Poem

January

The fir stands waist-deep in the bedded snow;
The storm-birds twitter, and in dark array
The broken peaks in shadow stand – when slow
The sun makes for a space all-blinding day,
While brown deer shyly track their silent way,
Hoof-patterning the snow-drifts as they go.

– Maynard Dixon

Cryptic Cats

I always like finding new species, and am fascinated by “cryptic” ones that look just like others but have different DNA. (Are there really SEVEN Red Crossbills?) Not every species is really one, and if you obsess on the subject it will drive you mad. I like to argue and define, but my not quite tongue- in- cheek assertion that Northern Goshawks are not one circumpolar but two species, while the Gyr and Saker are one, is an example of a debatable case I know something about.

I know nothing about cats, but as a curious naturalist I was interested in this account of a new species of Leopardus found in Brazil, not least because last time I looked at cats the only one close to it was the Margay, Leopardus (then Felis) weidi.

The pictures made  L. tigrinus and L. guttulus look like color phases, but the evidence of long separation seemed clear. More than that was nagging at me. In the 60’s and early 70’s, before I knew her, Betsy Huntington had achieved the rare feat of breeding margays in her house in Cambridge, where they mostly roamed free. (She demonstrated her methods to a horrified Roger Caras on live TV–“I just waited until the female was in heat and stuck them together like this. It wasn’t hard– they liked each other!”)

But her two cats looked less alike than the new species and the “tigrina” Remember, these are old photos, but…

And here are a couple of the stripier one leaping and perched up where they did, and of an indubitable margay. The one with the more striking markings also has a rather different head (and I do not think he is an ocelot, as there are also photos of an ocelot– bigger, bulkier, and different– in her album to compare– last pic).

I don’t know if  we can ever do other than speculate– I think everyone involved in the project is long dead, and the only two who remember its existence are me and Annie Davidson. Annie?

Mattanza Magdalena

It has been a rough year for our town– four funerals in one family alone, no water for a month in summer, loss of our only food store. Perhaps my young friend Jason Otero, who is a guide and hound trainer among other skills, just decided to cheer everyone up. He staged a mattanza– literally a “killing”– a community pig roast. EVERYBODY came, despite near- freezing temps and fog. It was I think the best party yet of this century, though mattanzas were not rare events through the nineties. I think we should do one at least every six months. (These will enlarge if you right or double click).

Johnny Krynitz, Ty Scartaccini, Lib

Bar owner Darrel joins the conversation
Host Jason in the middle talking to guide Travis Tafoya; Jason’s mom Valerie to left

Update: I just realized that if you enlarge the fourth photo and look just above Valerie’s head you will see our highest local peak, South Baldy, at a little over 10, 700 feet. THAT’S why it is cold here.

Asian Perch

Since Mima went nuclear on Lashyn, I have been in a quandary re “what bird?” Though there are some exotic possibilities, my perennial favorites have always been gosses and tiercel falcons with gyr and saker genes. I worry about keeping up with the falcons, nor can I afford or easily control a horse, though I am getting interested, almost against my will, on “four wheelers”– what my Engilsh friends call quad bikes. I think about what to invest my limited time and money in, and I return again and again to goshawks.

Fortuitously, Al Gates, who has seen more Asian falconry that any other westerner, sent me these photos of a gos and an Asian swinging perch. Though you cannot leave it unattended,  many Asian falconers use one for gosses and eagles– apparently the sway keeps them preoccupied and quicker to tame, especially when kept in the bustle of daily activity. (These are passage birds of course; I don’t think many of these people “do” eyasses, never mind imprints).

The subject of “what Bird” will be continued. My strength and dexterity are bad enough that I don’t need any more mistakes!

Silk Purse?

Unfair– of all the 20th century military bolt action rifles I like the SMLE best, and there is nothing wrong with the .303 British round either– like the 7 mm Mauser and the 6.5 Mannlicher Schoenauer, it punches above its weight,  and has taken virtually every big game animal on the planet. But nobody ever called it beautiful.

The great English gunmakers actually did make beautiful rifles on the action. Now Gerry Cox has built one that makes me envious.