UPDATED 11/07/20
Added a better picture of a Black Saddlebags. Incorporated it into the previous fuzzy picture just to keep my ego in check.
Apparently my Western Forktail was a Swift Forktail. I havehopefully…corrected that with a correct picture.
What is the Dragonfly Project? It’s simply a season of pursuing, learning about, and documenting  local Mendocino County Odonates. Just pictures…no collecting, netting or wading into aquatic environments. 
I first became interested in dragonflies as a photography subject last year when I got this picture of a Paddle-tailed Darner on the Big River Haul Rd.
The striking patterns and color combinations fascinated me. Like anything, once you start looking…you start finding. I started seeing dragonflies at all the locations where I was birding or looking for butterflies. And so began my Dragonfly Project.
I knew little about odonates when I started this project. I didn’t know what a T-spot was. Didn’t know what spreadwings were let alone paraprocts! BTWNorthern Spreadwings are the cutest bug out there! I found odonates interesting. Many have great names…Vivid Dancer, Exclamation Damsel, Grappletail, Mountain Emerald, Beaverpond Baskettail, Flame Skimmer, Black Saddlebags, Wandering Glider….
Odonates have been around for a long time. “Modern-type odonates are known from the Jurassic era (nearly 200 million years ago), and similar forms go back as far as the Carboniferous period (250 to 300 million years ago)” (Manolis). That means that they have survived three extinction events not including our current one. They will likely be around long after us.
There doesn’t seem to be solid numbers for a total species count of odonates on the planet. New species are still being found. Over 5400 is one estimate. Over 435 in Canada and the USA. 113 in California according to a 2008 checklist on the California Odonata website.
The Odonate life cycle…eggs…larvae…molts…adults is just as fascinating and mind-blowing as our butterflies. Most of this happens in a single season (generation) with the larvae overwintering and the adult emerging in the spring to start the cycle over again. There are exceptions…the Pacific Spiketail life cycle can take five years (Karst, Gordon) and some damselflies have multiple broods during the year.
When I started my “project” I didn’t know that some dragonflies migrate. In some cases great distances. Some of these include Black Saddlebags, Common Green Darner, Variegated Meadowhawk, Spot-winged Glider and then…there’s the Wandering Glider. Here’s some snippets from Odonata Central and Wikipedia
”It is a strong flier that is regularly encountered by ocean freighters…its ability to drift with the wind, feeding on aerial plankton…individual globe skimmers fly more than 6,000 km (3,730 miles)—one of the farthest known migrations of all insect species…It is the highest-flying dragonfly, recorded at 6,200 m in the Himalayas. It was also the first dragonfly species that settled on Bikini Atoll after the nuclear tests there.” Feeding on aerial plankton‼ What’s not interesting about that? 
Dragonfly migration is poorly understood. It’s been noted that in the east this migration occurs during hawk migration. Hawk counters with their observation skills have been asked to help better understand this phenomenon.
My methodology during my project was to find and take pictures of odonates, consult the guides and post on iNaturalist. There is a very active group of odonate experts on iNaturalist. They have had to correct me several times especially with the damselflies. Finally got the Swift Forktail correct after the third try:) A big thank you to those experts. My territory included many bike rides up the Big River Haul Rd., walks over to the various ponds at the Little River Airport, one bus trip to Riverside Park in Ukiah, a trip up to Comptche and one walk up to Inglenook Creek along Ten Mile Beach.
Besides having fun what did my season of documenting odonates accomplish? I found 36 species if you count the Northern/Boreal Bluet which can’t be told apart without a hand lens. 32 were within their known range with 4 seemingly outside their ranges. The four are Northern Spreadwing, Mountain Emerald, Four-spotted Skimmer and Pale-faced Clubskimmer. (Manolis, Paulson) 
I may have found a previously unknown population of Mountain Emeralds. More research will confirm this next year. As it’s name implies this dragonfly’s normal habitat is at much higher elevations. The sphagnum bogs of our Pygmy Forest might be responsible for this population. In Oregon they have been found near sea level at Gearhart Bog. (Kiersten, Gordon) This Mountain Emerald sighting is also the earliest flight record in California. The Pygmy Forest bogs might also be responsible for my sightings of the Four-spotted Skimmer, another mountain/bog loving species.
Coastal Mendocino County seems to be under surveyed for dragonflies. I was able to add many new coastal records (still adding at press time) to Odonata Central.
I am currently updating Appendix H-Invertebrates of the Big River Project Area, in the Big River Preliminary Plan. I increased the odonate species list from 9 to 25. That report will be forwarded to California State Parks.
Not bad for one season of documenting odonates! Overall I’m extremely pleased and surprised with my year of exploring the dragonfly world and look forward to adding to this list. 
A word about picture quality. When you try to photograph a living thing you will not always get the best pictures. Darners are hard because of their constant flight. Damselflies are hard because of their small size. My Black Saddlebags is ego shattering! I spent considerable amounts of time trying to get the picture. I leave it in this report for your amusement. I was surprised that iNaturalist recognized it as their number one choice. You can find good pictures of a Black Saddlebags here.
A PLUG FOR THE BUGS…“They are essential to the reproduction of most flowering plants, including many fruits, vegetables, and nuts; they are food for birds, fish, and other animals; they filter water and keep our rivers and streams pristine; and they clean up waste from plants and animals.” 
Pollinators are responsible for one out of three mouthfuls of food we eat, Eighty-eight percent of birds feed on insects at some point in their life cycle;, salmon depend on aquatic invertebrates and Grizzly Bears depend on miller moths to fatten up for hibernation. So says the Xerces Society. There are numerous studies showing insects to be in decline. We should be supporting organizations that support the invertebrates that sustains life on our planet.
Dragonflies and Damselflies of California, Tim Manolis (2003)
Dragonflies and Damselflies of Oregon, Cary Kerst & Steve Gordon (2011)
Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West, Dennis Paulson (2009)

This dragonfly came up to me. He was hovering right in front of my face, and I was really examining him, thinking, How does he see me? I became enlightened.

Ziggy Marley

Just Butterflies


Umber Skipper on the Big River Haul Rd. on May 21, 2018.
Golden Hairstreak in Comptche on August 9, 2018.
Better pictures of Common Wood-Nymph.


Silvery Blue at Mendocino College on April 9, 2019

Propertius Duskywing at the Little River Airport on June 4, 2019

Field Crescent at the Ten Mile Bridge on June 19, 2019

Better pictures of Checkered White and Green Comma

UPDATES–MAY 22, 2022

Sara Orangetip at Big River on May 18, 2022

Better picture of a Mourning Cloak.

Although the blog has been dark for sometime, it was my intention to keep this post updated so that anyone looking for information on the Butterflies of Mendocino County can hopefully find it in a Google search. There have been many additions to my butterfly list since the last post and they are pictured in this edition of Just Butterflies.

I occasionally write a “Butterflies of the Woods” article for our newsletter at the Woods in Little River where I live. This has rekindled an old interest in butterflies and I have started taking note of the butterflies here in Mendocino County.

This interest first started many years ago while I was living in Southern California. My local Audubon Society (Palos Verdes/South Bay) held an annual butterfly count every July. It was based on the famous Christmas Bird Counts and used the same 15 mile diameter bird count circle. Birding can be slow during the summer and I guess we just like to count things! We would have teams of counters out in the field and would then report back for a lunch and the tally. The results would be sent to the North American Butterfly Assoication. There are approximately 450 butterfly counts in the North America. My old Audubon Society will hold their 38th annual count in July of 2018. They have also been involved in the conservation and habitat restoration of the endangered Palos Verdes Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis).

Butterflies come in all shapes and sizes. They can be conspicuously bright and beautiful or inconspicuously dull and hard to find. The identification of butterflies can be either very easy or extremely difficult. Like birds and people they will be affected by climate change. Birds and butterflies are interrelated in their migration and life cycles. I will link to several stories and websites at the end of this post. The last picture will be of a butterfly that I haven’t identified yet. I believe it’s a female Boisduval’s Blue but couldn’t get it pass the California butterfly reviewer at Butterflies and Moths of North America. Any help would be appreciated.

There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world with about 575 of these occurring regularly in the lower 48 states of the United States. Wherever you live you can find them.

Some of the following pictures are very good, others are not. This all depends on the cooperation of the butterfly and it’s condition when photographed. Some cooperate and others don’t. These are “mostly” common butterflies in this area and can be found without much effort and includes at this time only a small amount of local habitats. I’m looking forward to expanding my butterfly efforts in other parts of Mendocino County.

Some caution has to be used when naming these butterflies because, like birds, their names can change. For some of them I’ve indicated some variation in common names. Splitting and lumping has occurred over time. I’m using the most recent butterfly guides that I can find for this post. They include the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jim P. Brock & Kenn Kaufman (2003), Arthur M. Shapiro’s Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions(2007) and Jeffrey Glassberg’s A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America(2017).


ANISE SWALLOWTAIL Papilio zelicaon




PALE SWALLOWTAIL Papilio eurymedon


COASTAL/MELANIC PINE WHITE Neophasia menapia melanica


CABBAGE WHITE Pieris rapae


MARGINED WHITE Pieris marginalis


ORANGE SULPHUR Colias eurytheme



GRAY HAIRSTREAK Strymon melinus




WESTERN BROWN ELFIN Incisalia augustinus iroides


WESTERN PINE ELFIN Incisalia eryphon


ECHO BLUE/SPRING AZURE Celastrina ladon echo


ACMON BLUE Plebejus acmon


GULF FRITILLARY Agraulis vanillae


MYLITTA CRESCENT Phyciodes mylitta


EDITH’S/BARON’S CHECKERSPOT Euphydryas editha baroni








COMMON BUCKEYE Junonia coenia


PAINTED LADY Vanessa cardui


AMERICAN LADY Vanessa virginiensis


WEST COAST LADY Vanessa annabella


RED ADMIRAL Vanessa atalanta


CALIFORNIA SISTER Adelpha bredowii californica


LORQUIN’S ADMIRAL Limenitis lorquini


MONARCH Danaus plexippus


CALIFORNIA RINGLET Coenonympha tullia california

Common Wood Nymph Cercyonis pegala boopis






FIERY SKIPPER Hylephila phyleus


SACHEM Atalopedes campestris


SANDHILL SKIPPER Polites sabuleti


WOODLAND SKIPPER Ochlodes sylvanoides


DUN SKIPPER Euphyes vestris osceola


MYSTERY BUTTERFLY–BOISDUVAL’S BLUE FEMALE? Found on 4/16/14 on the coast side of the Ten Mile Haul Rd. Plenty of lupine, it’s host plant in the area








One Last Post, Because It’s Important!


I hadn't intended to do this. Why one more post after I retired this blog? It's because the next few weeks are so very important. Can the governments of this planet come together and agree on a binding carbon reduction plan that will continue to make our world a livable one? This is an important question for future generations and the wildlife that depend on it.

Starting today through December 11th, the UN climate change conference:COP 21 will start in Paris. Their goal will be to limit a global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels by reducing greenhouse carbon emissions. The official name for the conference is 21st Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol. That a mouthful so that explains COP21

In the background is the fact that 2015 will be the hottest year ever recorded, the predictions that carbon levels will remain above 400 ppm permanently for the first time ever, and that we have blown through half the 2°C increase already. I wrote over two years ago that 80% of all fossil fuel must remain in the ground to prevent catastrophic warming of the planet. Legislation has finally been introduced in congress to try to do just that. An interesting read about the situation comes from a climate scientist. We don't hear enough from them.

I'm hoping to find many in-depth reports on the climate conference in the media but won't hold my breath. The media these days are concerned with the Middle East Wars and it's refugees (a climate change created problem), police killings, Black Friday Christmas sales, and terrorists attacks. The Paris terrorist attack has already affected the climate conference by preventing planned massive rallies in favor of a climate deal from assembling. But hundreds of thousands rallied around the world. Activists are having to come up with innovative ways of getting their points across.

REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Billboards begain showing up (ironically for me at bus stops) pointing out the hypocrisy of some of the conference's co-sponsors.

For the story on these billboards you can check it out here. For the story on Volkswagen, if you don't know it, you can find the story here.

So the stage is set. Our President Obama will be one of more than 190 heads of state and governments expected at the conference, taking place at Le Bourget outside Paris. More than 170 countries have submitted plans (INDC's) to curb carbon emissions. In conjunction with the event will be the World Climate Summit 2015.

It will be a big deal with celebrities and activists from around the world. Many of those activists will be from island nations asking for a plan that will stop their homes from being inundated by sea level rise. Hopefully Miami, Florida will send a representative.

What do terms like the Durban Platform, common but differentiated responsibility, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), Loss and damage, and Ratchet mechanism mean? Check out how to understand the jargon coming out of the conference.

How do the numbers on the submitted plans of each country add up? Will they keep the planet under 2°C? The short answer is no! There is some controversy concerning the numbers but there's no difference of opinion that 2°C will be breached.

Impact of national climate pledges (aka INDCs) on world’s greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalents (CO2e).

This means that an awful lot of extra work on lowing carbon emissions needs to be done and there's some evidence that that extra work is coming. When you have Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerman joining forces there's billions of dollars involved. Local commitments will be important.

Thousands of cities, states, regions, provinces, businesses, and non-governmental organizations have already started to move aggressively on climate change. For cities, this means setting transportation, building, and power standards that substantially lower emissions. For companies, this can mean making sustainability a core business practice all the way down the supply chain, recognizing it as a sound policy that will not only help the planet but likely also bolster profits.

What will prevent us from keeping temperatures below 2°C? There are of course the skeptics who will have their own conference in Paris. There are the billions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry confusing the issues. I'm looking at you Exxon but you're are not alone.

And of course there's the Republicans in congress willing to take much of those billions to win elections.

At a hearing Wednesday, Senate Republicans said that any financial commitments made by the United States to help other countries curb carbon emissions would not be approved by Congress, effectively promising to undercut the Paris negotiations before they even begin.

Add in oil rich countries (You will have to wait 14 seconds to get to that last link) and we're up against some powerful forces. Is Saudi Arabia trying to sabotage the Paris climate talks?

What are people around the world thinking about climate change?

Majorities in all 40 nations polled say it is a serious problem, and a global median of 54% consider it a very serious problem. Moreover, a median of 78% support the idea of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement in Paris.

However, according to most respondents, confronting climate change will entail more than just policy changes; it will also require significant changes in how people live. A global median of 67% say that in order to reduce the effects of climate change, people will have to make major changes in their lives.

How about the numbers in the United States?

Nearly three-quarters of Americans see global climate change as a “very serious” (45%) or “somewhat serious” (29%) threat, and two-thirds (66%) say people will have to make major changes in the way they live to reduce the effects of climate change, according to a Pew Research Center report released earlier this month.

People have received all sorts of advice over the past few decades about how to reduce their climate impact – from driving less to recycling more to insulating their homes. Actual changes in behavior, though, have been very much a mixed bag.

And American drivers are showing few signs of shifting away from fossil fuels. Fewer than 3% of the cars, SUVs, pickups and other “light-duty” vehicles sold through October of this year ran on anything other than gasoline or diesel – an even smaller market share for alternative-fueled vehicles than in 2013 or 2014, according to data from the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The EPA also suggests that people consider carpooling, mass transit, working from home or other alternatives to driving to and from work solo. But driving alone remains by far the most common commuting method: About three-quarters of Americans reported last year that that was their main commuting mode, a figure that’s changed little since 2000.

This attitude is what I've found to be the case. With few exceptions, in my little part of the planet, I find that people know about climate change but are unwilling to change their lifestyles. It's business as usual.

Just a fact–the planet will continue to warm even if we stopped carbon emissions today.

Many greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for long periods of time. As a result, even if emissions stopped increasing, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would continue to increase and remain elevated for hundreds of years. Moreover, if we stabilized concentrations and the composition of today's atmosphere remained steady (which would require a dramatic reduction in current greenhouse gas emissions), surface air temperatures would continue to warm. This is because the oceans, which store heat, take many decades to fully respond to higher greenhouse gas concentrations. The ocean's response to higher greenhouse gas concentrations and higher temperatures will continue to impact climate over the next several decades to hundreds of years.

Many scientists believe that 2°C is too high and we should stay well below that mark. Some good news coming from the climate conference is a call for limiting the rise to 1.5°C.

There has always been an odd tenor to discussions among climate scientists, policy wonks, and politicians, a passive-aggressive quality, and I think it can be traced to the fact that everyone involved has to dance around the obvious truth, at risk of losing their status and influence.

The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit.

I didn't want to sugarcoat this post. Are we too late? It depends on who you talk to. We should know shortly if if the world has the resolve to take action. Will the future be like the little book titled, The Collapse of Western Civilization-A View From the Future? Will it be worse? Will it be better? Time will tell.

I will leave you will some graphs. I think they tell the story of our situation. If people looking at them can't take action I don't know what will.


The one graph that I've found that explains it all is this one. I wrote about it in a post that I feel was one of my darkest.

Haisam Hussein
Finally I've been meaning to use this video in a post on this blog but never did. It's a NASA time lapse video of a warming planet over time.

















Was There Something Special About This Last July?


I have been writing these kinds of posts for going on two years. I should just get a template and insert the name of the month and I would be done. But July just might be special. The numbers aren’t all in yet but there’s a good chance that this past July was the hottest month ever recorded since instrument temperature records were first started in the late 1800’s. UPDATE: It’s now officially the hottest month ever.

Global temperatures in July vs. 1951-1980 average. Via NASA.

According to preliminary data from NASA along with information from the Japan Meteorological Administration, July 2015 was the warmest month on record since instrument temperature records began in the late 1800s.

Research using other data, such as tree rings, ice cores and coral formations in the ocean, have shown that the Earth is now the warmest it has been since at least 4,000 years ago.

According to NASA’s data, which is subject to refinement in coming weeks and months as more is analyzed, July 2015’s average temperature nudged past July 2011 by 0.02 degrees Celsius, or .36 degrees Fahrenheit.

In order for 2015 not to be the warmest year on record, the rest of the year would have to turn sharply colder, on a global average. That is not likely to happen, considering both the influence of long-term manmade global warming and a shorter-term climate cycle known as El Niño.

The heat waves began in June before the Indian Monsoon kicked into gear, as high temperatures well into the triple digits Fahrenheit hit India and Pakistan, killing more than 2,000 people.

Madrid, for example, set monthly high temperature records in both June and July, with a record high temperature on July 6 of 103.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39.9 degrees Celsius.

Germany broke its all-time heat record on July 5, when the temperature reached 104.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40.3 degrees Celsius, in Kitzingen, according to Germany’s National Meteorological Service. The U.K. set an all-time July heat record when the temperature at London’s Heathrow Airport reached 98.1 degrees Fahrenheit, or 36.7 degrees Celsius, on July 1, according to the Met Office.

Maastricht in the Netherlands, set a new national July heat record in July, when the temperature reached 100.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38.2 degrees Celsius, according to the Weather Channel.

But if you think that’s hot try to avoid the Middle East.

Wherever you live or happen to travel to, never complain about the heat and humidity again.

In the city of Bandar Mahshahr (population of about 110,000 as of 2010), the air felt like a searing 165 degrees (74 Celsius) today(July 30) factoring in the humidity.

To achieve today’s astronomical heat index level of 165, Bandar Mahshahr’s actual air temperature registered 115 degrees (46 Celsius) with an astonishing dew point temperature of 90 (32 Celsius).

So let’s all of us just keep doing what we’re doing. There’s no problem here. Keep moving along. Nothing to worry about.

UPDATE–August was the hottest August on record.

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for August 2015 was 0.88°C (1.58°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F) and the highest August in the 136-year record. This value surpassed the previous record set in 2014 by 0.09°C (0.16°F). Most of the world’s surface was substantially warmer than average and, in some locations, record warm during August 2015, contributing to the monthly global record warmth. This was the sixth month in 2015 that has broken its monthly temperature record (February, March, May, June, July, and August).

UPDATE–September was hottest September on record.

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for September 2015 was the highest for September in the 136-year period of record, at 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 15.0°C (59.0°F), surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F). This marks the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set and is the highest departure from average for any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880. The September temperature is currently increasing at an average rate of 0.06°C (0.11°F) per decade.

UPDATE–Incredible October Warmth Guarantees Record Hot 2015

Month after month this year, above-average — and sometimes record — global temperatures have piled up, raising the odds that this year will be the hottest one humanity has ever experienced. And now October has blown those records out of the water.

According to newly released NASA data, October was not only the warmest October on record, but had the biggest temperature difference of any month in the 135 years of NASA’s archive. The month was more than a full degree Celsius (nearly 2°F) above the average for the 1951-1980 base period that NASA uses — an unprecedented feat in all those years of data.

Carbon dioxide levels are also currently drifting back above 400 parts per million, possibly never to dip back down again for the foreseeable future as a strong El Niño event lends the buildup of the greenhouse gas an extra push.


UPDATE–No surprises, this November hottest on record.

The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for November 2015 was the highest for November in the 136-year period of record, at 0.97°C (1.75°F) above the 20th century average of 12.9°C (55.2°F), breaking the previous record of 2013 by 0.15°C (0.27°F). This marks the seventh consecutive month that a monthly global temperature record has been broken. The temperature departure from average for November is also the second highest among all months in the 136-year period of record. The highest departure of 0.99°C (1.79°F) occurred last month.

UPDATE–The Earth is on track to end 2015 with an average 1 degree C warming.

It’s all but certain that 2015 will end up as the hottest year on record. And in setting that mark, the world is on track to finish the year 1 degree C above pre-industrial levels, a dubious milestone.

That would make 2015 the first year to crack the halfway mark of 2 degrees C warming, the benchmark that’s been targeted as “safe” climate change and what nations are working toward meeting ahead of climate talks in Paris in December. But Monday’s announcement by the U.K. Met Office hints at how difficult achieving that target will be.

One of the big questions in the climate change debate: Are humans any smarter than frogs in a pot? If you put a frog in a pot and slowly turn up the heat, it won’t jump out. Instead, it will enjoy the nice warm bath until it is cooked to death. We humans seem to be doing pretty much the same thing.

Jeff Goodell


Thank You!!!

Thank you!! Sometime this morning I passed the 4000 views mark for this blog. I started it in 2013 during my green birding year so that averages out to about 200 views per month. Not bad for a biking birder that doesn't know what he's doing.

I tried to do a little research as to how long the average blog lasts before the blogger gives up. The best figure I could find was about nine months. I've noticed that most of the blogs that followed mine and those that I followed have stopped publishing. What happened to you, Bud Glory, of Artless Poems? I miss your poetry. Did you go back to the future where you came from? Many of you will not know what that means. You can go back into the past and check it out.

How about you Thomas of Let's Geog. It looks like you've turned 18 last year. That probably means higher education, girls, or both.

It seems that 200 views per month is probably not a great total in the larger scheme of things as it turns out that many blogs are out there just to earn money. If I get my views up I will be able to sell advertising. That's not something I would do unless the MTA would like to use the site or maybe the local bike and repair shop:>)

What I find the most interesting thing about blogging is the international aspects of it. I'm now up to 78 countries in which my blog has been viewed. You have to wonder how a person in Syria came to view my blog. What were they Googling? The color intensity of the map below shows where my blog had landed in the last two years. I will have to work on China and most of Africa.

The stats indicate that this blog is still growing in viewership. So once again thank you. I still don't know what I'm doing but will slog on and will see where it goes.


These days, you have the option of staying home, blogging in your underwear, and not having your words mangled. I think I like the direction things are headed.

Marc Andreessen



It’s Smart and Sexy!


I know that most people find the subject of public transportation boring. They just can't get away from jumping into their cars at a moments notice. I find the subject very interesting and in one case very sexy and that one case is what this post is all about.

What's not sexy about the above picture. It contains a Smart train and a bike path and it will be coming, at least partially, by the end of 2016.

Tired of sitting in traffic along Highway 101? Looking for a green alterative to sitting in your car? Looking to create jobs in the North Bay to help stir our economy? There’s one place to look: SMART.

You asked for it and you voted for it. And we’re working hard to make it happen.

In 2008, almost 70% of the voters of Marin and Sonoma supported Measure Q to create a train that connects the two counties. Despite headwinds in the worst recession in 50 years, we’re moving forward to make SMART a reality.

We’re not stopping until we’ve done what you asked us to do: create an energy-efficient, green alternative to sitting in traffic on Highway 101. Once SMART is operational, you’ll be able to ride the train along the tracks or ride on the SMART bike and pedestrian pathway system.

Smart was conceived to get people away from this:

The above picture is definitely not sexy and begs the question, why do people love their cars so much? The Smart project route looks like this.

When it is fully built, SMART will offer clear sailing along the rail tracks that run from Cloverdale, through Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa and Petaluma; down to Novato, Marin, San Rafael and Larkspur. Running at a projected 70 miles an hour in brand new, clean diesel trains, SMART will allow you to get off of 101 and still get where you need to go – for work or for fun. Or if you must drive, SMART will spell relief by easing the burden on our congested roadways.

The bike and pedestrian pathway will promote healthy activity and provide an option for travel between neighboring towns and cities without relying on automobiles.…Links segments constructed by SMART with existing segments and other planned projects to create one of the longest continuous bicyclepedestrian pathways in the country.

Until phase two is completed connector buses will serve the communities of Cloverdale, Healdsburg, and Windsor. Cloverdale is just 29.6 miles south of Ukiah in Mendocino County. It will become my mission in life to connect the Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) to the Smart System. That will mean getting the people who live on the Mendocino coast to Cloverdale on a regular basis.

When I started riding the MTA buses I've noted that the coastal parts of Mendocino County were underserved. There are many quirks in the system that you have to work around. One of those quirks is there is only one bus in the early morning going directly from Fort Bragg to Willits and Ukiah. That means you have to spend the whole day over there and come back in the evening. It also means that people in Willits and Ukiah can't make a day trip to the coast. Recently the MTA expanded service between Willits, Ukiah, and Santa Rosa. The coast got nothing. I responded with a letter to the editor in the Fort Bragg Advocate.


Did you hear the latest Mendocino Transit Authority(MTA) ad on the local radio station? They are expanding service between Willits, Ukiah and Santa Rosa to two trips a day. This includes Saturdays. That's good news for the inland Mendocino County population but what expanded services have Fort Bragg, the second largest city in Mendocino County, and the coast received? The word I believe is bupkis. We don't even have a bare bones Saturday service and we are left with our one early morning bus to the inland cities and Santa Rosa.

I have been riding MTA's buses regularly for three years. I do it to lower my carbon footprint and save money. Getting around Mendocino County using the MTA isn't convenient because of the quirks in their system. Want to go over to Ukiah but not spend the whole day? A day trip to the South Mendocino coast? Have friends in Willits and Ukiah that may want to come over to the coast for the day during triple digit temperatures? It's hard to believe but it can't be done! Miss a bus in Fort Bragg? You might as well walk to your destination because the next bus is a hour away. It's even worse for Albion, Little River, Mendocino and Caspar.

If residents of the Mendocino Coast want a convenient public transportation system they should let their voices be heard. Local representatives on the MTA Board of Directors are Fort Bragg Vice Mayor Lindy Peters and County Supervisor Dan Gjerde.

I received word recently that the MTA had received some grant funds to start a two a-day bus service between Fort Bragg, Willits and Ukiah starting in January. The configuration of that service still has to be worked out but I will be anxiously waiting. I'm not taking credit for any of this because the grant was in the works before my letter but at least MTA knows someone is watching them. Update: just 11 days after writing this I was told that the grant money fell through. The coast is back to BUPKIS again. Update number two. I attended a MTA board meeting on 9/24/15. There was a twofold reason for attending. I had a no cost proposal to give south coast residents traveling to Fort Bragg in the morning better bus service and I wanted to ask about the SMART project and the MTA. My proposal was well received and we will see if it gets through the MTA bureaucracy. It also seems that the grant money is back in the picture and the expansion of service for the coast in January is coming. Jeff the MTA supervisor for the north coast told me later to believe it only when it happens. We will see. UPDATE number three (10/29/15). I was told by Jeff that my proposal of better bus service for south coast residents was approved and will start next week. Wow! I made a change for the better. Actually I should give my favorite bus driver, Cheryl, the credit. It was her idea but was rejected locally here on the coast. I figured that a customer presenting a written proposal to the MTA Board of Directors would force the issue and it did.

My proposal would mean that the morning Coaster(60) coming into Fort Bragg would not drop it's riders at the Boatyard for a wait of 10 to 15 minutes to transfer to the BraggAbout(5). The Coaster would take us directly to our destination. This would also, in most cases, avoid a time delay of having to ride through the C. V. Starr and school sections of Fort Bragg. It would save the elderly and disabled a transfer. It would give me an extra half hour of birding time and skip a bike rack change. Everyone wins. A better bus riding experience at little to no cost for the MTA.

Update(12/11/25) what makes a public transportation nerd happy in this seemingly gloomy world we live in. Congress passed and the president signed a five year fully funded transportation bill. It included an eighteen percent increase in funding for public transportation. Let's get some of that funding for Mendocino County. I'm celebrating!!

Bound for Eureka, Train 2 pulled by No 139, charges up the grade toward Tunnel 3 near Greenbrae. The train left Sausalito at 8:20 am, will be at San Rafael at 8:45. It will terminate at Eureka, 267 miles farther, at 7 in the evening.

Northwestern Pacific Railroad Historical Society.

A blog about the new Smart project got me thinking of the past.

Many communities in Marin and Sonoma County grew up around rail. At its peak in the 1920s, North Bay passenger rail ridership was among the busiest in California.

Passenger trains operated by Northwestern Pacific once served the North Bay, providing service as far north as Eureka. At Sausalito and Tiburon, passengers made seamless transfers to ferries bound for San Francisco and other parts of the bay.

Wikipedia states,

The railroad service became popular; a 1911 daily NWP timetable shows 10 passenger trains each way, plus dozens of freights.

Passenger service boomed until the 1930s, when improved roads and highways made traveling and shipping by motor vehicle more accessible, and by 1935 both freight and passenger service slowed to a crawl because of the Great Depression.

During March, 1958, with the exception of the tri-weekly Willits-Eureka Budd Rail Diesel Car passenger service, all mainline passenger service was discontinued. The “Budd car” made its last run in 1969.

In 1996, the California Northern Railroad lease was terminated, and the NCRA took over operations of the line between Schellville and Willits. Using “Black Widow” EMD GP9 and SD9 locomotives, the “new” NWP ran from 1996 until 1998, when money problems and management issues caused the line to fail.

Plans for the future of NWP freight include rebuilding the line to Healdsburg around 2014, and Willits by 2020, dependent mostly on state and federal grants and income to the NCRA and NWPco. The Eel River Canyon segment is still on the drawing board while awaiting a decision whether or not to rebuild the segment, due to extreme costs and a lack of possible business.

So it was possible at one time to actually travel from the Bay Area to Eureka in Humboldt County. That must of been one hell of a trip. Would have liked to ride on one of those trains. The Smart project has a pictorial Historical Context of railroad history on their site.


It's my experience that most folk who ride trains could care less where they're going. For them it's the journey itself and the people they meet along the way. You see, at every stop this train makes, a little bit of America, a little bit of your country, gets on and says hello.”

David Baldacci, The Christmas Train









Butterflies are Frustrating!

Back on June 11th, I was biking down a Fort Bragg back-alley along the GP property balancing a small Zappa's mocha coffee in one hand heading for my bus stop. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a small butterfly along the fence. I put on the brakes and laid the bike and mocha down (without spilling a drop) and was able to get this picture.

By small I mean smaller then a dime with the wings folded. Upon reviewing the picture I thought this was going to be an easy butterfly to identify. I should never think that. In Kaufman's Field Guide to Butterflies of North America I first noted the Acmon Blue with it's large range in the west and thought that had to be the one but just below it was the Lupine Blue that had a smaller range that also included the Fort Bragg area. Kaufman states that the classification of these two butterflies is controversial. “The widespread forms may be Lupines, not Acmons, or they may make up multiple species.”

I submitted the picture to the experts at Butterflies and Moths of North America and got this response.

There is no information provided that will resolve whether this is an Acmon or Lupine Blue…it could be either.

Two weeks later on the bluffs overlooking Virgin Creek Beach I was able to get a few pictures of this butterfly.

This time I was able to get the bottom of the wings and thought that might be the key to identifying this butterfly. I knew that once again I was up against the Acmon/Lupine problem. I received this response.

There is no upper view or other information provided that would allow an ID except someone familiar with that locality-Ken Davenport

On July 13th, while birding at the Little River Airport, a totally different environment, I found several of these butterflies and got pictures of both the upper and lower wings.

What was the response from the expert?

Without knowing the host plant and the locality myself, I can't say which species it is. I suspect acmon but can't be sure. Maybe someone else familiar with that locality will know so I will leave the submission open to review.-Ken Davenport

Currently all three of my submissions for this butterfly remain pending waiting for a local expert to weigh in. It seems that I will now have to become a botany expert.To be fair to Ken Davenport he apparently lives in Bakersfield and doesn't know this area. At least I got a “possible” answer. I actually believe that he's correct. Kaufman states that the Acmon Blue flies “spring to fall” with 2-3 broods. The Lupine Blue “flies spring to summer depending on locality and elevation” with mainly 1 brood. Butterflies fly earlier at lower elevations. Shapiro's Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions states that the Lupine Blue flies generally in late spring. If that's true then this Acmon/Lupine Blue that I found near the end of Ward Ave. on July 23rd in most likely an Acmon Blue.

The later I find this butterfly the chances are that it's an Acmon Blue. That's my theory anyway. Shapiro has this to say about the Lupine Blue.

Of all the species listed in this book, this is the one whose status in our area is most uncertain. It has been recorded from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Countries, but whether the specimens are correctly identified…remain to be determined…The situation is so fluid that we had best wait for Paul Opler to complete his revision of the group, now in progress, and hope that it clarifies these questions…Have fun!

That is why butterflies are so frustrating! The day I found the Acmon/Lupine Blue at the airport was a four butterfly day, something that is rare there. All of the butterflies were in fresh condition which indicates to me they had just emerged. There was no frustration in identifying them. This Painted Lady is probably part of a second brood since the airport was covered with them in the spring.

A Mylitta Crescent.

And a California Sister that flew up to me and gave me great views.

This American Lady recently settled down on some flowers on my deck. It is only the second one I've seen in Mendocino County and both have been at the Woods where I live.

Let's talk a little about birding. The big birding news, at least for me, concerns birding at the Little River Airport. Readers of this blog might remember an incident at the airport after I reported a Mountain Bluebird last year.

Sat. 6/14/14–This morning I was doing my usual birding at the Little River Airport and happened to start a conversation with the airport’s manager. I started the conversation with the announcement of a rare Mountain Bluebird last Sunday. He said he knew all about it and proceeded to tell me several stories about birders chasing it. One birder after watching plane activity proceeded to walk out on the active runway. Another group of birders decided to form a car caravan and drove out on the taxiway, stopped on it and got out and set up their scopes. He related a plane on the taxiway having to stop because of people in it’s way.

Apparently birders are not the only idiots there that do strange things at the airport. In talking to pilots I've heard many scary stories about people walking their dogs, riding their bikes and just having a good time out on the runway and in the hanger area. I have humorously called the airport my “playground” because of a 2005 newspaper article That stated,

As for the airport property incursions and the lack of enforcement against trespassers, the LRAAC wants an approved policy the Sheriffs department can use to disperse illegal assemblies, with guidelines on when to arrest and to prosecute those involved. Airport Manager Thorpe conveyed their reluctance to respond to calls without a clear policy for handling complaints.

The letter states, Now there is a mixture of teenagers and older people who have made the airport their playground. They ride motorcycles and off-road vehicles by developing their own unauthorized access roads and paths.

Sometimes people trespass on the airport in pickup trucks and park near the runway to drink at night. Then they smash large numbers of empty bottles by throwing them into the runway. The broken glass is a real danger to landing aircraft.

When the airport supervisor approaches these trespassers, their typical response is, There are several of us and one of you, what are you going to do about it?

The letter indicates the committee strongly supports increasing efforts to block runway access by implementing the CIP security fencing project, as soon as possible, and placing better No Trespassing and Warning Federal Offense signage around the perimeter.

On Jan. 9. numerous shots were fired on airport property. Two abandoned cars were discovered smashed with large amounts of garbage dumped where bonfires and disturbances have been taking place. On Feb. 2 a parent refused to take his children, who were riding bicycles, off the airports active runway, or to leave when ordered to by the airport supervisor.

The Little River Airport is now trying to make the airport idiot-proof. They have already installed gates around the terminal that will solve much of the problem. There has been a proposal for an Airport Traffic Area where you would need permission to enter from the airport manager.

On the rest of the property you will have to sign a Little River Airport: Permission to Hike on Airport Property Form. This form will indemnify Mendocino County from any damages or injury that might occur on the property and that you could lose this right to hike on the property if you enter the Airport Traffic Area without permission. The airport property is extensive at roughly 564 acres.

For me just stepping across Little River Airport Road puts me on airport property. The light green section (C) is where the locals are trying to save a valuable section of Redwoods.

I have been in negotiations with members of the Little River Airport Advisory Committee about boundaries for the Airport Traffic Area and certainly I'm making every effort to stay on friendly terms with the pilots and the airport manager. I know two members of the committee. They are mostly concerned with the idiots that are out on the taxiway and runway and have no problems with the berry pickers, mushroom hunters, dog walkers (on leash), and at least this local birder. Stay tuned.

The actual birding here in Mendocino has been slow but is beginning to pickup. The shorebirds have started to return. The Elegant Terns are returning in good numbers which indicates a warm ocean. With El Niño conditions expected we are looking forward to an interesting fall.

A Mute Swan turns up occasionally. Here it is at Virgin Creek and flying over Fort Bragg.

Heermann's Gulls arrived early and are here in numbers I've never seen before.

But the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me was during a recent SOS survey at Virgin Creek Beach. I had notice a strange bird calling and couldn't locate where it was coming from. The source of the call was a couple, Mike and Paula approaching me, who were out walking their Aplomado Falcon.

This is a Peruvian Aplomado Falcon, F. f. Pichinchae. The couple, both licensed falconers, had purchased it in Washington from a breeder. They had previously had a Gyrfalcon but found it too large for the area, whatever that means.

There is some controversy concerning falconry. There are those who believe that birds should fly free if capable. There are others, mostly falconers, who feel that falconry is a benefit. Wikipedia of course has an article on falconry. The art(?) of falconry is ancient with the earliest accounts dating to approximately 2,000 BC.

Falconry was largely restricted to the noble classes due to the prerequisite commitment of time, money, and space.

From what I have read it's still a sport for people with money. There are several groups of falconers that have been created. One of these is the North America Falconers Association.

Our Mission and Purpose: Is to improve, aid, and encourage competency in the art and practice of falconry among interested persons; to provide communication among and to disseminate information to interested Members; to promote scientific study of the raptorial species, their care, welfare and training; to promote conservation of the birds of prey and an appreciation of their value in nature and in wildlife conservation programs; to urge recognition of falconry as a legal field sport; and, to establish traditions which will aid, perpetuate, and further the welfare of falconry and the raptors it employs.

The Peregrine Fund is credited with the successful reintroduction of the Peregrine Falcon in the U.S. You can tour the Archives of Falconry at their facilities.

Falconry is one of the oldest methods of hunting. Eagles, hawks, and falcons are used by falconers to pursue and catch quarry for food. When the Peregrine Falcon became endangered due to the widespread use of DDT and other pesticides, falconers were instrumental in organizing the successful effort to recover the species.

Audubon doesn't seem to have a problem with falconry looking at it as another help with conservation. Audubon groups seem to welcome the falconer at their meetings and use the event as an educational tool.

I could not find a group that had as their main mission the banning of falconry but in Great Britain efforts were made by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other lobby groups to have falconry outlawed, but these were successfully resisted.

My biggest concern with falconry is that falconers are allowed to break the law.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), codified at 16 U.S.C. §§ 703–712 (although §709 is omitted), is a United States federal law, first enacted in 1916 in order to implement the convention for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada). The statute makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein (“migratory birds”). The statute does not discriminate between live or dead birds and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests. Over 800 species are currently on the list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits for otherwise prohibited activities under the act. These include permits for taxidermy, falconry, propagation, scientific and educational use, and depredation, an example of the latter being the killing of geese near an airport, where they pose a danger to aircraft.

To have a bird of prey just because you want one seems to me a violation of the intent of the MBTA. When you read the California Regulations for falconry it get worse. Things like this disturb me.

A Master falconer may possess any number of raptors except he/she shall possess no more than five wild-caught raptors for use in falconry at any onetime, regardless of the number of state, tribal, or territorialfalconry licenses in possession.

(3) Raptors may be captured by trap or net methods that do not injure them. The licensee shall identify all set traps with the name and address of the licensee and shall check such traps at least once every 12 hours, except that all snare type traps shall be attended at all times when they are deployed.

(5) The following raptor species may be captured from the wild in California: Northern goshawk (Accipitergentilis), Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii), sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), red-tailed hawk (Buteojamaicensis), red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus),merlin (Falco columbarius), American kestrel (Falcosparverius), prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), barred owl(Strix varia), and great horned owl (Bubo virginianus).

(6) No more than two nestlings of the species allowed for capture from the wild may be captured by the same General or Master licensee during the regulatory year. In no case may all nestlings be captured and removed from any nest. At least one nestling shall be left in a nest at all times.

I will let you form your own opinion on falconry if you care to. The internet is filled with falconers justifying their hobby. One site justifies falconry because of it's cultural and traditional history.

Being a living culture, falconry remains strongly rooted in the past. This aspect has been recognized and accentuated in the UNESCO statement on falconry as Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Humanity, that describes and qualifies it using such expressions as “traditional activity” and „cultural heritage” that is “passed on from generation to generation”, providing “a sense of belonging, continuity and identity”.

There are many cultural and traditional practices that we are trying to end, such as discrimination against minority's, gay marriage and even flying the confederate flag. Not all historical practices deserve to continue.

Another site made this statement in a “moral” effort to justify falconry.

And even if you face falconry from an aesthetic point of view, you will find no contradiction. As far as we know, animals have no thirst for freedom.

How do you justify an argument based on unknown data?


While writing this post I conducted a SOS Survey at Virgin Creek. After the survey I found two new butterflies to add to my Mendocino County list. One was a Checkered White on the bluffs above Virgin Creek Beach.

The other was a West Coast Lady at Ward Ave. I have now seen all the Lady's in Mendocino County.

And I finally got a picture of an Acmon Blue. If you still remember the beginning of this post, my theory was right. This is my first picture of a male. It was on territory chasing away another male.

The expert at Butterflies and Moths of North America accepted my submission as an Acmon Blue.

You are right, based on date this should be an Acmon Blue. And familiarity with Acmon Blues leads to improved ability to tell the 2 apart, but maybe not with nominate Lupine Blues which occur in that part of the state-Ken Davenport

So I guess I found three new Mendocino County butterflies. Butterflies are now only slightly less frustrating!


The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

Rabindranath Tagore

































The President Asked Me To Do This

It's Monday, August 3, 2015. Today the EPA will issue a final Clean Power Plan rule that will, for the first time, govern carbon emissions from power plants. Initial word on the street is that it's a better plan then previously expected. President Obama has asked me to share this video. I, of course, can not refuse.




On July 31, 2015, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown issued a Proclamation of a State of Emergency because of the wildfires burning in the state. I’ve decided to post that proclamation in full because it sums up the wildfire situation well. This is Governor Brown’s second state of emergency proclamation this year.


WHEREAS since June 17, 2015, a series of wildfires has started in the Counties of Butte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Lake, Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Solano, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Yolo. These fires have burned thousands of acres of land and continue to burn; and

WHEREAS these fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten hundreds of homes, necessitating the evacuation of residents; and

WHEREAS the fires have damaged and continue to threaten critical infrastructure and have forced the closure of major highways and local roads; and

WHEREAS on January 17, 2014, I declared a State of Emergency based on the extreme drought that has now persisted in the State for four years; and

WHEREAS the drought conditions have increased the State’s risk of wildfires, caused millions of trees to die, and increased the severity and spread of the fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS extreme weather conditions, lightning storms, and high temperatures have increased the risk and severity of fires throughout the State; and

WHEREAS as a result of the numerous fires burning throughout the State, combined with the drought conditions, California’s air quality has significantly deteriorated and impacted public health; and

WHEREAS Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants have been requested and approved for the Wragg Fire burning in the Counties of Napa, Solano, and Yolo and for the North Fire burning in the County of San Bernardino; and

WHEREAS by virtue of the number of fires burning simultaneously, the State’s resources have been significantly committed such that the State will seek the assistance and resources of other states, as necessary, pursuant to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, Public Law 104-321, and sections 179 through 179.9 of the California Government Code; and

WHEREAS the circumstances of these wildfires, by reason of their magnitude, are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment, and facilities of any single local government and require the combined forces of a mutual aid region or regions to combat; and

WHEREAS under the provisions of section 8558(b) of the California Government Code, I find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property exists in California due to these wildfires.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the State Constitution and statutes, including the California Emergency Services Act, and in particular, section 8625 of the California Government Code, HEREBY PROCLAIM A STATE OF EMERGENCY to exist in the State of California due to the wildfires burning throughout the State.


1. All agencies of the state government shall utilize and employ state personnel, equipment, and facilities for the performance of any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the State Emergency Plan. Also, all citizens are to heed the advice of emergency officials with regard to this emergency in order to protect their safety.

2. The California National Guard shall mobilize under California Military and Veterans Code section 146 (mobilization in case of catastrophic fires) to support disaster response and relief efforts and coordinate with all relevant state agencies, including the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and all relevant state and local emergency responders and law enforcement within the impacted areas.

I FURTHER DIRECT that as soon as hereafter possible, this proclamation be filed in the Office of the Secretary of State and that widespread publicity and notice be given of this proclamation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 31st day of July 2015.



Governor of California




Secretary of State

The current wildfire map of California can change rapidly. This is the latest.

The statistics for the current year are telling.

Wildfires are up over 1,200 compared to last year and over 1,300 compared to the five year average. The fact that total acreage is down might be due to increased personnel and planning for an early start of the fire season and it just might be no longer true since the Rocky Fire in Lake County, one county west of Mendocino County, has exploded to over 46,000 acres. We have a long ways to go before fire season is over if it ever is.

California’s wildfire season typically peaks in the summer and into the early fall, with the most intense fires occurring in late September and October. However, fire experts say that since 2000, the number of days considered vulnerable to fire outbreaks has been growing. Today, California’s fire season is about 70 days longer compared to 40 years ago, says. More than half of the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history have occurred in the past 15 years.

But California isn’t the only state that’s in bad shape.

The States of Washington and Oregon are also having a bad time.

The flames sent a terrifying message: Normally soggy Washington — nicknamed the Evergreen State for good reason and home to the wettest town in the Lower 48 — has never been hotter or drier at this point in the year, officials say, and the fire season has never begun so early or so fiercely.

“It’s more reminiscent of Southern California and the brush fires fed by the Santa Ana winds,” said Peter Goldmark, head of the state Department of Natural Resources. “Now it’s up here in the state of Washington, where this kind of behavior is unseen. It’s heralding a radical change in the kinds of fires we’re going to see.”

And what does happen when a rainforest burns?

The wettest rainforest in the continental United States had gone up in flames and the smoke was so thick, so blanketing, that you could see it miles away. Deep in Washington’s Olympic National Park, the aptly named Paradise Fire, undaunted by the dampness of it all, was eating the forest alive and destroying an ecological Eden.

The old-growth rainforest that stretches across the western valleys of the Olympic National Park is its crown jewel. As UNESCO wrote in recognizing the park as a World Heritage Site, it includes “the best example of intact and protected temperate rainforest in the Pacific Northwest.” In those river valleys, annual rainfall is measured not in inches but in feet, and it’s the wettest place in the continental United States. There you will find living giants: a Sitka spruce more than 1,000 years old; Douglas fir more than 300 feet tall; mountain hemlock at 150 feet; yellow cedars that are nearly 12 feet in diameter; and a western red cedar whose circumference is more than 60 feet.

For firefighters, combating such a blaze in an old-growth rainforest with steep hills is, at best, an impossibly dangerous business. Large trees are “falling down regularly,” firefighter Dave Felsen told the Seattle Times. “You can hear cracking and you try to move, but it’s so thick in there that there is no escape route if something is coming at you.”

But it is Alaska where things are grim.

Every day they update the numbers. And every day, the number of acres burned in Alaska seems to leap higher yet again.

As of Monday, it is at 4,447,182.2 acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center — a total that puts the 2015 wildfire season in sixth place overall among worst seasons on record. It’s very likely to move into fifth place by Tuesday — and it’s still just mid-July. There is a long way to go.

According to the Center, 2015 is now well ahead of the rate of burn seen in the worst year ever, 2004, when 6,590,140 acres burned in 701 fires. “Fire acreage totals are more than 14 days ahead of 2004,” the agency notes. In other words, and although the situation could still change, we may be watching the unfolding of the worst year ever recorded.

Let’s not leave Canada out of this post.

Wildfire danger throughout Western Canada is “very high,” according to the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS), with the majority of fire activity taking place in three provinces: Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. “Nationally,” the CWFIS’ most recent report reads, “fire activity has increased dramatically and is now well above average for this time of year.”

According to Mashable, more than 13,000 people in the province of Saskatchewan have been evacuated because of the fires, making it the largest wildfire evacuation in history for the relatively underpopulated province. The province’s premier, Brad Wall, told CBC News that the fires are “unprecedented” for the region, noting that the area currently burning is about 10 times the average. As of Monday, there were 112 fires burning across the province.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the wildfires up north are causing a “tremendous amount of smoke,” and it hasn’t stopped at the border: smoke from Canada’s wildfires has been seen across Midwest and as far south as North Carolina, bringing a haze to the sky and turning sunsets fiery red. But the smoke also brings dangerous fine particles, which can diminish air quality and, in high concentrations, pose a public health threat.

Smoke drifting south from wildfires burning in Canada clouds the skyline last week in Denver.

David Zalubowski/AP

Smoke conditions on June 10, 2015.

A hazy, polluted Minneapolis skyline from Ridgeway Parkway Park on Monday. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)

Tiny particles in smoke from wildfires may increase the danger of acute heart problems, including cardiac arrest and ischemic heart disease, especially among vulnerable people, according to a new study published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The findings are especially worrisome as heavy smoke generated from wildfires in Alaska and Canada continues to drift southward. Smoke already has made its way down into the northern United States, including Montana, the Central Plains, the Upper Mississippi Valley, and into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

“During bushfires there is widespread and huge quantities of smoke, and people are exposed,” said Anjali Haikerwal, study author and a doctoral candidate at the school of public health and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne. “These particulates can be easily inhaled deep into the lungs. These particles may act as a trigger factor for acute cardiovascular health events.”

Then there is that other problem! What does happens when wildfire meets permafrost in Alaska and Canada?

As Sam Harrel, spokesperson for the Alaska Fire Service, puts it in understated terms, “We are on a track for a lot of acres this year.” But the real problem is that the fires could accelerate the melting of permafrost, a layer of ground that’s never supposed to get above freezing. And permafrost is one of Earth’s great storehouses of carbon. Release it, and you speed up climate change.

What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.What ties all that together is “duff,” the thick layer of moss, twigs, needles, and other living or once-living material that blankets the forest floor. Duff can be up to a foot thick, and it provides the insulation that keeps permafrost cold through even the sunny days of summer. But when fire comes along, duff becomes fuel. Burning duff releases carbon too, of course, but losing it is like ripping the insulation out of a refrigerator.

It’s also a particularly bad time for the permafrost to lose insulation. Last year was Alaska’s hottest ever recorded. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as other states. Alaskans are already worried about how melting permafrost will damage the state’s transportation infrastructure—permafrost is supposed to be permanent, and northerners build roads on it. It’s also a unique habitat for animals and plants.

Losing permafrost wouldn’t just affect Alaskans and Canadians, though. All the permafrost in the world currently stores an estimated 1.4 trillion tons of carbon, twice the amount in the atmosphere. What happens if all that carbon gets released? “We don’t know the answer to that,” says Jon O’Donnell, an ecologist with the National Park Service’s Arctic Network.


Globel Fire Maps

On Earth, something is always burning: wildfires started by lightning or people, controlled agricultural fires, or fossil fuels. When anything made out of carbon — whether it’s vegetation, gasoline, or coal — burns completely, the only end products are carbon dioxide and water vapor. But in most situations, burning is not complete, and fires or burning fossil fuels produce a mixture of gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and carbon monoxide.

That’s a lot of fire going on people. Think we can handle it?

I have purposely left out all of the dramatic fire pictures and the stories of lost property and death that accompany most fire related stories. This is just an unemotional post that shows that the planet is on fire.


When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms.

Sheldon Whitehouse