Canat is Well

A bittersweet result of hearing the melancholy news about Aralbai below was a note from my old friend Canat with great photos. We did mourn a bit of lost youth (he was moved by my white hair and grandchild, which he knew of only abstractly)– was it really fifteen ears since I first set foot in Bayaan Olgii? Do contact him at Blue Wolf Travel for the trip of a lifetime, as more than one blog reader and contributor can attest, and tell him we sent you.


And now, first with the still- lovely Aika:

And me, to complete the contrast:

Hot Links

A recent drought has exposed the remains of a Byzantine port city located just west of Istanbul. Turkish archaeologists report artifacts dating most commonly from the Fourth to the Sixth Centuries, including these bricks stamped with the name “CONSTANS” (see picture) that resemble some used in the construction of the Hagia Sophia. The archaeologists are calling the site Bathonea, but admit they don’t know if that is its real name. I must confess I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t documentary evidence of a city of this size only 13 miles from Constantinople.

Read all about the UFO and Bigfoot sightings near Mt. Shasta.

Please feel free to opine (everyone else has) about food personality Paula Deen’s disclosure that she has diabetes. I don’t remember such a big media storm when Anthony Bourdain told everyone he was taking Lipitor.

The NY Times has a short piece telling those of you who have never heard of them all about the La Brea Tar Pits. I know I am prejudiced by my background, but I sort of assume everyone has heard of them.

Here is an interesting article about very old (33,000 BP) finds of crania of domesticated dogs from Siberia and Belgium. Steve and I had some discussion last fall about these finds, as I had seen them cited in a paper I saw presented at the Plains Conference in October. That paper, by Jeffrey Saunders of the Illinois State Museum, presented information on remains of domesticated dire wolves (Canis dirus) from two Clovis (ca 13,000 BP) mammoth kills in Arizona. Saunders (and other researchers) are now referring to these finds as “incipient dogs.” It appears that our ancestors domesticated wolves and wolf-like animals several times in the past, but these “incipient dogs” may have no genetic connection with modern dogs. This is a fascinating line of research that I’m sure Steve will have lots to say about. Also interesting, a somewhat younger (26,000 BP) “incipient dog” find from the Czech Republic (also cited by Saunders) shows evidence that it was buried by its owners with a bone in its mouth.

Science, Art, Helicoprion, Ray Troll, more…

Dr H at Diary of a Mad Natural Historian just published a piece on Helicoprion, the impossible fossil shark that appears to have a circular saw in its mouth, and mentions artist Ray Troll. All natural history buffs mad or not should buy and read Troll (or wear him– he does T shirts, and pins for William Spear), and his various writing partners like Brad Matsen and Kirk Johnson– link here.

When Libby lived in Bozeman Troll and Matsen used to come down to do things at the Museum of the Rockies* and sell books, which resulted in some excellent discussions and the drawings in the second and third pic below. The first is taken from an old Natural History because Helicoprion and a diver are irresistible.

“Birds Get Off”: cladistically ie not where say Feduccia says, In Our Arrogant Opinions:

Where is the data?

I have been neglecting science wonkery over the Holidays & deadlines but people like Retrieverman have been taking up the slack– see here for Val Geist’s mule deer theory and here and here for the almost science- fictional island species of Madagascar. With the help of invaluable info collectors like Walter Hingley, I hope to do better!

*Many years past, Libby and a very young Peculiar were volunteer diggers at Jack Horner’s Egg Mountain Dino nest colony. Somewhere I have a photo of the tipi camp there…

Mission Dam

I recently returned from an agency field visit for a project we have in the San Diego area. One enjoyable aspect of the trip was a visit to the Mission Dam.

The dam was built across the San Diego River in 1813-1816 to supply water and water power for the San Diego Mission. The Franciscans who ran the Mission used Kumeyaay Indian labor for the construction and an archaeological site north of the dam contains the remains of their work camp.
This gap in the dam was originally filled with a wooden frame that contained the mill wheel for a grist mill. You can still see some of the original brickwork used to anchor the frame. On the other side of the dam a flume channeled water for downstream use.

The area around the dam is now a park with hiking trails. You are urged to stay on the trails as this was a Marine Corps training camp during WW II and there is still some unexploded ordnance in the area. Wouldn’t want to step on anything nasty.

A family of coyotes kept an eye on us during our visit. They obviously hadn’t read the UXO sign.

Rangeland rescue

We finally got some snow overnight, covering our rangeland in a blanket of white. Our pregnant ewes love it, with the snow unable to penetrate their dense wool, but the moisture softening the vegetation.

After checking the sheep this morning, we watched a herd of pronghorn antelope running across the Mesa behind the house. Their’s was not the usual pronghorn pace – they ran as if being chased, but we were unable to determine what was the cause for alarm. We’ve witnessed a few odd wildlife behaviors this week, so we think there may be some major predator action occurring, but we’re not yet sure what’s responsible.

While we were watching one pronghorn herd, two other herds came from different directions, and we thought they were going to converge. Instead, as we watched from our kitchen window, most of one herd made it under a crossing of our back fence. Suddenly, one mature buck became stuck in the fence, struggling and thrashing. We watched him go down, and within seconds, several eagles and ravens approached, landing nearby to watch.

I simply didn’t have the heart to accompany Jim on the rescue, thinking that he was going to find a tragedy. When Jim arrived at the scene in the truck, he found the buck on his back, with both a front leg and a back leg stuck in the wires. Jim had to cut three wires of the fence to free the buck, but fortunately the wires hadn’t even broke through his skin yet.

Jim freed the buck and he was up and running! He raced around the pickup and then launched himself through the air and OVER the top of the five-wire fence, running back to the Mesa to join his herd. (Click on the photo to enlarge, and you can see the buck clearing the top of the fence.)

We don’t have just a few hundred pronghorn that go through our place in the winter – we have thousands of them. We are sheep producers, so we need to have fences that will hold sheep, but we try not to hinder wildlife migrations, so our fences are generally pretty wildlife friendly. Regardless, sometimes things simply go wrong. Fortunately, Jim was home today, and was able to help this buck get back to his bunch. I’m sure the eagles were not rejoicing over Jim’s good deed.

As for Jim? He took a break for a celebratory beer, but now he’s headed back to fix the fence he just cut.

NSFW Rifle?

…so first, MaryAnn sends me this pic from her recent safari, of amorous lions…

I am of course reminded of this Rigby double rifle with the same “theme” on the plates (click to enlarge; plain vanilla version, slightly used, on sale for a not-ridiculous- these- days $59,500, below it).

Jonathan Hanson sent the last words on it, from Bruce Douglas:

“Bruce’s comment was that if you were hunting and were suddenly charged by a cape buffalo or something, you could turn and yell at your bearer, ‘Quick! Gimme my fuckin’ lion gun!’ “

Two Links

Vadim Gorbatov has his own website at last! It is in Russian but just click around– you don’t need language to appreciate a great painter.

Click the second button (“Novosti”) for not only tigers battling bears but great sketches and images including ones on this Samurai falconer.

You can buy his prints from Al Gates– links in post below.

Also, though I am almost embarrassed to so to speak recommend myself, the Suburban Bushwhacker has just done a perceptive and moving review of Querencia- the- book. Thanks, Sten!

Sad News

Alan Gates writes:

“I have sad news that Aralbai has been diagnosed with throat cancer, he refused the laser treatment he was offered at the UB hospital because he believed that those that had had this type of treatment, die quicker.

“He has deteriorated a lot from the time I last hunted with him, and at the age of 54 it is far too young.

“I know you, like me have spent a lot of time with Aralbai, so I thought you should know.”

I hunted (& ate sheep and drank vodka) with Aralbai the first time I went out to Mongolia in ’97.

He has since taken out many of my friends, from Cat (who got in a horse race with his son, no longer a little kid!) to, particularly, Lauren, both on her first trip at 17 to her later Fulbright year.

He is also “The Coolest Man in the World”.

I do not know if anything can be done for a brave friend but am asking Canat.

More photos by Cat below– first is the boy in the upper, ’97 one, all grown up… and here is Alan’s link to him at the Festival of Falconry.

A last one by Lauren, letting his eagle go free after years of hunting, the Kazakh way: