Posts Tagged ‘bald eagle’

Brown Pelicans

January 9, 2010

From this morning’s Washington Post comes news that some Brown Pelicans have recruited humans in Maryland to feed them during the winter. The pelicans forgot to migrate, a mistake from which they would not normally recover. Brown Pelicans belong on the Gulf Coast in winter, not the northern Atlantic seaboard.

The pelicans are causing consternation among the wildlife officials in Maryland who know that a Brown Pelican who forgets to migrate has no business passing along its genes. Natural selection has no patience with that kind of oversight. But nobody wants to watch pelicans freezing to death and buried somewhere in humanity’s genes lies an urge to help individual animals in trouble.

Still, it isn’t nice to mess with Mother Nature.

Bald Eagle Surveys Its Domain

As David Farenthold writes, “In the wild, after all, evolution doesn’t give mulligans.” (Not only is Farenthold’s article full of good information, it is quite well written. It is worth your time to click through and read it. It’s better than what you’re reading here. Not all nature journalism is as good which is why I go out of my way to praise the piece.)

Taken as a whole, of course, we spend more time destroying animals’ habitats and rendering the planet unsuitable for them than we do caring for individuals.

That there are forty or so Brown Pelicans in Maryland which need rescuing is a success story of sorts. We almost killed the entire species because of our aversion to vampire bugs, a/k/a mosquitoes.

DDT was the culprit and it did exactly the same thing to Brown Pelican eggs as it did to the eggs of Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons.  DDT doesn’t kill honestly, it eliminates calcium from the birds’ egg shells which then break under the weight of the incubating parent. The parent doesn’t die, it just can’t reproduce.

Peregrine Falcon Eggs

In the United States, despite howls of protest from the insecticide corporations, we got rid of DDT in time and the Brown Pelican, like the eagles and falcons, are recovering and have been removed from the Endangered Species list.

That is not true for other places in the world, even in the Americas. Friends flew to Mexico some years ago and, before being allowed to deplane, had to stay in the plane while someone came through spraying DDT. They tried to hold their breath.

We take no position on the conundrum involved in feeding animals that forgot to migrate.  We’re not allowed to. We kept Chuck, the Greater Roadrunner alive, and are now helping one of his offspring get through the winter. The youngster comes around about this time every day; in fact, the writing of this post was interrupted while I took him a mouse.

Those rescuers in Maryland are in for a busy winter. I see no reason to think that a Brown Pelican eats less than a seagull which puts me in mind of E.B. White who once raised a baby seagull. He wrote about that bird which, White said, “. . . eats twice his own weight in food every ten minutes, and if he doesn’t get it he screams.” And Brown Pelicans can live for twenty years. Hopefully, they will learn from this experience and move south next year. Otherwise, many more busy winters loom for the rescuers.

Pelicans like anchovies. Maybe the people can order lots of anchovy pizzas and share with the birds.

The Brown Pelican photograph is by Kevin Bercaw. The other photographs are ours. You can find E.B. White’s story of the baby seagull in his essay “Hot Weather” republished in One Man’s Meat.

For more blogging about the Brown Pelicans and the issues raised by helping them, see this post.

The 2009 National Wildlife Photo Contest

December 3, 2009

We’re back to share with you some of the winners from this year’s National Wildlife Federation photography contest winners. Not only are the photos great, each has something to teach us about the natural world.

As we noted last time, Rob Palmer of Colorado won the Grand Prize in this contest as well as the London Museum of Natural History’s prize.  In that photo, a Bald Eagle was about to dine on a Red-winged Blackbird.  In this one, a Bald Eagle is about to eat a Starling.

Rob Palmer

The lesson about nature from this photo is easily summarized: Starlings lack rear-view mirrors.

Next we have this photo, of another Starling, made by Karen Bloodworth. From it we learn that Starlings not only lack rear view mirrors: When young, they are easily confused about who is supposed to feed them.

Karen Bloodworth

Next is a photo made by Patricia Kline.  The Halloween message is clear:  Protect your pumpkins from Barn Owls wearing masks. That is a Barn Owl, right?

Patricia Kline

We leave you with this one, shot by Marcia Olinger.

Marcia Olinger

Two possibilites exist about nature’s lesson in this photo.  One hypothesis is that squirrels can’t read.  Or perhaps they can read, but are scofflaws.  Either way, signs warning them to keep away from the bird food won’t work.

You can see all the winners here and we recommend spending a few minutes with them. All of them remind us that we are not separate from nature, but a part of it.  Here is an article about the contest with larger photos but be patient, sometimes it takes a long time to load.

If the squirrels are eating the bird food you put out, here is a squirrel-proof feeder that doesn’t care if they can read.

Prize Winning Bird Photos

November 30, 2009

Last week, ravaged by pink eye, I lay in bed, scarce caring whether I lived or died.  Only Hilda, my toothless old Mother, bothered to bring me food and quinine.  When, at last, my strength began to return, Hilda brought me my computer.  With her old, red gums clashing she told me she had found me wildlife pictures to aid in my recovery, just like she used to do when I was a child and came down with the scurvy.  Mine was a poor childhood, without even Vitamin C to fortify me for the twenty-mile uphill trudge — both ways — to school through the driving blizzards.  Often I was lost for weeks at a time.

In the days of renewed vigor following my illness, I learned from the computer of the results of two wildlife photography contests which, with my increasing energy I am now able to tell you about by weakly click-clicking away on this keyboard.

In the first contest, run by the Museum of Natural History in far off London, a place I could only dream about during my poverty-encrusted childhood out on the endless prairies, Rob Palmer of Colorado, USA, won for this photo of a Bald Eagle snatching a Red-winged Blackbird out of the air. We’ve told you before about Palmer who is one of our favorite photographers of birds.

Rob Palmer

Palmer’s photo wasn’t the only bird photo that won a prize.  Several others were also winners. Here is one from Finland, a place almost as cold and dark in the winter as my childhood home.  That is a wolf approaching some carrion, driving Ravens and Magpies from his path. I remember the wolves howling as they tried to run me down when I plodded home from school during dark evenings.

Seppo Pollanen

I often shared my childhood home in the cliffs above the Yukon River with Peregrine Falcons.  Shivering there in the cold, I wished they would share their kills with me, but they never did, so I existed on rutabagas. Over in England a single Peregrine can cause panic among thousands of starlings, as in this photo.  The falcon is out of the photo on the left but you can see the wave of starlings departing.

Danny Green

Another prize winner, this one from France, reminds me of my childhood home deep in the Everglades.  Every so often I could take my eyes off the water-moccasin infested swamp long enough to glance into the trees where I would be rewarded with a glimpse of a woodpecker.  Like this photograph, that was long ago, when the world itself was still only in black and white, not like now with all the pretty colors.

David Hackel and Michel Poinsignon

Finally, my strength begins to wane — I’m not the man I once was you know — I leave you with another of the London prize winners.  This one doesn’t have a bird in it at all, but I include it because it reminds me of the jackals on the African savannah that used to hunt me as I slogged across the endless Serengeti on my way to school each day.

Lorenz Andreas Fischer

If I live long enough, we’ll be back next time with the winners of the other photo contest.

Congratulations to Rob Palmer. And, here is a hint about the next contest we’re going to cover; Palmer won that one too.


Sharp-eyed readers will notice the shameless plagiarism of E.B. White in the first three and a half sentences.  Most of that was lifted from his essay, “Fierce Pajamas” which you can find in The New Yorker book of the same name at page 7.  I stole the idea of simply lifting somebody else’s sentences — just to get started, you understand — from Steve Martin’s “Writing is Easy!” in the same book.

Under the Radar

March 23, 2008

Presidential administrations do much under the radar of the news media.  Bureaucratic regulations and decisions are not the stuff of headlines or a 20 minute evening news broadcast.  An article today in the Washington Post demonstrates the importance to wildlife of some of these bureaucratic decisions.  For instance, the Lake Sammamish kokanee was refused an “emergency” listing on the Endangered Species list by the current administration.  The last member of the species died in 2001.  It is now extinct.  Just last year a species of pygmy rabbits became extinct after the Department of Interior refused to protect critical habitat.

While Bald Eagles are doing well in most places, they are not in the Arizona Sonoran Desert.  It took a court order to make the Fish and Wildlife Service relist them as threatened — in spite of the agency’s own internal documents indicating that they should be relisted.

No matter what your politics, the article is important.  Farmers, ranchers, land-owners and some businesses resist environmental bureaucracies because they can slow — and, in some cases, stop — money-making developments.  Hunters, fishers, and birders are often on the other side, believing that nature should be left to herself as much as possible and protected from the ravages of mankind.  These are complicated issues, often resolved far from the public’s eyes.  Elections matter.

SOURCE: Center for Biological Diversity | Photo by William Radke, Graphic by The Washington Post – March 23, 2008

Crows and Ravens, Part VI

January 29, 2008

We unaccountably missed the December episode of “Nature” on PBS about Ravens. Attempting to remedy that mistake we went in search of video from the program and found this short excerpt from the program. Long time readers will know of our admiration for the intelligence of Corvids which increased after watching this Raven contest a Bald Eagle for an avian snack and then go fishing.


Update: We’ve added a category for “Crows and Ravens.” You can find other posts in the series by clicking on that category on the right side of the home page or you can follow these links which will open in a new window:

Part I – Here.

Part II – Here.

Part III – Here.

Part IV – Here.

Part V – Here.

Part VI – Here.

Crows and Ravens – New Caledonian Crows -Breaking News – Here.

New Caledonian Crows Again – Here.

The Nature of Intelligence – Here.

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