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March 29, 2017

  • copyright Zach D Roberts

    From ObamaCare to Trump Don’t Care

    Well, it’s a brand new day for my white Alaska friends who have been under the oppressive regime of “Obamacare,” otherwise know as the Affordable Care Act. Finally, after promising for seven years to repeal and replace it, congressional Republicans have introduced Trumpcare as a solution. Included in the pushback is the 10 percent tax on tanning beds. As a person of such blinding whiteness this time of year, I feel liberated. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that just this change will cost $600 million over the next 10 years. For those of us who nerd out and actually read bills,…

  • Townsend's Warbler, University Arboretum, Fairbanks

    The Last Bird of the Week – Townsend’s Warbler

    This is the last of Wickersham’s Conscience’s Birds of the Week. We’ve run through the last species WC photographed in Alaska. The total is 187, if anyone is curious. And for this last species, WC has saved the beautiful Townsend’s Warbler, Alaska’s prettiest warbler. That colorful, strongly marked face makes it easy to identify in the field. While this is a female, and less strongly marked, you can still see what a handsome warbler this is. You can see how much vivid the male’s coloration is in this photo from Anchorage. A beautiful bird, and a good place to wrap…

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    ATL Chats w/ Alaskan Photog Carl Johnson

    This week we try something different. This week we’re going to spend out time interviewing just on panelists. This will be the beginning of a new interview series we’re trying out. For the first interview episode we talk to Alaskan nature photographer Carl Johnson. He’s been working on a long term book project Where Water Is Gold about the area would be effected by the creation of the Pebble Mine. A mine that would wipe out a shocking percentage of the worlds pacific salmon. That’s the kind of salmon that you actually want to eat. You can check out Carl’s stunning aurora photos and all his…

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    EPA, Pebble and The West Wing

    I’m sorry to report that watching box sets of “The West Wing” isn’t enough distraction from our real politics. I am tired. I can confirm a fresh batch of baby sea otters, riding on their mama’s bellies, blown in by the latest storm can provide some relief. Their cuteness is enough to make anyone ovulate – I don’t care who you are. Their squeaks and mewing are impossible to ignore. I learned about something called “embryonic diapause.” It’s really fascinating and a little science-y. See, lady sea otters can get pregnant and put a pause on implanting the embryos for…

  • Red-throated Pipit, Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska

    Bird of the Week – Red-throated Pipit

    A last Asian vagrant, a cousin to the American Pipit, this is a Red-throated Pipit. As you can see, it isn’t just the throat that is red but the whole head. This is another “Uncommon” Asian vagrant. Birders get slightly more excited about this one, possibly because it isn’t just another sandpiper. By the way, the bird was incredibly hard to see as it moved among the dead early spring grasses. For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

Headlines

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The InsurgencyUSA Podcast – Interview with Sarah Kay on #NoMuslimBan

Feb 14, 2017

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was…

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Calling the Mosquito Fleet

Feb 12, 2017

My darling Alaskans, I am starting to feel like these columns I write are more like letters to the people and place I love. It is blowing sideways on the bay today and the snow, defying gravity and all rules, seems to be traveling upward while accumulating on the ground at the same time. My ermine friend is shrew hunting — which is my favorite thing about him — and has learned to do a trick or two for cheese bits. I’m watching with one eye the mushers vie for position in the Yukon Quest and with the other, the…

Baird's Sandpiper, Tanana Lakes, Fairbanks

Bird of the Week – Baird’s Sandpiper

Feb 11, 2017

WC overlooked a sandpiper species when working through the long list of sandpipers that breed in Alaska: Baird’s Sandpiper. Baird’s move through the southern two-thirds of the state en route to their high arctic breeding range. Like the Pectoral Sandpiper, the darker feathers end half way down the chest, but tend to fade out, rather than a sharp transition. But you can tell them apart by the black legs, in contrast to the yellow legs of a Pectoral. One of the most remarkable characteristics of Baird’s is that it makes one of the largest metabolic investments in egg production known in…

Northern Flicker, McCall, Idaho

Bird of the Week – Northern Flicker

Feb 4, 2017

The Northern Flicker is Alaska’s most colorful woodpecker. If the others are variations on black and white, with maybe a touch of color, the Northern Flicker broke the mold. This photo isn’t from Alaska; it’s from Central Idaho, but WC includes it because it captures the remarkable color and patterns of this extravagant bird. Here’s a photo from Alaska. Unlike the other woodpeckers posted, this one is primarly a ground-forager, a woodpecker that doesn’t peck wood. Although it does drum to establish territories and does forage on trees from time to time. The taxonomy of Flickers is . . ….

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Storm on the Horizon

Jan 30, 2017

I said last week I would try to focus more on affairs of the state, you know, because the whole world has seemingly lost their collective minds. I’ve spent some time watching Gavel to Gavel and listening to assembly meetings so you don’t have to. It may seem like a small thing to many of you, but clearly you haven’t spent an hour screaming at your computer because of local political antics. You’re welcome. Pro tip: Be careful if you’re playing a drinking game that requires a shot when the words “body” or “member” are said. In the big square…

Downy Woodpecker Male, Fairbanks

Bird of the Week – Downy Woodpecker

Jan 28, 2017

Continuing with woodpeckers, this is Alaska’s smallest woodpecker, and probably the most common year round. In many ways, the Downy is a smaller version of the Hairy, with similar patterning. But the Downy is much smaller, and has a proportionately smaller bill. The male has the red barring on the back of his head shown here. The female does not. Interior Alaska, where these birds were photographed, is near the northerly limits for this species, but the range of Downys is huge. In fact, they are found in all 49 continental states and all of the Canadian provinces. Like Hairy…

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Around the Lens Podcast: Trump’s Photographer

Jan 26, 2017

Panelists: Brian Munoz (http://brianmmunoz.com/), Trent Stevens (http://www.trentcamera.com/) News: Best photos from Inauguration Day (http://www.politico.com/gallery/2017/01/2017-trump-inauguration-day-photos-002396?slide=0) What were the best photos from inauguration day. We give our thoughts. Topic: Will Trump have a Photographer (http://time.com/4637153/trump-inaugur…) Time reports that Trump has not yet hired a photographer. Will Trump end 40 years of precedent and not have one? Gear: Fuji Announces GFX 50s (https://petapixel.com/2017/01/19/fuji…) Fuji is getting set to release a medium format camera that fits in a DSLR sized body. Does this camera intrigue us?

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Make Alaska Great Again

Jan 25, 2017

Maybe you were too busy this week trying to stay warm to follow the news much. There have been some new developments. I know. They almost got past me, you know with keeping the snow shoveled out of the outhouse and enough water melted to do a few dishes. I’m trying hard to keep up. A major oil discovery was announced this week! Wahoo! “Initial technical estimates indicate the discovery could have recoverable resource potential in excess of 300 million barrels of oil,” ConocoPhillips said. That’s awesome for all of Alaska, right? I mean, jobs, jobs, jobs and we can…

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Climate Change Tweets Deleted from National Park Twitter Account

Jan 24, 2017

A couple hours ago the Badlands National Park Service twitter account began tweeting facts on climate change, something that has been officially banned the Trump administration. The tweets were trending on facebook and were retweeting tens of thousands of times. As of now no statement has come from the administration or the National Park Service. Here’s the now deleted tweets from the Badlands National park service twitter account.

American Three-toed Woodpecker, Upper Chena River Valley

Bird of the Week – American Three-toed Woodpecker

Jan 21, 2017

We’ll go back to woodpeckers for a while. The American Three-toed Woodpecker is a medium-sized black-and-white woodpecker. The male has a small yellow patch on his forehead. The feet do indeed have only three toes, instead of the more common four: 2 forward and 1 backward. (The Black-backed Woodpecker has the same configuration.) The Three-toed can be a difficult bird to find. Unlike other woodpeckers, it doesn’t drill. Instead, it flakes off pieces of spruce bark to get to insects. It prefers spruce bark beetles, but is otherwise a generalist. Three-toeds will drum to establish territory, often picking a dead…