Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nellie Pond

Click for full size image

Surrounded by frequently burned longleaf pine and turkey oak sandhill, Nellie Pond is one of the gems of Conecuh National Forest. I can remember when this isolated, semi-permanent, and naturally fishless pond was full of bluegill, shellcracker, and bass, and its shallows teemed with millions of mosquitofish. Fortunately for the amphibians, it dries completely every few years, frustrating the locals who have traditionally kept it stocked with fish that don't belong in such a place. I first found gopher frogs here in the late 1980s, making it one of the few breeding sites in Alabama for that rare species. The pond (actually a complex of three ponds that merge at high water) also supports tiger salamanders, ornate chorus frogs, barking treefrogs, alligators, chicken turtles, and banded water snakes, to name a few. I took this vertical panoramic photo yesterday for possible use in a gopher frog exhibit at a prominent regional aquarium. This shows what Nellie Pond and its surroundings look like when the winter-breeding amphibians are there.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Harpersville Motel

Mike writes,
"I have a theory that one of the producers at ABC News has recently watched the movie "My Cousin Vinny." You be the judge. Look at the two photos. One is from a scene in the movie, the other is from the news report about the pilot that is accused of trying to fake his death. He jumped out of a plane near Harpersville; I'm sure you've heard the story. The reporter is standing outside the Harpersville Motel where the pilot stayed after parachuting out of the plane.

I think they are trying to portray the State of Alabama as primitive and backward, just like in the movie."

General Putnam Motel from My Cousin Vinny

Harpersville Motel

I don't know. It's certainly not flattering (gotta love that COLOR TV sign), but it really is where the police took the pilot before they knew he was wanted. The motel in My Cousin Vinny is in Putnam County, Georgia, where the movie was filmed. And it sure looks a lot better from the front than the Harpersville Motel!

The trailer for the 1992 film:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Day


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Element Discovered

I just received this interesting news item in an email:

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from four days to four years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Purple Martin Gourds

I've been meaning for years to put up martin gourds before the birds arrive here in late January, but I never seem to get around to it in time. This year is different. My friend Jamie Hill, founder of the Purple Martin Conservation Association, shipped me some of his specially designed supergourds, and today they're swinging in the breeze down by Gator Pond. I recently learned from the PMCA literature that I didn't need to be in such a rush, as the first arriving birds are not "scouts," as I'd always heard, but migrating adults that are not likely looking for new nesting sites. What I want to attract are the homesteading subadults from last year's crop, which may arrive weeks after the first older martins pass through. So, I'll keep the gourds closed for a while to keep out nest competitors, probably opening them up in mid February or so. More on our success (or failure) later...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

First snake of the year

And a coachwhip, to really start things off right! It's tee-shirt weather around here on this January 4th (mid-seventies), and I thought I'd take a look under the roofing tin to see if any snakes had come up for the warmth. This usually is pointless in January, but of the five pieces of metal I lifted, two had young coachwhip snakes. I generally see black racers under these, and that's what I would have expected, but you never can tell.

I've scattered 10 of these pieces of metal roofing across our property.

Note the rodent burrow the snake uses...

A youngster, probably not quite 3 feet long, and looking a bit roughed up.
Click for a better view.

And here's what it looked like down at the pond around 8:00 this morning:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year

Presenting my one and only (so far) YouTube video, now Benny Hillified.

(At the bottom, you can plug in any YouTube URL and get the same Yakity Sax soundtrack.)

Hat tip to cyberthrush.