No problem!

Looking for some outdoor summer fun but hate the crowds of Yellowstone, the remoteness of Dry Tortugas, the heat of Death Valley, and the obviousness of the Grand Canyon? Maybe you’d instead enjoy picnicking in James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park in Georgia. Or swimming at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Kentucky. Or walking your leashed pet through Harry “Babe” Woodyard State Natural Area in Illinois.

 

If so, you should get on that now. This is not a good time for state parks. With economic conditions making employment and education seem like privileges, recreation is hardly thought a right. Which is why the state parks make easy targets for the nation’s 50 governors and 7,382 state legislators looking to cut costs. Which is why the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in turn, has placed state parks and… More…

The icon of an oil spill.

The moment I heard about the Deepwater Horizon oil leak, I knew I’d soon see depressing photos of animals. That’s how it goes with oil spills and oil leaks. Animals are threatened, and some die, and this is both news but also a source of dramatic imagery to accompany coverage of the accident.

 

And so it goes with coverage of the leak in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s estimated that more than 200,000 gallons of oil are leaking each day into the Gulf, a region rich with life. The impact has been illustrated with photos of dead sea turtles that have washed up along the Gulf Coast. Images from Ship Island, Mississippi reveal that dead birds, sharks, and other fish have been found there, too. CBS News created a bannerMore…

If any zoo or botanical garden or nature center has its hands on your e-mail address, you’ve probably been invited recently to view its Web cam. This isn’t as NSFW a proposition as most invitations to view live Web cams, but is instead an offer to intimately view an animal, usually a bird with eggs about to hatch, from the comfort of your home or (if you’re lucky) your office. This — spring — is prime nature Web cam season.

 

My invitation came from Duke Farms — the sprawling former estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke in central New Jersey that is today a nonprofit environmental center. “BREAKING NEWS,” an e-mailed newsletter alerted me. “The Eagle Cam is back on the air! Don’t miss this opportunity to watch a pair of Bald Eagles raise a new family this… More…

 

 

When that poor women recently fell into and tore Picasso’s “The Actor” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, nobody questioned whether the painting should be repaired. The only issue seemed to be how — and as of right now, the Met either doesn’t know or isn’t revealing the answer.

This is a no-brainer. The master paints the work, an adult-education student tumbles into it: Despite the power differential between the two, we’re still working in the realm of the human.

Repairing nature, on the other hand, is a bit more jarring. This is likely why Richard Barnes’ photographs of natural history dioramas in various state of repair have drawn attention since they were collected in a book of his work Animal Logic, released in the fall.

To equate natural history dioramas with… More…

If you're eating from a feeder, possibly.

 

Give a bird a seed, you feed it for a day. Give a bird a bird feeder, and you start driving its evolution. Who knew?

Scientists didn’t, at least not until they started studying the migratory patterns of Central European blackcaps in southern Germany and Austria. The small gray birds that summer there traditionally winter on the Iberian Peninsula, fleeing the nutritionally sparse region for the lush olives and fruits of sunny Spain every year. But in the 1950s, a small part of the population began overwintering on the British isles instead of Spain. It seemed like a case of different strokes for different songbirds, until German scientists discovered in 1992 that a genetic basis for the behavior had developed. The light cues that send the birds back to Germany each year come earlier in… More…

Full sun with a 100 percent chance of snow.

 

When word of possible financial catastrophe came out of Dubai last week, the media scrambled for the most highly visual examples of the emirate’s opulence it could find. Luckily, these images were not in short supply. The world has watched for years, transfixed, as a golden Dubai exploded up into the sky and out beyond its natural land. As it built a ski mountain…in the desert!

It’s no surprise, then, that television viewers listened to reporters speak over images of the Burj Dubai, at 2,684 feet the tallest structure in the world. They saw aerial shots of the man-made Palm Islands that extended Dubai out into the Persian Gulf. And they watched footage of people happily cruising the slopes of Ski Dubai. The pairing of these images with news that Dubai’s government-owned investment company wanted to delay payments… More…

 

Go to a dog show on a rainy day and the first thing you notice is the smell. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever owned a dog or been around a dog or heard people talk about just how bad a wet dog smells, but it does. Those dogs are pets — sloppy, misbehaving, food-stealing pets. With show dogs, we anticipate perfected specimens of the animal world that never chew the furniture, never hump company, and never find themselves caught in the rain.

This was the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s annual two-day dog show. The show does not have the distinction of being the nation’s most prestigious dog show. That would be the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City, which will be held in February and broadcast on… More…

The history of animals in sports is a long one.

 

Based on the headlines I’ve skimmed, the World Series spurs a lot of questions — questions I don’t really care about involving starters and lineups and blah blah blah. I’ve got a question: How about that Philly Phanatic?!

If the Phanatic takes top billing this Series it’s partly because, well, New York doesn’t have a mascot. I suppose it reflects a minimalist sensibility that non-New York cities lack the confidence to adopt, but whatever the reason, the absence of a mascot is a point of pride. In a 2001 New York Times story on the injuries sports mascots suffer in the line of duty — broken legs, heat exhaustion — writer George Vecsey noted: “It is a tribute to my hometown, New York, that mascots are generally not seen cavorting on the playing fields. New York fans become engrossed… More…

The slow march of "peak" color.

 

Toward the end of every summer, I start telling myself that this will be the year I’m finally taking that trip to view fall foliage. The prospect of an autumnal jaunt is really about getting through the despondence of that season’s end, I think, because I never do make such a trip, and I honestly don’t even know what it would mean to go on a fall foliage trip. Do you stick to roads? Hike? New England sounds nice, but that’s awfully general. How much time should one allot for looking at changing leaves? Would three days fly by, or would an hour feel like a lifetime?

Not everyone sees fall as so gloomy, or fall foliage viewing as so formless an activity — state tourism and environmental agencies, for instance. Where you see red and orange and… More…

An illuminated, temperature-controlled piece of the living world in the living room.

 

[T]he whole plant, instead of rising to the surface of the water as hitherto, hung limp from the fissure where it was placed, and trailed upon the sand. Coincidently, (was it consequently?) a greenish tinge pervaded the water, speedily increasing in depth and opacity. In five days, no object could be discerned six inches from the glass, and my beautiful Aquarium was transformed to an unsightly ditch. — “My Aquarium,” The Atlantic, 1858

For as long as man has tried to keep an aquarium, he’s been struggling to keep it clean. This unavoidable aspect of the hobby was immediately evident on entering the 21st Annual Marine Aquarium Conference of North America in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Put another way, don’t go to a marine aquarium conference expecting a kind of bustling World’s Fair of tanks and fish… More…