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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't Just Move Mountains... Save Them!

While I type this note on my electric-loving Mac PowerBook, enjoying a cool glass of water from the refrigerator, it giving me pause to think about power.

I urge everyone to consider where and how we get our electricity. Coal-fired plants provide us with an enormous amount of power, which like any good drug, has got us all hooked and addicted.

Sadly, in most situations, we humans seek out the quick and easy way. When it comes to coal mining, that "way" is to simply blow up a mountain, instead of good old-fashioned mining. The process is easy, quick and clearly profitable. And everyone wins, right? It would appear that our energy supply is cheap and plentiful.

But we aren't really winning anything. When it comes to our monthly bill, yes... energy is dirt cheap. But for future generations, our greed will be their dirty mess to clean up (if it is even possible to undo the damages). Our children and grandchildren will bear the burden for how thoroughly we've destroyed their environment, all in the name of cheap energy now.

Clean coal? Yeah, uhm... not really.

One need only drive into Baltimore City to view the haze that surrounds it almost daily. It's been found to be a result of all of the coal-fired power plants that burn away in the Ohio river valley. The smog from those plants drift Eastward and gets buffered to a stop by the Chesapeake Bay.

I love solar power. I tolerate wind power. I urge my representatives regularly to support more research and development into new, alternative and sustainable energy sources.

Most of all, I support saving the mountains. I ask you to do the same.

For more information, please visit this site: www.ILoveMountains.org

When you're done, turn off your computer or implement some of these possible energy savers. Doing so might just one day save an entire mountain.

Best,
Dan

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Canon is in the Shop

So while I am camera-less for fall migration, I'll just go ahead and post a few photos from the last couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy. Until the fixed camera and lens get shipped back to me, I'll be forced to come up with some good stories, a few useful tidbits of knowledge and perhaps maybe even a touch of helpful advice.

Until then, do enjoy your migration.

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER

OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER

OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER... FLYING

A ZEBRA SWALLOWTAIL AND SOME OTHER BUG BEHIND IT!

EASTERN WOOD PEWEE

WHITE IBIS

REDMUD-SIDED GOLDEN RETRIEVER

LAST BUT NOT... A LEAST SANDPIPER

Good Birding,

Dan

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Find the Peep

In this photo series of a flying flock of gulls, made up of mostly the Laughing variety, there is a peep that has joined them in the air.

Who am I kidding.... no one ever guesses at these things. Perhaps it has something to do with the difficulty one encounters when attempting to 'comment'? I've been told it's a real pain in the blog.

No need to chime in, but just for fun, here are some details about the photos:
-They were taken in August.
-I was in Worcester County at Truitt's Landing.
-I was looking for a Gull-Billed Tern.
-It didn't show.

Good luck. And please... just think of this exercise as an avian version of, "Where's Waldo?"Bored already? Too busy to try to look through all the gulls? I understand. Here are some close-ups. Now go and get back to dusting behind the television.

Coming Soon in the Next Blog: A photo series of some of my more difficult birds that I've seen this year. Olive-Sided Flycatcher? Sure. Blue-Winged Warbler? You bet. And a follow-up to Uncle Bob's Avian & Nature Library. I've inherited some of the most amazing books that I can't wait to tell you about soon.

Okay, back to what you were doing before you decided to waste a few minutes (that you'll never get back) on the internet. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Good Birding,

Dan

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Proof

Birding is fantastic fun. At the same time, it is also filled with mind-bending challenges. One must utilize every thing from sight to sound, the habitat, the bird's behavior, it's location, geography, date, time, etc. all to make a proper identification.

This weekend, my friend Chris Murray and I saw a BLUE-HEADED VIREO on the Eastern Shore. Truly, this is a rare sighting as this blue-headed bird shouldn't be in this area so early into the fall migration. But it was.

Now, had I known more about this bird's migrational habits at the time, I would've had the camera firing photo after photo as visual proof of this bird's presence. Next time, I'll be more prepared. At the very least, I'll be more knowledgeable about such things. Which leads me to today's subject: a misidentified wren, for which in this instance, I was prepared. I've never seen or heard a SEDGE WREN, so my camera was firing away at a mass of grass, hoping for one semi-clear photo to take home and enjoy.

So I thought there was a SEDGE WREN calling this weekend at Truitt's Landing in Worcester County, MD. It had that typically old-timey typewriter clatter. You know, the one that goes... type type type and then it chatters as if backing up to the beginning of the next line? Okay, maybe that isn't the best description.

Compared to a MARSH WREN, the SEDGE WREN'S song is noticeably different. But when I got home and blew up the photos, that calling wren became a MARSH and not a SEDGE. Such are the challenges of birding and bird identification. I'm at 279 Maryland birds for 2008. 21 away from the big 300!

Here are some more photos from this past Sunday on the shore.

SANDERLING

TWO SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS

BLACK SKIMMER

BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER

UPLAND SANDPIPER

BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER

A FLYING BUFFY


Good Birding,

Dan
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