Category: Ponderings

Why Aren’t There Giant Animals Anymore?

Since I moved to Alaska and learned about the state’s Pleistocene history, I’ve bemoaned the absence of the ice-age mega-megafauna. Here in the interior, 20,000 years ago, mammoths, wooly rhinoceros, giant ground sloths, Smilodon, dire wolves, short-faced bears, American lions, and other now sadly absent animals, roamed. While a few ice-age mammals persist (think musk oxen, bison, and moose), most…

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The Mysterious Gray-headed Chickadee

Gray-headed Chickadee. Ever heard of one? If not, you aren’t alone. In fact, very few people, even among passionate birders and researchers, have ever seen one. It may be the rarest regularly breeding bird in North America, and it is almost certainly the least known. There has never been a dedicated study of the species, some years go by when…

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Life on Mars and Other Weird Places

The recent discovery of liquid, highly saline, water on Mars has the scientific community aflutter about the possibility of life on the red planet. It’s an exciting prospect, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think Marvin the Martian is going to be knocking on our door anytime soon, or well… ever. If life exists on Mars, I suspect it’s…

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Capitalize Bird Names Dammit!

Take a gander at some of the birding magazines, websites, and blogs out there. Go on, take a look, I’ll wait. If you spent a few minutes browsing, I suspect you encountered two different naming protocols: Upper Case Bird Names, and lower case bird names. Scientifically-oriented publications and websites tend to use upper case while others mix it up, but will often…

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Birds That Love Mammals

Back in June I was leading a packrafting trip in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The float portion of our trip descended the Aichilik River where we hoped to encounter the Porcupine Caribou Herd as we paddled across the coastal plain. We found some caribou, but only small scattered bands, rather than congregations of thousands. We’d missed the big groups…

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