Wildlife: has it made any progress?

Eight years ago, I asked an important question:

Why should we bother to protect wildlife if it won’t even pose for a few simple photographs?

In this era of austerity and tough budget decisions, it’s time to determine whether or not wildlife has become more cooperative and more deserving of our tax dollars. Below, my findings from a recent trip to Alaska.


caribou in Denali

First up, caribou. Like the mountain goats from the Montana trip, they remained distant. However, they thoughtfully positioned themselves against a gorgeous backdrop of snow-capped hills, streams, and endless, rolling fields. Moreover, they were everywhere and easy to find. Good job, caribou.

moose in wonder lake

moose in Wonder Lake

One of my personal goals on this trip was to see a moose. The first sighting was only a moose butt (not pictured), but as the week wore on, we saw many moose, each closer than the last. In fact, the last sighting–a mama moose and her calf on the bike path–was not a picture-taking scenario. It was a “please don’t trample us” scenario.

I applaud the moose for being plentiful. Their territorial behavior, however, needs improvement.

grizzly bear


Next we have the bears. The grizzly above gets points for proximity, though he should consider showing his face. Not just because people want to photograph it, but because this pose just screams RUG–presumably not an idea he’s trying to evoke.

black bear

Black bear near the train tracks

The black bear has the right idea. Four legs and a head, running around in the snow–definitely not rug material.

cross fox

posing and waiting for squirrels

In terms of actual posing, this cross fox did the best job. He conveniently perched by the side of the road and was very cooperative, sitting still for photos while waiting for a tasty squirrel to come along. A tasty squirrel did, in fact, come along; sadly, his picture turned out rather gory.


puffin, floating along

Moving on to the water animals, puffins get kudos for their sheer volume and for displaying themselves in a variety of photogenic ways: lined up on the ledge of a rock, flying underwater, and floating around near boatloads of tourists. Their big, orange feet and clumsy-looking take-offs add to their charm.

humpbacks feeding

feeding time for the humpbacks

We saw a group of six humpback whales who put on quite a show of bubblenet feeding. It’s a co-operative way of feeding and very rare, so huge bonus points for that. Furthermore, the bubbles they create tell photographers exactly where the whales are going to surface next.

My only suggestion for the humpbacks is to jump up more.

sea otter

hello, there!

Finally, the sea otter.  This little guy floated right by the boat and gave us a wave. Hello to you too, little guy.

Overall, wildlife has made vast strides since 2004. Unlike my experience at Glacier National Park, the wildlife of Alaska was very understanding of tourists and their desire to take animal photos. And there were no incidents of inappropriate behaviors.

Keep up the good work, wildlife–I fully support my tax dollars being used to preserve your habitats.

Manuel Adjusting to Language Barrier

PHILADELPHIA, PA— After six years as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Charlie Manuel is learning to adapt to English, the official language of the people of Philadelphia. Manuel recently stated that he feels comfortable expressing himself in the language, although he still struggles with plurals, singulars, vowels, and the double switch.

A recent press conference showcased Maunel’s newfound confidence, as he eschewed an interpreter and spoke for himself: “Ah, uh do, uh, buhleeve thuh Phillies are, uh, thuh teem to uh, beet this uh, year in uh, thuh eweknowlike, nah-shun-uhl leeg.”

When asked to comment, Shane Victorino launched a steam-of-consciousness rant that is still in progress.

Two Man Gentleman Band

On Thursday night Northampton’s Iron Horse had a cozy, old-timey vibe—the perfect antidote to the cold, wet snowflakes falling outside. The Two Man Gentleman Band stole the show, covering just about every vice in their short set: fancy beer, chocolate milk, girls, prescription drugs, reefer, and tikka masala.


Friday night
The daily Occupy Northampton drumming and chanting starts on schedule in front of Bank of America. Down the street to the group’s left is a harp player, to its right, under the Thorne’s Market awning, is that band with the accordion, and across the street is a fiddler. The Faces Halloween window features a scary monster under the bed, and the GoBerry pumpkin spice yogurt is pretty good with graham crackers.

Saturday morning
Type E threatens to throw me out the window for purchasing an Arcade Fire album.
“Fine,” I said, “but I’m taking the pear coffee cake I just made. And the cat.”
“You can’t do that,” says Type E. “Massachusetts is a 50-50 state.”
“Fine, I’ll take the front half of the cat.”

Saturday afternoon

squirrel in a pumpkin

squirrel butt

Sunday morning
First world problem: The Big Y does not sell broccolini.

Sunday afternoon
We go to the wildlife blind at Fitzgerald Lake so I can show Type E the wildlife notebook, but the old binder full of animal observations and amusing digressions has been replaced with a boring new binder. Type E records his sighting of three ducks and no moose.

Encounter with a knobbed russet

knobbed russet

would you eat this?

Six years ago, I joined a CSA and learned, in the name of diversity and supporting local growers, to tolerate things like dandelion greens, kale, and turnips.  Sometimes I even developed an affection for previously spurned produce: beets, brussels sprouts, and apricots.

So I try to be open-minded about new food (it’s hard sometimes), but I can’t bring myself to try these apples.

So long, summer

It was amazing, full of visitors, road trips, and explorations of Southern Vermont and Western Massachusetts.