Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tracking Opossums in California and Beyond

I recently came across an April 10, 1915 reprint “The Tennessee Possum Has Arrived in California” from the Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game. This caused me to wonder how well the introduction into California of the only marsupial found in North America was known? The paper documented 2 live opossums captured in the wild on 2/25/1914 near San Jose. CDFG staff found that there had been several cases of importation and release of the species about 4 years before. At the time of the report, about 200 opossums had been documented as killed or captured and that the species was spreading and multiplying at a rapid rate. The author went on to say that trapping could be used to control its over-abundance and that it was not likely that the opossum would spread far beyond the thickly settled parts of the state where it can find a living around orchards, gardens and barns. How well did that forecast hold up?

A thoughtful discussion about the history of the opossum in California as well as some interesting documentation showing that the species isn’t limited to urban areas can be found in this Camera Codger post

More information is available in this paper on “The Opossum: Its Amazing Story” including more details on the introduction and status of the species in the western US. 

An article about the species in the LA Times a few years ago indicates it was first trapped in the Los Angeles area in 1906 and that about 600/year are treated by one wildlife rehab staff person there. The most common mammal brought into wildlife rehab facilities in California is the opossum and that has been the case for at least the last ten years. That gives some indication to the large numbers of opossums now found in at least urban parts of the state. As a non-native species, it seems inappropriate to use scarce wildlife rehab resources for the care of injured or found opossums. It is also inappropriate to move these animals around as they may carry diseases, parasites, or cause other problems with native wildlife. What types of issues are common with this species?

Managing Opossum Problems published in Santa Barbara County gives an idea of the type of conflicts that result from the presence of the species. Another example is seen in “Living with Wildlife: Opossums” from Washington state. The opossum is now known to have spread as far as southwestern British Columbia. The introduction and expansion of the opossum into other areas has increased the number of conflicts reported.  

Some legal considerations in California? “Outlawed Opossums Lack Legal Protection”.

The species does have fans as seen by the existence of the Opossum Society of the United States

Apparently some don’t think one species of Opossum in California is enough? “Legalize short tailed opossums in california”.

Opossums are commonly seen as roadkill and this is likely a substantial source of mortality for the species with the increase in vehicles, speed and paved roads. Opossums also commonly feed on roadkill carrion at night and provide a service by removing this source of disease. Feral dogs and cats and other predators are also reported to kill large numbers of opossums annually.  Large and frequent litters compensate for a high mortality rate and it’s estimated that only a small percent of weaned opossums survive more than one year.

The possible role of the opossum in reducing or diluting human infection from Lyme disease is an ongoing debate (“The Lyme Disease Debate”). Some work showed that opossums may reduce the presence and risk from the tick vector for this disease. These findings have been used by some to promote providing more protection for opossums. Meanwhile, there is still controversy with the Lyme disease dilution hypothesis and whether there is a benefit to having opossums in the environment and if forest fragmentation plays an important role in facilitating the spread of Lyme disease.

What does the future hold for the opossum in California and beyond? It seems that further expansion is likely with development and climate change. Elsewhere, climate change has been documented to facilitate dramatic northward movement of opossums in Michigan and “Opossums on the move: Climate change could be luring critters north”. This trend seems likely on the west coast too where it might include more movement inland and into higher elevations?

I may add or update this when I have more thoughts or information.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Garden Highway Scooting Again

I filled my nearly empty tank & rode up the Garden Highway with a strong tailwind today and continued on beyond East Nicolas. I hadn't been able to ride since last month and was ready to blow the cobwebs out. The wind and rough ride took care of that soon.

I returned into the wind and rough pavement section to explore the North Bayou route to the airport and took a short break under the freeway before returning to Sacramento where I did some local exploring around Sutter's Landing Park and east Sac.142 km or nearly 90 mile ride today.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Burning Matters

Like many other open space and natural areas, the wonderful American River Parkway is suffering from larger and more frequent fires as well as increased impacts from fire response and other human activities. With shrinking local government budgets and the prolonged drought in California and climate change in general, these conditions can only get worse. 

Much work needs to be done on this issue. A number of local groups are working with the cities, county, and various fire departments to have an appropriate and effective management strategy to insure that this jewel continues to provide high quality recreation and habitat within the region. It is staggering to realize that there are more annual visits to the Parkway than Yosemite.


Pay attention to the open skies, you never know what will be coming down.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Woah Nellie! "The Camino Diaries" are coming

This trek should be a fun one to follow & give ideas for the future too.

Sent from Mailbox

Monday, June 30, 2014

Maacama Tracks?

I came across this term today from someone I've worked withI like the way he mixed art and photos to tell a story.  I was surprised to find that it wasn't far from a recent trip I made. Maacama - Land of Salmon Pools” describes an area of the inner coast range similar to where I grew up and some place I’m familiar with without knowing it. 

I recently made a hurried scooter trip to the town of St. Helena that wasn't long enough to enjoy much of the open space there and beyond. Now I see that the Mayacamas Mountains are a short range that spans parts of Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake counties. The name came from a local tribe with a village, Maiya’kama, near where Calistoga is now. The spelling points to the confusion that persists. Within this range, the Geysers include the most developed geothermal field as well as many other geological and natural history resources calling for further examination. 

For example, Audubon Canyon Ranch recently acquired by transfer the 1620 acre Mayacamas Mountains Audubon Sanctuary near Healdsburg and part of 12,000 acres of habitat in the Mayacamas Mountains protected under conservation easements with the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. The new property was merged with another to form the Modini Mayacamas Preserves totaling 3,370 acres above highway 128 in Alexander Valley.

I'm filing all this away for more exploring later.

NOTE: Shortly after I posted this a wildfire broke out in the same general areaproviding a reminder of the current high threat from the drought conditions present.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Point 2 View Camera by IPEVO MacNexus Review

I hit the jackpot at the last MacNexus meeting and won Point 2 View Camera by IPEVO as one of two main prizes. When I bought my tickets the IPEVO camera caught my eye although I'd never heard of it before. I have a 2013 iMac and a 2010 MacBook Air. Both have built in cameras for FaceTime and similar applications but I have some need to be able to share information between remote users that these cameras don't handle easily. This type of activity seems easier using AirPlay with my early iPad Mini or iPhone 5S. I wasn't in the market for a new camera or even know this one existed but thought I'd take advantage of this happy development to give it an evaluation.

Installation is simple. Just pop in the CD and install a zipped file. The hardware supports Macs from 10.5 up as well as "Windoze" and such. I plugged the camera in after connecting it to the weighted stand.The stand is solid with several connections to orient the camera which also has several buttons for focus, single photo and a switch for autofocus behavior well as a 3 or 4 foot cable. Quite a few accessories are also available online as well as a number of other camera models and similar tools. 

I had an application crash when I started the P2V software. It turns out there is an update on the IPEVO website. I downloaded it and was in business although the app has closed several times in the middle of taking another photo. I also noted that the company has many other devices and accessories and seems to focus on the education market. There were lots of testimonials indicating a happy user base. I plan to go back to review the site in more detail later for further ideas and such. 

For now, the camera is easy to use and can focus as close as 2" from an object. They promote using it to show iPad/iPhone screens but I'm still working that out as the lighting seems sensitive as you would imagine. IPEVO has some templates available online to aid in device placement for sharing. There are online video tips for use including lighting, complex objects and much more. Clearly this is a full time undertaking. I have taken a few snapshots for examination and found that the software allows for digital zooming, rotation, flipping and more. Sharing opportunities are present as well. I also found that FaceTime and Skype can select between this camera and the built-in one for web conferencing and it appears to work fine with either. I assume that would be true for other webcam apps such as Yahoo, etc. This should be handy when trying to share information or bring others into view. 

From IPEVO: "Along with your PC or Mac computer and a digital projector, the Point 2 View can be used to project sharp, clear video for teaching or presentations. Resolution is adjustable up to high-definition 1600 x 1200. Additionally, the Point 2 View is ready for your video conferencing and remote learning needs, and is compatible with a wide variety of Instant Messaging applications, including Skype, Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, and AOL.

The Point 2 View (P2V) USB Document Camera provides real-time video capture for documents, pictures, and three-dimensional objects — all at hundreds or even thousands less than conventional document cameras and overhead projectors. With its ultra-portable size and featherlight weight, the Point 2 View is a perfect mobile solution for teaching, presentations, distance learning, and video communication of all types."

Following are a few photos I took with natural lighting. Resolution was 1280b1024 with a higher setting possible. Autofocus was on. I didn't use the Zoom, Mirror, Timer, or Exposure settings.

iPhone screen washed out unless brightness minimal

Minimal brightness


Autofocus on postcard

Two objects with different height close up

Simple document  with irregular height photo


  • True 2.0-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Full autofocus lens
  • Up to 2" (5cm) macro focus
  • 6x digital zoom
  • Up to 30 fps live video capture (at 640 x 480)
  • USB 2.0 Video Class (UVC) interface
  • Mac, Windows & Chrome OS compatible
  • Max shooting area: 9.4" x 7.2" (240mm x 182mm)
  • Max shooting area with extension stand: 17.17" x 13.4" (450 x 340mm)
  • L x W x H: 3.8" x 0.9" x 1.1" (96 x 24 x 30 mm)
  • USB cable length: 4.9ft (150cm)
  • Color: Silver camera, white stand
  • p2v_dimension.png

Package Content

  • Point 2 View USB Document Camera
  • Weighted stand with adjustable arm
  • CD with P2V software and user manual
  • Quick Start Guide

I have more testing to do but am quite happy with the device. I expect to use it to share hardcopy information and objects and more without needing to scan, attach and email. I'm sure other applications will become clear too. Who knows, maybe one can be connected with a 3D Printer for purposes beyond my imagination? It seems to fit a niche in education either when AirPlay isn't available or in combination with it. I'm sure others will think of many more applications as well or have additional experience with it.

Thanks MacNexus!


Pay attention to the open skies, you never know what will be coming down.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Scooting up the Garden Highway

I recently caught the bug to get back on something with a motor and two wheels. It's been a couple of years since I sold my big green KLR650 which was like a mule able to carry me and a heavy load just about anywhere I could point it. It had a huge gas tank, high clearance, and could lug up anything while I hung on.That felt like too much work at times but I have been missing the open road leading to old haunts of mine or introducing me to new ones. The solution was quite surprising but there are many scooters being made now that have the capacity and ability to provide this type of freedom. It was also important that I would be able to use a bike for my rambling about and not tie up our only and shared auto or rent something bigger than necessary just to get away at times. There has been quite a bit of debate but it appears the newer four stroke models produce much less air pollution or carbon than just about anything else on the road now. Unfortunately, the electric versions are not quite there yet in terms of travel distance, charging times and price. Hopefully that will improve soon.

I found it a bit overwhelming to get up to speed on all the scooter options. There seem to be at least three main types of machines out there. The european version has been rolling for over 60 years, led by Vespa and Piaggio has a lot going including reliability, retro look and more. They are pricing but hold their value and the the new Piaggio 350 BV really caught my eye but was probably a bit much for me now. Japan and Taiwan have been in this market for quite a while now too. They tend to appeal more to the masses and make some huge maxi-scooters that have it all on board and are loaded with style too. They are quite heavy but low to the ground so easier to manage than my previous mule was. More recently, China has been making clones of every type of scooter available. All of these companies also make many small and mid-size scooters where there is less storage but more fuel economy. With the internet, there is so much information, discussion, and what passes as that, to make for a full time job. I jumped in with both feet and barely managed to keep my head above water at times. 

Several weeks later, I now have a mid-size Kymco People 150 made in Taiwan back in 2006. This gets me back in the saddle while I continue to sort through all of this information and figure out where I may want to go. At least that's the plan. I took my first real ride today on a winding levee road in a strong wind. That brought back memories and gave me a few new ones too. I'm thinking a windscreen may be a good idea after all. Among other things I learned that a small gas tank can empty fast in spite of high mileage (about 75/gal) claimed. Also, even though this scooter has bigger 16" wheels than most, the rough and sloping pavement made for a dodgy ride. I set out to find the Lake of the Woods wildlife area near Nicolas more than 30 miles away. I wasn't able to find it but will follow-up on that before long. I did settle a debate that I lost when I confirmed that the odometer registers kilometers even though the speedometer mainly reports miles/hr. That should make for more uncertain rides as I try to convert while I keep enough fuel in the tank to return all while getting away from an urban setting. I spent a lot of time and miles/kilometers watching the gage drop to "E" with a long way to go in a headwind. Somehow I made it and had quite a bit of fun. 

As I said, I did get the bug to do this and am enjoying that fact now. For now, I need to remind myself to remember to chew more and swallow less…

Lucky my shields were up when this full sized dragonfly tried to enter my helmet via the main vent

Built in storage, floorboards, no clutch or gears, and other more or less features on this "new" ride.

So far, it seems that the seller was right after all that this thing does register Kilometers…