Category Archives: adventure

the Western Gull (WEGU)


WEGUs in March – here they are confiding, easy to admire, and “much that is good…”

The Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) is the”typical” large, white-headed gull of the west coast of the US. Seen at most beaches, but rarely inland (except at the Salton Sea), this is more of an obligate “sea” gull than other gulls. They breed on offshore islands during the summer, and the Farallones constitute an important breeding location for them. They are the most obvious island resident due to their numbers and their character. Here, a brilliant quote from one of California’s earliest naturalists – William Leon Dawson.

Much that is good and all that is evil has gathered itself up into the Western Gull. He is rather the handsomest of the blue-mantled Laridae, for the depth of color in the mantle, in sharp contrast with the snowy plumage of back and breast, gives him an appearance of sturdiness and quality which is not easily dispelled by subsequent knowledge of the black heart within. As a scavanger, the Western Gull is impeccable. Wielding the besom of hunger, he and his kind sweep the beaches clean and purge the water-front of all pollution. But a scavanger is not necessarily a good citizen. Call him a ghoul, rather, for the Western Gull is cruel of beak and bottomless of maw. Pity, with him, is a thing unknown; and when one of their own comrades dies, these feathered jackals fall upon him without compunction, a veritable Leichnamveranderungsgebrauchsgesellschaft. If he thus mistreats his own kind, be assured that this gull asks only two questions of any other living thing: First, ‘Am I hungry?’ (Ans., ‘Yes,’) Second, ‘Can I get away with it?’ (Ans., ‘I’ll try.’)

[…]Nothing in the life of the Farallons [sic] is more striking than the rapacity of the gulls and their determination to profit by any excitement which will frighten the peasantry.

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Nepal: Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a chaotic city – a metropolis by number (with a population of 975,000 within city limits, and 2.5 million in the surrounding area) it is absolutely bustling, seeming like it grew out organically from the center. With densely crowded streets mostly lacking pedestrian sidewalks, navigating the streets and alleys in the Thamel district is initially harrowing.

The average tourist is initially completely overwhelmed by the sights and sounds on the street – mostly because you are right there in the middle of it, and has likely never experienced such sensory overload. Just trying to walk to the nearest restaurant or shop will entail squeezing by street vendors and their wares, veering around other pedestrians and tourists, and having to quickly get out of the way of honking cars, motorbikes, and tuk-tuks. You scramble over trash piles and potholes in the street as there are no sidewalks. Wave after wave of food, animal, sewage, and mysterious smells wash over you. There is a constant, grating onslaught of honking as cars and motorbikes veer around pedestrians in the narrow streets. You come to realize that the honking is not meant in the aggressive American language of “Get out of the way!” but more of a kind of constant “I’m here…Here I am…Coming by!” which means no offense but actually is a safety precaution, given the complete lack of strict traffic laws. And in all the time that we spent in and around Kathmandu, we saw only one accident (where someone had, inebriated, driven off a bridge and into a drainage ditch). Granted, there are less busy, more peaceful areas of the city, most of which tourists never venture out to see.

A landmark for this area - a large, dust-covered tree

A landmark for this area – a large, dust-covered tree

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