- The year began with the horror of the Elk River chemical spill, but the end of the year brought good news: the (insert your favorite insulting noun) officers of the company responsible for the disaster have been indicted on a variety of criminal charges, with one of them facing nearly seventy years in prison if convicted. While my less-than-charitable side objects to public funds being used to support the being whose negligence has already cost millions of taxpayer dollars and who knows how many non-human lives (couldn't we just submerge him in the Elk River in, say, late January, and leave him there?), I am gratified to think that he is likely never again to enjoy his ill-gotten gains.
- At least one fairydiddle found its way to Parkersburg.
- I learned what baby mourning doves look like.
- I finally got to experience Magee Marsh during the spring warbler migration.
- The grass garden came into its own, as documented in a variety of posts.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
2014 was the year of slackery on this blog. It got off to a good start during the polar vortex and the following much-welcomed spring, but a busy semester and general brain fog led to a slowing down once the fall term began. A review of what did find its way into writing, however, reveals that life did indeed happen.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
The juncos, that is. The appearance of little white-bellied ground-feeders is a sure sign that winter is here, even though the calendar gives us a few more days until the solstice. Accompanying the slate-colored winter residents are white-crowned sparrows and what I think may have been a pine siskin, along with the usual suspects: chickadees, cardinals, titmice, doves, and the no-longer-very-golden goldfinches.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Am I the only person distressed at the sight of bags of leaves lining nearly every street on trash day? I get that cleanliness is next to godliness and that wet leaves pose a hazard when walking, but--every leaf rounded up, encased in black plastic, and sent to a landfill? Do most people know what is in those bags?
- Leaves are the providers of fertility. That wonderful deep soil of the world's great forests was provided by millennia of fallen leaves, broken down by thousands of generations of all the tiny organisms that provide decomposition services and keep the planet from becoming one great reeking mass of corpses. Few of us live in cabins in forest clearings anymore, but that fertility can be shared with our own gardens, just by finding a place where those leaves can break down naturally.
- Leaves are habitat. Millions of small creatures live in leaf litter, including salamanders, toads, and baby bumblebee queens, who get only one shot at surviving the winter and establishing a new colony in the spring. If we freeze or landfill all the new queens, there will be no bumblebees for next year's pollination. In addition, many of the birds that so many people love to watch rummage through leaf litter in search of insects and spiders. Birds need protein, not just the seeds we put in our feeders when we remember to do so.
- Leaves are the nurseries of life. Entomologist Doug Tallamy notes in Bringing Nature Home that oaks alone support 534 species of lepidoptera (that's butterflies and moths, folks). Eggs are laid on leaves, overwinter, and in the spring hatch into caterpillars that sometimes become butterflies and sometimes become bird food. Baby chickadees are 100% dependent on caterpillars for food. When we trash our leaves, we are ending millions of lives before they even get to start.