Posted by: Kelly Rae at 6:05AM PST on November 27, 2009
Photo by Marcos Sicilia
The holiday shopping frenzy has arrived. If you have a budding astronomer on your list, rethink jumping right in with a telescope purchase. The (mostly) affordable telescopes found in chain department stores tend to be low-quality instruments advertising impossibly good views. These kinds of scopes are sure to set up someone for disappointment.
There are some lower-cost telescopes that can be bought online through big name manufacturers such as Meade and Orion that provide decent views. One of the most important features for a starter scope is a sturdy mount to keep the view in the eyepiece from jumping around. But even with a nice starter scope, if the gift recipient isn’t familiar with the sky, they will spend a lot of time staring at nothing while learning to star hop.... (more)
Wednesday November 25, 2009
Posted by: Philip Eager at 12:34PM PST on November 25, 2009
On the eve of Thanksgiving, we're rushing around a bit to get organized to head up to far Northern California for a long weekend of birding with friends, and that got me to thinking of the things about birds and birding during this year for which I'm grateful. ... (more)
As is often the case with lists like this that just pop into your mind, it's a bit of a random list of things, but as 2009 winds down, I find myself thankful for:
Tuesday November 24, 2009
Posted by: Matt Kirby at 2:20PM PST on November 24, 2009
Last week the Sierra Club, in conjunction with the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), hosted a congressional reception in the Senate to present awards to two of our champions. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) have taken leadership roles in addressing the ecological negative impacts of expansive and fiscally wasteful border walls. The event also served to celebrate the culmination of a two-week photo exhibit of the borderlands and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reception was a huge success and gave the environmental community and its coalition partners in the faith and human rights communities the chance to honor Dicks and Kerry and applaud them for their tireless efforts to advocate for a more responsible border policy that respects communities, wildlife, and the borderlands' unique natural resources.
Senator John Kerry (left) and Sierra Club Director of the Lands Protection Athan Manuel (right)
The reception capped off a two-week display of an amazing collection of photographs by the ILCP. The photos, partially commissioned by the Sierra Club, were taken during an expedition last January across the entire border region, from Brownsville, TX to San Diego, CA. The photographers spent three weeks traversing the borderlands and documenting the ecological and cultural values of the region as well as the devastation that the construction of the wall has left in its wake. The stunning canvas prints that resulted from that trip have been on display in the Senate for the past two weeks to show our federal legislators a beautiful and wrenching portrait of the true effects of this irresponsible border policy.
Photo courtesy of the International League of Conservation Photographers
This article originally published on Lay of the Land.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 1:04PM PST on November 23, 2009
Here it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the announcement of the winners in our first-ever Trails Monthly Photo Contest. The Trails community narrowed the field of 839 images to the top five, and our judges – designers for Sierra magazine and our websites – chose the Grand Prize Winner, who will receive a Canon G-11 digital camera.
Posted by: Kelly Rae at 9:13PM PST on November 20, 2009
Twilight Credit: Nicotren/Stock Xchng
Everywhere I turn nowadays I see the words “Official Twilight” this and “Official Twilight” that. Of course this is all in reference to the best-selling books and movie series, but it has made me think about the official definition of twilight.... (more)
Twilight is not just the period of time after sunset but also the time between darkness and sunrise. There are three different periods of twilight, all defined by the distance the sun is below the horizon. The length of time that each period of twilight lasts varies by location and time of year. You may have noticed that sometimes the sun sinks slowly and the darkness seeps in gradually, while at other times the sun seems to drop like a rock and the darkness is much more sudden.
Posted by: John Gould at 10:07AM PST on November 20, 2009
Photo by Andrew Lyons-Gould
Over the swamps
—William Carlos Williams, from “Perpetuum Mobile: The City,” Selected Poems, New Directions.
The journal Ecopoetics claims a dedication to “exploring creative-critical edges between making (with an emphasis on writing) and ecology (the theory and praxis of deliberate earthlings).
Some poets I know welcome it; others see it as a glorification of colonial nature, ignoring, as one poet says, “the bulldozer in favor of the beautiful plant.”
Wednesday November 18, 2009
Posted by: Philip Eager at 2:52PM PST on November 18, 2009
Brant Geese, a popular sighting along the Atlantic coast during the winter bird count.
Photo by Phil Eager.
It’s just about time for the annual Christmas Bird Count organized by the National Audubon Society, a major event on the birding calendar, and one that I particularly look forward to each year. The count period this year runs from December 14 to January 5, and the concept is as simple as its name: counting birds during the holiday season. As the journal Nature wrote last year, the Christmas Bird Count has become the model for effective citizen science projects , and may be the longest-running such project in the world. It's also a fun social event, which allows you to make new friends and to see people you don't see all year.
We now look on the Christmas Bird Count as a good excuse to go birding in the winter and to take a break from all of the holiday craziness, but its origins are rooted in conservation. The first Christmas Bird Count was organized in 1900 by Frank Chapman and the young National Audubon Society as a kinder and gentler answer to the Christmas "side hunt,” a gruesome holiday tradition in which groups would compete to shoot the most birds in a given day.
Posted by: Kelly Rae at 3:27PM PST on November 13, 2009
Image credit: Babak Tafreshi/TWAN
A twinkling star may make for a sweet nursery rhyme, but it also makes for a bad night of observing.
Stars twinkle due to our soupy atmosphere. Stars are so far away that they appear as nothing more than a point of light. When the air that the star is shining through is turbulent, undulating, and waving, the point of light seems to move a tiny bit, jumping around from one point of the sky to another as seen through a telescope. With the unaided eye, this wiggling motion of a star due to our atmosphere makes the star look as if it is twinkling.
This effect, sometimes called scintillation, is more pronounced for stars close to the horizon. When looking straight up, you are looking directly out into space through the least amount of atmosphere possible, whereas when you look toward the horizon you are looking through the thickest possible amount of air.... (more)
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 2:38PM PST on November 13, 2009
The newest digital collection at the University of the Pacific’s library
will excite any John Muir enthusiast. The library has scanned more than 6,500 of his letters and posted them online
Reading through the letters will give you glimpses into his personal life and conservation efforts, including his founding of the Sierra Club. The letters are both handwritten and typed. The handwritten ones are more fun to read, though, because you get to see his beautiful, fluid penmanship.
The collection isn’t really organized, but you can search for topics, letters to and from correspondents, or by date. It’s also enjoyable to just go through the collection at random, piecing together instances from his life.
The library has also made collections of Muir's photographs, drawings, and journals available online. These collections are free to view; you don’t even need a library card to access them. But beware: You could easily spend hours clicking on images, getting lost in his world.
-- by Julie Littman / photo courtesy of the National Park Service
Posted by: John Gould at 11:44PM PST on November 12, 2009
Photo by Peter Lyons-Gould
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
--William Wordsworth, quoted in this month’s Poetry by A.F. Mortitz
Poetry comes in a handy, under-sized, monthly-digestable format. It costs $3.50 at the corner smoke/magazine/chocolate shop near my office. I think it’s the cheapest thing in the store—an affordable habit.
The contents are mixed, for my taste—a little too clever (New Yorker comes to mind here) and talky—but there is always something that makes me glad I picked it up: a good translation, a profile of a new or recently deceased poet, or, in this case, a piece of criticism that, despite its flaws (see “too clever” comment above), puts the ever-challenging dilemma of individual and society front and center.
Wednesday November 11, 2009
Posted by: Philip Eager at 5:15PM PST on November 11, 2009
Photo of Brown Pelican by Phil Eager.
In a bit of good news for one species of seabird, it was announced today that the Brown Pelican is being removed from the endangered species list. The Brown Pelican was hit particularly hard in the 1970s and 1980s by its exposure to DDT (and teetered on the edge of extinction as a result), but even before then it was hunted for its feathers. Amazingly enough, the effort to save the Brown Pelican started under President Theodore Roosevelt, who established Pelican Island in Florida as the first refuge in what became the National Wildlife Refuge system. As Audubon California notes, the delisting is an encouraging development for the pelican, but it certainly doesn’t mean the species is in the clear: they face plenty of long-term challenges, including pollution, rising ocean levels, and the continued crashing of the fishing stocks in the Pacific. But it’s definitely progress.
Speaking of challenges, on the opposite end of the spectrum for seabird news were the disturbing and depressing stories in the media in the last few weeks about the albatross populations in the Pacific Ocean. You’ve probably heard about the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch (or patches, unfortunately), an accumulation of floating plastic and other garbage that spans an area the size of Texas. But you might not have thought about the impact all of that floating plastic has on seabirds that forage for food that lies close to the surface of the ocean. To a seabird, the floating pieces of plastic can look dangerously similar to its food sources.... (more)
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 10:17PM PST on November 8, 2009
Trails community member Leon Muhudinov posted an entry in the Forums inviting us all to check out his video slide-show of national parks, with lovely background music -- his own arrangement of "America the Beautiful" for guitar.
Check it out. It's sweet. And thanks for sharing it, Leon!
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 9:03PM PST on November 7, 2009
Sierra Club Trails is the best new way online to find hiking,
biking, and paddling trails, share tips, and connect with others who
love to get outside.
Now, with the help of our friends at The North
Face, we'll help a contest winner (you?) load up with backpacks,
tents, sleeping bags, clothes -- or any other gear you need -- to help
make your outdoor experience even better!
How to Enter
1. Sign up to follow @sierra_magazine on Twitter
2. Re-tweet the following message: Win a $1,000 of gear from The North Face! Follow @Sierra_magazine and RT this by Nov. 23 to enter. http://bit.ly/154yVm
A drawing will be held on December 15th from all who entered the contest, and the winner will get $1,000 worth of gear and clothing from The North Face. (Read the full Contest Terms and Conditions.)
Okay! Now go for it!
Posted by: Kelly Rae at 6:05PM PST on November 6, 2009
Mayan Ruins. Photo courtesy Bob Smith.
Have you heard? The world is coming to an end on December 21, 2012. It must be true, because Hollywood’s made a blockbuster movie about the impending disaster titled 2012 starring John Cusack.
What are the claims that people are making to back up their end-of-times date of December 21, 2012? The biggest one is that the date marks the end of a 394-year period in the Mayan calendar. This interval of time, known as a “long cycle,” has been named Baktun 13. As a cycle, it repeats itself just as our modern calendar ends and repeats itself. Mayans counted their cycles from 1 to 13, which means that at the end of 13, the cycle begins again, not that time suddenly ends all together.... (more)
Posted by: John Gould at 5:45PM PST on November 6, 2009
Photo courtesy Jenny Coyle.
Freedom which does not lead to fixed phases of development, representing exactly what nature once was, or will be, or could be….Freedom which merely demands its rights, the right to develop, as great Nature herself develops.
—Paul Klee, On Modern Art, Faber Paperbacks.
This freedom Klee describes is what I think is at the heart of good poetry.
Is there such a thing as a “nature poet” or even nature-based poetry? I don’t think so.
Those labels assume that we know what Nature is, and that others like human beings and the urban environment are distinctly separate.
They also assume that the content of poetry defines the deeper issues that poetry wrestles with, and the ineffable ones it intimates.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 1:12PM PST on November 6, 2009
We recently wrote
about the Wild9 Wilderness Congress
and how wilderness is crucial not only to our lives as hikers and outdoors people, but also in terms of mitigating climate change. We wanted to let you know that the conference has just started, and for those of us that couldn’t make it, there is a live feed that we can watch
. Drop in on the congress to see what’s going on and learn more about the connection between wilderness and climate.
Thursday November 5, 2009
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 2:10PM PST on November 5, 2009
At the Sierra Club, one of our icons is John Muir (he’s our founder after all). But who knew the country of Scotland was so fond of the man who made his name in the mountains of California? (Okay, we admit, he was born in Scotland.) Well, apparently the folks at STV in Scotland have Muir on their mind this fall too – just as we did during Ken Burns’ The National Parks
– because some of them have nominated Muir for the title of Greatest Scot.
There’s going to be a whole series of shows about Scotland’s greatest, with the one about Muir airing on Friday, November 13th. You’ll be able to watch the show online
after the broadcast. We have a cast of our own John Muir groupies here on trails. Join the group today!
Wednesday November 4, 2009
Posted by: Philip Eager at 4:38PM PST on November 4, 2009
This month’s SIERRA magazine has a great discussion on eco-friendly coffee, in which coffee experts picked some of their favorite growers, distributors, and roasters around the world. The panel picked coffees that were “planet-positive” based on a number of factors, like social responsibility, organic growing techniques, and fair-trade practices.
So, sure, we all want to be well-caffeinated with eco-friendly coffee -- but what does that have to do with birds? Well, although the contributors to that article don’t mention it specifically, many of the coffees they picked (including from Taylor Maid Farms and Counter Culture Coffee) are shade-grown, which is an essential element to a coffee being “bird friendly.”
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 3:49PM PST on November 4, 2009
El Capitan, Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy Jenny Coyle.
Spanish speakers out there in Trails-land -- I want to make sure you know about the upcoming premiere of the Spanish-language version of the Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Starting tonight, November 4, through January 20, the documentary
series will air in one-hour segments for twelve consecutive Wednesdays
on V-me TV.
The Sierra Club is proud to be working in partnership with V-me, the nation's fastest-growing Spanish-language TV network, to promote Parques Nacionales. In fact, we've got lots of materials about the series at www.sierraclub.org/parques. On that page you'll see a trailer of the film and find helpful resources -- tips for
first-time national park visitors, highlighted Sierra Club Outings
trips to national parks, and information about some our country's most
beloved parks -- all in Spanish.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 11:18AM PST on November 4, 2009
We’ve been thinking about Ansel Adams as we’ve launched our new monthly photo contest
Photographs have the power to bring the beauty of natural world into our
everyday lives, and can also serve to protect the lands we love. Here's a little of Adams' Sierra Club story.
Adams, the beloved nature photographer, was born in San Francisco four years before the great
earthquake of 1906 hit the city. An aftershock threw him to the ground,
breaking his nose and marking him for life. He spent his childhood days
playing in the sand dunes beyond the Golden Gate where he gained an
appreciation for nature, which would become his primary source of
Adams first visited Yosemite in 1916 -- only two years after John
Muir's death and three months before the founding of the National Park
Service -- and was transfixed by the beautiful valley. In 1919, at age
17, he had his first contact with the Sierra Club when he took a job as
custodian of the LeConte Memorial Lodge, the Club headquarters in
Yosemite National Park.
Posted by: Tioga Jenny at 9:29AM PST on November 1, 2009
Today marks the launch of our new monthly photo contest here on Sierra Club Trails.
I hope you'll take some time over the next few days to find the photo that best fits this month's theme -- or grab your camera, step outside, and start shooting some that will.
Here's what you need to know. You might also want to read the more-detailed Contest Rules.
November theme: Orange
November prize: A Canon PowerShot G11 Digital Camera
Deadline for entries: November 12, 5 p.m. PST
Voting ends: November 20, noon PST
Winner announced: November 24
To submit an entry, you must be a member
of our online community, and join the Trails Monthly Photo Contest group
. The community and group are both free and open to anyone!
Once you've joined the group, you'll see the option on the left to "add a picture" to the group gallery -- that's how photographers submit their entries. Be sure to give your photo a title and caption!
Here's how the judging works:
-- Members of the Trails Monthly Photo Contest group will vote by leaving a positive comment (or even "I vote for this photo") on the best photos based on this criteria: 10% conformity to theme, 40% originality, and 50% artistic quality.
-- Voting ends on November 20 at noon. The photo with the most positive comments is the People's Choice Winner (though there is no prize for that distinction).
-- The top five vote-getters will go on to our panel of judges -- comprised of Sierra magazine and Sierra Club website designers, who will pick a Grand Prize Winner based on the criteria.
The winners will be announced on Trails on November 24.
What are you waiting for?! Join the group and enter your best shots. Then let your friends know that they, too, can join the group and submit their own photos or vote for other entries.
Questions? Leave a comment on this blog post.
-- Tioga Jenny