Monday, August 29, 2016

John Craighead is 100

 And he doesn't look much older than he did when Libby and I attended his and his late twin  brother Frank's 80th birthday party at Moose, Wyoming 20 years ago. (fuzzy photo from invitation)

We actually had separate invitations- Libby had babysat the now middle- aged kids of both, and I had long ago written an intro for the Lyons reprint of their first book, Hawks in the Hand, which they wrote when they were not much older than in the Scout portrait below.

THAT book got them their invitation to a great adventure, by the Indian Prince R.S. Dharmakumarsihnji , to spend the winter learning the Indian, ie the surviving grand- scale Medieval, way of falconry.The trip produced the National Geographic article "Life with an Indian Prince" in 1942, and, 59 years later, the limited edition of the book of the same name, which is recommended in my "Book of Books", Sportsmans Library. (A new one, not limited to books with hunting and fishing but including nature and wild travel, is in the works!)

They kept detailed notes. One of my prized possessions is a spiral- bound xerox copy of those notes, given to me by the "kids".

It also produced the best nature film you have never seen, the only film version of the field sports of the Raj ever produced, in color that looks modern even today. But  apparently flying Sakers at kites,  pretending to be a mendicant vegetarian Brahmin to trap crows, coursing blackbuck with cheetahs (they rode hooded like falcons in bullock carts, and were fed the blood of the quarry in long-handled ladles), and shooting a Gir forest lion as a wedding present,  were too un- pc for Nat Geo even in the immediate postwar years.

They were to go on to fame and even noteriety as wildlife biologists, particularly when they told the truth about the garbage eating bears in Yellowstone. Their work is carried on by their children and the Craighead Wildlife- Wildlands Institute. When I met Frank at 80 I told him he had been a great influence on my life. He said wryly "I hope I didn't ruin it entirely!" On the contrary, both brothers enhanced my life enormously.

Happy birthday, John.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mountain Counts

A range flock of domestic sheep exits the mountains in the southern Wind River Range of western Wyoming. Before the flock begins its slow movement to lower elevations, herders needed a head count. But how do you count thousands of sheep with only two men? It's fairly simple.

Range sheep have strong flocking instincts, and if you can get the lead sheep to go in the desired direction, the rest of the flock will follow. The herders (on horseback) approached the head of the flock as it traveled downhill, forcing the sheep through a bottleneck formed by their horses. The men count the sheep as they pass through the bottleneck. (Click on the photos for an enlarged view.)

Even though the sheep could easily go around the riders, they don't, instead following their flockmates down the determined path. This flock of yearling ewes is used to the counting technique and know the drill.

Notice how the sheep in the top left of the photo don't cut down the hill to join their flockmates but turn to move through the bottleneck as the herder to the left steps back, providing a wider path.
The tail end of the flock easily moves through the bottleneck created by the herders. This is low-stress livestock handling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Wild Rumpus

We know well that having a  puppy and a new bird may be FUN, but not easy. For Phil and Kerri (and Lane):

Friday, August 05, 2016

Quote: a Preview of Cat's New Book

"I have been in many countries and there is not a Kangal anywhere. That is why the world will be at war soon. If everyone had my father’s dogs, things would already be settled. In my home . . . the wolves will come for something that is not theirs. The Kangal finishes it all and sends them away. We are herders, and we like it. The Kangal keeps us safe in our land. We cut off his ears when he is little, so the wolf cannot bite. The wolf is always killed by the time we get to the dogs. My sister, she has two sons now. The wolves came for her and were destroyed . . . now she has two sons... Sir, the Kangal is good for the world. Not just families. They are the color of sand and rock, they have the heart of those before them, the wild animals that have become our friends. It is that way with our dogs. Every- one should have a Kangal.”

An old Turkish herder in Cat Urbigkit's Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A Poem for the New Dogs

Margory Cohen sent this, by the late, great, and much- missed Vicki Hearne:

The New Hound Puppy

Now it is time for her name –

Start the call.  The time may come
For her job, which is to run
Holes in the palpable wind

Hallowed by world and the world
Will collapse, follow this hound
Through meteoric  valleys.

Wolf-shag domains.  Here God says
Himself through the wolf until
A slenderness of hound bitch

With a speed like silk shimmers
At God, all arc and angle,
Revelations for voice.  So

It was in the beginning
And evermore shall be, so
Her arcs speak back to the light

Which is become an affair
Of luminous shadows, so
It was in the beginning

And evermore shall be in
Her temporal impudence,
Intended as litany.

Vicki Hearne

Tricks of the Light
University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London


It’s fairly predictable that within a matter of minutes of meeting me you’ll learn how important livestock guardian dogs are to our western Wyoming sheep outfit. This morning provides an example.

After lambing season ended, we ended up with five bum (orphan) lambs. The lambs spend their nights locked in prime real estate (our yard), but during the day the front gate is open and they are free to roam. This morning, I fed the lambs before daylight, swung the front gate open, and proceeded with other morning chores. Once the sun was up, I returned from checking our main flock and noticed I didn’t see the lambs out grazing anywhere near the house. A quick search confirmed that they weren’t where they should be.

I noticed a few spots of white in the distant sagebrush, and pulled out a set of binoculars for a closer look. Three of our guardian dogs were sitting down along our back fenceline, surrounding the bum lambs and stopping their wild venture away from the safety of the ranch yard. I laughed as guardian dog Rena turned to begin the trail for home, the five lambs lining out behind her, with another guardian bringing up the rear. The third guardian cut back through the sagebrush to return to the main flock as the bum flock received what amounted to a police escort back to the safety of the ranch yard. (Click on photo for larger view.)

Even though we’ve lived with guardian dogs for decades, my respect for the work these animals do grows by day.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Isabella's pups

..In Virginia- 5 boys,  5 girls:

0ur pick is the small brown- collared girl, who has a white blaze and the prospect of a dark muzzle and ears. She might resemble the late lamented Pax. They, and Ataika, are all closely related. Our current thought on a name is Alema, Kazakh for Milky Way, after Lauren's Kazakh eagle.



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Brad's Miss Jane

Brad Watson's new novel makes the NYTBR-- above the fold, with a photo one that one friend teased "has that Sam Shepard vibe". Congratulations!
I like all of Brad's work, but this one is rich- ma ybe his best? I will give it proper review when I finish

UPDATE: Here is an even better review in the Denver Post, c/o Reid.

Maybe some of his skill or at least luck will rub off on the standing desk he brought to the blog party for me.. The computer swivels two ways for Libby and me (notice  I am so eager to test it that I am still wearing my hat- I am generally not so "cow" as to wear my hat when writing)...

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Kirk Saw

Feather dinos!

Feather Dinos with colors
An Oviraptorid nest, with a comparison to a brooding Peregrine-- a thing "wings" could be used for before flight..
Antarctic Explorer Lincoln Ellsworth's shotgun :

Smithsonite (Magdalena's official mineral)
TR & Kirk

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Visiting the American Museum

For a certain group of American naturalists, probably mostly for boys growing up in the fifties, the AMNH in New York City, referred to familiarly as "The American Museum",  was the greatest influence, almost a mentor in itself .  (Though one must be wary of such sweeping statements. Will Beebe probably did more for women in the biological sciences than anyone in his time, simply by including them in his expeditions, and Father Anderson Bakewell always muttered that Betsy Cowles Partridge was a better climber than the misogynistic Bill Tilman, and that Tilman jinxed their expedition by referring to her as "a woman to cook for us", allowing Hillary and Tensing to summit by their route on the next year).  Later such women as Sylvia Earle would be prominent in those circles in their own right.

Will Beebe with Jocelyn Crane; below, with Bathysphere

 But in the fifties, my world was formed by the AMNH, its writers, books, and dioramas, Akeley's Hall of African mammals:

 The North American dioramas, so well documented in Windows on Nature

The striding Colonial figure of Roosevelt with his Indian and Zulu companions:

The dinosaurs, the birds: the great blue whale:

And above all, by the BOOKS, great ones by Beebe, exciting ones by Andrews and Raymond Ditmars, informative but infuriating ones by Hornaday (he wanted conservation but one of his means of achieving it was to deport all the Italians!); exotic ones by Kermit Roosevelt, Suydam Cutting and Arthur Vernay.

Hornaday and endangered buffalo

RCA with pet vulture in Mongolia

RCA with Model 99!

Keermit roosevelt

Suydam Cutting and Arthur Vernay with Lama
I ate it all, indiscriminately, as I did that of a generation nearer my own; Peter Mattthiessen, and the playboy turned edgy artist and conservationist Peter Beard were obviously cut from the same cloth. It says something about my naivete that I never even thought of the fact that, as Betsy Huntington put it with mild exasperation, "All those people were richer than GOD".  I thought everybody had adventures and wrote about them, so I found ways, and did. Later I was inducted as a fellow into the Explorers Club, a sort of unofficial annex across the street. Bakewell was recruited as a member of the crew of the first circumpolar flight in the bar of the EC! Before the war, adventurers seemed to belong to the Social Register, the AMNH, and the Club. Kirk recently sent me some xeroxed pages about Carter Burden's Komodo Dragon expedition in the 20's (I have the book- isn't he the grandfather of the editor of Vanity Fair?), from a book called All About Scientific Expeditions, and seeing that it also had Beebe  et al, I asked if it should better be called "All About Scientific Expeditions by New York socialites"? During the war, other organizations recruited there too. It was not for nothing that the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA, was known as "Oh So Social."  Jameson Parker reminded me that even left- wing Peter Matthiessen had his CIA days...

It was really a meritocracy, though, and you didn't have to be rich, a New Yorker, or even an American to belong. My old teacher Francois Vieullumier, a Belgian, is now an ornithologist emeritus at the AMNH, and I have a book that shows two prominent European ornithologist as associates (I found  it -- can't remember buying it ever-- IN MY LIBRARY... don't ask!)

It didn't matter that I was a young teen- aged kid from Massachusetts when I first saw it (I had already been reading the books), or that my friend Kirk Hogan was from Wisconsin; we found the books, and ways to get there, all manner of "Theres". Last week Kirk, who among other things is a geneticist, an anesthesiologist, a lawyer, an elk hunter, a  woodcocker, a gourmand, and a  fly fisherman, took some French friends there on a pilgrimage.  Here are some of the things he saw.

Hmm- images seem full. Continued in next post!

Tanuma Photos

I have carried around a 1969 Life magazine (with a photo of Ted Kennedy just post- Chappaqudick on the cover!) because it has a gallery of wonderful images by photographer T Tanuma.Yesterday, hoping to put them in a more secure mode, I photo'd them.These are some of the results.