Monday, September 29, 2008

Habitat Loss and What We Do About It

It has been interesting, disheartening and inspiring to read all of the many viewpoints posted on MDOSPREY today about the declining NORTHERN BOBWHITE population here in Maryland. Reason being: Bobwhite hunting season just started. Oh yes, and rails too. I digress.

In my humble, unexperienced opinion, habitat loss is THE factor that needs addressing with all of these declining species.

LOCALLY:
Sure, I could tell you about Greenbury Point in Annapolis once being a haven for many pairs of Northern Bobwhite as recently as last summer. This Point in Annapolis is mostly all scrub land now, over run with deer, fox, ticks, golfers, ice hockey skaters and tennis players. This summer I heard ONE Bobwhite call ONCE this year. A marked change in just ONE year. Nature has turned this once grassy peninsula into a young forest of scrub, saplings, vines and phrag. Lack of human attention contributed to this change. I wont complain however, because the Navy's promise of two giant artificial turf rugby fields complete with parking lots and street lights (instead of quiet, scenic nature trails), has YET to come to fruition. But I'm sure that soon bulldozers will be plowing over one of my favorite local birding spots. And after that, the windmills.

Development:
This morning, local birder and conservationist George Jett made the superb and succinct comment about how we should all 'build UP, instead of OUT'. Redevelopment, rehabilitation and improving existing structures are all fine ideas that could meet the excessive expectations of those who believe that we must continually build, build, build to keep our economy strong. I say just print up another $700 billion and build us another Bay, and some park land while they're at it. (joke)

The Hunter Question:
How about this argument: Maybe there aren't enough hunters? If there were more hunters who cared, wouldn't there be more worried folks bending (and sometimes yelling into) the ears of our 'leaders' about not having anything left to hunt, or in some cases 'anywhere' to hunt? After all those emails, phone calls and letters to our representatives (from hunters), we might see more focus paid to the loss of habitat, loss of species population and other dramatic changes. As it stands now, a few reports (that our 'leaders' don't hear) about 'not hearing a Bobwhite call' this year doesn't go very far to address the problem.

What To Do:
So the next time a development is planned for your neck of the woods (*usually, it'll be called something catchy like, "The Preserve at blah blah blah" and then all but three trees are ripped out), it is crucial to be vocal and vigilant with our representatives in government to address any and all environmental concerns. At the very least, asking our local leaders what they personally are doing to protect our environment is a great way to spend a Tuesday afternoon.

What I Do:
I'm not a biologist, nor am I a scientist. I did want to be a TV weather person, but instead... I'm a father, husband, school supply salesman, musician, and (too often, my wife thinks) a birder. To help the environment, in my spare time I am on the board of the "Scenic Rivers Land Trust" and the "Annapolis Environmental Commission." The SRLT does amazing things to help preserve local land and save the bay with land trusts. The AEC does what it can to raise environmental awareness, encourage recycling, limit waste, remove invasive species and plant trees within the city limits.

As a musician, this past July I decided to donate 100% of my music sales to the American Bird Conservancy. It's not much, but I've sold almost $100 from my website and some where, some habitat with some bird on the brink might get some help from that small chunk of money.

It's a start.

Learning From History / The Bay:
There is a small deli in West Annapolis. Gus, the 80-some year old proprietor, tells stories about when our historic City Dock was lined with oyster shells, most days piled two and three stories high, from the early 1900's. Most all of the roads in Annapolis and the surrounding areas were paved with oyster shells. They were abundant and plentiful. To achieve that kind of bivalve haul in 2008? Not a chance.

As we sit back and watch our Bay's health decline, overdevelopment continues all across our region. Development will continue to degrade the Bay, it's streams and it's rivers until... Well, let's just say that for all of the many fine organizations that exist to save it, it's sad to see that (collectively) we're not yet willing to make the difficult sacrifices needed to fix it.

In the September 2008 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine, there are a collection of old photos of Key West fisherman back from their trips with their day's catch hung behind them. In the early 1950's, the fishermen used to be small, and the fish that they had caught were enormous. As the photos got closer to present day, the fish became much smaller and the fisherman... well, you probably can guess.

While times have certainly changed, our human nature hasn't.

Hope:
For now, I'll just continue to speak up whenever and wherever I can to help out in my neck of the woods, grass, fields, river, stream, etc. I'm looking forward to working with my son's school to get he and his classmates some much-needed outdoor experience and education. I will keep picking up trash when I go kayaking. I'll recycle more and use less. And I promise to keep bugging all of my local, State and National leaders so that they might do what's right for all of us when it comes to our environment. And at the very least, I've painted two Northern Bobwhite on my son's wall... just in case.

BIRD SIGHTING:
I'm very sorry for the mostly non-bird related post. Allow me to fix that!

I saw several CHIMNEY SWIFTS outside the house this evening. This winter I am going to attempt to build and put up a chimney swift tower on my roof in the hopes that they might nest at our house next spring.

My point, if I had one is... well, I've got to go play a gig with my band. Enjoy your evening everyone. And when you wake up tomorrow, consider thinking about what you can do to help save our environment.

Any why the American Kestrel photo? I have no idea. I just have a thing for Falco sparverius.

Good Habitat Protecting,

Dan

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