Magpies, Al Gore and Climate Change

I’ve been gone for a few days and out of touch with the world. But I knew that Al Gore and the scientists who study global climate change would receive the Nobel Peace Prize while I was gone. A Magpie told me. Actually, the Magpie only told me that Al Gore and the scientists are right: The climate is warming and faster than it ought to. I figured the rest out for myself. blackbilledmagpie12.JPG

Magpies, in many mythologies, are messenger birds; able to transcend time and space and communicate with worlds unseen by us. They can fly to the heavens and receive messages which they bring back to earth. They’ve been in North America since long before humanity arrived here. Their range was once as extensive as that of the bison. They followed the great bison herds as they ranged throughout the current western United States.

The Magpies, now that I look back on it, have been telling me for years that the climate is warming. But I need to back up a bit. My family – for three generations now – has been the privileged custodian of an old cabin in a canyon of the southern Rocky Mountains. The cabin itself is more than 100 years old and the trees which were used to make it probably another century older than that. When I first made the annual pilgrimage I was a baby and have no conscious memory of the Magpies. But, by the time I was eight or nine years old, I delighted in seeing them. We lived outside their range and so saw them only during our summer vacation as we approached the cabin. In those days, the northern extent of their local range was about 20 miles south of the cabin.

But over just the short span of my life, the Magpies have moved north and, more important, up into the Canyon. Unless you look back more than four decades, the movement was imperceptible. But now the Magpies live a mere six and a half miles from the cabin. They have reduced their range 15 miles north and 1000 feet upward. The Magpie I saw yesterday was further north than I have ever seen one and was at least a mile further up-canyon than last year.

The only reason for their movement is that the climate here is warming. Magpies don’t do well when temperatures rise to 35 degrees centigrade (95 Degrees Fahrenheit) for more than an hour or so a day. They move upward to cooler temperatures to stay alive and are well adapted to colder temperatures. The only reason for the speed of the Magpies’ upward move is that the earth is warming faster than it would be without Homo Sapiens Sapiens adding carbon dioxide to the air at breakneck speed. It may be news to humans, but not to the Magpies. They’ve known for a long time.


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