Thursday, July 30, 2009

Earth not First!

I hesitate to publicize this at all because it's just more of the inane back and forth which has gone on in the EF!J for a couple decades now, but I really had to share this line.

"Remember, the revolutionary presence which drove Abbey and his minions away created space for the philosophical introductions of eco-feminism, deep ecology, and bio-centrism."

Really?? Deep Ecology and biocentrism weren't part of Earth First! until Abbey and his minions were driven away? I can only guess that the writer is in her teens and has never read any old issues of the Journal.

But if anyone would like to attempt a serious conversation responding to the article's headline, let's have at it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Going to Sea

I was on the Lakewalk recently when a female jogger passed, and in passing, told me that I had a nice bounce to my step. "It's kind of a happy bounce," she said. I told her I thought it was more of a dislocated hips at birth bounce. Am I slick with the ladies, or what?

Speaking of slick . . . no, wait, it's not oil, it's plastic . . . OK, so it is oil. Anyway, you've probably heard of the infamous miles of plastic floating around in the Pacific Ocean, right? In August, a group from Scripps Institution of Oceanography is heading out for a few weeks to take a closer look. I'd love to be along for the ride--long ago I fantasized about attending the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a result of spending many days on that part of Cape Cod--but instead I'll follow along on their blog. Cruise along with me if you like. One of the folks actually onboard will be doing whale research as well.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Google, a Falcon Update, and Workplace Horror

Do you use Google Alerts? You type in what you want to hear about and get a daily email with links to related news items, blog posts, etc. It's a good way to keep up with subjects that interest you. One of mine is for "wildlife rehabilitation" which, like life in general, sends me simultaneously disgusting and uplifting tales. Recently, baby beavers and baby bears. Click the bear photo for more cub pics.

The folks over at NBN pointed out this Google Keyword Tool. I think it's about helping you advertise your website, but I just found it amusing. You enter your URL and it gives you some suggestions for promoting yourself. Most of mine were wildlife related, but I also had a bunch about getting your ex back which seemed as tawdry/creepy as those ads for How to Pick Up Women books. (I suppose that will now become a new suggestion and also bring as many odd searchers as all those men who come here looking for cougars. WRONG COUGARS, GUYS! I really should start calling them mountain lions.) Anyway, I've occasionally written about exes in some of my more memoirish posts, but I've never written anything about trying to get one back. And all the stuff I do write about--books, writers, ecology, radical environmentalism, animal ethics issues--no related suggestions for them. Clearly no money to be made on those topics!

We finally got some closure about my little falcon buddy Zinger when someone found his body which was down to bones and feathers. It appeared he'd been electrocuted back when we'd stopped seeing him weeks ago. His brother was apparently the victim of a collision with a vehicle. The good news is that the female down at the Raptor Center appears to just be bruised or strained, not broken, and if all goes well will be coming back here for release soon. EDIT to add even better news after reading an email just after posting this--we'll be releasing her Sunday morning!

I had an interview this week for a stressful job I knew I'd hate but which offered a chance to stay here so I gave it a shot. Early in the interview I learned that a couple offices had been merged and not only would the job itself stress me out, I'd also be working with a group of people I'd worked with previously and didn't really want to work with again. My instinct was to end the interview immediately, but I stuck it out and probably fortunately didn't get offered the job. Which leaves me a month or so before I reach the point of no return and start shipping stuff out of here. Considering that unemployment in the area is in the double digits and the grocery store I asked at this morning isn't even taking applications, I'm not hopeful.

But I am hopeful for those cubs and kits, and looking at their photos brings me a lot more pleasure than the thought of another meaningless job. Clearly no money to be made by me but even if all goes to hell, or maybe especially if all goes to hell, I'll be back someday for another falcon brood. Whew--straining to tie all that together has ex-hausted me. Sleep now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recovering Eagle

OK, just for the fun of it, let's conclude this weekend's raptor trilogy with this short article about a recuperating eagle. Even if we have to go to another country to do so (healthcare for all), and to a newspaper called The Delta Optimist. I especially love the photo caption: "This young people..."

Psst, if you want to remain optimistic, don't notice the link to the article predicting the Arctic having its first ice-free summer in 2015. Sorry, couldn't resist.

DNR--What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

No, it's not all falcons all the time. Here's a stupid humans story about broad-winged hawks.

It seems that for weeks a pair of hawks in a Minneapolis suburb were dive bombing people who got too close to their nest which held a couple young. They'd hit 4 people, causing 2 of them to bleed. Oh my! Most animals, even including people, will defend against any perceived threat to their young. Everyone knows you don't get between Mama Bear and Baby Bear, and our mother falcon always hits the banders at her nest.

Here in Minnesota, killing animals is considered a healthy activity, a family tradition, a god-given right, and good fun for all. That's why there's a Department of Natural Resources, to make sure there are always enough animals to kill and that they don't all get wiped out at once by folks getting carried away by that joyous killing spirit. Good God, Y'All! Kill it again!

So, like a speeding train approaching a car stuck on the tracks, a DNR officer came to investigate these killer hawks. Fortunately, he had a gun because what do you know, the hawks dove at him too. It was self-defense, Your Honor. Apparently after killing the first hawk, he waited a half hour before killing the second one, in case the second one calmed down and stopped defending the nest. Because really, if you saw your mate killed in front of you, wouldn't that have a soothing effect on you? No word on whether he then got in a little more target practice by shooting the nestlings or just left them there to starve to death. Actually, I assume they were taken into protective custody and placed with social services.

Now, there isn't any shortage of broad-winged hawks. At Hawk Ridge, the counters see two or three times as many of them as any other species during fall migration. But there also certainly isn't any shortage of people--and it's not like they were being hunted for food. They were just being warned to stay out of one little area for a few weeks. Apparently fencing off the area or putting up warning signs or wearing football helmets or changing behavior or walking route for a few weeks to let life live was out of the question. That just wouldn't be Minnesota Nice.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One Remaining Falcon

I don't mean to turn this into the all falcon all the time blog, but I do try to keep this mostly nature related and falcons are what's happening these days in the nature aspect of my life. And while I may be stressing over human stuff, it's been a tougher time for falcons.

Yes, we're down to one remaining flying falcon from this year's four fledglings, and of all birds, it's Brittnie, runt of the litter, last to hatch, last to fledge, lay around for days instead of flying Brittnie. We can never really know what is going on in the mind of a falcon, but if it's anything more than raw instinct, you have to wonder what this bird is thinking/feeling these days having seen her three siblings disappear. Is there a sense of loss and impending doom? A celebration that all the food belongs to her now? Would she feel like she'd beaten the odds if she knew that only about 1/4 of birds survive their first year?

To recap: we've never heard any more about Zinger, the bird I babysat during banding and who disappeared about a week after fledging. Thursday night, the police got several calls about an injured falcon in the street. A wildlife rehabber picked up the bird, who turned out to be Mariah (nicknamed Hog because at banding she was twice the size of any of her nestmates). Mariah was taken to the Raptor Center in St. Paul, where one of our previous falcons wound up and had a couple surgeries before being releasable. I haven't heard any more yet about the injury or prognosis. Yesterday afternoon, folks who run the falcon program got several calls about a dead banded falcon; someone went searching but didn't find the body. Today a call came from someone who had the body which turned out to be Alex, the male who about a week ago had perched close and low next to the park for some great viewing.

I've spent a little time watching the past couple days, and had some great moments even with only one youngster remaining. Yesterday there was an aerial food transfer from Dad to Britt, and while I had my binoculars on a couple crows, Ma Falcon burst into the scene attacking one of them! Today as I bent over to make a note about a Brittnie takeoff, she flew right by me, close enough that if I'd seen her coming I would have dived out of the way.

We're never completely sure how many of each year's young make it out of town to start their migrations in the fall, but as far as I recall only one past fledgling was confirmed dead in town. I don't think we've even had any definite disappearances like Zinger before. The previous bird who wound up at the Raptor Center was found injured down in that area, about 150 miles from here as the falcon flies. Last year we lost 3 of the 4 nestlings to frounce, but it's tougher emotionally to lose this year's birds after having seen them flying and shared some moments of their short lives. Keep your talons crossed for continued flight and a full recovery for the two remaining sisters.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One Missing Falcon

Today was the last official day of Peregrine Watch 2009, though we'll be keeping our eyes and ears open when downtown. The adult birds will still need to deliver food to the youngsters for a few more weeks, and they'll all be in town until fall when all except the mother will likely migrate. She sticks around to eat chilly pigeon all winter long.

Thursday we saw the most spectacular flight display we've seen in the four years the program has been going on as two of the youngsters chased each other on and off for about a half hour barely over our heads. They swerved and hung in the air, dove at each other, made a racket the entire time. One grabbed at treetops as he flew past them.
At one point they were about 5 feet off the ground and 10 feet away from me, and I let out an involuntary Wow!

We haven't seen all four young birds at once in a week and on that same day we were able to identify the three birds we were seeing. By band color we first learned that there were two females and one male, and then later were able to see the number on the male bird's band. The missing falcon is Zinger, the first to fledge and the one I was babysitting during the banding last month.

It's certainly not on the level of losing a pet who you've shared years with but after you've been lucky enough to touch a falcon nestling, you want to imagine him out there soaring for years to come and hope that you might learn someday that someone has spotted his band number at a falcon nest. So I had hoped that Zinger would at least make it out of town or that, if he didn't, I at least wouldn't know about it--we're never really sure who leaves since they obviously don't check with us on the way out of town and we lose track of them before then, but we do sometimes know someone's missing before they leave and one year one of that year's fledglings was found dead in town. And we know the fact that most birds don't survive their first year.

It's not impossible that he's OK and hanging out by himself away from the others--we don't know where the adults are at all times so we try to convince ourselves Zinger might be getting food deliveries elsewhere. But we don't really think it's likely, and it gets less likely with each passing day we don't see him.

On the morning before this year's banding a great horned owl was downtown being harassed by falcons, crows, gulls, and every other bird in the area. An owl certainly could have picked off Zinger in the night. And the idea of a human killing an animal for fun can never be ruled out--someone here put an arrow through a cat a few weeks ago. More likely it was his own enthusiasm and concentrated focus combined with his too new flying skills which did him in and he crashed into something. No one has yet reported his body, but he could well be on a roof. So, knowing we may never know, we wait for word of Zinger, missing one falcon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bite Back!

Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado's War to Save American Wilderness by Dean Kuipers, has some problems and the first one is right there on the cover. Operation Bite Back, which took place in the early 90s, didn't really have anything to do with wilderness--it was a war declared against fur farmers and animal researchers. That's not to say that Coronado wasn't interested in wilderness, only that it's an inaccurate subtitle--I guess the publisher must think that wilderness is sexier than those wacky people who care about animals. The fact that the book isn't perfect doesn't mean that it's not worth reading, only that it's not as complete or objective a biography or history as I would have liked.

Coronado's life is shown in an episodic and anecdotal fashion--a hunter as a child, his famous sinking of two of Iceland's whalers for Sea Shepherd, working on the Earth First! Journal, lots of details about how he broke into and burned fur farm and university buildings including close calls of both being caught and causing injury to people, his growing interest in his Native heritage, living on the road, at a remote cabin, and on a reservation, how he was arrested, that he's no longer vegan and says he regrets his past actions.

There are many periods and events which aren't addressed at all. For instance, there's oddly not one word about what his five years in jail were like for him. And much of what is presented seems to be Coronado's version taken at face value with no real questioning of his truthfulness (despite the author giving an example of when Coronado lied to him) or possible motivations for some of his actions and statements. Although there are some quotes from researchers and fur industry representatives along with the expected Paul Watson and Dave Foreman, the book never felt like it had much depth.

The book winds up with a recap of the outrageous changes in laws which resulted from Coronado's actions and the ensuing lobbying of his enemies, as well as from the hysteria following 9/11/01. The word terrorist routinely gets thrown at those who break laws on behalf of animals and nature, but not at those who make death threats against them. Running a website gets you years in prison while killing animals makes you a profit. This type of repression will only further alienate people and lead to real violence against people instead of buildings.

Based on what is presented in the book, it seems Coronado did not engage in releasing large numbers of mink as was done by some who attacked fur farms in later years. I'll give him credit for that because I've always seen those large releases as irresponsible and showing little concern for animals. Arson is certainly going further than I personally would be comfortable doing, but I consider fur farming and animal research to be much worse activities. The killing of animals for fashion seems reprehensible enough that I shouldn't even need to mention it and it would have been outlawed long ago if this were a country with any respect for life. I consider animal research every bit as immoral whether it's done to test new makeup or in search of a cure for your baby, your momma, or me. Assuming the right to hold captive, deliberately infect, and drug other life forms is arrogant and repellent. What is considered not only acceptable but good and honorable in this society still stuns me, even at my advanced age and cynicism. If humans want to cure a human disease then human volunteers should be required for any experiment, which would also result in more relevant results.

Whatever one may think of Coronado's past actions or present choices, he was a man who was motivated by a wider respect for life than most people have and didn't hesitate to risk his freedom and life for other beings.
I only wish I had his courage. This may be a fairly lightweight book, but it should cause readers to do some heavy thinking about their own values and how they choose to live.

You can read the author's interesting blog about the book here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More Bits, More Pieces

Falcon update--3 of the 4 young birds have now left the box, with the youngest to follow in the next few days. They're flying between several buildings downtown--it's easy for the parents to keep track of them because they're very loud when they want a meal. The parents will still be delivering food for about six weeks as the fledglings improve their flying skills and learn to hunt on their own. That big ball of fluff I babysat a few weeks ago during banding is now a very handsome and adventurous bird, and was the first to fledge. I'm a proud poppa!

As my falcon time winds down, I'll return to cutting my book and cd inventory. I'm down to about 135 cds and 170 books, but also have over 100 concerts on discs remaining from my days of trading them. It's interesting to me how difficult I'm finding it to sell more cds at this point even though I rarely listen to them anymore. There are a lot of emotional ties to the past mixed in with the notes. I've completely dumped my classical collection and most of the jazz, but it's the rock & folk from my teens, twenties, and thirties which seems so hard to get rid of. I need to improve my letting go of the past skills.

Book news--the publication date for Paul Gruchow's Letters to a Young Madman has been pushed back to May 1, 2010 according to publisher Milkweed. I've started his The Necessity of Empty Places and am loving it but it's now had to drop in the pile behind some library and Vine books.

A new upcoming one which might be of interest to some of my readers is Tree Spiker by EF! cofounder Mike Roselle. It's scheduled for September 29th.

And tonight I picked up Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado's War to Save American Wilderness (and also a lot of animals though that's not in the title) from the library. It's seems like an appropriate reading choice for a weekend which is all about lighting fuses. I haven't read a word yet, but it certainly seems like a book with the potential to lead to an interesting post.

An observation on that killing culture: while waiting for a bus last week, I found myself looking at an ad in the window of Ace Hardware. I was struck by how many of the sale items seemed to be fatal, so I counted and found that 1/3 of the ad was about killing something. Insects, "weeds", you name it; in this country, we've got a way to kill it. So I'm wearing my flag shirt today to get in the mood for the holiday: blue and white stripes, trees replacing stars against a green background, and the motto In Nature We Trust beneath it.