Flash! A developing story!

"Developing" as used by cable news networks to introduce some event or topic that just may, may become a real story but so far there's only perhaps one little piece of information or a video clip. Yet the TV guys are going to keep after it and after it. Substantiated or not, if it has some appeal, why not just go for it, and if it all goes away, nobody will miss it.

Who says you can't learn anything from TV? For one thing, how to stretch. Here goes.

The Case of Christian Pond. From the highway it looks brown, not blue. Note nice reflective water surface. A rather displeasing brown.

We have reporters on the scene, don't we. ... Oh, no? I hadn't been near Christian Pond, there in Grand Teton National Park across from Jackson Lake Lodge, for too long. A once favorite place to visit to look for waterfowl, especially trumpeter swans, and always worth at least a glance from the highway. A couple of weeks ago, what a surprise. Brown.

Since I cannot get over to the pond, I turned to my sources. Turns out, in this developing story, that lots of people have noticed, and been greatly surprised at, the sight of the pond, but few have gone over to it. It is said that some park personnel actually have visited the scene - no one I've yet interviewed directly - so Far Afield cannot yet confirm this. Some park people think it's a kind of mystery as to what's going on with Christian Pond. Others think it's a simple algae bloom - a result of some natural cause. Some said the pond is dry, but several insist there's water under the brown stuff. Still others suspect beavers are somehow involved. Everyone agrees the pond sure looks different, and this anchor certainly never saw it look brown in many years of checking on it.

Now then, ponds undergo eutrophication, which is the process by which a body of water becomes low in dissolved oxygen, either naturally or by pollution rich in dissolved nutrients. Ultimately it becomes shallow, eventually becoming a marsh or meadow. Maybe this is happening to Christian Pond? It doesn't appear to have a large watershed feeding it. Moreover, although there was a decent snowfall last winter, there really somehow was no "mud season" in May and soils were remarkably dry for quite a distance from their surfaces. Could that be a factor?

Ah, gee. If this actually were modern TV, I could simply take one of TV's idiotic polls to solve the mystery of Christian Pond. Instead I shall continue to try to find the person or persons who have figured the pond out (Breaking News) or until we come up with another Developing Story!

For now, go to commercial: Buy my books.

Far Afield does need a larger investigative force. I'd like to send someone to check out that single deciduous tree on top of Iron Rock ridge that is a much lighter, more yellowish green than its neighbors. It really sticks out, especially in morning light. Why? Inquiring minds ... get into trouble.

I'd send another shamus to see how what NASA calls a "surface deposit" on the Space Shuttle Discovery makes out on re-entry. That's bird poop the crew saw on their close inspection of their craft when checking in space for any flaws. John Schwartz noted in his report that a French press organization called this "surface artifact" as "fiente." Which is to say, bird excrement. Whatever.

Field Notes: Margie Milton found a lark bunting on July 9; Antelope Flats Road. Ray White and Beverly Boynton spotted a Williamson's sapsucker on Thursday; Nowlin Peak Trail. This striking woodpecker is seldom reported in the region.

Adrienne Ward was surprised and impressed to watch a badger casually enter the Snake River and swim it as if an everyday occurrence; Saturday at Astoria Hot Springs.

Newly fledged red-shafted flickers seemed to be everywhere last week, crashing into shrubs, fumbling into uncertain flight and hitting windows. Their nests must have emptied within days of each other. Does a good year for flickers mean a "good year" for ants? (Flickers really like ants.)

More importantly, this nearly simultaneous emergence of young flickers is an example of how regularly many bird species return to their breeding regions to nest. It's also an alert, a notice, a warning if you will, that when climates change it will, it must, affect the reproduction of certain species. Especially migratory species. Birds and other animals may adjust to new conditions in time, or they become extinct.

British and European birdwatchers have been watching in recent years as trees and plants have been advancing their bud burst and flowering times in response to global warming. And, conveniently, as insect abundance times are in turn altered. Migratory birds now may arrive too late for their young to have sufficient prey items, and their populations inevitably decline. For some species over there, populations have declined by around 90 percent in the past two decades!

Species will adjust, or perish, as they always have over time and as climates have changed - for whatever reason. The current climate change is human enhanced. Humans have the unique capability both to adjust and also to modify the rate of climate change. Thus far, humans appear to be using only one of their options. For shame.

© Bert Raynes 2006


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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