30 July 2011

Lesson Learned

About three weeks ago, I tried to photograph some Cooper's hawks that had been flying over the house. They had a nest close by, and I took a number of walks with my camera in hopes of getting a good picture.

However, the birds were flighty, and I couldn't get any decent photos. Once, when I was walking without my camera of course, I got a pretty good look at one. At that moment, I decided to end my quest for a photo. (Obviously, the birds were playing with me and didn't really want their pictures taken. Plus, I didn't want to disturb them while they were nesting.)

Putting a stop to my pursuit irritated me a little bit because it meant not achieving my goal, and I really don't like failure.

Today, all that effort and agitation turned silly when one of the fledgling hawks flew by my window twice and landed on the rail outside. Although I had to take the pictures through the glass, I got some pretty satisfactory shots (in fact, some of the most detailed I have of any bird).

The encounter reminded me that when interacting with the other parts of the environment, I can't always have it my way, but it also hinted at how nature likes a little patience.

29 July 2011

Garden Native: Part Two

In May, I talked about resources for finding and using native plants in gardening. Here's another one for Puget Sound-area residents: Sound Native Plants.

Sound Native Plants, based in Olympia, sells plants that are native to the area, offers consultation and education about native plants, and works on restoration projects. Additionally, to do its part for sustainability, the company's Web site is powered by wind energy.

My mom bought a vine maple from Sound Native Plants this spring, and it is taking root in her yard as I type. It should be a pretty sight this fall.

28 July 2011

Jarring Experience

A Seattle coyote is free from a mayonnaise jar after two men helped remove the jar from its head.

Way to go, Roel Garcia and Jeff Bryant. Thanks for caring.

Watch this great story below. Along with providing a piece of good news, it gives a reminder of the afterlife trash can have after we are done with it. It's another reason why reduce is the most important of the three Rs.


25 July 2011

Book 'em

Two months ago, a new photography book about Pacific Northwest birds was published. Our Northwest Birds & Habitat is a visual celebration of both the Northwest and its birds.

The authors, Craig and Joy Johnson, are dedicated to protecting birds, and they use the book to share some great photographs of their avian experiences. The Johnsons also have a Web site.

For more information about the book, click here 

20 July 2011

Steller Anniversary

Today is the 270th anniversary of Georg Wilhelm Steller documenting one of my favorite birds.

On July 20, 1741, Steller, as part of Vitus Bering's Second Kamchatka Expedition, landed on Kayak Island in Alaska. He convinced Bering to stay longer than the captain had intended, and while there, he became the first European naturalist to record the existence of the Steller's jay.

I used to think blue jays were prettier and wished they lived where I did, but I have grown to prefer the Steller's jay. The Steller's jay has subtler coloring than the blue jay, and that is where its beauty lies. I love how the blue blends to black toward the bird's head, and the placement of the stripes above the eyes is a nice finishing touch. Of course, the Steller's jay also possesses the attitude, wiliness, and raucousness common to jays, so it has a big personality.

Steller's jays have a wide range, but to me, they are definitely a symbol of the Pacific Northwest. It's great to be called out by one of them as I walk through a forest. It always brings a smile to my face.

19 July 2011

Flying Food for Thought

Usually, I don't have great expectations for the reading available behind the seats on planes, but recently, I found something quite interesting and useful in one of those offerings.

The magazine had a preview of a book that will come out October 18. Written by Jennifer Reese, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter investigates whether it is more cost effective to make or buy various foods and snacks. The book also includes recipes.

Besides its potential to help people save money, I like the idea of this book because it is tied to quality of life, health, sustainability, and waste. In general, the less prepackaged stuff we buy, the healthier we are and the less trash we have.

By chronicling her experiences, Reese gives us some good food for thought. Think about getting this book when it comes out. I know it's on my radar.

Reese also has a blog. If you are interested in it, click here.

18 July 2011

Five for Starting

Earlier in the month, I gave my top five reasons for addressing global warming. Now, I want to give five things people can do to help address it.

You'll see different versions of this list everywhere, but I want to give those who are starting out on this task something to get the process going. With that in mind, hopefully, you'll find most of these steps closely connected.

1. Calculate your carbon footprint. This will get you started and give you a baseline from which to work. Various carbon footprint calculators exists. If you have trouble finding one, refer to my post about The Nature Conservancy's calculator.

2. Make a list of things you do that use energy sources like electricity and gas. Using a carbon footprint calculator can help with this list because as you answer the questions for the calculation, you can note the sources of energy consumption the calculator includes.

3. Use the list from the second suggestion to make plans to cut energy use (use power strips to turn off appliances when you aren't using them; use fluorescent light bulbs; take shorter showers). The carbon footprint calculator can help with this list too.

4. Drive less by consolidating trips, walking, bicycling, and/or taking public transportation.

5. Contact your elected officials and ask them to create legislation that limits carbon emissions. This last suggestion is a little different than the others, but it is important because it deals with the larger system. It's great if individuals are doing their part, but the society as a whole must be set up to limit emissions, and elected officials are the ones responsible for that. For information about how to contact your elected officials, click here. The link allows you to find and contact officials, including the president, members of Congress, governors, and members of your state's legislature. Don't underestimate the impact of contacting these officials. Please let them know it's important to you that they address global warming with legislation.

16 July 2011

Big Moves

September is shaping up to be a big month for action on global warming. My previous post was about Al Gore's "24 Hours of Reality." Today, I'll talk about Moving Planet, which is a rally scheduled to take place September 24.

The purpose of Moving Planet is to show world leaders the amount of support people have for moving off fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming by producing greenhouse gases. People are encouraged to organize local events (that are all connected under the Moving Planet idea) and to arrive at those events without the use of fossil fuels. Walking, biking, and skateboarding would be great alternatives to driving to the event. To find a local event near you, click here. If you'd like information on creating your own event, click here.

Also, Moving Planet comes two days after World Carfree Day, which takes place every year on September 22. Plan ahead, and make arrangements (walking, biking, public transportation) so you don't have to use your car that day either.

I think it's great that Gore's event, Moving Planet, and World Carfree Day are happening so close to each other. That should add to their overall impact. Let's help that happen.

13 July 2011

Al In

Al Gore, whose An Inconvenient Truth helped refocus people's attention on global warming, is back at work. This time, he's trying to make the push that finally produces laws that limit greenhouse gases.

Gore is readying the planet for a September 14-15 event that attempts to tie together public awareness, science, and political momentum. "24 Hours of Reality" involves presentations from around the world describing the local impacts global warming has had.

Check out the video promotion of the event below and visit the Web site for more information.

12 July 2011

Sound of Summer

Summer isn't my favorite season, but it does open up many chances to experience nature and attend environment-related events.

If you're a western Washington native or will be visiting the Puget Sound region this summer, you might want to check out the happenings at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, which borders the sound.

This summer, lots of events are taking place at the refuge. There is a summer lecture series that runs through August 24 and a catalog of weekend nature programs through September 24. The topics for the lectures and programs vary greatly and include birding, photography, grizzly bears, and earthquakes. Events are free, but the refuge has an entrance fee of $3 per four adults. Such fees are important to keeping parks and refuges going, and their importance has only grown with cuts in tax revenue and funding.

For additional information about the refuge's operations, go to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's site.

If you attend one of the summer events, don't forget to get a few looks at Puget Sound while you're there and be sure to also check in on the work that has recently been done at the refuge. In 2009, dikes surrounding much of the area were removed to allow the natural estuary to reclaim what had been lost when the land was converted for farming in the late 19th century. For more information on the project to restore the Nisqually Delta, click here.

02 July 2011

Close Enough

When we think about positive encounters with nature, skunks probably aren't the first animals that come to mind. Still, in the last two days, I have had close, non-smelly interactions with skunks.

Two days ago, while I was walking, I came across three skunks, and yesterday, I saw another. What amazed me about the experiences was how unconcerned the animals were. The one in the picture allowed me to get quite close to it. In fact, I don't know if I have ever gotten closer to a healthy wild animal that was aware of my presence. I didn't try to push the animal past the limits of its comfort, but I was able to get within about 12 feet.

It was very exciting to cross paths with these animals--such an unexpectedly cool experience. I think it shows that even some of nature's more notorious elements can give us a lift.

I apologize that the picture isn't perfect. I was holding a dog leash in one hand and the camera in the other, and despite its apparent calmness, I didn't feel like asking the skunk to pose for me. I just let it go about its business, and it tolerated me.

01 July 2011

My Top Five

This week, I was encouraged to think about and communicate the reasons it is important to me that we address global warming. Because I am a fan of the movie High Fidelity, I feel it is appropriate to express those reasons as a top five.

1. Addressing global warming improves our relationship with the planet because it requires cutting pollution from greenhouse gas emissions.

2. I feel a responsibility to the other inhabitants of the planet to stop the global effects of warming.

3. I feel a connection to the place I grew up, and I don't want to see it changed significantly by something we can stop.

4. I want to protect the species that are threatened with extinction by warming.

5. I want to feel the excitement of taking a new path of energy use and production.

Do you have a top five reasons to address global warming? What's important to you? How will it be affected by warming?