February 7, 2010
I woke to a SciDev editorial entitled “Biodiversity loss matters, and communication is crucial” by David Dickson (http://www.scidev.net/en/editorials/biodiversity-loss-matters-and-communication-is-crucial.html?utm_source=link&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=en_editorials ). Casting about for a purpose for the last third or so of my life, it strikes me that aiding biodiversity in my own small way is probably the most useful thing I can do. Hence this blog on some of the varying species noticed in my little corner of the world—specifically, Parkersburg, West Virginia.
For those unfamiliar with the Mid-Ohio Valley, it’s not the “Almost Heaven” part of West Virginia that John Denver sang about (and the geography of which the song got wrong). This is a highly industrialized part of Appalachia, a fact which has had both positive and negative results. Dupont is here, along with other chemical companies, a phenomenon that has brought reasonable prosperity and a population that includes a fair percentage of highly educated people. My neighborhood, for example, runs heavily to teachers and engineers, many retired, who serve the community by volunteering for various educational and arts organizations. They’ve planted or encouraged native tree species in their yards and created a haven for songbirds in the middle of one of West Virginia’s largest towns. On the down side, because the chemical plants were here years before anyone thought of emissions reduction, we have been for decades a highly polluted part of the country. I personally have been part of a federal study examining the relationship between manganese levels and cognitive functioning, and people here joke about the “Ohio Valley Crud,” the breathing problems that plague almost everyone in the area. We have, like everyplace else, lost species (I personally mourn never having seen a Carolina parakeet), but my task (at least as currently envisioned—who knows what will cross the mind of a middle-aged woman who’s been told she has ADD) will be to chronicle some of what remains.
Snow days are a good time to write of birds. My first cup of coffee yesterday was accompanied by the song of a house wren in the rhododendron beside the porch. In terms of numbers, the day probably brought more European starlings than anything else, but Saturday was a good day at the feeders. Let me end with a partial species list (starlings excluded):
Assorted LBBs (little brown birds, for the uninitiated)
We have no doubt lost many birds over the years, but those that remain represent a glorious variety worth preserving.