Wednesday, October 31, 2007

disappearance of the Rusty Blackbird

The Rusty Blackbird is one of the fastest-disappearing bird species in North America. It has declined dramatically in the last 30+ years. To learn more about this decline, and to get involved in study of this species or assist in other ways, see the Smithsonian Institution webpages devoted to this topic, here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the decline of bees

Bee species are in decline, and the pollination services they provide are at risk. Read more at Conservation International's site, here. More about bees can be found at this link.

Read more (or listen) to several older reports on bees at the following sites: an NPR report on bees is here. Still more on the declines can be found at the National Geographic site, here.

still fighting over the redwoods after all these years

A 29,000 acre section of redwoods is in the hands of mediators in a long-overdue disposition of the fate of these 2,000-year-old trees. Protestors lived in these trees during the 1990s to attempt to prevent their harvest. See more here.

Why do we still not recognize these trees as vital to our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being? I don't understand why that is still debated. It seems we should be past that, by now.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

the next version of capitalism?

A great read, an online section from Chapter One of the recent book Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, by Peter Barnes, is here.

It's hard to do this justice without a photo

Today I spent some time along the Lake Michigan shoreline, looking for late October migrants. While my success was somewhat limited ( I stayed in Milwaukee County, and posts on the Wisconsin Birding List show that points north of Milwaukee were somewhat more productive today). But I managed to see approx. 10 Common Loons offshore from the well-known lakewatch spot known as North Point (near Milwaukee's Bradford Beach). There were also a few Horned Grebes, about a hundred each of Mallards and Gadwalls, a few Northern Shovelers, American Black Ducks, several dozen Buffleheads, the ever-present Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. North of this location at Doctor's Park, the waterfowl present were similar but also included 6 White-winged Scoters, some flocks of Greater Scaup, and some Red-breasted Mergansers. If you've never watched loons and diving waterfowl well offshore in the Great Lakes, it's not at all like searching for landbirds. Until the sun came out after noon, the sky was leaden, it was blowing hard from the northwest, and the lake had that look of hammered steel. The loons were FAR offshore. You could look at excellent photos of the Common Loon like the ones Mike McDowell makes (this is an example), but this gives you a close-up view. That's a great view, but the birds I was studying were hundreds of meters offshore, moving at a good clip southward. Loons in flight really look distinctively different from waterfowl. Their heads are held lower than the body as they fly (here's an example online from Cornell, with a photo by B.L. Sullivan). Wish I had a photo of my own to illustrate what I was seeing, but alas, no such luck.

I've chosen to at least partially limit my birding to locations closer to home, at least for the majority of the time. I'm finding this creates some obstacles in communication with other birders who question or disagree with this approach. I'm hopeful it won't stay that way. There are some uncomfortable silences in some situations. Obviously, our choices are different, and that can create misunderstanding. But again, I'm hopeful that this will change over time. We can have a dialogue, and maybe foster understanding and the exchange of ideas, with a willingness to be open to the ideas of others. And that obviously goes for me, too! I am humbled every day by all that I don't know.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

soon they will be gone

It's only a matter of a few weeks, and these autumn leaves will be down. The remaining green leaves will be changing within another week or so at this latitude. And along with them, the final weeks of passage of warblers, thrushes, and vireos, with many raptors, some late shorebirds, and some waterfowl along with them. Of course there are many bird species still to come through this area, including the later sparrows, loons, and the remaining raptors and waterfowl. These latter groups are still migrating through well into November. And then the landscape takes on more subtle tones. Each day in the flow of autumn's time has its gifts to offer. And each day the air seems slightly different, though recent autumns seem to hold more warm days, and some migrants delay leaving longer than they did in the past. These are not "good" changes, but we are bound to witness them, now. Along with the changing angle of the sunlight, autumn's progress continues inexorably here. I could "feel it" in the night sky, too, with Orion now prominent above, and an October wind blowing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What if?

What if we acted as if nature really mattered? Back in 1990, while riding on the Bay Area rapid transit (the BART) system to a temporary carpenter's helper gig in San Francisco, I was reading daily from a fairly recent book by Bill Devall and George Sessions. Deep Ecology: Living As if Nature Mattered (an updated 2001 edition is now available) was the book, and I was never the same after reading it. It shifted my perspective, permanently. I still recommend it.

Sessions went on to edit Deep Ecology in the Twenty-first Century, and that, too, is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in this topic.

We can't survive without or apart from our relationships with and connections to the other living things on this planet, or apart from Earth itself. They provide us with everything we need. This is more true than ever, in the age of expanding awareness of a changing climate, shrinking areas of primary forests, expanding deserts, overexploited fish populations, encroachment of invasive species, chemical contaminants in water and food, or a long laundry list of other serious problems facing us and our descendants. And what about those other life forms? I bow to them, in the way I bow to all fellow humans. As I bow, I say "namaste", meaning: "the holy place within me, pays respect to the holy place within you", whether you are a man or woman, an elk or a salmon, a condor or a chickadee, a butterfly or a grasshopper, a snake or a frog.

Friday, October 12, 2007

in praise of autumn

The audacious color of these oak leaves still stuns me.

That leathery brown-gold of beech leaves in fall is a color-and-texture I look forward to each year.

But then, if you have not seen tamaracks in their golden dress in autumn, you really cannot imagine how absolutely fine they are. To be a day-long bystander (or bear, or Boreal Chickadee) in the north country at this time of that is a visual feast.

I'm endlessly grateful to have eyes in autumn.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MCAMMP and our colleagues

MCAMMP, the Milwaukee County Avian Migration Monitoring Partnership, is finishing its fourth field season. Our research team of ten partners, interns, and 90+ volunteers just received the Citizen-based Monitoring Program of the Year Award at the CBM Network Conference in Merrimac, WI last Friday. Read more about MCAMMP here, and the Citizen-based Monitoring Network here.
The research team on the MCAMMP project is composed of some special people: Al Sherkow and Deb Hartman, husband-and-wife team from Riveredge NC, Tim Vargo, Research Coordinator and Sara Vondracheck from the Urban Ecology Center, Owen Boyle, Southeast Regional Ecologist from The Endangered Resources Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Dr. Chris Guglielmo from the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Chris Lepczyk from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Dr. Glen Fredlund of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and Mark Feider from Milwaukee Audubon and the Ozaukee-Washington Land Trust. We also have some fabulous interns, who include Jenn Callaghan, Roz James, and Lynn Ratkowski. Lynn received a Citizen-based Monitoring Volunteer of the Year Award at the conference mentioned above.
A colleague of ours, Dr. Noel Cutright, received a Lifetime Achievement Award at this same conference. See more about Noel and some of his work here. Noel has contributed a massive amount of time on avian monitoring and conservation projects in Wisconsin and elsewhere for more than 30 years.
I'm proud to have all of these people as colleagues!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What you can do, along with news re: climate change and birds

The David Suzuki Foundation has an excellent list of things you can do to help slow the pace of climate change here.

Recent news and information on climate change and effects on birds can be found here.

These are serious enough topics for me to drop my own commentary, and ask you to read the information found at the sources linked above. Nothing more for me to say, today.