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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Nov 27, 2009

Discovery new creatures

It is amazing to me that we are still discovering new species of lifeforms on this planet...all over the planet and in the sea


How smart are we really?

We as humans are very smart and we think we know exactly how to take care of ourselves, but do we really?  We are at the top of the food chain. We know a lot of things about how to survive. Our scientists have brought us to the point where we enjoy longer lives, and have taught us a lot about the cycles of life, the weather and our planet.  Yet we do not know everything and are making new discoveries every day.  But how smart are we really? 

Nov 22, 2009

Some good news about wolves

I just came across some exciting news. Wolves are making a comeback in some places in the world at least.  In East Germany they are being protected, this is wonderful. Follow the links:


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War on the Wolf?

I have recently learned that the US government has taken the Gray Wolf off  the endangered species list.  It seems almost immediately after that permission was granted to hunt them. Already too many of these Wolves have been  killed by hunters in Montana and Idaho, despite the fact that they have not yet reached a stage where recovery from near extinction is a certainty, or  where  they may be seen and understood as to be overabundant in population.  The time frame of the allowed hunt has since been extended.  http://wolves.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/idaho-fish-and-game-commission-votes-to-extend-wolf-hunt-until-march-31/  In addition I have learned because of the decline in the Wolf population, Elk have thrived, become overabundant and are damaging  the environment by feeding on grasses to the point that soil erosion has taken place and rivers and streams polluted with muck as a result. It seems both the government and the enthusiastic great hunters of the world have not yet learned to research and think before they shoot from their perspective pens and/or guns, or is there more to the killing than just that?

Wolves are not hunted for food, they are hunted due to a perceived threat to livestock,  for their bad and undeserved reputations, for their fur and perhaps to prop up someone's ego. I realize that for some hunting is a way of supplementing their diet. Hunting is even necessary in some instances. This is all good, especially if they are hunting to control the Elk population for example or disease such as rabies, but are Wolves truly such a threat to livestock, and if so how much of a threat?

I would think that this was true only if the Elk and Deer populations were to decline to the point were Wolves were starving and if there was a large population of Wolves in the world.  Most wild life, it seems to me, including the Wolf, tries to avoid human contact.  Fact is there are not even any documented attacks by Wolves  ( healthy Wolves) on humans, unlike Cougars, Bears, and even  the Coyote. So they are not a threat in that regard.  So what gives?  Are we just giving hunters the thrill of something new to hunt, something that is perceived to be extremely dangerous?

I had to know.   So I did a little research.  It seems the Wolf is struggling against more than just merely a bad reputation.  There are people out there who actually hate Wolves to the point that they will put out misinformation about them.  Tall tales are spread in regards to Wolves, such as don't leave your children outside Wolves will eat them, or Wolves breed like rabbits and so on.  I will not claim that there are animals that I do not like very much, because, for instance I'm not very fond of Spiders, but to go to such extreme as to actually set out to eradicate a species ...well it is ludicrous. Anyway here  is the link if you are interested:  http://www.wolfhaven.org/misInfo.php  Further research led to the fact that Wolves are seemingly forever tied to such legends as werewolves, religion with ties to demons and witches, and stories like little red riding hood, originating way back in Europe's history.  All of these ties, legends and stories are based in fear. Again follow the link:http://www.wolfweb.com/history2.html  The conclusion, the Wolf,  like some people is a seriously misunderstood animal, and things need to be set right.  So here are some facts about Wolves: 

Wolves are natural hunters and eat meat, but they will eat other foods as well, like Earthworms, berries and Grasshoppers. Because of the danger from flying hooves and antlers,  Wolves prey on weaker members of a herd of Deer or Caribou, such as old, young or sick animals. In summer, when the herds migrate, Wolves will eat Mice, Beaver, Birds and even Fish. They may also eat carrion. The Wolf is also important to the food chain:

"Wolves take the sick and weak animals such as the older ones,  making sure that the strongest of the herds survive, and so making the herd stronger through this type of selective breeding." At Yellowstone National Park when the Wolf population disappeared, populations of these herds multiplied to overabundance, ended up over grazing the land, creating a food shortages and resulting in the deaths of many animals. "Now that Wolves have been reintroduced the balance is even again."  Wolves will often go for days without food, and then gorge themselves when they make a kill, leaving only scraps for the Ravens.  In fact, Ravens and Crows will often lead Wolves to a food source so that they can share in the kill.

Wolves run in packs, where in only the dominant male and female produce offspring once a year.  The rest of the pack does not reproduce.  The pack size is usually fairly small, with about 12 members.  Wolves also have established territories which control the Wolf population, depending on the amount of available food.  When a Wolf is old enough it may leave the pack to form its own pack or be forced out.  If a Wolf is forced out of a pack it has a difficult time surviving, because it takes a pack to take down an Elk, Deer or Moose.

Wolves are a threat to humans because they are at the top of the food chain and therefore in direct competition with us. This is obviously the source of the fear in regards to Wolves, who have in past been forced to kill livestock because we so very efficiently killed off  most of the Buffalo, a major food source for them.   The Wolf's fur also became prized as a  trophy to signify bravery, and Wolves were hunted merely for sport even when they were of no threat, and so it seems they still are.


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One step forward two steps back: The survival dance

For some reason  I was thinking about Bumblebees today.  I do not really recall what led my thinking in that direction but I realized that I had only seen one Bumblebee in the last five years or so. That was last year as I  was watching a Merlin catch it midair. Perhaps it was the Merlin in the warehouse the other day that triggered the memory of seeing it. Regardless, I used to see Bumblebees quite often when I lived in Winnipeg and in northern Ontario, and also as a child in Germany.   In fact I used to see a lot of things that I no longer see, like certain Butterflies for instance and some native plant species.  Perhaps its a side effect of birdwatching that leads me to notice these things, but when I went online today to check out my favorite sites, I stumbled across some interesting articles in regards to Butterflies, Bumblebees and Bees.  Here are the links:

It seems that due to the extensive use of pesticides and herbicides some of these creatures are in danger of extinction, or may in fact already be extinct, just as the Peregrine Falcon very nearly was.  The good news is that in Britain they have managed to bring one species of butterfly back from the brink.  This of course is really good news to me.  In fact its great.  It is a step forward in reversing some of the damage we have caused, and I have heard other such stories which are very encouraging.

Yet it is disturbing to know that because of our prejudice against certain species of plants and insects, or because we are defending against them as some would have it, we are thoughtlessly killing off the most beneficial species in the bargain. Bees and Bumblebees after all pollinate some of the plants that we grow to eat. I say thoughtlessly, because the fact is we know very little about the effects of these poisonous chemicals beyond the fact that they kill the "pest" we are struggling with. God only knows what the long term use of these poisons do to other wildlife and humans for that matter, and yet we produce more of them every single day.      

We do not however, have to make use of them. There are environmentally friendly herbicides and pesticide  and/or methods that can be used.  I used to dig up the thistles in my garden by hand and pour salt down into the hole where the root was to discourage their return, and it worked very well.  Of course it was work.  I did get pricked by  thistle thorns on occasion, and it would have been much easier to spray a herbicide around, but I preferred not to, especially when I was pregnant, my children were small and because I have no wish to breathe in the chemical fumes myself.  Using environmentally friendly products and methods might yet reverse the decline of Bumblebees, Bees and/or other species beneficial to humans and I encourage anyone and everyone to do so.  Follow these links for more info:

link... http://sustainableliving.about.com/

The other thing that really disturbs and puzzles me, is that there are those who, though educated, for what ever reason stubbornly refuse to see, or admit that humans are having an adverse affect on this world, and that we are endangering ourselves. People who refuse to take action or  undermine the efforts of others to do so.  The only conclusion that I can draw is that those who claim there is no danger, must either be in serious denial, are seriously optimistic about the earth's ability to recover, are misinformed, have their heads stuck firmly in the sand, or are worshiping at the temple of  mighty money.  These people take one step back, or hold the rest of us back, when we urgently need to move forward to help the wildlife and the earth to recover.  Seriously, the longer you let your house go the longer and harder it is to clean up, or at some point it is condemned.  The same holds true for our world.

All you have to do is open your eyes and really look around you to see the evidence for yourself.  You will see, water levels are either rising or drying up, you will notice unusual or extreme  weather changes, you will see that people are struggling to breathe.  You will notice just how dirty and polluted rivers and lakes have become. If you then open up your other senses, you will hear silence where you  might have heard the song of a specific bird as a child, a droning bumble bee, the croak of a frog or the call of a hawk. You should also notice that the water does not taste good and isn't clear,  that the river where you might once have  fished is no longer abundantly populated with the fish you used to catch. That the grass, trees and bushes at the local park , on street meridians or around your town are burned by pollution or chemicals which feel strange and gross on  the skin, giving off a smell that  burns and tingles at the back of your throat and clings to your nostrils, or are covered in the residue smog. By all means do some research.You will hear that glaciers all over the world are receding, and the polar ice caps are melting. You will hear, or discover that many species of wildlife and marine life are now extinct and that many others are due to follow.

It has not been that long since I was a child, it worries me that wildlife is disappearing at such rapid pace that I should take notice. Does it not worry you? Do you not wonder how this will affect you? Your children and grandchildren?


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Nov 19, 2009

Birds always bring me joy

Two days at work and two birds visit. I was delighted. I always get a little down in winter, partly because the amount of available sunlight is limited and partly because the number of birds I am able to observe is way down. Raptors and Ravens are my favorite birds, and no doubt will be until the day that I die, although I enjoy watching the antics of all birds. Raptors were the first birds to capture my attention and so will always be special in that regard. Ravens are just pure magic to watch both in the air and on the ground.

They are aerial acrobats, willing to take on any threat including Eagles and Hawks flying too close to their nests. They are survivors who will fly long distances in search of food. At my old work place there was a Raven too, he and his mate had learned to hunt pigeons, and stayed in the city year round rather than leave for the forests as most members of the corvus family seem to do each year. Ravens are also very intelligent and seem to have a sense of humor. They will learn to speak many words if they hang around humans long enough and will mimic the voices of other wildlife as well. For about six months this particular Raven and I seemed, to be playing a game on a daily basis.  I would go outside for my break, he would watch me until I reached into my pocket for my camera, then just as I would turn it on he would pull his disappearing act by flying off over a building or ducking behind it. While this was frustrating, it was funny as well. I don't know if he just didn't like the sound of my camera, was playing catch me if you can or hide and seek, but when I received a new and quieter camera I was rewarded with a few great shots of him after all. Funny thing is he was as content to watch me as I was to watch him, until that camera was brought out.

This little Merlin visited us today by flying into the warehouse after a pigeon who was in desperate need to escape its claws and hunger. Merlins and Prairie Hawks do not migrate in winter as most hawks do. So I do get lucky and see them quite often, when I do a little walking, and they seem to do quite well in the city, at least for now. I do not know why Raptors are so special to me, except that they seems to appear around me all the time. The first Raptor I ever saw was a red tailed Kite. I was staring out the window of my classroom one day when I was seven or eight years old as a child in Germany, because I was quite simply bored with what the teacher was teaching. When I spotted the bird and pointed it out to the teacher with great delight, she told the class that sadly this particular bird was almost completely extinct in Germany and that we should enjoy the sight of it as we might never see it again. The rest of the class session turned into a discussion of birds and wildlife, which I found fascinating and interesting. My interest was not unusual as I had a habit of disappearing on both my parents and my grandmother while I explored the local canals, country roads and ponds. I'm sure it was of some serious concern and frustration for them but it brought me joy, and I would often drag my sisters with me to do so. I did see that Kite several more times before we moved to Canada, so I am grateful for that, but I do not know if the species managed to survive to fly the skies in Germany. I certainly hope that they did.

If you wish to learn more about Raven and Merlin follow these links:



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Aerial Dance: A challenge

It was one of those sheer, wondrous moments in life that  you just know one is not likely to experience again.

Naturally because I love bird watching I am always looking up at the sky.  Once, when I was working near a local golf course, I was outside on my break when I looked up and saw a dozen or so huge birds gliding on the thermals. To me the observer it looked just like an aquatic dance that was taking place in the air above me.  I was immediately, captivated, fascinated and delighted, and of course  very reluctant to go back in to work.

Blue Heron

I watched them through my binoculars throughout my break, hoping to identify the birds, but they were too high up for me to identify by sight alone. When I went back in to work and shared the experience with my co-workers, I was jokingly asked what I'd been smoking, which only intensified my need to know.  This was a mystery for me that just had to be solved. What species of bird could fly with such harmony, artistry, precision and beauty?

Naturally when I got home after work, I did some research and learned that some of the larger bird species, like storks and cranes, ride the thermals during migration because long distance flight through the expedient of flapping their wings was difficult for them to sustain.  I did not find a lot of information however, and never did find out what species of bird I saw dancing in the sky.  If you have any knowledge of this I encourage you to please share it with me, as I am burning to know.


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Nov 17, 2009

Global warming: We need to act now

My daughter once moved away to a smaller town for a while and every time she came for a visit she would comment on how the city stinks.  I never gave it much thought, but when I returned from a trip to Alaska where the air is still relatively clean I realized that she had spoken the truth.  It took me a couple of days to adjust to the smell of the pollution caused by the city's population.  Of course the smell was stronger because it was cold when I returned and the pollution sat closer to the ground.  I noticed that for about a week I was really tired while my body adjusted to the change in atmosphere and I had little appetite.  I have also noticed that in some of the places that I go to watch hawks and other birds around the city, if I take pictures the haze of pollution shows up in them quite noticeably depending on the angel of the light.  To cut to the chase, I have been seriously considering  moving to a smaller community.

But because I am just now learning a great deal about the impact human activity has on the natural world, the wildlife and the environment, I realized if we all moved  to smaller communities to escape city pollution, we would only be spreading the pollution through our present activities, which would solve nothing at all.  In fact doing so would put further strain on the environment and the wildlife whose habitat would be forever changed, or destroyed entirely. I do not really need to know exactly how everything on this planet is intertwined, I just know that it is.  There are, however, people that do know something about it who can explain it to you.  Of these people David Suzuki is one who I greatly admire.  You can go here to read about his concerns in regards to our oceans and explanations of the cause and effect of global warming:

Also consider the following:
News:Global carbon emissions are up

MORE NEWS: Politician trying to axe legislation for environmental improvements

Over the past few years I've also heard a lot of talk about managing your life and your finances.  Well what about managing our environment? What do you do if you've somehow messed up your finances for example and find yourself in serious debt?  Do you not immediately set out to correct the problem once you have discovered it?  Do you not tighten your belt by spending less, create a new budget and put away your credit cards until the problem has been resolved? Or do you ignore the problem and hope that it goes away, only to have it get to the point where you find yourself in a financial stranglehold?

As a whole we humans are very intelligent but we have a lot to learn about the consequences of our actions.
It is time we woke up to the fact that, without meaning to, we really messed up our environment and nothing short of immediate action is required to correct the problems that were created. While it is true that there is much you can do at home to help in this regard, much more still needs to be done.  It seems to me that the need for more aggressive action by  the governments of the world is a critical factor here in getting results and a real push needs to be made in that direction.  From all I hear we are not making much progress in staving off the effects of global warming, for instance, and the wildlife and marine life is still dying out at too great a rate, when it shouldn't be dying out at all, except as nature dictates. We are not, and never have been separate from the chain of life!!  We need to make this clear to governments everywhere, along with the fact that we need to fix  the damage to the environment now.

With the Copenhagen climate summit fast approaching,  more of us need to lobby governments, both as individuals and in groups to make our demand for action very clear.  It is true that there are already groups working hard and doing the lobbying like the WWF for example, but it doesn't seem to be enough.  Already there is some talk that the Copenhagen summit will fail to produce some of the desired results, but it is still not too late to make our presence and demands known.  It is not too late to save this planet and its inhabitants, but there just might come a time when it will be, if we do nothing.

Think about it, where would we all go if the earth were to be destroyed through our actions?  I agree with David Suzuki, it is not as though there is another planet handy in our universe that  is both readily available and inhabitable, and at the same time uninhabited.


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About the Flu

They are calling  this flu outbreak a pandemic, but is it really?  Each year thousands of people come down with the flu, and sadly many die of it, and  this year will be no different.  However, there is no evidence that thousands are dying of this particular flu in each of the communities around the world. If the death toll were in the hundreds of thousands calling it a pandemic would be justified, but it is not.  So it is strange  that it is being called just that.  What is even stranger is the fact that people who are getting the flu shot are being asked to fill out forms before they get the shot.  This has never been done before.  When last I took my children for shots all that was required was their health care cards. Even more upsetting however, is that the attempt is being made to force people into getting the H1N1 vaccine with a threat of losing their livelihoods. So what is really happening here?

Nov 13, 2009

The slaughter

Whales the gentle giants of the world's oceans and dolphins the friendly and playful children of the seas are still being slaughtered indiscriminately in Denmark and Japan, apparently on a yearly basis.  In my innocence I had thought that these species were now protected world wide as many different species of whale and dolphins are on the endangered species list or nearly extinct.  So why are these people still killing them and  in such a brutal manner?  They are not defending themselves from a threat presented by these mammals, as there is none.  They are not killing in a controlled manner to manage an out of control population of the same. There is no longer a need to hunt and kill  for survival; especially in these countries, just as there is no longer any respect in regards to mother nature, nor appreciation for her bounty.  Are they killing them in ignorance or in defiance? I do not know.

Nov 4, 2009

The environment: Our responsibility

As the most intelligent species on this planet we need to assume the responsibility of managing our environment and to safeguard it to ensure not only our survival, but the survival of all the other species  with whom we share this world.   

Last year I was observing a blue heron that had visited a local city park.  I saw the beautiful bird leave the pond to eliminate bodily waste, before returning to the pond to resume its hunt for food.  I was very surprised by this, as it does not seem as though birds are capable of such intelligent and responsible action, but it made a lot of sense to me. If the bird were to eliminate waste in the pond his food source would surely die and the pond now polluted would produce no more. Witnessing the bird's action got me thinking, and thinking turned to caring and awareness. My interest in birds and nature became directly linked to caring about the environment, in that I began to notice just how much garbage was left in the pond by visiting families to the park. My research on specific bird types led to associations that voiced concerns about bird habitats and the effects of global warming on the different species of birds. From there issues of environment, wildlife habitat and our global environment snow balled for me.