Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Copenhagen Comments

Monday, December 21st, 2009

There seems to be a lot less commentary about the outcome of the climate change talks in Copenhagen now that things are over. The US is finally participating which is great…but there is a lot of disappointment about the outcome. Will any of this really help? Biologist Bernd Heinrich wrote an OpEd piece in the NY Times yesterday which is thoughtful, incisive and somewhat alarming, as he takes the honest and logical stand that we need to reassess our views and change our ways regarding many things – including how we view and use resources for energy use – in order to create any regulations which have a positive impact. This is someone who knows forests intimately and has spent decades studying them and their inhabitants at a level of detail and intimacy that most of us would envy. This is a strong editorial – will it also have an impact?

OK in the UK

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

According to a recent survey from the RSPB published on the BBC website, some of the more rare species of birds in the UK are seeing increases in their populations while some of the more common birds are seeing declines. The increased numbers of rarer species (including the Osprey and Avocet that are seen in North America as well) is great news, but the decline in more common birds (like the Swift and Starling – which is an endemic bird to the UK and not considered a pest) is a continuing saga. Much of the trouble for these common birds appears to lie in farming techniques. And, the UK has responded by trying some experimental measures in the Natural England project – giving farmers money in return for keeping some areas fallow for nesting birds and keeping some areas lively with plants that attract insects. Not surprisingly, this appears to be creating a beneficial area for birds and other wildlife like hares. And, it has captured the interest of many farmers who profess to like watching the hares boxing and the lapwings nesting sometimes a bit more than doing the plowing or harvesting. Some great ideas are also pretty simple and we can only hope that if this does work in the UK that this example of a simple and effective means to help wildlife can find its way to implementation in other countries.

Photo credit: BBC

Lessons From A Birding Trip to a Barrier Island

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I had the pleasure of visiting Little St. Simon’s Island again this year. A barrier island off the Georgia coast, even with a small lodge, it remains a wild place and offers great birding. Right now it is a wonderful place to hone shorebird identification skills. I find shorebirds daunting to identify and so I try to focus on a learning a few more each time I visit a shorebird haven. LSSI is one of those havens with big wild and windy beaches and this time of year it is full of shorebirds. There were black bellied plovers, sanderlings, 3 endangered piping plovers, many marbled godwits, dunlins, dowitchers, killdeer, Caspian and royal terns to name a few. A single curlew stood out head and shoulders above the crowd. There were also hundreds of red knots. This gives slight hope that these birds may have a fighting chance.

The migration of the red knot is arduous – some fly over 9000 miles in one direction – breaking the migration into 1500 mile segments. Relying on arrival at the Delaware Bay beaches just as the horseshoe crab population begins releasing eggs, these birds, exhausted from their long migration gorge on these eggs and it is essential to their continued survival as they need to double their depleted weight in just a couple of days to continue on their way. But, horseshoe crabs are also cheap bait and in recent years have been “harvested” in such enormous quantities that their populations are crashing. This is not good for the primitive horseshoe crab, which has managed to live in abundance for 350 million years, and it also spells destruction for the red knot. Recently, several key states where horseshoe crabs are “harvested” have instituted a moratorium on these harvests. New Jersey has kept this moratorium in place, but the courts in Delaware rejected it, bowing to the interests of the Delaware Bay fishermen who wanted to use these crabs for bait.

The Red knot’s decline has been precipitous – from 100,000 20 years ago to around 13,000 in recent years. In a story that seems almost too impossible to be true, an entire species of bird and a prehistoric marine creature, whose very lives are tied together, may both become extinct because there was insufficient interest in finding alternate types of bait for fishermen in the Delaware Bay.

You can help by sending an email or letter to the Governor of Delaware asking him to please reinstitute the moratorium on horseshoe crab “harvests”.

 

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