There’s a feeling like we're on the cusp of a new beginning. Life is perking up with the onset of the growing season: snowdrops are emerging, forsythia buds are popping and crocuses bring small bursts of color to an otherwise colorless landscape.
The birdlife is changing too, returned from southerly regions: grackles cackle from the tops of trees, cormorants wing low over the tidal basin, and phoebes harken spring from within the leafless forest. It’s early yet, but we’ve already got a pair of bald eagles tending their new hatchlings above the National Arboretum’s azalea grove for the first time since 1947.
Soon many more nests will fill with tiny songbird eggs and before we know it the forest will ring with the cry of fledglings, rasping after their parents. It all happens fast, spring, the buds are growing to burst and soon we’ll be engulfed in flowers. The cherry trees that encircle the tidal basin erupt in blossoms in early April, attracting tourists from all over the world.
As the petals pass their peak, the leaves push through leaves immediately follow in a delicately gleaming shade of green unlike any other. The cover that this curtain of green provides provides the returning warblers and other songbirds with cover and the warming weather brings out insects, to provide a meal among the branches for the feathered folk.
So as we ready ourselves for the ephemeral growing season that is spring, let’s remember to keep our eyes to the trees (and flowers). Irregardless of whether you live in the city or the countryside, there’s definitely something to be seen. But don’t miss it because, before you know it, it will be too late!
While all of this is a work in progress, I invite those if you who don't know about it already to visit my other www.birdsalongtheway.com for some more bird-centric pieces including information on hummingbirds and other feathered backyard visitors. You'll also find photos and and escapades in nature as well as some interesting information on puffins, which I worked with for two summers off the coast of Maine.
With these two websites I have a lot on my hands with the issue of keeping them separate but equally interesting. From now on my intention is to try and keep my bird news on www.birdsalongtheway.com and my environmental news here on staceymhollis.com.
Since I'm such a bird nerd, the birdiness may overlap a bit but I'll try and keep some semblance of order between the two. At least that's what I'll strive for. Thanks for your patience and I hope you'll check into both sites as I smooth out the framework.
Thanks for reading and please leave comments whether they be questions or suggestions, all are welcomed.
These pesticides are rampant and could affect more than just the birds and the bees.
So you might have heard of neonicotinoids (a.k.a neonics), a virulent pesticide that, while meant to take care of all manner of agricultural pests, wreaks havoc on other organisms as well. What's good is that a lineup of environmental news organizations is taking note of this new bane on the existence of not only pollinating insects but quite possibly birds and other wildlife.
When plants and seeds are treated with these strong chemicals, they make the entire plant toxic, including pollen and nectar, both of which are an important food source for insects and birds (think of tiny, fast-metabolism hummingbirds). And neonicotinoid treatment isn't just subjected to agricultural plants, they're also found in the kinds of plants you might pick up at the local nursery for your garden.
Where have we seen the greatest detriment to living organisms? Well, just think of the massive bee die-offs that have plagued several areas in the recent past. These important pollinators, while not targeted by applicators of these pesticides, have nonetheless seen unsettling declines. Despite this, the pesticides are continued to be used in our country, while the United Nations have already banned them.
It doesn't seem like the U.S. will do much about neonics in the near future thanks to some riled up agriculturalists and big corporations who only see the benefits of these harsh chemicals. Nonetheless, the issue has arisen on the hill, President Obama has issued a task force with the EPA to look into what detrimental effects these chemicals have on the environment. If determined as too high a risk, that would mean the 90% of all corn crops in the U.S. treated with these pesticides will have to find a safer alternative.
What we hope is that research into neonics will undeniably prove these chemicals to be bad for living species and the environment. Furthermore, neonics are known to enter the environment; they don't stay where they're applied. Perhaps if we can trace the chemicals in our water systems, the issue may become more urgent. If we don't care enough to make a difference because wildlife and the environment are impacted, we might when humans are affected. Who knows. But however it may happen, the sooner these pesticides are banned, the better.
En una vida arboreal, la vista es más grande que abajo.
Era un ardilla que tenia muchos años. Él ha visto la vida en cada color, cada emoción. Conocia el miedo cuando los halcones estan cazaban y la felicidad en viendo las nuevas generaciónes después de él.
Ahora, él tuvo muchos parientes, lejanos y cercanos. Unos que se fueron con los halcones y otros que crecieron y tuvieron sus propias familias.
Un dia la ahijada de él vino con una pregunta:
“Papi, por qué vivimos en los árboles?”
“Tu no lo ves, querida?”
“No,” dijo ella.
“Bueno. Lo que necesitas hacer es pasear un dia abajo y tomar apuntes. Vas a ver por que vivimos arriba.”
Ella fue por los ramas hasta el tronco del arbol y fue abajo al suelo. Allí, ella miro a su alredador. Inmediamente, encontró unos nueces que cayeron desde del árbol de su familia. “Son más faciles de comer que arriba entre las hojas,” ella dijo, comiendo los maduros.
Ella exploró por los arbustos y, de repente, vio un gato grande que paso con un gruñido. Aqui ella encontró una gran razón para vivir arriba en su árbol.
Pero eso no era suficiente, pensó ella. Ya sabía del peligro de evitar depredadores. Esto es en cada lugar, es parte de la vida de ser un mamífero pequeño. Elle quería encontrar algo espectacular para contar la razón de vivir en los ramas.
Pasó el tiempo y ella exploró el area, encontrando piedras, lombrices y hierbas deliciosas. Despues de unas horas, se aburrió y, por una razón desconocida para ella, triste. Ella pensó en esto y, mirando alredador, se dio cuenta del por qué. Todo el bosque era muy obscuro. La favorita cosa de ella era buscar las ramas mas altas para alcanzar la parte superior del árbol y disfrutar la vista del sol.
Quería subir el árbol de su niñez para no perder la puesta del sol esta noche. Ella subió para arriba y encontró su padrino.
“Papi, te echo de menos! Y yo he encontrado la razón por la que vivimos aqui. Vamos rapido!”
Arriba en la rama mas alta, se sentaron y miraron el puesto del sol con rayas tan brillante.
“Estoy agradecida de que vivimos aqui arriba, Papi.”
“Se nota,” dijo su padrino.
What'cha up to crow? That's the phrase I always think or say aloud when I see one of my favorite birds flying around town. They are just great to watch because they're truly always up to something. I did a little cartoon representation of what they like to do in the VRC mall parking lot (or on any hard surface really; they also quite like Monroe Street). So watching these buggers do their thing in the fall (fall like those nuts fall, cracking open meaty goodness) is something that makes for some of my favorite birdwatching. And aloft, these guys are lovely to watch as they toss themselves around, among each other, riding the breeze backwards, bouncing along the windstream, doing acrobatics and playing tag about the busy streets and sidewalks and people who might should look up a bit more often to see the wonders of nature that have so comfortably settled into city life making a living while I watch in envy. To view life below from such lofty perches (sometimes so small they have to wing and wiggle to balance) is something that I would love to do. For now, I enjoy watching them do it themselves because seems to me like they've got city life more figured out than a lot of us!
Here's a mini photo montage: Cheeky crow in a truck bed, found exactly what he was looking for (fries!) and took off.
This is how I feel lately, like there is a far off wonderland that awaits but it's far enough away that I'm not quite there yet.
BSc in Biology & Environmental Studies (WWC)
MSc. in Journalism (UOregon)
You can find my published work in Eugene Weekly, Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife.