We swat them, stomp them, spray them, do anything we can to keep them away from us. We are annoyed by them, vilify them, wish them away, and created a multi-billion dollar industry to get rid of them. But we can’t live without them.
No, I’m not talking about the Kardashians. I’m talking about insects.
A summary of several recent independent studies has revealed that insects are dying a “death by a thousand cuts,” according to the world’s top insect experts and that the earth is losing 1 to 2 percent of its insects each year. The news isn’t entirely surprising, but it’s always good to be reminded of the fragile state of our environment from time to time.
According to the studies — and the summarizing article led by University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner — climate change, insecticides, changes in agriculture and light pollution are major contributors to the marked decline of our insects. Some scientists refer to it as the “insect apocalypse,” and in some respects, that sounds about right.
With the tendinitis in my foot acting up again, I wasn’t sure how long of a walk I would be able to bear. I had to give it a shot, however, as a few inches of light, fluffy snow had fallen overnight and made the landscape irresistible for anyone with a camera.
As luck would have it, I didn’t have to go very far to get some nice bird photos. I started down a path bordered by thick brush on both sides when I saw a swarm of birds land in a nearby leafless tree. My initial thought was that they were starlings as this flock rivaled in number the large groups of starlings you often see. Something didn’t look quite right, however. They weren’t acting like starlings and they weren’t the right shape.
How cool would it be if they were cedar waxwings? I asked myself. About 10 seconds later Continue reading →
It was a year of firsts and high numbers for many Christmas Bird Counts across the Granite State.
Significant firsts included boreal chickadees on the Peterborough-Hancock Count, a red-headed woodpecker and long-tailed duck in Keene, and a gray catbird in Laconia. Not to mention the sage thrasher found in Hinsdale during the Brattleboro count.
Keene, part of the original Christmas Bird Count in 1900, boasted a record 62 species of birds found. That topped the previous record of 61, which had been recorded four times. A patch of open water on Spofford Lake helped that total as six waterfowl (including the long-tailed duck) and a common loon were spotted there. The long-tailed duck, formerly called oldsquaw, is more often associated with salt or brackish water.
The Christmas Bird Count is the nation’s longest-running community science bird project. It was originally proposed by Frank Chapman, who encouraged people to count birds instead of kill them during the traditional Side Hunt. In 1900, the first CBC took place and included 27 birdwatchers in 25 different areas. There are now hundreds of areas covered throughout North America and thousands of volunteers doing the counting. There are more than 20 Continue reading →
It was a gray day that turned into a snowy day that turned into a misty, gray day. The weather never fails to be part of the story of a Christmas Bird Count (CBC) in New England. Yesterday (Sunday) was the annual CBC in my area and, as usual, I covered the Norwalk (Conn.) coastline and parts inland with Frank Mantlik, one of Connecticut”s top birders. We tallied 61 species, which will be combined with the other birds spotted by the Count’s other teams. Highlights included northern shoveler, northern pintail, prairie warbler, pine warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, northern harrier, merlin and horned lark. Full story coming in my For the Birds column. In the meantime, here’s what the Christmas Bird Count is all about.
Last week I offered some suggestions on donating to conservation organizations to help out these important groups during this season of giving. Many of these organizations are hurting this year due to the cancellation of so many revenue-producing programs.
This week, I’ll offer some tips on getting more traditional holiday gifts for your birder. A gift list for birdwatchers has to start with optics. Technically, no equipment is needed to go birdwatching. You can simply head to the woods or look out your window and scan for birds. Realistically, however, you need a few essentials, namely binoculars and a field guide. If you have a budding birdwatcher on your list, an inexpensive pair will likely suffice. More experienced birders will appreciate better-quality optics.
With optics, as with most things, you get what you pay for. A $15 pair of binoculars will serve you just fine, but a $150 pair will seem like a different world. A really great pair of binoculars will set you back hundreds of dollars, but they will last Continue reading →
It’s the season of giving, and this year nonprofit organizations need your support more than ever.
COVID-19 changed everything. Aside from the horrendous physical toll it has taken on so many, businesses have closed and many people are struggling to make ends meet. Nonprofit organizations are not immune to this downturn. Those that specialize in land conservation or nature are just as impacted as the rest of them.
Many of these organizations rely on programming, events, summer camps or other activities that require people to be in close proximity to each other to help pay the bills. COVID put a hard stop on that. As a result, these organizations are out the revenue that these events would have brought in. Many have turned to virtual events, but they don’t have the Continue reading →
I heard from Mark from avibirds.com and he asked if I’d be interested in sharing his video on house sparrows. Of course, I would. It’s a short and informative video on one of our most common and overlooked birds. Check out www.avibirds.com for other videos, photos and bird profiles.