Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Lions

August 21, 2009

Lions may be extirpated in Africa within 30 years. The population in Kenya has dropped from 2,749 seven years ago to about 2000 this year. Climate change, habitat destruction and conflict with humans have all contributed to the demise of this iconic, noble creature. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Margret Driciru of the Ugandan Wildlife Authority is working hard to keep lions as a part of a dynamic ecosystem in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Ms. Driciru is a veterinarian and a alumnus of Envirovet. She feels the challenges to save lions involves a complex web of issues that need to be address together; population studies, community outreach and political muscle.

Ravenswood Media interviewed Margret for their documentary about Envirovet

Big Spring

July 1, 2009

It’s a quiet pool at the bottom of a steep wooded hill. In August when there’s not much rain, you can see deep into the clear water. About 10 feet below the surface is the cracked stone where the water burbles up. I’m not religious but somehow it’s fitting that a small, white clapboard church sits at the top of the hill leading to the spring.

Hey! – Wouldn’t it be great if cities had forests on the top of their skyscapers?

Last time I visited Big Spring butterflies where fluttering around the flowering bushes that ringed the shore. I counted a dozen different kinds in the hour I was there.

Hey! – Wouldn’t it be great if Lake Michigan had the same volume and diversity of fishes that it did in the 19th century?

I stopped by Big Spring once after a heavy rain. A rich, brown water shot up about two feet above the surface of the pool. It looked like the Chocolate River in Willy Wonka.

Hey! – Wouldn’t it be great if Illinois had 10% of its prairie rather than 1%?

There’s a small hole in the hill behind Big Spring. After a rain, if you put your ear close to it, you can hear the distant roar of water through a cave.

Hey! – Why not?

Water rolls out of Big Spring whether I’m there or not. I hope it keeps rolling long after I’m gone.

Disaster and Hope

June 18, 2009

Hellbenders and gorillas have very little in common; one is an ugly amphibian and the other a noble-looking primate. However, what they do have in common is an alarming decrease in their numbers along with many other animals.  How is it possible to save these creatures as well as many others in immediate need of our attention?

The hellbender is at a distinct disadvantage.  Slimy with beady eyes, it is not a candidate for a Disney movie.  So why have the people of the Blue River, Indiana adopted it as a mascot for their river?  It won’t increase the value of their land, it won’t bring status to the community and the only interaction these folks will have with hellbenders is occasional fishing bait theft.

The hellbenders are a symbol of commitment to this river, a living reminder of how these people and their forebears guarded the river from abuse. If the hellbender is disappearing, the people living on the Blue River want to know about it and will exert the political muscle to stop it.

Mountain gorillas, on the other hand, are impressive animals.  Eco-tourists are willing to pay a lot of money to observe them in the wild, bringing the Mfubira people of the Bwindi Inpenetrable Forest an incredible amount of capital.  For the Mfubira, who have suffered from war and poverty, their primary concerns today are education and proper health care for their children.  The gorillas are a means to these ends.

With no practical way to patrol the forest, the Uganda Wildlife Authority fought a loosing battle with poachers who had nearly decimated the mountain gorilla.  Today, the Mfubira act as the eyes and ears of the UWA to report suspicious activity. As a result, poaching has been nearly eradicated in Bwindi.

In the case of both the hellbender and the mountain gorilla, their survival depends on the will of the local people. Perhaps, we can’t all have mountain gorillas in our backyards, but if we look hard enough we can find something worthy of our attention.  Whether it’s a mussel, a butterfly, a bear or a frog, what does matter is that we find something to care about and take it seriously.

For full videos visit: http://www.envirovet.org

Prothonotary warbler

June 9, 2009

I filmed a prothonotary warbler last week in Magee Marsh just outside of Toledo, Ohio. It was the tail end of the neotropical migration to Canada. It’s a small yellow bird that lives inside of trees. Like all warblers, they flicker through the branches looking for insects. It’s impossible to predict where they’ll land and nearly impossible to follow them in flight through the trees. Luckily, we found the hole in a tree they used for their nest.

I use a Canon XL-H1 digital video camera with a Canon 16x Manual lens. I prefer the manual lens over the automatic because it forces me to consider all of the optic options that I have available while filming. To increase the long end of the lens, I use a Canon XL 1.6 extender. The birds are very skittish and the closest I can get to the hole in the tree is about 15 feet.  I use a Manfrotto WildTracker 301 tripod. This is the very minimum tripod to use for birds, anything smaller is just too shaky.  The camera was pointed at the nest while I backed off from it about 30 feet and activated the camera with a remote control. We waited 10 minutes before the bird flew into the hole and about 20 minutes before it flew out again.  It’s a fleeting but good shot.

Later we found a Warbling Vireo’s nest. It was much farther away but we used the same procedure with the camera. The nest is very tiny and tucked between branches. One bird sits on the nest while the other eats. We had to wait about 20 minutes for them to exchange places. They sing while sitting on the nest. There would be no way for me to film them without finding the nest. They are too small and never seem to light in any one spot for more than a few seconds.

I’m glad to see more websites dedicated to bird videos. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ is a great example.

Paw-Paws

June 8, 2009

Paul Feldman and I were hiking towards a Nature Conservancy property called Twin Swamps in southwest Indiana when we caught the whiff of a sweet aroma in the humid air. It drifted so gently in and out of our perception that it seemed more like a memory than an actuality. Neither of us mentioned it until we reached the edge of the cypress swamp and the fragrance was all around us. I blurted out “What is that smell?” Among dead leaves and rotting logs were dozens of green pods.
They were soft when squeezed and smelled like a cross between cotton candy and bubblegum. I cut one open and saw large dark seeds surrounded by a white, custard-like flesh. Neither of us had ever seen the fruit before. I carved out a spoonful and ate it. It was delicious and like no fruit I had ever eaten. We spent the next 20 minutes searching the soggy shore brushing off and eating the sweet pods.
Over the course of my career I have been to a lot of exotic places but it never ceases to amaze me how much there is to discover near at hand. The fruit is from the paw-paw tree, indigenous to the south central Eastern US. With the current interest in local produce consumption, I’m surprised nobody has cultivated this incredible fruit. pawpawfruit