At the Mariposa Grove, a tourist pointed out something I had never seen in Yosemite National Park — a pileated woodpecker. Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss snapped a picture of it.
We were in Yosemite to research a story about the Mariposa Grove, where about 500 mature giant sequoias live. The graceful scenes were everywhere, but the pileated woodpecker stole the show.
This is a big, eye-catching bird. It looked like the size of a crow — black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest.
The bird was pounding at the base of a white fir tree, making little pieces of wood fly. A few people stopped and took photos, but nothing distracted this woodpecker. Someone told me it was hunting for carpenter ants. I couldn’t really see what it was doing.
It has been a while since I had visited the Mariposa Grove, which is near the South Entrance and Highway 41. I’ll have to get back there again soon.
Giant Forest web cam looking at the San Joaquin Valley.
Take a look at the Giant Forest web cam. Most of the time, you can see why the National Parks Conservation Association sees a need to improve hazy conditions in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
It is improving, the group says, but far too slowly. How long will it take to clear the air at this rate? About 83 years, the parks association said last week, quoting statistics from the California Air Resources Board.
The parks association got such calculations for many national parks as part of a campaign for more action.
The group’s sampling of 10 national parks includes Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and Sequoia. Yellowstone won’t get natural air quality until 2163. Check out the other parks. You’ll find Sequoia’s 2096 is the earliest cleanup date.
Sequoia’s foothill air monitor at Ash Mountain is among the smoggiest places in the country. Sequoia usually has more bad ozone days each year than Fresno, Bakersfield or Los Angeles.
Ozone is invisible, but it makes the haze more unhealthy. The parks association says more natural conditions will be better for both people and Sequoia-Kings Canyon.
“The basic idea is that clear air will be good for both the lungs of people and the ecosystem of the national park,” said Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program director and counsel for the parks groups.
That means focusing on clean-air improvements on vehicles in California, Kodish said. The cleaner engine rules need to be developed faster, she said.
Don’t hurry to change Wikipedia rankings for the largest trees in the world. Turns out there’s more than one way to measure a giant sequoia.
The federal government still considers the General Grant Tree the second-largest tree in the world, despite new research showing The President tree has grown into the No. 2 spot.
The research by Stephen Sillett, a redwood researcher from Humboldt State University, looks at the whole tree. By that measure, the Grant Tree is No. 3 behind The President Tree.
But size rankings in the federal government are traditionally based on trunk size. The hulking General Sherman Tree is No. 1.
And, based on trunks, the Grant Tree is still No. 2, says Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has studied giant sequoias for over 30 years at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The parks and Giant Sequoia National Monument have most of the remaining natural groves of giants sequoias in the world. By sheer volume, they are the largest trees in the world.
Stephenson, who is considered among the top scientific authorities on the tree, says:
“Because branch volume is quite difficult to measure accurately, size rankings for the biggest sequoias
usually have been based upon trunk volume only. By trunk volume, the General Grant Tree is
second largest and the President Tree is the third largest. If you include branches, the order switches.”