Tag archive for "national park week"


Daily Bird of Prey Feast: Turkey Vulture

No Comments 26 April 2012

Turkey vultures mean business goddamit. They serve a purpose. A cleansing purpose.

Designed for soaring flight, turkey vultures rule the skies of Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas from March through early October. With a nearly six-foot wing span and a light body weight turkey vultures can soar over columns of warm air to heights of almost 5,000 feet and travel up to 40 miles per hour, just chilling, with almost no flapping of the wings.

They look horrifying up close – red skinned head, bare legs, and their under carriage is often discolored because they poop on themselves for cooling (and not the Miles Davis type of cool).

Turkey vultures are an anomaly of design and natural selection. Because their talons are basically useless if they’re threatened while nesting or roosting they will either fall over and play dead or just throw up – vomiting only because the stench is so foul it drives other critters away. I actually know someone on The Shade staff that does the same type of thing at parties (I’m looking at you T.W.)

They are lazy as shit. In the evening a turkey vulture’s body temperature drops to conserve energy. In the morning, spreading it’s wings to the sun’s heat brings the body temperature back up quickly and allows the bird to prepare for flight. On rainy or cloudy, cool days, vultures seldom take to the air preferring the day time programming on CBS.

The word vulture comes from the greek word meaning “cleanser,” because they literally clean house. They patrol the air, finding and ridding the land of carcasses that, if left on the ground, could become harbors of disease. In their own way they were the first CDC. Ha!


The second largest flying animal ever documented on the planet was found in Big Bend National Park. Fossilized remains of the pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi, with a wingspan of 35 feet, were first found in the park in 1971.


Featured National Park: Gates of the Arctic

No Comments 25 April 2012

The Gates of the Arctic National Park is mammoth. It covers eight million contiguous acres and is by far the northern most national park in the U.S. There are no roads in this national park. No visitors center and, for all intents and purposes, is fairly unwelcoming to the common national parks weekend visitor. The preservation of this land is focused on both the rich natural resources found beneath the Brooks Range Mountains but also, and more specifically, to preserve a way of life that had been going on for thousands of lands.

The people in the Koyukuk region are direct descendants from the early nomads that crossed the Bering Strait from Eurasia which eventually populated the Americas. There way of life is literally a model on sustainable uses of natural resources by humans. The Inupiat people are also known to have an unorthodox approach to the common barroom game darts where they throw underhand and backwards and by all accounts are ‘dead on balls accurate’.

The Noatak basin is internationally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve. Under this United Nations scientific program the area’s ecological and genetic components are monitored to establish baseline data for measuring changes in other ecosystems worldwide. Its like having a fresh new white Hanes T to judge how cross your normal under shirts are getting.

The early inspiration for the creation of a vast northern national park can be traced back to a U.S. Forest Service forester named Bob Marshall, who arrived in Alaska in 1929 looking for what he called “blank spaces on maps and a few places where my goddam wife will leave me alone.” At this point in his illustrious career Marshall was already a prominent wilderness advocate. His quest brought him to the Koyukuk region in Alaska’s Brooks Range where he buddied up to the local residents.Marshall spent the next 4 years exploring the region, mapping unchartered territory and trying to best a local named Earl in darts. Marshall is responsible for naming the twin adjacent twin peaks along the North Fork of the Koyukuk the “Gates of the Arctic”

Well, he never beat Earl but his writing did inspire later nature enthusiasts to push for the Gates of the Arctic to become a national park. After WWII there was further development and – for lack of a better term – pillaging of the natural resources of the area. Many conservationists from around the country combined forces with a grassroots campaign in Alaska and began applying whatever pressure they could.

It took another 30+ years but finally by 1978 Jimmy “Jaunts” Carter used his authority to designate these areas as national monuments.


Go Troop 55 in Houston!


Daily Bird of Prey Showcase – Golden Eagle

No Comments 23 April 2012

Damn golden eagles are badass,

Their wingspan is in excess of 7 feet, they have razor-sharp talons and they can cover an area of up to 60 square miles. Golden eagles are the Andrew Carnegie of birds of prey. They snack on everything from marmots, foxes, and bears to reptiles and hipsters. They mean business. Period.

Yosemite National Park has been a de-facto sanctuary for golden eagles for the past century. The Yosemite golden eagle population and its environment have remained relatively intact through the twentieth century. However, on a national scale since 1940, the Code of Federal Regulations has listed the species as endangered.

The unique seismic activity of Yosemite give it an abundance of fragmented rock structures and their accompanying cliffs which golden eagles prefer for nesting (particularly between 5,000 to 7,000 feet…which Yosemite has in spades).


The golden eagle is the most common national animal in the world with 5 nations giving it that distinction: Albania, Austria, Mexico, Kazakhstan and Germany. The traditional reverence given to the symbolic image of the golden eagle traces the historical ties between the modern world and its roots in Roman civilization.

The image of the golden eagle was representative of the Roman legions. As the Roman Empire thrived and expanded the golden eagle began to serve as a symbol of Roman culture in general. The legacy that Roman life left on American society can be seen in our:

  • Adoption of the bald eagle (close relative to the golden) as our national symbol
  • Use of the word Senate as the upper house of Congress
  • Perseverance of the Roman numeral system
  • The prevalence of neo classical architecture in American public buildings
  • The primary character in Super Mario Bros being of Italian descent
  • Italian ice

Stick all that in your pipe and have a puff.

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