July
29th 2010
I hope the good news just doesn’t get as much coverage

Posted under activism & endangered species & wildlife (general)

Over the past few days I’ve been catching up on some New Yorkers that arrived while I was on vacation.  One of them has a long article about the illegal slaughter of literally millions of songbirds annually in Mediterranean countries, and the fruitless efforts to fight it.  Some places have an entrenched culture of killing birds, mostly for sport  – Malta, Cyprus, and Italy are specifically named, but there’s no claim that they’re the only ones — to the extent that the authorities won’t even try to enforce the laws. (In this regard, I’m reminded of dog laws in California parks).

And then last night I read an article about overfishing.  The article implies that it’s only recently been realized that fish populations everywhere are declining, the catch in almost all established fisheries is declining in spite of more sophisticated fishing gear, and that many former “staple” species, like North Atlantic cod, have been reduced to economic and ecological irrelevance.  Actually those facts were recognized by a lot of people years ago — for instance, the book “The Empty Ocean” came out in 2003 — but perhaps the article is right that they’re not widely known by the public.

And the San Francisco Board of Supervisors just approved an enormously expensive bridge right through a wetlands that Golden Gate Audubon has been restoring, to save 2 minutes of travel time for a small number of drivers.

And, of course, there’s the oil disaster in the Gulf, the failure of any climate bill in the Senate this year…it’s been a depressing couple of days of news.

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June
12th 2010
New additions to Martinez beaver family

Posted under local wildlife

Hey, did I mention that our friends in Martinez have reported that there are a couple of baby beavers swimming around in the creek downtown?  That’s great news, especially since I think both of last year’s babies died.  Tough life being a wild animal; let’s wish the newcomers well.

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June
9th 2010
Contribute to International Bird Rescue Research Center

Posted under birds (general) & science

The IBRRC is, of course, totally overwhelmed with birds from the gulf oil spill.  They work in many other places too.  They’ve done a lot of great work over the years, both developing better treatment and cleaning methods and actually saving birds.  They could really use your contribution, now or any time: go to their blog and hit “Donate Now.”

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March
6th 2010
Sage Grouse, endangered but not on Endangered Species List

Posted under birds (general) & endangered species & government

The New York Times reports that “The Interior Department said Friday that the greater sage grouse, a dweller of the high plains of the American West, was facing extinction but would not be designated an endangered species for now.”  It goes on to say “Residential building and energy development have shrunk the sage grouse habitat over the past several decades, causing its population in 11 Western states to dwindle from an estimated 16 million 100 years ago to 200,000 to 500,000 today.”  That means it’s down to about 3% of its historical numbers, and falling fast.  And yet, still no federal protection.

I find it very sad that people don’t care more about things like this.  Here’s a quote from Jason Chaffetz, a U.S. House representative from Utah: ““The only good place for a sage grouse to be listed is on the menu of a French bistro,” he said recently. “It does not deserve federal protection, period.”  To be indifferent — or, in this case, happy — about the prospects of the extinction of a charismatic species…well, it makes me sad and angry that there are people like this at all, much less serving in Congress.

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February
13th 2010
Tidal marsh recovery in SF Bay: good news, bad news

Posted under government

An article on SF Gate today discusses plans to restore a large swath of marshland (currently used for producing salt) in the South Bay.  The 15-year planning/publicity/political/regulatory process is finally over, so they have a good plan…but no money to implement it.  The article doesn’t really explain what would cost money, or how much; perhaps some of the plan can be implemented simply by breaching some levees and letting the shallow ponds gradually silt in.  Or perhaps not, I dunno.  At any rate I hope it gets funding somehow.

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February
8th 2010
Sloth killed by an owl?

Posted under wildlife (general)

OK, this is pretty remarkable: a BBC News article reports that a three-toed sloth in Panama was apparently killed and eaten by a spectacled owl.  (A spectacled owl is a lot smaller than a sloth.)  If this can happen, it’s pretty amazing there are any sloths at all!  The article says that their main defense is camouflage: they blend in with the tree trunk, moss grows on their fur, and they move really slowly so they don’t attract attention. Riiiiight.  Well, they are indeed hard to see, but I’ve been to Panama and Costa Rica and I’ve seen a fair number of sloths.  They’re not that hard to see.

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January
30th 2010
Antioch burrowing owls…cease and desist order on construction!

Posted under activism & government

Scott Artis, who has done a remarkable job monitoring and advocating for burrowing owls that are being evicted for a house construction project, reports today that California Department of Fish and Game is issuing a “cease and desist order” for the project. The developers are required to remove all of the “one-way doors” that had been installed on the owl burrows so that owls could leave but not return. This is fantastic news! I assume — Scott didn’t say in his email — that this action is prompted by the fact that fumigation to kill ground squirrels was, illegally, taking place even though burrowing owls are still on the site. If that’s the case then the developer will work quickly to come up with a new approach, but at least this buys some time for legal action. At this point it’s probably too late to stop the development, but at the least the developers should have to provide mitigation for removing burrowing owl habitat.

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January
24th 2010
Oscar and Olive Osprey: A family takes flight. By Janie Suss

Posted under Uncategorized

A couple of months ago, I got an email from a marketer asking if I would like a copy of the book whose title is given in this post’s title. I said Sure, but (1) I don’t post much to this blog anymore, and (2) I wouldn’t guarantee to review the book and (2b) even if I did review it, I might not like it!

Well, here I am…I finally read the book, and it’s pretty good. I think it’s intended to be read to a child by his/her parents, or to be read by a child maybe in the 8-11 range. It’s about 100 pages, with a couple of dozen photos and with a fairly large font and double-spaced. 26 chapters in 100 pages…just takes a few minutes to get through each one, for an adult reader.

The book chronicles a season in the life of some osprey parents and their kids. Chapters are “About ospreys”, “Finding a place to call home”, “Finding a mate,” and so on. A sample of the writing: “All Olive could do was watch over the eggs and wait. Her babies had to hatch themselves with no help, and she knew they would come out of their shells when they were ready. It was a warm summer day when the first egg hatched. When the babies hatch, they weigh only two ounces and are one or two inches long. That is about the size of your mom’s thumb. That is very tiny for a bird that will grow so big.”

I don’t have kids and I’m not the intended audience, so it’s a bit hard for me to judge whether this book will interest most children. At least I think it would be good for children who have any interest in ospreys or who get to see them regularly. If you live someplace you can see osprey regularly (or, indeed, any other bird of prey) your kids might really like this. But for what I think of as the average soccer-playing, TV-watching, Wii-playing youngster, I dunno…I don’t think this will necessarily engage their imagination or interest. Still, for that niche market of kids-who-watch-raptors, I think this is a good choice.

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