat zero on the day’s stated goal: catching fish.)
Now, no offense to aficionados of turtles, snakes or glass lizards, but catching the baby turkey was definitely the highlight.
While driving in a rural part of a rural county toward mid-afternoon we spied a hen on the side of the road. My daughter also caught sight of several youngsters, so I stopped the car and set off into the underbrush while she grabbed the camera.
The hen immediately began clucking and trotting in large circles around me, trying to draw me away from her babies. My daughter began taking pictures every time the hen ventured near her while I crouched in the brush stock still, trying to catch sight or sound of the youngsters.
It has been said that we in Western society have at our fingertips access to the most powerful technology ever devised – and that we use it largely for viewing cat photos and getting sports updates.
Well, that’s not 100 percent correct. The same amazing technology that allows some to zip cat pictures to friends and family via email, cell phone or some other hi-tech means can also be used to send embarrassing photos of people and cats, thereby doing society a service by helping identify potential serial killers, the utterly deranged or good old-fashioned oddballs.
The delightfully titled website I Don’t Need Anger Management, You Just Need to Shut Up has compiled an array of photos titled “The Absolute Worst Pictures of Men and Cats.”
After perusing the 18 images that were selected, I can’t say that I disagree with any of the choices.
I would add that it’s readily apparent why some men are unable to find women to marry, or even date.
A couple of caveats: I have nothing against cats. I actually like cats; my family had several while I was growing up and we got along famously.
The discovery of new animal species is unusual but certainly not earth-shatteringly rare.
Periodically, scientists will announce that a new variety of lemur has been found in Madagascar or a previously unknown spider has been located in a distant part of Sri Lanka or an unclassified frog has been uncovered in remote India.
Less common is finding a new species in a populated, scientifically advanced region such as the United States.
However, scientists in Florida last week announced that they came across a new species of black bass in the southeastern United States during a genetic study of fish in 2007, according to Field & Stream.
Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission christened the species, found in the Chipola River, “Choctaw bass.”
The Chipola is a small tributary of the Apalachicola River that runs north-south along the middle of the Florida Panhandle.
Choctaw bass possess a DNA profile unlike that of any other species, scientists announced.
A Welsh fisherman needed 90 minutes to land one of the largest skates ever caught, a 235-pound behemoth hooked in the Firth of Lorn, off the Scottish coast.
David Griffiths of Powys, Wales, landed the 7-foot-6-inch fish earlier this month.
He said it broke the British record by nearly 10 pounds, but his catch was not considered official because it was not weighed on dry land, according to the BBC.
Landing the beast was no easy feat. Using mackerel and squid as bait, Griffiths managed to get the skate to within a few dozen feet of the surface before it dove back down, he said.
“The skate has a suction pad and was stuck to the sea bed 500 feet below,” he said. “After about 30 minutes it was within 100 feet of the surface but then decided to go back down – it was a real battle.”
Griffiths, a fishing book publisher, said it took four people to lift the skate onto the boat after he brought it to the surface. He said it was only the second time he had been skate fishing.
After taking a few photos of the fish, Griffiths returned it to the sea.
The coelacanth was considered to have been extinct for approximately 65 million years until a specimen was caught off the coast of Africa in 1938. Evidence of how far science has progressed was demonstrated Wednesday when biologists announced they had unraveled the rare fish’s DNA.
Scientists are hopeful that the genetic blueprint of the coelacanth, called the “living fossil” fish, can shed light on how life in the sea crept onto land hundreds of millions of years ago, according to Agence France-Presse.
Analysis of the coelacanth genome shows three billion “letters” of DNA code, making it roughly the same size as a human’s, biologists said.
“The genetic blueprint appears to have changed astonishingly little over the eons, pointing to one of the most successful species ever investigated,” according to the wire service.
“We found that the genes overall are evolving significantly slower than in every other fish and land vertebrate that we looked at,” said Jessica Alfoeldi of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.
Coelacanths are an exceedingly rare order of fish – only 308 have ever been caught – that include two living species: the West Indian Ocean coelacanth and the Indonesian coelacanth
In what may have been one of the more slippery cases in state history, the Maine Marine Patrol last week nabbed a New Hampshire man with 41 pounds of elvers – young eels – worth more than $80,000.
Phillip Parker, 41, of Candia, N.H., was caught with the brood – the largest such case in the history of the Maine Marine Patrol – without a state “elver-harvesting license,” according to the Bangor Daily News.
Lest one think harvesting baby eels is a penny-ante business, elvers sell for $2,000 per pound, the paper added.
Demand for American elvers has skyrocketed since Japan’s devastating 2011 tsunami and after restrictions were placed on European elver exports, according to the Manchester (NH) Union Leader.
“They are often sold to Chinese or South Korean buyers, who rear them to adulthood and sell them for food,” the publication reported.
The American Eel, which is found along the East Coast of North America, has a fascinating life cycle.
The transformation of the Canadian provincial capital of Regina, Saskatchewan, over the past 130 years has been nothing short of remarkable.
Today, it is a city of nearly 200,000 individuals, and features more than 350,000 hand-planted trees, an extensive park system and an array of museums, cathedrals and other elegant structures.
But back in 1882, it was little more than a pile of bones – literally.
The location, near a creek, had been a stopping point for buffalo hunters and gotten its name from remains left at the site.
The mounds of buffalo bones, some left by Cree Indians, were staggering, according to information from the Regina Library.
“The bones resulting from the slaughter were carefully assembled into cylindrical piles about six feet high and about 40 feet in diameter at the base, with the shin and other long bones radiating from the center to make stable and artistic piles,” according to the library’s website. “During the second half of the 19th century, the Métis also slaughtered large numbers of buffalo in this area, and the creek was littered with countless bones.”
Hence, the locale was called “Pile o’ Bones.” However, it was sometimes also referred to by the equally delightful names “Manybones,” “Bone Creek” and “Tas d’Os” – all of which would have taxed the abilities of even the most fervent chamber of commerce official trying to promote the locale.
Perhaps not surprising to any who suffers from galeophobia, researchers now believe great white sharks eat far more than previously thought.
An Australian study published this week found that great white sharks, the world’s largest predatory fish, eat three to four times more food than once believed.
That’s considerably more than the findings of a 1982 US research team. Then, it was estimated that a meal of approximately 66 pounds of mammal blubber could sustain a 2,160-pound shark for approximately six weeks, according to the website Real Clear Science.
However, University of Tasmania researchers reported this week that 66 pounds of blubber was only enough to glut a great white for about two weeks, according to a study published in Scientific Reports on the nature.com website.
Researchers tagged a dozen great white sharks off the coast of the Neptune Islands off South Australia and calculated their metabolic rate derived from swimming speeds, according to Agence France-Presse.
They then worked out how much energy the sharks burned and how much food they required.
Among the more striking US state flags is that of California. It features not a simple grizzly bear, as some assume, but a California golden bear, a subspecies of the brown bear that once inhabited most of the Golden State.
The California golden bear, or California grizzly (Ursus arctos californicus), disappeared in the early 20th century, a victim of development, relentless hunting and its own fearlessness.
The bear, which could grow to more than 8 feet tall and weigh more than 2,000 pounds, thrived in California’s great valleys and low mountains, and there were probably more bears in California prior to European settlement than anywhere else in what would become the United States.
Indeed, California golden bears were strikingly abundant prior to European settlement.
When Gaspar de Portolà’s Spanish expedition passed through an area near today’s Morro Bay, Calif., in 1769, a Franciscan missionary noted in his diary that the expedition saw “troops of bears (osos)” in the valley, which became known as the La Canada de los osos, or Los Osos Valley (the valley of the bears).
A few years later the inhabitants of Mission Carmel in today’s Carmel, Calif., were near starvation, so a hunting expedition was dispatched to the Los Osos Valley. Many bears were killed and several thousand pounds of bear meat was brought back, saving the people of the mission.