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August 24, 2016

Looking for the Tree of Knowledge in Homer

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Originally published in ADN.com I’m spending a few typical August days with my parents in Homer. There’s lots of catching up to do with old classmates or the random co-worker from my teenage job at the Sourdough Bakery. Lots of fishing and addressing what we refer to as Pop’s “halibut insecurity” when the freezer levels dip below a certain amount. I’m writing this column while mom, a retired primary teacher, is volunteering at the local elementary school to organize backpacks for children who don’t have what they need to start school next week. Pop and I have been discussing what…

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Bird of the Week – Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser Male, North Fork Chena River

All three species of North American mergansers breed in Alaska, although one rarely makes it past the Panhandle. We’ve looked at the Common Merganser already. Now we’ll have a look at the other two. The Red-breasted Merganser is the most northerly breeding of the mergansers, found all the way to the North Slope. It’s also the bird with the second-snappiest hair-do (feather-do?), trailing only next week’s species. This is a diving duck, foraging as deep at 15-20 feet underwater for fish, especially smolts. Red-breasted Mergansers don’t breed until they are two years old, and breed late in the season, with…

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19th Amendment Solutions

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It’s not a secret that every few years I’m asked who the Democrats should run against Republican Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer. Every time I tell them they’d be better off spending their money against one of the Republican Future Felons from the Mat-Su. Mr. Seaton is a respected fisherman and responsible legislator, one held in high regard by his community. The nastiest races in our fair state are often the Republican-on-Republican primaries. Outside interests pay to flood our boxes with scary flyers promising gloom and doom if we elect their unchosen. Oh, the horrors! According to them, Homer’s Seaton…

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The Mudflats Endorses Jeff Landfield in the Republican Primary

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It’s last-minute classless attack ad time, and lookie what came in the mail! Craig Johnson quoted us and everything. Because Craig Johnson thinks that even we – the godless, tree-huggin’ bunny-smoochin’ libruls believe that he, Craig Johnson, is the better choice for Senate District L. That would make Craig Johnson WRONG. While our social style is a little less… freewheeling than Mr. Landfield’s, we have found him to be sincere, hard-working, smart, willing to listen to and consider all sides of an issue, and even downright likeable. Craig Johnson on the other hand is a humorless, closed-minded, oil guzzlin’ blowhard….

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Bird of the Week – Parasitic Jaeger

Parasitic Jaeger on a Nest, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

Back in June, we looked at a Long-tailed Jaeger. This is one of that species’ relatives, the Parasitic Jaeger. Even among gulls and jaegers, Parasitic Jaegers are unsavory characters. A major part of their diet is obtained through kleptoparasitism. They steal food from other birds, either by harassing the other birds till they drop if or, if it’s been swallowed, until the victim regurgitates it. Alaska-breeding Parasitic Jaegers aren’t exclusively kleptoparasites, unlike their east Atlantic cousins. Alaska’s birds also hunt and, truth be told, steal eggs. Hey, it’s a living. Parasitic Jeager are among the least known, least studied birds that…

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Wasilla Republican Threatens Bull With Kitchen Knife For Your Vote

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“I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” that was Joni Ernst just months before she become Congresswoman Joni Ernst. America seems to like someone threatening to cut the balls off of livestock. The television ad, titled “Squeal” caused quite a bit of conversation, but that was an election seasons that had soon to be elected officials firing guns at tax code and printed versions of legislation… it wasn’t the worst ad of the 2014 political season. I’m not sure if Alaska State Senate candidate Lynn Gattis was going for…

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Instead of Building a Wall, Build a Mirror

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The Republican Party has been passing legislation for years that falls in line with what its nominee Donald Trump says. It’s anti-Muslim, homophobic, misogynistic, racist and rejects science. He’s actually the embodiment of Republican policy. Now Trump has mocked the pain of the parents of Capt. Humayun Kahn, a Muslim soldier who was killed in the Iraq War. He taunted Mrs. Kahn for not speaking from the stage of the Democratic National Convention. She didn’t speak because of her grief, not her religion, as he had not-too-subtlely suggested. Trump wants to ban Muslims from coming to America. He blamed President…

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Bird of the Week – Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail, Chevak, Alaska

In the Western Hemisphere, the Yellow Wagtail’s range is restricted to Western Alaska and the North Slope east to the MacKenzie River in Canada. Science – specifically, the American Ornithological Union – has recently determined that the North American population is a separate species from the more widespread Asian population. The decision to create two species where there was one is called a “split.” Alaska’s bird is formally the Eastern Yellow Wagtail. And there are a bewildering number of subspecies.   Alaska’s birds probably winter in southern China and Taiwan, perhaps as far south as New Guinea.  Like a lot…

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National Park Service Hosting Catch a Parkie-Pine 5K Fun Run and Centennial Birthday Party in August

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National Park Service Hosting Catch a Parkie-Pine 5K Fun Run and Centennial Birthday Party in August FAIRBANKS, AK: The National Park Service (NPS) is hosting a family-friendly “Catch a Parkie-Pine”5K fun run on Saturday, August 27 at 10:00 am as part of the celebration of this year’s NPS Centennial. Participants of all ages are invited to run, walk, or jog their way along the trails of the Tanana Lakes Recreation Area (off South Cushman Street), and earn a prize by capturing a flag from a runner dressed as a “parkie-pine”. You don’t have to be in the fun run to…

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Bird of the Week – Osprey

Osprey, Chena Lakes Flood Control, North Pole

Osprey are comparative newcomers to Interior Alaska. Note those talons, among the longest among all birds. The Osprey feeds almost exclusively on fish – another name for them is Fishhawk – and however slippery a fish might be, it’s unlikely to escape those talons. Osprey need about 100-115 days to raise their kids:  Three days from completion of the nest to lay the eggs; about 37 days to incubate the eggs to hatching; 50-55 days to fledge and 10-15 days to be ready to migrate. Longer if they have to build the nest from scratch.  If you are going to eat…

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