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Archive for October, 2009

Halloween: Tut the pumpkin killer

Newman (left), me (middle), and Tut (right)

Whenever it gets close to Halloween, I start thinking about my dear old Abyssinian cat, Tut, bless his long departed soul. He died of old age about a year-and-a-half ago, but I’ll always think about him every Halloween and here’s why:

(I wrote this column on Oct. 18, 1996)
You can always tell when it’s getting close to Halloween at my house. (Last weekend we finished harvesting pumpkins from our garden.)

Several weeks ago, son Karl and I wrestled with the biggest squash in our garden, a monstrous 100-lb. “thing” we called Jabba-the-pumpkin, and shoved it to the patio just outside the sliding glass doors to my office.
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Posted on Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Under: Halloween, Tut the cat | 1 Comment »

Condor advocates ask hunters to ditch lead bullets

California condor (USFWS photo)
condor flying

Utah is now considering a program that would encourage hunters to use non-lead ammunition in habitat for the endangered California condor, whose biggest threat is lead poisoning from hunter-shot carcasses.

Arizona already has such a program, complete with vouchers for free non-lead ammo and there’s about a 70-percent compliance rate among the state’s hunters. But the Center for Biological Diversity says that’s not good enough. Utah, Arizona – and better yet, the whole country — should go completely non-lead for the health of condors, golden eagles, other wildlife … and humans, too. The Center says a study has found that about a third of sampled deer burgers consumed by people were tainted with lead.

In 2007, California banned nearly all lead ammo in the state’s condor range. Hopefully, Arizona and Utah will soon follow suit.

Read more about it here in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
Under: California condors | 1 Comment »

Coyotes seen in Danville yard. Homeowners worried about their dog & cat

Coyote at end of driveway next to the family car. Photo by Rick Fiset, Danville, CA
rick fiset coyote2

We live on the west side of Danville near Las Trampas Park. Sunday morning a bunch of turkeys gobbling through our yard woke us up about 7 a.m. They were making a lot of noise so my wife let our dog out and we could hear him barking and scattering the turkeys. Our dog Willie is a Border collie mix and he kept barking for about 5 minutes, so I went outside and called him. He was barking at the bottom of our driveway and I went down and opened the garage door and he came running back inside.

I was going back to bed but I happened to look our bathroom window and I saw this coyote pacing around behind a car at the bottom of our driveway where Willie had been. My wife and I watched him for about 30 minutes while he paced and circled behind the car and down behind a small retaining wall. Another coyote joined him/her and we watched, fascinated.
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Posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Under: Cats, Coyote attacks, coyotes, dogs | 3 Comments »

Antarctica: “Strange & Cold,” Images From the Lost Continent

Adelie penguins, Antarctica. (Karl Nielsen)

I got a couple of e-mails asking how our son Karl was doing, so i figure it’s time for a quick update.

Those of you who follow this blog and my daily newspaper columns in Bay Area News Group-East Bay newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, may recall my periodic tales of our son, Karl Nielsen, and his adventures working and taking photographs in Antarctica, backpacking and taking photographs in Nepal and Thailand, and working as a whitewater rafting guide (and taking photographs) in Alaska.
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Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2009
Under: Antarctica, Karl Nielsen | 1 Comment »

Animal Services: Cat/kitten adoption event at Mtz. shelter, Noon-3 p.m. Sunday

Contra Costa Animal Services is having a HUGE cat & kitten adoption event this coming Sunday (Oct.11), from noon-3 p.m.

The shelter is usually closed on Sundays, but it’s kitten season and they have a LOT of adult cats and kittens they need to find homes for.

The shelter is located at 4800 Imhoff Place, Martinez. Main desk phone is 925-335-8300.

Been looking for a cat or kitten? Now’s the time … and this is the place! /Gary

Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009
Under: Cats, Kittens | 1 Comment »

Overpopulation, not endangered species, caused water crisis

One the biggest endangered species controversies of 2008 involved the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to keep enough water in the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola rivers to keep endangered species alive during an intense drought.

The purple bankclimber mussel, fat threeridge mussel, and Gulf sturgeon have all been pushed to the edge of extinction by dams and water diversions.
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Posted on Friday, October 9th, 2009
Under: Water | 1 Comment »

Save Our Cats and Kittens from Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)


“Meows, Music, and Merlot” – Fall Fundraiser for SOCK FIP

Save Our Cats and Kittens from Feline Infectious Peritonitis (SOCK FIP: is having their inaugural fundraiser, “Meows, Music and Merlot,” which takes place this Sunday (Oct.11) from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Quarryhill Botanical Gardens,12841 Sonoma Hwy, in Glen Ellen, California.

The event will feature fine wine and food, jazz music, a silent auction, and a presentation by world-renowned expert on feline infectious disease, Dr. Niels C. Pedersen. All proceeds from the event will go directly to fund Dr. Pedersen’s groundbreaking research into FIP being conducted at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Tickets are $50 per person.
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Posted on Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Under: Cats, FIP | 3 Comments »

Squirrels love a “tasty” backyard sunflower forest!

Squirrels climb 12-foot backyard sunflowers to eat the seeds. (Lois Bogue/Benicia, CA)

Well, the sunflowers in our garden have ripened, the blossoms are all stuffed to the brim with fat, tasty sunflower seeds … and you know what that means, don’t you?

The fox squirrels are busy climbing our towering, 12-foot tall sunflowers to feast on those seeds!
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Posted on Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Under: Squirrels, Sunflowers | 2 Comments »

Vultures: The environment would be a stinky mess without these scavengers

Sharp-shinned hawk on car top. Photo by Madeleine Gallagher, Walnut Creek, CA
sharpie gallagher

Dear Gary:
I’m just learning how to download photos onto our computer and have some recent photos taken in our neighborhood in Walnut Creek.

The little hawk sat on my car for at least an hour. We think it’s a sharp-shinned hawk, based on the pictures in Sibley’s bird book. It is the second or third time a hawk (maybe this one) has perched there.
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Posted on Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
Under: Hawks, Raptors, Turkey vultures | 1 Comment »

California State Parks: The parks will remain open, but they’re not out of danger

Mount Diablo State Park (Brian Murphy/Walnut Creek, CA)

After months of threats to close up to 100 California state parks due to budget woes, last week the governor announced that all 279 of the state’s parks will remain open

Thanks go out to everyone, from Save Mount Diablo, to my many readers who sent e-mails and letters to the governor asking him NOT to close our parks, to the Center for Biological Diversity’s California e-activists, who sent more than 3,500 letters requesting not to close the parks.
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Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2009
Under: California State Parks | 1 Comment »