Thursday, January 29, 2015

Our “Feathered Primates”

Crows are famous for their intelligence and inventiveness 
Photo: Felix Moll 
This is the second post in a series on birds and the people who care about them.

Corvids ― the family of birds including ravens, crows and magpies ― are highly intelligent. New Caledonian crows, named after the Pacific islands where they live, are renown for their intelligence and inventiveness. They are the only non-primate species known to fashion tools, such as sticks and hooks, which they use to pick out grubs from logs and branches. Read more here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Remembering Bil Gilbert

Bil Gilbert loved crows

This post begins a series on birds and the people who care about them. 

Bil Gilbert passed away on January 27, 2012, but his legacy lives on. His love of nature and all things wild led him to create the American Society of Crows and Ravens (ASCAR) and publish a newsletter called the Corvi Chronicle.  As a member of ASCAR, it was wonderful to be part of a community who appreciated and loved a bird that is and has been much maligned over many centuries. 

But Bil knew better and Corvids are now recognized as one of the most intelligent creatures on earth.  I myself was fortunate to be able to observe crows closely over 25 years as they raised successive generations in a very tall white pine tree in woods behind my house. Theirs truly was a "crows nest." Securely perched among the highest branches, it afforded the birds clear and sweeping views of their territory. Listening to the incredible range of calls between parents and young as they raised their families was a privilege. Sadly, that magnificent tree was toppled during Hurricane Sandy.

Bil led a full and fascinating life. In addition to his work with ASCAR, he was a traveler, naturalist and prolific writer, published in Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Audubon, Esquire, Playboy, Time and other publications.  Read more here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Farming Without Conscience

Photo:  Michael Moss/The New York Times

The New York Times Editorial Board weighed in on Michael Moss's article, which I wrote about in my January 20th post.  Their editorial, "Farming Science, Without the Conscience" appears in today's paper and begins:

You don’t have to be a vegan to be repulsed by an account in The Times revealing the moral depths to which the federal government — working as a handmaiden to industrial agriculture — has sunk in pursuit of cheaper meat and fatter corporate profits. The article by Michael Moss, examines the little-known U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, financed by American taxpayers, which employs the sophisticated tools and scientific expertise of modern animal management — apparently without a conscience. The details Mr. Moss’s article exposes are sickening... 

Read more here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Baby Eels Rescued

Two million baby eels escaped the plate

Bulgarian customs officials seized two million endangered baby eels hidden in luggage on Friday. According to Reuters, two Chinese traffickers were detained at Sofia airport for trying to smuggle the eels from Madrid to Sofia. They had declared them as "food items."

The European eel is classified as a critically threatened species of fish protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Read more here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mary Had a Little Lamb

A lamb in a field, abandoned by its mother.  
Photo: Michael Moss

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Michael Moss is to be commended for his superb reporting on “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit” in today’s New York Times. His piece exposes the abuse and suffering farm animals endure at the U.S. Research Lab in Nebraska.

The lives of farm animals are shockingly brief and brutal as it is, yet man devises new and crueler methods to breed them in order to increase  profits.

Here is an excerpt from Moss' piece:

"At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise.

There are, however, some complications.

Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed.

Then there are the lambs...
Read the rest of the story here. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Earth Is Our Garden

Pope Francis to Filipino youth: Care for the environment."  Photo: Philippines News
During his week-long Asian tour, which drew historic crowds, Pope Francis included environmental responsibility as one of his holy missives.  In Manila he said, "As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family.  When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling."

In one of his strongest statements, the pontiff said: "I don't know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face."

Those of us who understand the urgency of acting to protect our environment were grateful for the Pope's words and hope this is the beginning of real change.

"We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, and we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

~ from Woodstock by Joni Mitchell


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Giant's Fate

A colossus felled

Seeing the great giants cut down for Rockefeller Center and other sites makes me so sad.  These majestic trees have lived longer than some people do, and if left undisturbed would grow for decades more.  Removing them to display for a month is a tragic waste.  Why can't we leave them standing for our children to enjoy?

The tree in the photograph was an 85-year-old Norway Spruce (click on the photo for a closer view).  As you finish reading this post, it has already been turned into mulch.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Curbside Christmas Castoffs

Still alive and cast aside

Talk about a weird tradition: folks look forward to buying or cutting down a Christmas tree and can't wait to decorate it with beautiful ornaments and lights.  But when the holidays are over, too many kick them to the curb.  Some are recycled, too many are not. Another casualty of our throw-away culture.

For me, all trees, including fir, spruce and pine, are living beings that provide habitat, whether grown on farms or in forests.  My policy re: Christmas trees is live and let live – I just offer another perspective and it's green. 

Please recycle your tree, and, if you have room, place it in your backyard to provide shelter and roosting for birds and other creatures. Prop it up against a fence or along the side of a garage and secure it with twine or stakes. Or, place it near feeders for birds to perch in.  Brush and compost piles are also great places to recycle Christmas trees.
More in my next post. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mick Dodge knows how to live

Mick visits the Olympic Peninsula Coast   Photo: Nat Geo

Mick Dodge is at home in the Olympic Peninsula.  Watching him climb trees, plunge into cold rivers, kayak up the coast, and use his physicality to the max is something I appreciate and understand.   

Growing up, I lived to be outdoors. When my mother asked: “Were you jumping off roofs again and how come the front of you is caked in mud?” my standard answer was: “I dunno,  just out playin’.”

I was jumping off roofs, crawling under houses, scaling fences, climbing trees, swinging from branches and doing everything hard-core tomboys do.  Until an accident sidelined me, I still enjoyed climbing onto the roof to clean out the gutters, hoisting slabs of granite, camping, canoeing, hiking, biking and running up hills to push my body as far as it could go. 

I have to sit on the sidelines for a while and mend, but I sure wish I could go back in time and pull a Mick Dodge.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Thank you, Mick Dodge

Mick Dodge spent his childhood in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Decades later, he would abandon civilization to return to the Olympic Peninsula, living a barefoot subsistence lifestyle in the Hoh Rainforest.   Photo: National Geographic

While laid up with injuries, I discovered The Legend of Mick Dodge on the Nat Geo Channel.  The new season began last night and, as always, I was enthralled. This guy gets everything I care about, but his love of the natural world and need for freedom resonates most with me. 

Mick's sense of humor, wit and journey is more important than destination philosophy have truly inspired me. He's mighty good medicine and a tremendous role model for living with, not against nature.
More about Mick in my next post.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

Daybreak in the woods in Somerset, England 
Photo by: iVistaphotography/Barcroft

As a new year begins, my mission remains the same: to inspire you to get out into nature in every season and urge you to do your part in acting to save the natural world. 
Join me in resolving to: 

― Protect and preserve wild places, including the habitat in our own back yards.
― Rescue and care for animals and be their voice.  
― Volunteer time, donate money, and generate new ideas and solutions. 
  Farm and garden organically, and more...

This is the most important work we will ever do.

"What is the good of having a nice house without a decent planet to put it on?" ~ Henry David Thoreau