A Tale of Gophers and Quail

Sure, it looks like winter. A bit of shelter for mammals and birds, a few seeds to keep them alive through hard times, and brrrrr.

Na.

These are the vitamin and steroid sources under the canopy of grass that will enable quail and rodents to reproduce in the spring. Spring is too late for such important work to begin. That’s winter work.  Unfortunately…

…nibbling on green shoots of cheatgrass will not lead to reproduction. So, look again:

The gopher that makes the mound creates the quail chicks of springtime. The timing is important, to avoid the mounds being seeded by grasses instead. And so above-ground and below-ground worlds meet.

Hooo!

California Quail in the Rainforest

The ancient salmon forests of the Pacific Coast were felled long ago. Well, most of them.
Hoh

Some of the lost ones went to houses in Vancouver and Seattle. People still live in their bones. Others, though, still stand.

Ozette

Others, with long grains of clear cedar, which might have been used for fine cabinets and ceremonial screens, were turned into fenceposts, to herd humans and cattle and to hold grapes up to the sun to create jug wines, but that’s all in the past now. Now, the quail come.

  Hooo- HooOOOOoooo! Don’t our forests have new life now!

 

When Quail Leave the Grass, It’s Time to Party

P1950598Ah, the sweet berries of June!

P1950621This is the best year in a decade for saskatoons. They are so sweet.P1950619 And so juicy. Even the ground birds have left the cover of the grass for these ones.

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Ain’t that the truth.

Lazuli Bunting: the Jazz Singer and His Band

Ladies and Gentlemen, the concert hall. Note that the violin is strung, and that the player has taken an unusual position.P1950785

Stéphane Grapelli wouldn’t have done it like this, but then he wasn’t a vocalist.

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And Lazuli Bunting is! Each of these males becomes mature when it creates its own song.

sing

It’s worth repeating, even if the wind ruffles the breast feathers!

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The songs are learned by listening to uncles and fathers, memorizing their licks, and then combining them into a unique sequence. Applause is earned.

fluff

Darned wind. We’re still waiting for the violinist, though.

lb

No, not him!

rth

He’s just another vocalist. Besides, lazuli buntings are rare. We don’t want the red-tailed hawks to be getting any ideas. Oh oh!

ohoh

 

Not to worry, he passed on. Ah, here’s our violinist!

pluck

 

It’s all in the balance.

Evolution: A Human Social Mirror

Bullock’s Oriole, blending in…

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This fellow divides his time between South America and this dry northern tip of his species’ range.

California Quail (introduced species, so humans would have something to hunt), blending in …

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Hoo-HoooO-u, Hoo-HooO-u, Hoo-HooO-u

So social, eh!

Beetle, blending in …

shiny

Beautiful, isn’t she!

If I’m ever to have antennae, I hope they’re like that.

Those are all “natural” environments, in which the concept of camouflage does not seem to be at play. So much for the idea of evolution being a series of predator-prey capture-avoidance, eat-or-be-eaten relationships, as it is often displayed in popular culture (and racism.) Here is the lair of a top predator. Now, she is blending in:

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Incompleted Light Post Base, Vernon

Predator pretty much invisible.

For a view of the predator herself, take a look again …

widowcircle

Black Widow Spider Blending In

Well, sort of. She flashes that red warning, after all. Note the very, very messy web. I have a few of those in my tomato patch, and another in my garden shed.

Now, to continue the theme, here is the lair of another predator, blending in …

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Back of Front Street, Penticton

Note the messy web. By the way, I think this is very beautiful, but not in the same way as the oriole, the quail, or the beetle above.

Humans, blending in some more…

P1010091Canadian Back Yard Art, Vernon

More beauty. Very popular with top predators. As you can see, the humans are blending in with social codes, not with the weeds in the foreground. They are up to their own thing.

Take a look again, for a guide to the finer details…

details2Dead Things and Romantic Things on Display

Body jewelry for predators. (With the lair being a body image requiring tattoos and other images of display in a complicated male-female dynamic.) Socially, many contemporary humans evolve within environments like this. In fact, you could say that they evolve to reproduce environments like this, or that the environments reproduce by imprinting themselves on the young humans at important environment-socialization windows. These are called cognitive windows, because, socially, human-environment social relationships are not accepted [ie they are invisible] in this particular culture. That doesn’t mean they are not there.

The weeds in the foreground of the above image are a series of individuals foreign to the balance of this landscape. They are in a dynamic process, which is a new balance, but the real story is not about individuals. It is about the collective. They are all in a relationship, the rules of which are not yet formalized. Intriguingly, they were brought here by human activity, and they represent an image of human conscious processes. Nature? Hardly.

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A Predator Has Been Here

By interpreting the landscape according to its own social codes of display and social coercion, this predator has turned at least a small part of the earth into an image of itself.

Now, that’s art! Of course, foreign plants such as the lavender above, once socialized within this human image, start to take on some human characteristics and become colonists of their own …

P1020612Escaped Lavender (Left, behind the curb.)

That is an entire community of previous escapees around it. The native plant community is gone. Even in escape, the plants carry human social information with them, and human attitudes to land. In other words, human social display and body decoration is part of the process of physically creating “Nature”.

One could say that “Nature” itself is a human social display, the whole concept. One could also say that many humans obviously prefer the weedy thing called “Nature” or “wildness” over a more ordered and productive space full of species beautiful in their own right. They are certainly not walking the grasslands with me in anything other than tiny numbers. They are here instead:

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Farmer Killing Leafhoppers in His Grape Vine Body Jewelry

City of Vernon in behind. Excellently complex predator behaviour! It will result in a simplification of the landscape (fewer species) and some unexpected escapees (the poisons he uses will become part of the environment, where they will eventually work back to change human social relationships and even human bodies. Poison as body art. Beautiful!)

The key to “evolution” is to stop thinking of separateness. That is just a human social image. Here, for example, are some weeds interfacing with some plants that found a balance here after the last ice age, and which were maintained in a specific human image by thousands of years of human burning and harvesting…

P1020545 Evolution in Play

Evolution is not a battle for dominance. Sure, you can look at it that way, but I suggest that that’s only how a predator will see it. To the plants here, and the bumble bee, it’s about community. Together, they make a whole. For the moment, Syilx traditional human social rules have been removed from this landscape by colonization 150 years ago and replaced by the new social rules of that colonization. As a result, the weeds that the new colonists brought with them are now colonizing Syilx space. Rather than being “Nature”, in other words, this is a portrait of social relationships over time, which include human ones.

Far too often, evolution is portrayed as a conscious process, one that “favours” certain traits or one in which evolution has to “choose” between brain size, which is “expensive” and, say, “muscular efficiency.” I find it a deep and pleasurable irony that scientific thinking, which began by trying to separate itself from a concept of nature, is now deeply married to a kind of pop-culture goddess called Nature, which it calls Evolution. It leads to some odd effects. They are out there by the millions. Here is just one, in an article which, actually, otherwise is based on some sound principles…

macleans

Evolution… favours? it’s as if it were a conscious process!

Note the lovely ad which MSN’s computers have placed there in order to prey upon you. Be careful around top predators, is all I can say. Source

There’s more. Take a look a little further down in the article:

hypothesizedSocial Display Posing as Learnèd Analysis

The intriguing phrase is “…found that shorter women are more likely to be in long-term, offspring-producing relationships [so far, so good] — perhaps, he hypothesized, because men evolved to disfavour tall women, who tend to reach puberty later.

Pure guesswork, or, rather, the writing of one certain, culturally-specific social display code upon the earth. I’m fairly certain that our scientist was also concerned about other types of favouring and the limitations of this (reported) hypothesis. Not so the databases created to insert advertisements in this material. These databases are inserted according to specific contemporary cultural rules, rather Darwinian and 19th century overall, which seek to prey upon any readers straying into their webs. There is no distinction between this process and any other process of art. Look what the database has chosen to go with this material…

baby

Could it just be that human technical (social and artistic) intervention in the “natural” process of birth is changing the dynamic of which women are having more successful babies than others, rather than birth being just a neutral “natural” process? Of course, but you wouldn’t know it from the article above. Here’s a case in which the database has proven smarter than the human journalist. Like evolution itself, though, it’s not on purpose. Now, one of the characteristics of evolution is duration in time. It’s another human social preference. Written into theories of “nature”, it allows the natural community to be viewed in certain ways. According to this preference for time-as-a-story and time-as-permanence, the view below is easily read as a competition for dominance by new plants (weeds) within an older landscape, just as the settler culture here …

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Land Sculpted to Be Viewed by Automobile and Real Estate Client with Oil Money in His Pocket. 

In this case, the agricultural and “natural” (ie de-Syilxed) images of the land are being sculpted just as strongly as is the physical earth and the social relationships within whatever humans live within or claim this space.

… has supposedly replaced the Syilx culture that preceded it, yet somehow has inhabited its forms and maintains a parallel relationship to “land”…

P1020521Bunch of Weeds Hanging Out, Bella Vista

You can read it that way, of course, and you would be right. But it’s the earth. It can be read in many ways. And it reads you, don’t doubt that. To read it in the way described above is to miss other stories and other versions of time. If their narrative could be told, the landscape would change socially to adapt to them. Tomorrow I’l sketch out some parts of that landscape. Here’s a hint: the plants above are not all the same age. The plants below are:

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Grape Vine Sculptural Display, Bella Vista

Bad Cows

Yesterday, native species and fire. Today, imported species and fire. And shame. First, California Quail.  Brought here so that men can go out hunting. Men hunt moose now, up north, so the quail are largely safe, and, who knew! They blend in with a fire landscape, perfectly. Somehow, I think this isn’t the first time this species has recolonized fire landscapes. This is not the shame part.

Now, it’s easy to criticize hunters for turning a very necessary search for food into a sport, for the sheer aesthetic pleasure of it, so to speak, but it’s just not that simple. I wish it were, but look at this. Yeah, Bossie herself, horns and all.

Cow on the Search for Alfalfa

This is agriculture that makes fire look like the tenderest of caresses.

Next, that cow’s calf…

Calf High-tailing it to the Photographer, to See if He Has Something Edible to Offer

Did the cow invite her over to eat the lone piece of greenery on 30 hectares of land? She did not. That’s not the cow way.

What on earth are cattle doing on such fragile land? It’s like putting a rototiller on automatic and letting it go wherever and whenever the whim takes it.

 

 

 

A Partridge in a Pear Tree? Better!

I love the old song The Twelve Days of Christmas and it’s “PARtridge in a pearRRrrr treee!” And I love pears. But I am wondering if it’s really the right song for a semi-arid and desert valley of black sage, big sage, and rabbitbrush in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains and the Cascades on the west coast of North America, where there aren’t any partridges and the pear trees are few and far between now. We’ve got California Quail, though, which are a kind of partridge. I scared some up the other day. They were writing some music, I think. Take a look:

California Quail Leaving Polyphonic Scores

If you can figure out to play that on a human instrument, let me know. 


 As for the pear tree, well, they have proved expensive to maintain. In their place, I suggest roses, such as these, favoured of sparrows:

Colourful Hips at the Shortest Time of the Year

Even their blossoms aren’t as bright as their fruit. In a world with lots of Christmas songs but no holly, I suggest that counts for a lot.

So, let’s try it all out, all together now: “And a plump quail eating rose hips!” Heck, with enough freezing and thawing those things ought to ferment and the quail might get liquored up enough to tell us the tune.

The rose hips alone could be formed into a major crop for the Christmas floral market.

Next week: a network of trails.