Thursday, June 28, 2007

Losing the Birds

Sometimes I wonder how different things might be if our esteemed VP, or, as Bruce calls him, The Dark Lord, was a birder, rather than a hunter, and a hunter of captive birds raised solely for the purpose of being shot, at that. Or, if Dubya himself was a gardener, rather than a recreational chain-sawer on his pet ranch in Crawford. If the guys at the top found joy and solace, spiritual renewal, on a bright summer morning in a perennial bed of light and color which they'd dug, composted, planted, weeded, watered,dead-headed themselves. Or under the high canopy of a cottonwood forest some cool early spring day, or an even cooler fall morning, when the warblers were making their twice-a-year visit during migration.

I'm thinking here of environmental policy, of course, the curbing of corporate interests of all sorts, in order to keep the air, waters, forests and grasslands, not to mention the climate of the entire planet, functioning parts of a livable environment. (But, who knows, most of us naturalists, birders, and gardeners are peaceable sorts, folk who would never think of invading and destroying other people's backyard bird feeders or gardens in order to augment our own lifelists.

Right now A new analysis by the National Audubon Society (Disappearing common birds send environmental wake-up call)

reveals that populations of some of America’s most familiar and beloved birds have taken a nosedive over the past forty years, with some down as much as 80 percent. The dramatic declines are attributed to the loss of grasslands, healthy forests and wetlands, and other critical habitats from multiple environmental threats such as sprawl, energy development, and the spread of industrialized agriculture. The study notes that these threats are now compounded by new and broader problems including the escalating effects of global warming. In concert, they paint achallenging picture for the future of many common species and send a serious warning about our increasing toll on local habitats and the environment itself.
The Cardinal has always been one ofmy favorite birds, and my sorrow was huge on learning, AFTER I had moved here, that there are no cardinals in New Mexico. Not because of any environmental problems, just because this is not their territory. I'm not sure I would have moved here had I known there would be no flashes of red in the snowy winter landscape, no busy zooming across the yard with nest-building materials by pairs of redbirds in the spring, no listening to their cheery call while I weed or water the gardens.

Imagine then our collective sorrow to lose the call of the Bobwhite and the whip-poor-will, the flying-in-place visitations of the rufous hummingbird, the whirring flight of the eastern meadowlark as a gang of them rise up from the tall grass by the roadside. The Audubon report is making the news in a way that such things usually don't. We can hope that it will really function as a wake-up call for all of us.As the Audubon press release states:

Now all of us – from birders to policy makers – need to take action to keep these species from declining even further.“Fortunately, people’s actions can still make a difference,” Audubon’s Greg Butcher adds. “Average citizens can change the fate of these birds just as average citizens helped us confirm the trouble they face.” Concerned individuals can visit for important information on how to help keep common birds common and our shared environment healthy—suggested actions are also attached.State-specific lists of the common birds in serious decline are available in select areas. Journalists may visit Audubon’s online press room at for local contact information.

Please use the above link to check out what's on the decline in your neighborhood. I was horrified to discover that, in my area, the Pinon jay is on the list. This scrappy slate-blue bird says "New Mexico" to me as few other birds do...I can't do without both it AND the cardinal!

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posted at 4:05:00 PM by marigolds2

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"It is the logic of our times
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-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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