Thoughts on well-being, sustainability and those things that constitute a good life beyond consumption.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter ramblings on a soggy day (a.k.a a tale with many bends)

It is a rare moment when I don’t have an immediate deadline, and, on top of that, the house is quiet. Very quiet. One son is driving to Ohio; the other is in his room learning some programming language. Dave is out playing tunes. And, oh, is it dreary. Pouring rain with temperatures in the 30’s is not my favorite weather condition.

Earlier today, I was out grocery shopping to gather things for a New Year’s celebration at the neighbors. I decided to come home along a different route from my normal drive to and from work. The snow of early December is mostly gone, except for a few dirty piles where plows pushed it off the roads and into edges of parking lots. There is too much impervious surface in the Lehigh Valley. They paved paradise sang Joni. Here they paved over superb topsoil and historic farmland. I think of all the salt and grime that combines with this melting snow to run directly into the Monocacy Creek that meanders along the road. Especially on rainy days like this. Do the fish and macro invertebrates sense these spikes in saline concentrations? Or are they just trying to stay warm?

In spring, this creek receives the runoff from the few remaining farms just to the north. The Monocacy flows into Bethlehem, collecting storm water runoff and dust from cement companies along the way. In some places, the lime raises the pH of the water enough to make it appear turquoise in color. The creek passes through the historic district of the city and joins with the Lehigh River to flow past the skeleton of the Bethlehem Steel plant. Reportedly, the name "Monocacy" comes from the Shawnee name for the river, Monnockkesey, which translates to "river with many bends." 

The country’s first municipal pumping system – the Bethlehem Waterworks – was built along the Monocacy in the 1750’s. According to the National Park Service, the system served the growing city until 1832, but the area had supposedly become an automobile graveyard by the 1960’s. Who knew? This area, known as the Colonial Industrial Quarter, is fortunately now a National Historic Landmark; the stone pumphouse was restored in the 1970’s – long before I moved to the area. The original plans for the waterworks were preserved in the Moravian Archives, not the collection near the campus where I work, but rather in Germany. I wonder why they weren’t kept in Bethlehem.

This year, the dam was removed from the Monocacy in the historic district, with hopes of lessening the flooding that has plagued the area of late. Our students have documented the increase in frequency of the creek reaching flood stage over the past two decades, coinciding with increased sprawl and blacktop, and increased heavy rain events. (Put up a parking lot or at least another strip mall or distribution center.) Some, including one of my colleagues, hopes that this dam removal will help restore the shad fish run up the creek in spring.

Bethlehem Steel began as the Saucona Iron Works in 1857. Once the largest steel-producing plant in the U.S., it filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Some of the former industrial site is now a casino/resort/arts center. I don’t know what possessed someone to build such a complex on a designated Brownfield, but I presume they test the dust and the water for contaminants. Certainly, the little town of Bethlehem receives some nice tax benefits that they weren’t collecting on 1600 acres of vacant, polluted land. Render onto Caesar.

I have a friend who has dedicated her time and talents over the past several years to salvage the former estate of the first mayor of Bethlehem, who also happened to be an important executive at Bethlehem Steel. You can tell that the grounds and 1920’s mansion of Archibald Johnston’s place were once spectacular. His descendents left the 55 acre estate to Bethlehem Township in 2005, but the property has been sorely neglected. My friend has copies of the original garden plans. No native plants, but pretty nice, nonetheless. Her persistence just may save this piece of Bethlehem history.

For a region steeped in history (dating back to 1741) that possesses the 6th oldest college in the country and buildings where the Continental Congress once worked and that served as the hub for the launch of the Industrial Revolution in this country, you think that more of its residents would care about preservation and honoring the past.

In historic Bethlehem on Christmas Eve
 ~~~

As I drove home, I notice that some of the yards are greening up from the warming spell we have had. I pass fields of unclaimed pumpkins that have been through many freeze-thaw cycles by now. Squishy fields, squishy pulp and flesh. Soon to be frozen again, given the looming forecast. While I don’t miss the bitter cold, long winters of upper Michigan, I do miss the seemingly ever-fresh snow cover, the evergreens and birch bark, and glittering ice on the Big Lake. Here, the winter palette is rather drab – sullied browns and grays.

While out shopping, I rescued a fine specimen of a Red Aglaonema to brighten up my office for the winter. (I am not sure why they call it spring semester.) I dropped it off as I had to stop by campus to check on the greenhouse. New windows in our science building means I don’t have to worry about plants getting too cold as they sometimes used to, but they still need to be watered. The large rambling "Wandering Jew" (Tradescantia Pallida Purpurea) plant that is climbing up a palm was in bloom. (I have no idea why the plant has the common name that it does.) These tiny purple flowers didn't have any scent, but really stood out visually on this lackluster day. No other souls were around (duh, it is semester break), so I was able to enjoy these tiny treasures in wonderful solitude.

I am feeling a bit guilty. Part of my shopping run today included a stop at a box store (yes, the type that adds even more paved surfaces) to purchase some incandescent bulbs before they are no longer produced as of the end of the year. Ms. Sustainability/Ms. Climate Change activist must confess that while I appreciate the energy savings of CFLs, I do not like the fluorescent rays  that they emit.  They are not as bad as mercury-vapor lamps, which actually make me nauseous, but still, I am not fond of fluorescent lights. I have allowed Dave to install CFLs and LED’s throughout the old farmhouse, but have balked at putting them into the fixture over the sink in one of the bathrooms. My indulgence, I guess. So I “had” to stock up on 40 watters, enough for a few years, anyway, just for this room. Does the fact that I drive a Subaru with 209,000 miles make up for this in anyway?

Well, in rereading this, I smile, as this quiet writing time was supposed to result in a belated holiday greeting letter. Perhaps I was feeling a bit too melancholy for that. This will be the first New Year's Eve without Corey. Not that we ever do anything particularly exciting to mark the passing of one year or to welcome in the new one, but when he is not here, I deeply sense the void. I realized that about ½ hour after he went off to college in August. This has been a year of many “firsts” – some wonderful, some bringing the realization that Dave and I are entering a new phase, a new bend in our river of life. Guess I will have to write that piece a little later.

On a sunnier day before the snow melted
Home sweet home

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reflecting on Mandela's passing

Two years ago, my son and I were in South Africa for the U.N. climate conference (COP17). Before the meetings started, we had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with Angelene and John Swart. Angelene was the first woman and layperson elected as President of the Unity Board of the worldwide Moravian Church and presented with an honorary degree by our seminary a few years ago.   They had also previously visited Bethlehem. One of the first things I noted in their home in a suburb of Cape Town was a large poster of Nelson Mandela. It is difficult to fully comprehend how much he meant to this family, to anyone in that country.

Angelene and John Swart and Corey
Angelene and John grew up under apartheid in South Africa labeled as "colored" (even though they actually consider themselves black), and as such, had to leave their home and move to a neighborhood designated for coloreds. They showed us beaches that they were once banned from stepping foot on, but now become almost giddy when they can stop and stand on the once forbidden sand, take in the spectacular views, and fantasize about the retirement home they would like to build there.
The shoreline to the east of Cape Town
When they were the age of our college students, they spent time in Genadendal – the oldest mission station in the country – secretly plotting how they might participate in nonviolent disobedience to help the cause of Mandela and other freedom fighters in their country.

The village of Genadendal
The Swart’s took us to Robben Island – a place with a long legacy for serving as a place of banishment – once home to people with leprosy or mental illness. Most famously, it is the site of the maximum security prison for political prisoners and criminals where Mandel spent many years. Today, it is a World Heritage site, a symbol of the price that was paid for freedom, a sacred site for many South Africans.
 

Part of the prison on Robben Island
 
Peering into Cell #5

The quarry where Mandela was forced to do hard labor and
ended up with permanent vision and lung damage
Prior to going to the country, I knew of apartheid and Mandela and divestment, but it was a cursory knowledge. Hearing first-hand stories from the Swart family, visiting Mandela’s prison cell, being in South Africa – made it all much more real for me. I have since read much about the freedom fighters and the truth and reconciliation process, and I am in awe of the courage and leadership that Mandela demonstrated throughout his life. I perhaps have only the slightest idea of how significant he is/was to the people of South Africa, but at least I can begin to understand their reverence.

At the climate meetings that year, the controversial phrase “climate apartheid” was dubbed. I will leave you to ponder the implications of that concept. But while at the meetings, I wrote the following in a blog post (12/1/11):

Over the last two days, the COP17 President convened an Indaba – an isiZulu word that refers to a gathering of people, infused with wisdom and Ubuntu. I have heard the term Ubuntu several times while in South Africa and vaguely understand it as a philosophy that focuses on community rather than the individual.
 
Nelson Mandela has stated that “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” If there is a scale for how much an individual (or country) abides by this philosophy, the U.S. would be on the very low end.

My comments at the time reflected my frustration with the climate negotiations and our country’s role in blocking progress. But I think the sentiments are relevant to our society more generally. The current debate over corporate profit vs. fair wages in the fast food industry is just one example. Perhaps the best way that we can honor Mandela’s legacy is to begin pondering how we each can work to improve and strengthen community rather than focusing so much on individual gain.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Conserving youth and urban areas

Today I read a wonderful article about a friend, Dave Magpiong, who is doing great work with urban children and in enhancing diversity in conservation (see Focus on Diversity III - Changing the Face of American Birding Conference on Facebook or at http://www.fledgingbirders.org/CFAB.html). The article on Dave's work can be found at http://articles.philly.com/2013-06-19/news/40050535_1_camden-school-birding-tom-knoche.

Twice this week, I heard pieces on WHYY out of Philly about Camden that, of course, focused on the bad -- the abandoned industrial plants, the crime, the violence...the poverty and unemployment. A lament for a city that once made major contributions to the world wars, but now was a scar on the promise of the "American Dream." But Dave's story is a different take on the city. It is the type of story about initiatives that will not only change the lives of children he works with, but of an entire community. And kudos to NPR's Marketplace for showing how Camden might be perceived as a leader in some areas: http://www.camdenhealth.org/nprs-marketplace-follows-the-affordable-care-act-through-the-eyes-of-camden/.

One of our graduates this spring is going to Cooper Medical School in Camden, a destination of choice for her. Her senior Honors project was on "Inequalities in Health Care Access", and her dream is to be of help in poor, blighted areas - a place where she believes that she can truly make a difference. So many students say this in their application essays and interviews, but few would be willing to prove it to this degree. Best of everything to you Margaret.

My place of birth, Detroit, is getting hammered in the media these day for its financial woes. For quite sometime, this beleaguered city was known by most as "the murder capital of the U.S." I lived there until I was almost 6, and my memories are of a different Detroit. My great grandmother's backyard cottage garden. Small, but lovely. No one could grow roses like she could. She was a lone "hold-out" white person in a neighborhood of African Americans, a spunky Polish immigrant whose native tongue was better than her English. But those neighbors protected her during the race riots of the 1960's. I remember sitting on our front porch with my dad as he called out to the Bob-white Quail in the field across the street.  Flash floods during summer thunderstorms, picnics, and walking to school - something I have not done since kindergarten.  I remember great deli stores, and of course, the auto companies. Ford was omnipresent.

I loved the 2011 Super Bowl commercial about Detroit, done by Eminem and Chrysler. It certainly showed Detroit in a different light. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHozLw6f5rI

I am not an urban gal. I have lived in Detroit and Philadelphia, but I am most comfortable on my rural farm or on the shores of one of the Great Lakes -- away from crowds and noise. But I realize the importance of worrying about our urban kids and streets, the parks and waterfronts, the heat islands and safe green spaces. Perhaps a bit more of our conservation efforts should focus on these places and the people that inhabit them.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A summer evening walk

After taking a stab at poetry yesterday writing an Ode to August (http://watchingtheseasons.blogspot.com/2013/08/phenology-kind-of.html), I decided it was best to return to a form of writing that I am more familiar with - scientific reports.  But then I was interrupted.

 
After a rather rainy day, it cleared out nicely in late afternoon. The drier air and clear skies were calling, pleading for me to leave behind the report writing, if just for a little while. I love distractions. Heck, this report was due last May, so what are a few more hours? And enjoying a walk on a refreshing  and unusually cool August evening makes perfect sense when you are writing a section of a report on climate change and agriculture in Pennsylvania.

I was immediately rewarded with eight, yes eight, Red-spotted Purples on a single shrub! Limenitis arthemis – at least the subspecies in this region – is a mimic of the poisonous Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor), and the same species as the very different looking White Admiral. Arthemis is likely an epitaph of Artemis – the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, childbirth, and protector of young girls. This deity was one of my favorites as a child; her Roman equivalent is Diana. I doubt that my mother named me after her, but I thought she was pretty cool anyway. These eight specimens appeared to be very fresh – not a tattered edge or faded spot of blue or orange among them.

Lately, I have been seeing large numbers of Spicebush and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (genus Papilio – Latin for butterfly). They are particularly fond of my phlox and all the Monarda (bergamot, bee balm) growing on our property. I learned today (if Wikipedia is a trusted source) that this genus was named for Nicol├ís Monardes, who wrote a book in 1574 describing plants found in the New World. I think I would have enjoyed traveling around the world finding new plant species, although there weren’t too many women along on those early expeditions. (A great book on this topic is Flower Hunters by Mary and John Gribbon. The cover alone is worth buying the book for.) I digress. This plant, Monarda, has a long history as a medicinal plant being used as an antiseptic, a stimulant, or to treat everything from headaches to fevers to excessive flatulence. I wonder what it does for butterflies!

As I stopped to get Revi the crazed retriever, a family of Pileated Woodpeckers flew from a big old dead oak. I had heard the tapping while I was watching those black, blue, and orange goddesses, but hadn’t looked up to see who was making the noise. We have many different woodpeckers here. Lots of insects, lots of dying trees. And yes, our dog is named with a 4-letter code for a particular bird species. Do you know which one? They are common and quite noisy in our woods, although quieter now that it is August.

We went in the back woods, past the old pastures, and kicked up a covey of Ruffed Grouse – at least 5, some of which were obviously this year’s brood. Earlier this summer, Joren had spotted a mother with very young cheepers. He even got to witness the broken-wing dance that mothers do when they are protecting their babes. Growing up in Upper Michigan, I sort of took grouse for granted. Hunted them even. But they are much more uncommon in eastern PA, so it is good to know a) that they are breeding here and b) that some of the young made it to be teenagers.

Being a bird dog breed, Revi was quite pleased that he found me some game birds. I guess he decided that he deserved a reward, and ran off for a quick swim in the quarry ponds on the neighboring parcel. We haven’t been over there since last fall. These flat-coats sure have good memories. He returned soaking wet, saving his shake until he got very close to me. Thanks for sharing bud. But he looked so pleased with himself. I don’t know if it was because he flushed some birds or that he got to swim or that he drenched me with muddy waters.

When we returned, I checked one of our young peach trees – producing for the first time. Yup, more were ripe. This tree only teased me for the last few years, but now it is producing about ½ bushel a day. I don’t spray, so the fruit are far from cosmetically perfect, but they taste like heaven. I don’t think you can eat too many peaches when they are in season. Well, I suppose you could, and then you might need some of that medicinal bee balm. A good peach is something we never got in Upper Michigan. Only hard, tennis ball-like fruits that were never sweet and juicy.  Maybe someday, with global warming and all.

The sun had dropped behind the mountain when I brought Revi to the barn. Up in the old chestnut beams, the larger-than-head beaks of the latest round of barn swallow babies were all I could see above their nest. Always chirping, always hungry. Mom was no where around. Out collecting insects, I suppose. Hirundo rustica – nice name. This gang wouldn’t fledge for at least another week. I wonder where they go for winter. Will these same birds be back in our barn next spring? In April they return, about the same time our orchards begin to come into blossom. Which reminds me, I had better get back to that report chapter.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Not your typical Mother's Day

Some years ago, my son Corey started taking me birding early on Mother's Day.  Well, I technically took him since I drove, but he served as my guide.  Often we would be up at 3:00 a.m. to drive to South Jersey/Cape May to be there by dawn (while many other moms are treated with a day to sleep in).  But as a reward, a Prothonotary Warbler was often one of our first sightings, followed by lots of Blue Grosbeaks and Chats and Summer Tanagers, other migrants, and then shore birds.  Alternatively, we would head out in search of Cerulean Warblers and other special species like the Yellow-throated Vireo.  This year, I was a bit sad thinking we wouldn't go since he did a 24 hour "big day" yesterday, and didn't get home until about 1:30 a.m.  And next year, he will be away at college.

So it was a big surprise when he was up early and asked if I was ready to head out to some "secret spots".  This year, he was able to drive, and we went to some new destinations.  These spots could be described as tick-infested clearings (the worse I have ever seen) and bogs with lots of bugs and poison sumac.  OR I could say that we went to special habitat #1 and found 7 Golden-winged Warblers (my birder friends know how special it is to find these) and then to spot #2 to see the delicately lovely Painted Trilliums and spring ephemerals in bloom.  He scoped the areas out yesterday and knows how much I miss the woods full of trilliums from where I grew up.
Could I be more blessed?

(And not to leave out Joren:  He spent a few hours last night trying to teach me how to solve a Rubix Cube. It was hopeless on my part, but we had fun hanging out together.  And both decided to take me to the new Chipotle Restaurant in the area since they know I like the philosophy behind this company.)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Lament amongst Celebration

I am feeling a bit blue tonight, perhaps from the exhaustion of the end of the semester.  Maybe it is because some really superb students graduated today, and while they are all headed to really exciting next-steps in their careers, I will miss them a lot.  Or perhaps it is because of the recent horrific news stories ranking from the senseless deaths in Bangladesh to the bombings in the Boston region to the monster that held three girls – now women – for a decade and subjected them to unimaginable physical and mental abuse.

Besides these potential explanations, I have been pondering the significance of the planet hitting the 400 ppm atmospheric CO2 mark this week.  When I was in graduate school, we used 340 ppm for setting instruments and calculations.  This summer, my research student Marla (who graduated today) used 400 ppm as "ambient conditions" to calibrate the equipment that she was using.  Perhaps it is these types of little things that make the issue so real for me. 

Another graduate from today, Caiti, has already taught the public about the impacts of climate change at Exit Glacier in the Kenai Peninsula.  After a lot of research and personal experience, she wrote an amazing paper this semester on climate change and coastal communities -- focusing on NJ, the islands off of Louisiana, and Alaskan communities - weaving common themes between these seemingly disparate regions of the country. 

I wonder what the CO2 number will be when Marla and Caiti will be teaching students or National Park visitors in the future.

Today’s faculty speaker at graduation (Chris, from my department) spoke of the importance of education, of fighting against those who would try to keep us ignorant.  Malala Yousafzai comes to mind.  But Chris reminded us of the 25 year old U.S. diplomat Anne Smedinghoff, killed in April while delivering books to a school in Afghanistan.  This sad story gets buried under all the current media coverage and politics surrounding the attacks in Benghazi.  Was Anne’s death any less disturbing or important than that of Ambassador Christopher Stevens?

Chris spoke of the growing anti-intellectualism in this country.  This is something I worry about a lot, especially as it related to the public's fear-turned-distrust-turned hostile sentiments towards science.  We all know of climate deniers and those who say evolution just couldn’t be true.  (Because us scientist types like to make up elaborate hoaxes.)  But there are also plenty of other examples where ignorance, especially about science, rears its ugly head.  This piece is just one small example of what we are up against:

https://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/humans-are-animals-8-year-old-vs-misinformed-teacher/32709.  Thank goodness for children who try to educate the teachers and for those like Adam Frank who say it like it is:


But I digress from my ponderings on greenhouse gases and their impact on our world.  My honors student from last year (Anna, '11), examined long-term data sets, and documented the changing migration patterns of songbirds.  When she enters medical school, she is likely to hear about the health impacts of climate change.  Very likely she will be treating patients in the future for diseases once considered tropical, for heat stroke, or for pathogens we don’t even know about yet.   So many changes in the world around us; perhaps this is why I am sad.

A former student Sarabeth ('10) has gone to Peru and seen first-hand the impacts of climate change (water shortages) in rural communities - where many people don't know about climate change (as opposed to denying that it exists).  Paradoxically, next year, as she enters graduate school, she will work closely with a professor who studies the sociological impacts of flooding along the Mississippi River.  In a recent email, Sarabeth wrote

After coming home from Peace Corps, its became clear to me that community efforts at a local level are enough to get larger, regional forms of government to step-up and pay attention.  If they have a leader willing to put it all on the line...
 
You are so right Sarabeth.

I am beginning to sense that the current youth are igniting an activist movement that will once again – as has often happened in history – change the course of events for the better.  Recently, efforts at several colleges and universities aimed at getting campuses to divest in fossil fuel companies have caught the media’s attention:   



I can't imagine that my institution will go this route any time soon, but as the NPR story notes, "So far only a few small colleges have opted to drop investments in fossil fuel companies."  Small schools like College of the Atlantic and Swarthmore are taking the lead.

There are things for which my institution has taken a leading role (thanks mostly to faculty and students).  One example is our accreditation status as U.N. civil society observers for the climate conferences (the “COP” meetings).  Like with divestment, only a few small colleges (5 to be exact) have this distinction.  Sadly, it is not recognized by everyone on campus as something to promote and support more fully.  There is a growing call by many others for higher education to step up and show leadership with respect to climate change; thus, we should be proud of our leadership role here.

Another example where the college shines is in the number of students who have done important research in the restoration work at the Palmerton Superfund Site or within local watersheds.  Restoration is becoming increasingly linked to sustainability and building resilience to climate change.

So while I am extremely proud of the students who have walked across the stage at recent Moravian commencements, I am also frightful of what the future will hold for them and for my own children.  Maybe that is why I am a bit sad tonight.  But when I reflect on what they have already accomplished, what they will be doing, and the deep passion they demonstrate to be change agents, my sadness is tempered with a sense of hope.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day 2013

It is a blessing to have such a long-term relationship with a landscape that you become familiar with its most intimate details – its inhabitants, the phenophases of its plant life, its sounds and smells.  This is the time of year where we marvel at the miracle of migration as our summer neighbors return and begin to put things back in order.  Not only do species generally return to the same region each spring, but some seem to relocate their favorite tree.  How do they do that?

Today, the Ovenbirds and Black-and-white Warblers were on territory, trying to out-project each other.  (If you are familiar with these species, you know who wins this competition.)  The first Wood Thrush of the season was singing from our neighbor’s majestic spruce.  Pileated and Red-bellied Woodpeckers are hollering, and I heard incessant rapid-fire tapping on trees, most likely the old oaks.  Are they looking for food or a possible nesting site?

As I looked out at the Appalachian Mountain – known locally as the Kittatinny Ridge or Blue Mountain – I see the Serviceberry (Amelanchier Canadensis) at the highest altitudes are at the peak of their bloom.  Also known as Shadbush, this tree began to bloom on the south side of the mountain and in the valley to the south about two weeks ago, coinciding with the run of the fish of the same name.  At the lower elevations, the modified leaves or bracts of the dogwoods are emerging, revealing the small greenish, yellow flower buds within.  Is there a woodland tree more graceful?

In the woods, the sweet birch, maples, and aspen have their first small leaves, but the canopy is sparse, so you can still find the warblers and other birds perched on treetops.  The pollen count is high.  The sassafras has its yellow-green flowers and leaf buds.  Did you know that the stems, when scratched, smell like Fruit Loops?  A few weeks ago, the Spicebush was quite pungent.  Have you played Nature’s scratch and sniff game?

Emerging from the woods to the edges of our old farm, I see flowers on the plum and pear trees, and the apples are about to burst with fragrant blossoms.  When they do, the bees will move from the cherries to the apples, their buzzing louder than the spring peepers.  Barn swallows, catbirds, mockingbirds, sparrows of various types, robins, starlings, blue jays, and crows are darting back and forth and calling away.  A discordant chorus at times, but pleasing nonetheless, don't you think?

This is the time of year in eastern Pennsylvania where the temperatures are perfect – not too hot during the day, with crisp clear mornings.  It is the perfect time for the unwieldy growth of grass and weeds, but still too cool for the worst of the bugginess or to put out the tomato starts.

As I type this, Purple and Gold Finches in full breeding plumage are at the thistle feeder, joined occasionally by a migrating Pine Siskin.  They are being watched by an Eastern Phoebe at the top of our pear tree.  The phoebes usually build a nest under our deck, and this particular bird seems to be checking out this possibility again for this season.  The juncos left about a week ago, and today was the first day that I didn’t hear a White-throated Sparrow.  Have they moved on to their summer homes and friends farther north?

I hope that on this May Day, you have time to enjoy one of your favorite landscapes and to count the blessings that Mother Nature shares with us.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Not your typical drive home from work

Few scientists can describe the awe and wonder of having the privilege to work in a field that searches to explain the world around us.  But today, on NPR’s All Things Considered, there was a wonderful essay by Adam Frank, an astrophysicist, dispelling misperceptions about the communications skills of scientists:

Frank begins by quoting the poet William Blake, wondering whether we really can “see the Universe in a grain of sand”.  This is a piece you really should listen to.

Through the lens of science we can see how even the smallest thing can be a gateway to an experience of the extraordinary, if only we can practice noticing.
We walk past a thousand, thousand natural miracles every day, from the sun climbing in the sky to the arc of birds seen out our windows. Those miracles are there waiting for us to see them, to notice them and, most importantly, to find our delight in theirs.
As I was listening to this during the drive home from a hectic day at work, I noticed the stormy midnight blue sky to the north, illuminated by a sun low in the sky.  As if this wasn’t dramatic enough, a white flash in the corn field to the left caught my attention – a mature bald eagle on a deer carcass; most drivers were speeding along too quickly to notice.  Coincidence?  Good timing?  Luck? Or was I simply encouraged by Frank to notice – the miracles in nature that are always there if we only take time to pay attention.

With this inspiration, despite having way too much work and too little time to meet some deadlines, I chose to take a long walk when I got home.  Nothing unusual at first – squawking crows coming in to roost for the night, the gray tones of late winter in the woods behind my home, juncos flitting up from the ground, lots of mud interrupted by a few stubborn patches of snow refusing to say goodbye. 
Suddenly, an unanticipated cloudburst began pummeling me with icy droplets.  But these drops had the fresh cleansing smell of a spring rain.  There were new holes from the resident Pileated Woodpeckers; another tree is being dismantled by a porcupine, I presume.  And on the ground, thousands of tiny Collembola, difficult to distinguish from the fungal spots on decaying leaves, except that they spring up – a bit like Mexican jumping beans, but much tinier.  Are they startled by my footsteps or the raindrops?

Coming down the hill and out of the woods, the setting sun was illuminating the treetops, and I noticed the red and green tinge of color.  Leaf buds peering out from the protective scales to see if the day length is long enough to signal spring.  On top of the mountain, the white is still snow, not the flowers of Service Berry (Amelanchier sp.), but these will appear soon.  A friend today reported hearing the first Phoebe of the season.  As I walked to the house, I saw crocus flowers that weren’t out just two days ago during a late snow storm, along with fresh buds on my Hellebore.
Again, from Frank’s essay:

The connection between the everyday reality we experience and boundless landscapes of cosmic beauty, inspiration and joy is actually so close, so present for us. It’s there in the dust on your car, the mess on your desk and the swirling water in your sink.
I really look forward to listening to his future essays.



Saturday, February 9, 2013

Where do the children play?

When I drive by strip malls (they seem to pop up like weeds), I often think of Joni Mitchell and the line “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” A few days ago, I was listening to Cat Stevens (I know, a blast from the past), but paid new attention to the lyrics of a song entitled "Where do the Children Play?" I have been thinking about the song since, so today, I looked the lyrics up today, and the message is so very relevant today in a nation where we have nature-deficit disorder.

Below the lyrics, I have included a short photo essay of images from Doha, Qatar (2012). The extent of building going on in the city was staggering -- in a region of the world where the residents have to import essentially all of their food and their source of water is from desalination since there are no surface bodies of water in the entire country. Everything was the color of sand, buildings, pavement, cars...Everyone seemed to drive hugh SUVs -- for reasons that escaped me other than the fact that fuel was cheap.  Each day as I walked through the sand-covered streets (sidewalks were few and far between), I wondered, as did Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam), where the children played.

Where Do The Children Play?
Cat Stevens

Well I think it's fine, building jumbo planes.
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Yes, get what you want to if you want, 'cause you can get anything.

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can't get off.

Oh, I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you've cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
But will you keep on building higher 'til there's no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know we've come a long way,
We're changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?


© EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
Tea for the Tillerman album - November, 1970












 


Thursday, January 10, 2013

On the value of raptors

Red-tail Hawk photo by H. David Husic



My first memorable encounters with raptors occurred while on safari in Kenya back in the early 1990s.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen raptors before; I simply hadn’t paid much attention to them.  However, a carcass on the savannah covered with various species of vultures and Marabou storks picking at scraps of rotting flesh is a scene that is at once both fascinating and disturbing.  While certainly not a Disney-image (The Lion King featured Zazu, the hornbill, rather than any raptors), it is one that is not readily forgotten.  And it is, or at least was, a common scene in many parts of Africa. 
 
“African vultures, nearly all of them, are in big trouble,” writes Keith L. Bildstein, Ph.D., Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science at Hawk Mountain.

“From the once ubiquitous African White-backed and Hooded Vulture to the decidedly less common Lappet-faced and Cape Vulture, all 11 species of Africa’s vultures appear to be in substantial decline. Unintended poisoning, use in both traditional medicine and the bush meat trade, and widespread habitat loss all are taking their tolls.”[1]

Last September, I created a blog entry commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.[2]  In that post, I wrote the following:

I now live in an area filled with raptor fanatics – hawk watchers and counters. These folks are quick to tell stories of the decline of raptors decades ago, especially of ospreys and eagles, and how some of the fall migration count data from “the Ridge” [the section of the Appalachian Mountains known as the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania] helped to support the case that DDT might be leading to this decline. Indeed, Rachel Carson spent time at Hawk Mountain – just down the Appalachian Ridge from where I live. In her chapter “And No Birds Sing”, Carson speaks of Maurice Brown and Hawk Mountain, and the sharp decline of immature Bald Eagles noted in the 1950’s.

I have learned a lot about raptors since that trip to Kenya; it happens by osmosis if some of your work involves conservation along the Kittatinny Ridge – a leading line for fall raptor migration in the eastern United States.  The ridge is home to numerous hawk count locations[3] registered with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), an organization that is “committed to the conservation of raptors through the scientific study, enjoyment, and appreciation of raptor migration.”[4]  There are several renowned raptor researchers in the region from colleges, universities, and nature centers such as the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, Hawk Mountain, and the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art[5].  Add to this dozens of volunteers with decades of experience as hawk counters who have gained their expertise in the “classrooms” on the rocky outcroppings of the ridge and from the shared stories passed down through the seasons.  I still have much to learn – both about identification of raptors in flight and their natural history.   But I have found that sifting through the fall migration count records and Audubon Christmas Bird Count data on raptors provides interesting clues as to how changing weather patterns might be influencing raptor behavior and ranges even without having to sit on rock piles for an entire day in cold, blustery conditions to gather that data.  

In a recent conversation about the strong regional interest in raptors, my ornithologist friend and colleague, Dr. Terry Master from East Stroudsburg University (who was also on that trip to Kenya years ago), shared the following:

As far as raptors go, I guess I have a soft spot for the example many species set as the first popularized bioindicators (other than canaries in coal mines of course!) of a major environmental problem, a role they continue to play.  [I am] thinking of vulture populations in Asia which have been decimated by the use of Diclofenac in domestic animals. They are pioneers in this regard and in a sense have justified the use of many other species … as subsequent bioindicators of various environmental impacts in differing habitats.

The near demise of birds of prey in this country due to the use of DDT is a well known story in environmental circles and beyond.  Rachel Carson chronicled this for the masses in her seminal book.  Sadly, “mass murderer,” “guilty of genocide,” and “responsible for more deaths than Hitler” are all labels that have been applied to Carson solely because she raised concerns about the impact of synthetic chemicals on wildlife (and humans) in a book that was accessible to housewives and Ph.D. chemists alike.  

In doing some research for the blog post to mark the anniversary of Silent Spring, I came across a number of contemporary commentaries about Carson and her work – many which were as scathing as the ones from a half century before.  One editorial piece in Forbes Magazine in particular caught my attention, especially the following statement:

The legacy of Rachel Carson is that tens of millions of human lives – mostly children in poor, tropical countries – have been traded for the possibility of slightly improved fertility in raptors. This remains one of the monumental human tragedies of the last century. [6]

The line about raptors is one that I continue to be obsessed by.  This statement trivializes Carson’s messages in Silent Spring as well as the subsequent studies that led to the banning of DDT in this country.  It also ignores the fact that DDT is still used in tropical regions of the planet that remain plagued by malaria.  But in reading this line which is so dismissive of these birds, I once again began to wonder about the value of raptors.  Why it is that so many individuals dedicate their time or careers to researching birds of prey and working to conserve the habitats they require.  I think back to Kenya when our group watched a Palm-nut Vulture for what seemed like hours.  A striking bird and a lifer, yes, but after a few minutes, I was ready to move on.  What was the fascination for the others?



I began a quest for answers with an internet search for definitions and origins of the word “raptor”.  Typical definitions include “a bird of prey;”, “a carnivorous bird that hunts for its food;” “a thief, robber, plunderer;” or “one of a family of carnivorous dinosaurs having tearing claws on the hind legs. (i.e. velociraptor; think Jurassic Park).[7]  About.com has a page entitled “Raptors – The Bird-Like Dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period.  Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Raptors.”[8]  No mention of hawks, eagles, falcons, osprey, condors, vultures, or owls, so far from everything that I wanted to know.

Etymology sites yielded some interesting word history.  For instance, from the Online Etymology Dictionary, “raptor” appears to first have been used around 1600 as a noun meaning “raviser” or “abductor”.  Ornithological applications didn’t show up until around 1873.[9]  Raptorial, used as an adjective, meant “predatory” and “robber”.  These words are derived from the Latin root rapere that means “to seize and carry away”, and is associated with “any bird that kills with its feet.”[10]  The Spanish word rapter is also derived from this Latin heritage and means “kidnapper” or “abductor”.  I stumbled upon other interesting and surprising trivia about the origins of the word: 

…the word "rapture" comes from the same Latin root as the word "raptor." It has to do with being "taken up," the same way a giant predatory bird, or perhaps a dinosaur, takes up its prey in its talons. And metaphorically speaking, I suppose getting taken in by someone or some idea is quite a similar concept. We give our "rapt" attention when we are absolutely taken by what is being said or who is saying it.[11]

Birds of prey, then, are associated in language and practice to notions of robbery and abduction.  Hunters considered raptors, especially hawks and eagles, as competitors for game.  Ranchers and herders have long viewed raptors (as well as mammalian predators) as vermin, a threat to their livelihood.  At a time when the Pennsylvania Game Commission paid a bounty for raptors, Rosalie Edge, a New York conservationist and activist, purchased 1400 acres along the Kittatinny Ridge, to thwart sport hunters who had raptors as their prime targets.  This land was deeded to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association in 1938.[12]  In writing about hawk watching in Veracruz, Mexico, Scott Weidensaul noted that “Rural Mexicans are most likely to view raptors as competitors, pests, or gunnery targets…”[13]  Such perspectives are critical to consider given that this region serves as a bottleneck in the migration pathway of raptors from the eastern two-thirds of North America.  For this reason, many conservation groups, including Hawk Mountain, are actively involved in both hawk counts and educational programs in the region.  

Raptors theoretically have federal protection in this country under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  Despite this, there are many threats endangering raptors here and around the planet.  These range from land use practices that reduce the availability of prey or suitable breeding habitat, to a long list of other factors including pollution, accidental or intentional poisoning, hunting, illegal capture and trade (e.g. for falconry), fragmentation of habitat along their migration flyways, collisions with power lines, wind turbines, and glass windows, and climate change.

In 2005, a year-long study commissioned by the United Kingdom (UK) Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) found that more than 50% of migratory birds of prey populations in the African-Eurasian region were in poor conservation status, and many species were showing rapid or long-term declines. [14]

Reading this, I was reminded of a statement on the Hawk Mountain website:

In southern Asia three previously abundant species of vultures (the White-rumped Vulture, Indian Vulture, and Slender-billed Vulture) have undergone catastrophic declines of more than 99% during the past 25 years because of the widespread use of a veterinary drug that is toxic to vultures that feed on the carcasses of treated livestock [emphasis added].[15]

In December 2012, the first meeting of the signatories to the U.N. Environment Programme/ Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) -- Raptors Memorandum of Understanding was held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  This meeting was attended by more than 90 participants, including representatives from 22 signatories and the European Union.  According to a report from this meeting, participants were “conscious of the scale of the challenges facing migratory birds of prey.”[16]

My investigation was turning up significant evidence for the threatened status of raptors.  Many known causes for this imperiled status trace back to historic negative (mis)perceptions of these birds and their role in nature.  Indeed, many still hold a deep distrust of birds of prey.  In contrast, when I turn to books on our shelves at home, written by the likes of Dunne, Sibley, Sutton, Liguori, and Weidensaul, I find remarkable details about hawks and hawk watching, written with great passion for these birds.

There are others who share strong positive connections to raptors.  In Native American culture, hawks and eagles are considered sacred.  Because feathers and talons from raptors have special meaning in ceremonies, federal legislation in the U.S. provides special exemptions for Native Americans in terms of taking or possessing parts of raptors.  In native cultures, acts of bravery could earn boys or men an eagle feather – a great honor.  We have Eagle Scouts – the highest honor in the Boy Scouts of America.  And raptors are often mascots for sports teams from schools to the NBA.  (The Toronto Raptor’s mascot, which sadly is a red dinosaur rather than a bird, was named one of the best mascots in professional sports.)

I still wasn’t learning about why people care so much about raptors, but it began to occur to me that their protection is needed even more now than in the time of Rachel Carson.  Returning to the line from the editorial that prompted this investigation, I decided to simply send this quote in a query to raptor-infatuated friends and colleagues and ask them to discuss the value of raptors, their personal reasons for caring so much.  I received a number of lengthy responses, many expressing frustration about the quote.  The respondents (interestingly, all were male) indicated how they appreciate the diversity amongst raptors, their ability to adapt and hunt in different habitats, the miracle of their sometimes lengthy migrations.  But in their comments, were also deeper, more philosophical responses that began to answer my question about the value of raptors. 

Scott Burnet, chair of the Habitat Development & Enhancement Committee for the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (LVAS) writes:

What an egotistical species we have become to assume that our presence is far more valuable than the existence of the creatures we attempt to exterminate and control every day. I truly believe that Humanity's time on Earth will, speaking in terms of the Planet's time clock, be but a second. The footnote about us will be that we caused the unnecessary extinction of thousands of species...
Regarding the issue of the Raptors affected by the use of DDT, have any of these "brainiac" chemical engineers, who vilify the likes of Ms. Carson, figured into the equation the astronomical numbers of rodents (who carry even more deadly diseases for us) that these birds consume every minute of every day on this Planet? They approach the whole issue on a lop-sided platform. If Raptors were eradicated, or even allowed to decline as they did in the 60's, the rodent population would skyrocket in just a short time. Have they heard of such things as Bubonic Plague (which was also responsible for the deaths of millions of "innocent" children!)…There is no human on the Planet fed on commercially grown foods who is “innocent” at all…
And what would life on this Planet be like if you could not stand on her shoulders and hear the soul of Mother Earth in the cry of a Red-Tailed Hawk far above, riding the wind. This bird cries out, not for a known reason, but just for the sheer joy of being free and majestic and awe-inspiring, as all of Mother Nature's creatures are. And why can't we let them be? Peregrine Falcons have been nesting near our home (in west Allentown) again for the last few years, after an absence of 40-odd years. When I heard of, and actually was fortunate enough to be granted permission to see in person, that first clutch of chicks, it elicited an emotion in me that I cannot (through words) describe. I wept, uncontrollably. To think that we pushed these birds to the precipice of extinction is appalling to me. At every chance I get, I pass this on to young folks I meet, who have even an inkling of interest in Ecology. Humanity's future is now in the hands of your son and his generation. Let's hope they have learned much from the mistakes of Humans past.

Doug Burton, a local naturalist, also mentioned the ecological costs of agriculture and questions whether the United States (or others) should be expected to feed the world’s growing population. 

Without the rainforest, we would not have birds, and without birds would the insect population get out of control and then hurt our crops?  Nature has a fine balance to everything, and as stewards, we do not want to upset it.  Raptors keep the bird population in check, and without this, would too many birds start to eat our bee population, and in turn, hurt our crop production?  …If you start to think about what's going on today in the world, should we as a country be spending large amounts of money on our military or putting the money in schools in other lands, to educate these people and in turn, they are better educated on population growth and to be better stewards.

On the day I sent my electronic query, Gerry Ellis, of the Great Apes Diary Project coincidently wrote a relevant blog post that he forwarded:

Highlights from an Absolutely Perfect Ridgefield Day [17]:

– Golden-crowned Kinglets, Merlin aerial ballet with American Crow, White-fronted Goose, Red-shouldered Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Cackling (Canada) Goose, Black Phoebe, Sandhill Cranes — all-n-all it was a wonderfully spectacular day for watching raptors we don’t often see (plus Peregrine, Redtails, Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture N. Harrier and Am. Kestrel), call it the windy clear sky, the returning geese, the sharp bite in the morning air, I don’t care: to watch a Merlin swoop, pirouette and plunge on a crow with such amazing grace and ease was like being a child once again and remembering Mrs. Marx, my birding mentor (she doubled as my grade school librarian) and truancy savior and the gift she gave to me called “watching and listening to birds” — my life has been richer than any I can repay.

Jon Levin, a member of the LVAS board, totally disagreed with the statement in the quote.                                                  
                                            
Have we forgotten that what the populations for our raptors were in the 60's and 70's? I cannot imagine what the world would be like if Rachael Carson did not write Silent Spring when she did.

Don Heintzelman, founder of the Bake Oven Knob Hawk Count and author of Guide to Hawk Watching in North America, was also annoyed by the quote, and like Dr. Master, spoke of the value of raptors as bioindicators:

As for raptors, they provide important biological early warning systems which environmental contaminants such as DDT have on some bird species (such as some 40 species of aquatic-oriented birds such as Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, etc.). Derek Ratcliffe in England was the first to detect the "thin-eggshell syndrome" in Peregrines,[18] and this was quickly confirmed here in the states by Joe Hickey[19].

For Dan Kunkle, Executive Director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, the statement elicited several responses:

1) from Chief Sealth's lament[20]: "What is a man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts happens to man. All things are connected." And "Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth."  (Excuse the sexist language of another era.)  Rachel Carson was never focused on the "improved fertility of raptors." It was always about the earth and ultimately about people. But what was happening to wildlife and the environment was a bellwether of what would happen to humans if we did not change our ways.

2) Raptors mean a lot to me. There is a lot of bad environmental news and it is easy to get down in the dumps about it. But when I go up to Bake Oven Knob and sit on a rock (alone or with a few people who share your admiration for raptors) and observe the natural procession of migrating raptors, peace settles over me. There is still a lot right with this world of ours and there is much to save. And the recovery of certain species such as Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Peregrine Falcons shows that nature will respond to our conservation efforts. It is not too late.

3) In a more ecological sense, raptors are part of the dynamic fabric of nature that is constantly changing but linked in ways that maintain equilibrium. Remove raptors from the system and you tear at some of the threads in the web of life, weakening the web. As Paul and Anne Ehrlich wrote in their book Extinction, that web of life consists of many species, each analogous to one of the rivets holding the wings onto an airplane. Would you want to ride on a jet that has lost some of those rivets? Surely there is redundancy and you don't need all those rivets to keep the wings on. So we can do without some of them -- but at some point, we pass a critical number and the wings fall off. Raptors are among the many rivets in our biosphere. We can't afford to keep losing more rivets.

4) Aldo Leopold wrote in the introduction to Sand County Almanac: "There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot." I count myself as one who cannot. Nature gives me peace and excitement and an endless source of wonder and learning. If we destroy any species, there is one less marvel of evolution out there to admire. And raptors are among the most marvelous. I really would not want to live in a world devoid of raptors -- that would be "the end of living, the beginning of survival.

Finally, Ed Newcomb, a member of the LGNC board writes an exquisite tribute:

When I see an eagle soaring or a peregrine swooping I get an immediate lift like the wind was beneath my wings. 

The soaring raptor symbolizes freedom from our daily concerns. The look in their eyes speaks of spirit and courage.

I also think a spark of the dashing hunter still beats in the heart of man.

The raptors fan the spark...

*****

 Years ago, I traveled to Singapore as part of a trade mission.  I had a free day and decided to visit the famed Jurong Bird Park -- home to hundreds of species of birds from around the world in one location.  What I remember most were the raptors, especially the sea eagles, birds that I had never seen before.  They all wore a shackle, a leg iron, which was attached to what looked like a doghouse.  “Slaves,” I thought.   Used on occasion for the circus-like show “King of the Skies” for the visitors.

Like predators on the prowl, this mighty winged warriors will appear when you least expect them. Be captivated by the strength and agility of these amazing raptors including the White-tailed Sea Eagle, the Hooded Vulture and the Bald Eagle. Meet the parade of our twilight friends, the Malay Fish Owl, the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the popular Snowy Owl. See for yourself why the scurrying prey of an Owl never seem to get a chance to hear what’s coming before they are snatched by talons from above.
Stay alert when the fearsome and infamous Vultures enter the grounds. They’ll be thirsting for a kill. For the spectacular finale, keep your eagle eyes focused in the air for a sight that’s sure to win you new respect for the Kings of the Skies and their mighty trainers.[21]

This was not right.  These were birds meant to soar.  Birds of prey that certainly didn’t need “mighty trainers” to teach them what they knew by instinct.  I could do nothing but feel nauseous and weep.

Chief Seathl was correct to lament[22]:

We are part of the earth, and it is part of us.  The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers.  The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony and man -- all belong to the same family. 

We do not trade the lives of children for raptors, our ever-important bioindicators and symbols of wildness and freedom and bravery.  Carson was warning us, as was Chief Seathl – warnings we still do not heed.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

                Where is the thicket?  Gone.

                Where is the eagle?  Gone.

                The end of living and the beginning of survival.

Laughing Falcon, Coba, Mexico (Photo by H. David Husic)


[1] The Vulture Chronicles at http://hawkmountain.wordpress.com/; Posted on April 25, 2012 “Pan African Vulture Summit”.
[3] Bake Oven Knob (BOK) is one of several count sites along the Kittatinny Ridge and the hawk migration count conducted there is a long term research project of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center (http://lgnc.org/research/bok-hawk-watch) and an important part of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk National Raptor Migration Corridor Project (See http://www.raptorcorridor.org/). The annual count at BOK was started in 1961 by Donald S. Heintzelman, who directed the count for 37 years.
[5] See: http://www.nedsmithcenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=18 for information about the Saw-whet Owl research project coordinated by Scott Weidensaul.
[6] Miller, H.I. and Conko, G. “Rachel Carson’s Deadly Fantasies”, an op-ed in Forbes (9/5/12) available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2012/09/05/rachel-carsons-deadly-fantasies/.
[12] From the history of Hawk Mountain; http://www.hawkmountain.org/who-we-are/history/page.aspx?id=387.  See also Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy:  The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists by Dyana Z. Furmansky, University of Georgia Press (2009).
[13] Weidensaul, Scott, Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds, North Point Press (New York, 1999), p. 107.
[14] See the Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary and analysis of the First Meeting of the Signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding of the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (9-11 December 2012).    Report available from the IISD Reporting Services at http://www.iisd.ca/cms/raptors/mos/2012/.
[16]Report available from the IISD Reporting Services at http://www.iisd.ca/cms/raptors/mos/2012/
[18] Ratcliffe, D.A. (1967)Decrease in Eggshell Weight in Certain Birds of Prey,” Nature 215: 208-210.
[19] Hickey, J.J. and D.W. Anderson (1968) “Chlorinated hydrocarbons and eggshell changes in raptorial and fish-eating birds,” Science, 162: 271 – 273.
[20] The attribution of this speech to Chief Seathl or Seattle is debated by scholars (http://www.historynet.com/chief-seattle.htm); nonetheless, the message within the text of the speech is both eloquent and worth reading (available at http://home.sprynet.com/~pabco/csl.htm).
[21] The show goes on.  This description was taken from the Jurong Bird Park website on December 27, 2012: http://www.birdpark.com.sg/shows-feedings/kings-skies-show.html#ad-image-0.