Scrambled Eggs Slime Mold

Wandering about our Littleton farm this morning, I noticed a yellow object in a swath of wood mulch.  Thinking it was a toy left behind by one of my grandsons, I walked over for a closer look and found that it was a yellow, sponge-like mass, broken by a few orange creases; frankly, it resembled a cheese omelet.

In fact, it was Fuligo septica, commonly known as scrambled eggs slime mold (or, if you prefer, dog vomit slime mold).  One of the more abundant species of slime molds, it is a member of the plasmodial group, characterized by sprawling masses of fused amoebic cells; once the cells congregate, their cell walls break down and the resulting structure is a cytoplasmic bag with thousands of nuclei.  The cellular slime molds, on the other hand, produce a mass in which the amoebic cells retain the integrity of their cell walls.  In both groups, fruiting structures eventually form, releasing spores that mature to form individual amoebic cells.

Once included in the Fungi Kingdom, slime…

Focused on Watersheds

While birds and birding are the subjects of most posts in this blog, I am personally most interested in ecosystems and in the landscapes that they occupy.  Landscapes are the products of geology, tectonic forces and erosion, the latter occurring primarily by the action of water or ice.  Terrestrial ecosystems reflect the underlying geology and topography, the regional climate and the availability of water (in the form of precipitation or surface water brought in by streams).

It is with this knowledge that I focus on watersheds as I travel about our country or the globe and even pay close attention to them within my home cities.  Water, after all, is both essential to life and the primary architect of natural landscapes.  Understanding the regional topography requires that we know its component watersheds, from the main rivers to their smallest tributaries.

In the U.S., some States greatly assist our effort by using road signage to demarcate the watersheds (North Carolina and Tennesse…

Flashback Post VIII

Today marks the summer solstice, the beginning of the astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere.  Some of us have already had enough oppressive summer heat and look forward to the mild days and crisp nights of fall.  In the meantime, we often escape (at least in our minds) to cooler climes, a sentiment I shared in June of 2011.

See: Carrabassett Flashbacks

The Smoky Hills of Kansas

Yesterday, as I flew from Missouri to Colorado, our route took us across the central latitudes of Kansas.  The low morning sun angle and clear skies provided ideal conditions for observing the topography below and I got a good look at the Smoky Hills.

The Smoky Hills Province of the Great Plains stretches across north-central Kansas and into south-central Nebraska.  It is characterized by low hills that have been sculpted from Cretaceous bedrock by the tributaries of the Smoky Hill, Saline, Solomon and Republican Rivers (south to north).  That bedrock, deposited within and along a Cretaceous Sea that once covered most of the Great Plains region, is comprised of three bands: Dakota Sandstone, Greenhorn Limestone and Niobrara Chalk (east to west).

Those who drive across Kansas on Interstate 70, cross the southern portion of the Smoky Hills Province between Salina and Hays; there, some ridges of the Province are adorned with turbines of the massive Smoky Hills Wind Farm.  The High Plain…

A Bird's-eye View of Eagle Bluffs

Returning to Colorado this morning, I flew out of Columbia Regional Airport, in central Missouri.  The plane took off to the south and then banked westward, crossing the Missouri River just south of Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area.

Fortunately, I had a window seat on the right side of the aircraft and was treated to a fabulous view of that floodplain preserve, my favorite birding location in the Midwest (see Ding Darling of the Midwest).  While I have often explored its many pools, channels, marshes and woodlands at ground level, I have never observed them from above.

Indeed, I realized that my perspective matched that of migrant waterfowl, pelicans, cormorants and shorebirds as they arrive from the south each spring.  Though water levels are currently low across the floodplain, the result of an ongoing drought, it was obvious why this refuge is a magnet for those migrants as they travel up the Missouri Valley, on their way to northern breeding grounds.

Governing by Scripture

Defending the Trump Administration's policy to separate children from their parents at the U.S. border, Attorney General Sessions quoted the Bible, using a passage from Romans that instructs citizens to obey their government.  This low point in the Administration's tenure is disturbing on so many levels.

First of all, efforts to defend that immoral policy deserve condemnation by anyone with a shred of humanity in their soul; capable of abolishing this outrageous practice with a stroke of his pen (or a simple phone call), Trump chooses to use it as a political football, blaming the policy on Democrats.  Secondly, the use of Scripture to justify immoral behavior, while recurrent throughout the course of human history, is both ludicrous and inappropriate; a quotation from the Bible can be found to support almost any belief or behavior and mysticism has no place in the creation and enforcement of federal legislation.

Once again, religious mysticism has reared its ugly head, this …

A Northern Sunrise

Back on May 26, when I flew from Washington, DC, to Geneva, Switzerland, the last rays of sunset lit the western horizon as we passed over Nova Scotia; by the time we reached Newfoundland, it was totally dark.  Within another hour, however, as we flew eastward above the North Atlantic, the glow of "sunrise" spread across the northern horizon and persisted until we angled southeastward toward the coast of Ireland; by then, the eastern sunrise had begun to illuminate the landscape.

That "northern sunrise" was, of course, the southern extent of the perpetual daylight that occurs above the Arctic Circle during the month preceding and the month following the summer solstice.  The tilt of the Earth's axis produces this annual phenomenon as well as the perpetual darkness surrounding the winter solstice.

As with most natural spectacles, it was a matter of being in the right place (i.e. latitude) at the right time.  Had we crossed the Atlantic farther south, I would no…

Crossing Greenland

On our flight back from Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday, the route took us over the southern tip of Greenland, the largest island on our planet.  It was our first encounter with that land of ice, rock and scenic fjords and, for twenty minutes or so, we were mesmerized by the spectacle, 34,000 feet below.

Sparsely populated by humans, this Arctic nation is an independent territory of Denmark.  Mountain ranges run along its east and west coasts while a massive ice sheet covers 80% of the island's surface.  Icebergs speckled the fjords as we passed over Greenland and the majesty of its landscape was truly inspiring.

Of course, one cannot mention Greenland without invoking the fact that its Arctic ecosystem is threatened by global warming.  The rate of melting has sharply increased and the total loss of Greenland's ice sheet would raise sea levels by 24 feet, a disaster for island and coastal communities and ecosystems across the planet.

See also:  Greenland and Iceland and The Gr…

Tolerating Trump

Those Americans who support President Trump are either uneducated or enamored with his policies.  The latter include his anti-immigration stance, his overt racism, his tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy and his roll back of regulations related to industry and the environment.

But even if they support such policies, one wonders how they tolerate his incessant lying, his attraction to dictators, his crude talk and behavior and his attack on democracy at home and abroad.  One can espouse conservative principles without attacking the press, the Judicial Branch and the Intelligence Services.  Unfortunately, in Trump's case, his narcissism fuels impulsive tweets and decisions that diminish American leadership, ridicule our Allies and threaten both human rights and individual freedom across the globe.

It is extremely disturbing that most Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen are willing to tolerate Trump's behavior in order to push their conservative agenda; statesmanship …

Flashback Post VII

Following the deaths of two more celebrities (Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain) from suicide this past week, I am republishing a post from August of 2014 that related to the tragic death of Robin Williams.

See: Public vs. Private Persona