Posted by Ellen

These sandhill cranes have it easy; they were spotted in their Florida marsh last week, long past spring migration time, so they're not migratory snowbirds; they live in Florida year-round.

Some of their migratory cousins may winter with them in Florida, but if a sandhill crane expects to fly all the way back to summer nesting grounds in the marshy tundra of northern Canada, Alaska, and Siberia–which is the way most of these birds like to live their lives–then it's going to have to get out of Florida by the end of February, early March at the very latest. A rest stop each March for more than 600,000 migrating sandhill cranes is the Platte River near Fort Kearny, Nebraska, where skies darken with what is said to be one of the great natural spectacles on earth.

Sandhill cranes dance, and they have a call that's sort of in between a dove and a turkey.

Posted by Ellen

Across from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is what we're told is a typical Dutch traffic light, with separate signals for cars and bicycles.

In central Amsterdam, more than 60 percent of all trips are by bike instead of car; in the outer part of the metro area, where road conditions and population density are more like those in the United States, bicycles still account for 40 percent of trips.

This is a new version of an old phenomenon.  Before World War II, bicycle travel was commonplace all over the Netherlands, but in the years after the war, transportation planning and road building practices were completely car-oriented, with the result that bike-riding had nearly disappeared by about 1970. Since then, however, heavy investment in bicycle infrastructure, such as protected lanes, as well as policy changes that disfavor automobiles, such as expensive parking, have brought bikes back pretty much everywhere.

In fact, the newest round of transportation infrastructure projects involve structures to handle the crush of bicycles that need parking space.

Posted by Ellen

Abe Cweren, an immigrant from Poland who arrived in Texas in 1922, is unloading bananas from his wagon in 1943, at the Valley Fruit stand on Franklin Street in Houston.

The house behind the fruit stand was built before 1900 by a family named Fredericks; in the 1940 census, three years before this photo was taken, the home's inhabitants were listed as a 30-year-old night-club chef named Rudolph Martinez, his wife Candalanca, son Rudolph Jr., sister Isabell Samora, and her two children, Raymond and Joe Louis.

The banana man wrote on the side of his wagon, "Jockey Cweren, Kentucky Derby."

Posted by Ellen

These picnic table warriors from the late 1980s successfully repelled would-be invaders from our backyard on 5th Avenue in Tuscaloosa. That's John at left, Ted at right, and their friend Scott Cartwright in the middle.

Posted by Ellen

Pausing for her picture in 1939, on her way back to the house from the pepper patch. The pincurls in her hair suggest that she's got post-pepper-picking plans for the evening.

She was one of eight children in the Schrock family in the Yakima Valley of Washington state, where they were clients of a Farm Security Administration tenant-purchase program, a New Deal effort to help migrant farm families obtain homes and farmland of their own. The program worked best, it turned out, for families that broke the rules and generated some cash income by finding work off the farm.

Johnny Cash grew up in a similar FSA project in Dyess, Arkansas.

Posted by Ellen

An unidentified coastal village in Alaska, in the fall of 1972.

Scanned image from a heat-damaged negative in the collection of the late Nick DeWolf. 

Posted by Ellen

This past week, the Bell Island ferry out of Newfoundland's provincial capital of Saint John's was trapped by unusually late pack ice, requiring the ice-breaking assistance of Canadian Coast Guard vessel Earl Grey.

The heavy ice around Newfoundland is actually a product of global warming. Record-breaking thaws this past winter along the west coast of Greenland–including a first-ever hurricane that drenched Greenland in January–disrupted normal patterns of ice circulation on the surface of the North Atlantic.

Greenland's fast-melting glaciers spit out icebergs four months early this year, which have clogged shipping lanes. Ocean currents and winds usually break up Newfoundland's pack ice early each spring, but the unusual flow from Greenland has kept this past winter's ice trapped in harbors and coastal waters.