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…

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Wolves to be protected in California and may soon be here to stay

OR-7 captured national and international attention over the last few years as he wandered thousands of miles and many of them in territory that hasn't seen a wolf for nearly 100 years. It was amazing how few sightings or incidents were reported during his travels. Most recently he has been back in Oregon and managed to find a mate. An unknown female has paired with him now.

Yesterday the final Fish and Game Commission discussions that led to the decision to list the wolf as a state listed species in California although it is not thought that any are found here presently. During the meeting it was announced that it is now known that OR-7 and his mate have at least two confirmed pups. This could be the making of the first pack to return to California in a century. Amazing times!

I have been lucky to have worked briefly with captive wolves in California in the late 1970s while a student at UC Davis. Not part of my studies, these animals had been donated to a small non-profit established near Doyle, Ca by two women who cared for them and used them for predator education work. 

Now it is likely that wild wolves will someday visit this very same area as the species begins to expand back into unoccupied range.

That will be something to howl about.

Here's an article from today's Sacramento Bee on the subject.

Meet wolf OR7's new pups; California moves to protect species

The wild gray wolf that famously roamed California in search of a mate is raising a litter of pups just over the state line in Oregon, wildlife officials have confirmed.

The news of offspring born to the wolf known as OR7 was confirmed by biologists working for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Homing in on the signal from OR7's tracking collar, they spotted and photographed two fuzzy wolf pups peeking out of a hollow log somewhere in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

There may be more pups in the family, officials said, because wolves typically produce a litter of four to six.

The finding, announced Wednesday, significantly increases the odds that wolves eventually will repopulate California for the first time since being exterminated by hunters nearly 90 years ago.

"If this pack persists and keeps cranking out pups in coming years, sure, that puts a lot more potential dispersers a lot closer to California," John Stephenson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who captured photos of the pups, said Wednesday.

At a meeting the same day in Fortuna, the California Fish and Game Commissionvoted 3-1 to protect any future Golden State wolf residents under the stateEndangered Species Act – even though there are none currently residing in the state. The action came after a prolonged debate that included an April meeting in Ventura.

"There is no species more iconic in the American West than this one, the gray wolf," said commission president Michael Sutton. "We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them recolonize their historic range in this state."

Wolf OR7 is so named because he was the seventh wolf to be radio-collared in Oregon. He became a media star when he dispersed from his home pack in northeast Oregon late in 2011 in search of a mate. He entered California in December of that year, and spent much of 2012 wandering northeastern California in a circuitous path that eventually covered thousands of miles. He returned to Oregon in March 2013 but remained near the California border and has crossed back and forth repeatedly.

OR7 is among the most wide-ranging progeny of a successful wolf reintroduction effort launched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995. The program started by transplanting 14 wolves from Canada to Yellowstone National Park. Additional transplants followed elsewhere in the Rocky Mountains. These wolves formed new packs, and some of their offspring eventually dispersed to Oregon, which now has more than 60 resident wolves.

Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity,noted that OR7 left a scent trail everywhere he traveled. It is possible his offspring eventually will follow that trail into California when they naturally disperse around the age of 2.

"For California, this is saying we have a breeding population in a national forest that straddles the Oregon-California border," said Weiss. "When those pups start to go off on their own, they will be following OR7's tracks."

Stephenson said OR7's family can officially be considered a new "pack," at least biologically speaking. He estimates the pups are about 5 to 6 weeks old. They probably were conceived sometime in February and born in mid-April. The biologists did not approach or handle the pups or the two adult wolves, but merely observed them.

On Monday, in hopes of spotting the pups, Stephenson carefully stalked through the densely forested area where OR7 has been spending most of his time lately, and picked out a sunny clearing to wait with his camera.

"Wolf pups do tend to gravitate toward clearings. It's like your pet dog: They like to sit in the sun and warm themselves," he said. "I got lucky, actually. I had been sitting there for a while, and I just happened to see some movement. They heard the sound of the camera waking up, and they ducked back in a little bit. They're pretty wary little buggers."

Following past protocol, the exact location is being kept secret to protect the animals from poachers.

A mystery still surrounds OR7's mate. Wildlife officials don't know where she came from. It's possible she has been traveling with OR7 for some time. On Monday, when biologists first observed the pups, they collected wolf scat from the area, and they hope some of it is from the female. The scat will yield DNA results that could reveal where she came from, based on comparisons with DNA from other wolves. 

"In time, we'll learn quite a bit more about her," said Stephenson. "But I suspect she's a long-distance disperser like OR7 was. I was surprised one made it all the way down and they found each other, but it happens."

After the pups are about 8 weeks old, the adult wolves typically move them among a collection of "rendezvous sites" to familiarize them with their home territory. For this reason, the discovery of the pups will change how the wolf family is managed in at least one respect, said Elizabeth Materna, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The batteries in OR7's tracking collar, which uses both GPS and radio signals, have outlived their typical three-year lifespan and could go dead at any time. Officials previously had no intention to replace the collar, she said, but they have changed plans and will replace it in order to better monitor the pack, probably this summer.

OR7's travels in California prompted a fierce debate about how to manage wolves in the state. That debate culminated with Wednesday's vote by the Fish and Game Commission to protect wolves under the state Endangered Species Act.Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was the lone dissenting vote.

Even though no wolves are known to exist in the state now, most commissioners believe that will change. "Wolves will arrive," said commissioner Richard Rogers."There will be a population that fits the requirements (of the Endangered Species Act). The commission is bound by that law."

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended against Endangered Species Act protection. It concluded, in short, that there are no immediate threats to the survival of the species in California. But the department is preparing a plan to manage wolves, which is being drafted with input from a committee that includes conservationists, ranchers and hunters.

Hunting groups and livestock ranchers urged the commission not to protect wolves, arguing the state needs maximum flexibility to manage the species. Some noted the federal government plans to lift its own protections in the lower 48 states because the species has rebounded.

Mike Ford, California representative of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, cautioned that protecting wolves could deplete their traditional primary prey, elk, which are far less numerous in California than other states where wolves have become re-established.

"Let's face it: Wolves are recovered; in many states they're no longer listed, they no longer need that listing, and we are getting dispersing animals," said Ford. "I don't know that listing is going to do anything more than add a layer of bureaucracy and expense, which they don't really need."

Others said the state Endangered Species Act could limit options for property owners who need to protect livestock.

"The wolf that is introduced from Canada is a major predator," said John Rice, a Humboldt County cattle rancher. "The wolves will prey upon livestock because cows and calves are easy to kill. How will we expect to survive this major predator?"

Weiss, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said livestock losses in other states where wolves have been re-established are generally minimal, and can be offset by management techniques and reimbursement programs for losses suffered by ranchers. Research elsewhere has shown that elk and deer populations benefit from wolf reintroduction.

"What we know about wolf biology is that wolves are what make wild nature healthy," she said. "It will improve the habitat for other species by keeping those herds on the move, which they do when wolves are around."

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bay-Delta Conservation Plan in a Nutshell?

A brief summary of the bay delta plan. I'm not endorsing the summary but do know the author and think she was objective. Groups are asking for more time to comment which would be good. 

Great Ecology, Inc.

The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan in A Nutshell

May 23, 2014 12:39 pm

By: Jessie Quinn, Ph.D.

The deadline for the public review and comment period for the Draft Bay-Delta Conservation Plan is approaching in mere weeks, on June 13, 2014. Did you wait until the last minute to skim the approximately 40,000-page document and send in a comment or two? Fear not! Here in the Sacramento office of Great Ecology, we have a ringside seat for the development and (potentially) implementation of a plan that addresses one of the largest—if not the largest—water management challenges in California since the building of the California Aqueduct. In the interest of promoting an informed and involved citizenry, we have distilled the entire Plan down to an easy-to-follow information fact sheet for your edification.

San Francisco Bay Delta Watershed. Map courtesy of the U.S. EPA.

San Francisco Bay Delta Watershed.
Map courtesy of the U.S. EPA.

What is the Bay-Delta?
The Bay-Delta is shorthand for the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, an inland Delta in northern California and the largest estuary on the west coasts of both North and South America. The entire Bay-Delta watershed covers more than 75,000 square miles (so, most of northern California). Fed by the melting snowpack, streams and rivers of several mountain ranges, the waterways of the Bay-Delta course across the state into several large bays before emptying into the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco.

What is the Bay Delta Conservation Plan?
The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, or BDCP, is a regional Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) that covers the central delta of the watershed, an area of 872,000 acres. The goal of the plan is to protect the water supply the Delta provides to 25 million people and over 3 million acres of agricultural land in California, while also maintaining ecosystem health of the associated wetland, riparian, grassland, and forest habitats and the plant and animal species.

Images show the Delta's extensive network of levees, weirs and canals which provides water to 25 million people and over 3 million acres of agricultural land in California.  Left photo courtesy of

Images show the Delta's extensive network of levees, weirs and canals which provides water to 25 million people and over 3 million acres of agricultural land in California. Images courtesy of, Left: James Davidson, Right: Flickr.

Why is the BDCP needed?
The existing water supply transport system, which conveys Bay-Delta water as far south as San Diego, consists of an extensive network of levees, weirs and canals. These aging above-ground structures are vulnerable to damage from natural disasters, such as a storm surges or earthquakes, and could result in the flooding of adjacent communities of over 500,000 people and hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. Sea level rise due to climate change will likely increase the scale and frequency of these catastrophic events.

The problem doesn't stop there. Saltwater intrusion from the San Francisco Bay has always been a natural component of the Delta tidal ecosystem. However, the diversion of freshwater out of the Delta through massive intake pumps at its southern end changes the natural east-west flows through the Delta's wetlands to north-south flows, causing a buildup of salinity in the waterways. The increasing salty water threatens to impact plant and animal species with low salinity tolerance, such as the Endangered Delta Smelt(Hypomesus transpacificus). This, as well as the levees' contribution to the loss of floodplain habitat, natural channel margins, and tidal marsh, has resulted in a highly altered and degraded system.

Moreover, the pumps themselves disrupt the passage and migration patterns of fish such as the Smelt, Steelhead, Chinook salmon, and sturgeon. To protect the fish, certain levels of water have been mandated to remain in the Delta by a 2007 court ruling.  This reduces the available water supply, particularly in drier years. This potential year-to-year fluctuation would impact the reliability of the supply delivered throughout the state, where the demand for water is certainly not diminishing.

What solution is the BDCP proposing?
The proposed solution: divert water from north of the Delta, higher up the Sacramento River through 2 massive underground tunnels, each of which is 40-feet wide and extends 35 miles south along the Sacramento river. These tunnels would divert freshwater to the Bay Area and southern California from further upstream before the water enters the Delta, thus ensuring a reliable, high quality water supply to most of the state, while also protecting the conveyed water from potential natural disasters. Additionally, the tunnels would allow the natural east west flows to return to the Delta estuary, allowing the restoration of natural fish movement patterns.

Proposed: Two 35-mile tunnels divert water north of the Delta to increase the water supply and protect valuable native ecosystems. Easy solution? Not quite…

So, problem solved, right?
Well, not exactly. The construction of tunnels will directly impact numerous habitats in the Bay-Delta region, and will also potentially create further saltwater intrusion and habitat degradation higher up the Sacramento River, since freshwater will be removed from higher reaches of the river. To address and compensate for these anticipated impacts, the BDCP includes a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the federal and state NEPA and CEQA processes. The plan and the EIS/EIR seek a 50-year project permit to proceed with the BDCP work, which would allow some take* of Threatened and Endangered species through the regulatory context of the Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP); as compensation for the take, the plan promotes landscape-level natural community conservation in an adaptive management framework. Thus the NCCP includes plans for approximately 150,000-acres of mitigation via habitat restoration throughout the Delta over the next 50 years to compensate for impacts to sensitive species and habitats from the tunnels' construction

Wow, all that habitat restoration!  So now the problem is solved, right?
Not quite yet. Some argue that the plan does more harm than good, citing their worry about the increased salinity in the Sacramento River and in the Delta, which would compromise the water sources of the area's farming operations. Yet another concern is that the tunnels will take too much water out of the rivers, drying up some downstream habitat in the drier years which are expected due to climate change and subsidence. In fact, the Delta Independent Science Board concluded that the Draft BDCP fell short of integrating the appropriate amount of science into the Plan. Particularly, the Board was concerned that the feasibility and effectiveness of the planned habitat restoration was overstated; that the plan lacked an adequate analysis of uncertainty; that there was an exclusion of discussion about climate change effects on the project over time; and that the detail in describing adaptive management methods was insufficient. This analysis was released in a report last week.

*The Endangered Species Act defines "take" as to "harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, would, kill, trap, capture, or collect."


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