Nature and Conservation Linkspam

I spent the afternoon snowshoeing into a wilderness area with a group of teenagers, but I was too focused on them to spend any time looking for natural history stuff to photograph for this blog. (Yep, snowshoeing. Yesterday was the first day of spring, you say? Don’t make me laugh. It was -17ºF here a few days ago.) Anyway, luckily there’s been a lot of interesting new articles and whatnot floating around this week, so I’m going to treat you to another linkspam post instead.

  • The population of Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico is hitting a record low. Not good, not good at all.
  • This aerial photo makes the reason for declining bee and butterfly populations in North America glaringly obvious.
  • Great post on why the idea of reviving extinct animal species is actually kind of arrogant and anthropocentrist (shut up, spell check, anthropocentrist is totally a word). (NOTE: see the comments on this post for some discussion on this subject. Ed Yong’s take on it, with an explanation of the effort to resurrect the very cool gastric-breeding frog, is worth a read as well.)
  • As both a birder and a lifelong Star Trek fan, this photo puts a smile on my face (though you’d have to be a Trekkie to understand why).
  • Famous naturalist William Bartram claimed to have seen a weird, brightly colored vulture in Florida in 1774. No one has ever taken the sighting all that seriously – until now.
  • Pesticides, not habitat loss, may be the primary cause of grassland bird declines.
  • National Audubon Society, I am shaking my head at you. Feral cats are terrible for native wildlife, and trap-neuter-release does not work. (NOTE: Although I stand by my statement about TNR, after reading through the comment thread on this post at 10,000 Birds I kind of regret linking to it. Lots of nasty birder-on-birder personal attacks and such. Ugh.)
  • Great photos and video of a displaying Ruffed Grouse.
  • This Song Sparrow sings opera. No, seriously, watch the video, it’s crazy.

Have a great rest of your week, and I’ll be back with new material soon!


And Now, a Whooping Crane Taking a Bath

We visited the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin yesterday. More on that later, but their captive Whooping Cranes were beating the heat by panting and splashing around in their pool.

It was entertaining to watch such graceful birds let loose and act goofy. Whooping Cranes are the most endangered of the world’s crane species and one of the most endangered birds in North America – less than 500 remain in the wild.


Wildcat Falls Update

I’m back from spring break (and I took some photos on my walk today, until it was interrupted by rain from the northern edge of that killer severe weather system, but then I realized I must have left my camera cable at work). Anyway, today I got the following email from someone involved in the effort to save Wildcat Falls:

We lost the appeal.  Basically they just repeated the same things they said before.  They know there are disadvantages but they feel the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

We plan to sue.  Our lawyer believes this is illegal, even though they say they’ve observed all rules.  We need to raise $6500 to start and if we win the USFS pays the lawyer fees.  I don’t know which organization will house the fund but I can let you know.  If everyone who signed the petition gave $6 we’d have it!  Of course $25 or $50 is always better, but any amount would be appreciated.
We’ll try to figure out how to raise money online…

I’m not optimistic, I’m afraid. Also, I’m sorry to anyone who got spammed by after signing the petition; I had no idea that was going to happen. Sigh…

The Last Days of Wildcat Falls

Yesterday I went on a hike to an out-of-the-way corner of the Ottawa National Forest called Wildcat Falls. A sizable group had gathered along the gravel road to walk back to the waterfall – nearly a hundred people, I believe. The reason we were there was that by the end of this week, Wildcat Falls and the surrounding parcel of land may no longer be in public hands; if we return next week, we might be trespassing. The U.S. Forest Service is planning on trading this parcel to a private land developer in return for an equivalent area of… clear cut. The developer plans to log this area and then subdivide it for residential lots. (Click on any thumbnail to bring up a slide show.)


There is no way that my hastily shot photos can do justice to the waterfall with its water stained golden by tannin, or to the ancient rock outcroppings and magnificent  stand of old-growth hemlock and cedar surrounding it. It was breathtaking. Several groups have filed an eleventh-hour appeal trying to convince the Forest Service, and if you would take a moment to sign the online petition sometime in the next couple days, I would appreciate it. At the end of the week someone is going to print out the “signatures” and hand-deliver them to the office where the decision is being made. (And heck, go ahead and sign it even if you don’t live in the U.S. You still know what old growth forest means. Maybe a few signatures from the U.K., Australia, etc. will help catch someone’s attention.)

If you still need convincing, here’s a YouTube slideshow comparing the Wildcat Falls area with the land it’s being exchanged for:

Thank you!