Monday, July 30, 2012

Raccoon Days

Dry 'raccoon days' of July have baked Yosemite. August's 'Dog Days' were named in ancient times when the Dog Star (Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major -the big dog) became visible just before sunup. Though we can't see it yet in our deep canyon, this bright star is already rising earlier and earlier before the sun.
Before Canis Major and Sirius rise, the Little Dog, Canis Minor comes up from the east. The bright star in Canis Minor is called Procyon. This is also the genus name of the raccoon. The German taxonomist who gave our raccoon its Latin name in 1780 assigned this animal a ranking slightly preceeding dogs; Procyon means 'before the dog' and this also works with this star rising before Sirius. Therefore, perhaps we can stretch the astronomical story to say that Raccoon Days come before Dog Days. Learn more about the stars in our 10-11 August Tuolumne astronomy program.
As far as terrestrial wildlife, up until recently bears have been relatively well behaved this season; there have been fewer car break-ins than usual.
The Merced River continues to flow about 20% of normal volume. It could keep dropping for two more months but it's already less than half the flow of last year's lowest volume. The photo shows Bridalveil Fall in a wispy state this week.
We have one very modest fire burning in the park. It's near the headwaters of Cascade Creek, just south of Tioga Road and east of Tamarack Flat. Lightning started it in mid-June and it's grown to less than 150 acres over 7 weeks - seems almost as though fire just fits in here...

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