Sunday, February 28, 2010

Natural Disasters, Flying Spaghetti Monsters and God.

There is no reason to think that the moaning and groaning of our living planet will cease. Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are stark reminders that our planet is not a hunk of solid rock--it is alive with internal forces that churn underground.  And when one of our tectonic plates lurches instead of slips the earth trembles and shakes: Earthquake! And if that plate lifts upwards under the sea: Tsunami!  So, why, why in a modern age of science and intelligent thought and rational behavior are some preachers - and others - proclaiming these events as the work of a vengeful God dishing out divine punishment to select sections of the masses.  And why do some of us  mumble at times that this is God's plan.  Are we afraid to look at the reality that much of this is beyond our control? Basic geology and the earth sciences explain these events and to state otherwise makes as much sense as  holding the invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster responsible for nature's beauty and natural disasters--events that are disasters because we are in the way of the wave, the volcano, the flood and the trembling earth. Perhaps its time we look at science and make an effort to understand these powerful events and not blame God with irrational escapism thought: I don't fully understand what happened and I can't do anything about"God did it!"  And taking some personal responsbility for disaster preparedness is not a bad idea;perhaps it's the way to go. Government can't do eveything to keep you and me safe. Nor can God ---or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Trillions of snow fleas and a few good squirrels

A few days ago while exploring the trails of Island Lake State Recreation Area in Brighton I had a wildlife encounter that dwarfed the epic wildebeest migrations of East Africa----well, on a much smaller scale.
Snow fleas were on the move, millions, perhaps trillions of these tiny speck-like creatures were trailside, leaping like minature Olympians in search of decaying organic matter. Snow fleas are not true fleas, these  winter active insects are actually springtails, a common, seldomly noted insect. But when they gather to feed and breed and are contrasted against the snow, it is a sight to behold.   And with the help of a few good squirrels their quest for food in a world of  late winter white became easier.  Squirrels were digging through the snow to buried nuts and in the process exposed decaying leaves. And for the snow fleas--that is darn good eating. The springtails would "spring" and leap into the hole and enter the world of fine dining. Nature is always full of surprise and wonder. We just have to look!

Monday, February 22, 2010

To shoot a turkey---or Not

I am not a hunter. Many friends are. A few years ago I gave permission to a friend - a licensed hunter -to try for a turkey in my woods. She did her homework and stalked my woods pre-season to get a feel for the land and signs of turkey. On the morning of her first turkey hunt she arrived way before dawn,way before my coffee time, and went to her  carefully crafted blind of branches, brush and dried golden rod stalks.  She was succesful with her turkey call --and her aim. A few days later later I had my first wild turkey dinner with her family.  In these waning days of February turkey are stalking my woods and visiting my bird feeder. It would be easy for me to take a turkey. Who would know? Who would hear the gunshot? (Yes, I own a 22 rifle, not the weapon of choice for a turkey hunt, but I am a good shot).  It is not the fear of the limited resource of the MDNRE conservation officers that keeps me (and hopefully most) in check. Perhaps the process that regulates human behavior when it comes to the wildlife laws of our state is said best by conservationist Aldo Leopold in his classic, A Sand County Almanac:  "A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience rather than a mob of unlookers."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bird Feeders Entice Four Legged Wildlife

If you feed birds, as I do, you are messing with the ways of nature. Birds that winter in Michigan do not need our handouts. They never do. But bird seed and birdwatching is a big industry!  And I'll keep on feeding for the pleasure it brings--perhaps a selfish motive. Spillage attracts rabbits, voles (a mouse like creature) opposums, skunks and deer.  Just as I was about to sit down to pound out a new blog update - on another topic - I caught a glimpse of motion outside the den window. One by one, five deer wandered up to the feeder and consumed every speck of cracked corn, sunflower and millet. They saw me through the window and ignored my gawking. I did not tell them that feeding deer is against the law.  Are you listening deer?  Are you trying to get me in hot water with the MDNRE? Deer: I did not feed you! You stole the bird seed. But that's OK with me,  for you add a visual hoofed reminder that feeding any species has unintended consequences. And it's the conseqences that sometimes corrupt the ways of nature.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oakland County Parks: They Got It Right! Again.

Kudos to Oakland County Parks with their impending expansion of Independence Oaks County Park with a new land acquisition: 186 acre Upper Bushman Property, a property classified by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory as a Priority 1 natural area for conservation.  In the words of Parks Executive Officer Dan Stencil, "This aquisition will allow for the preservation of nearly 1,000 acres of contiguous habitat in the headwaters of the Clinton River."  The property - which includes a 31 acre lake - is at the northeast corner of  Independence Oaks and is bordered by Sashabaw Road on the east and Oakhill Road to the north and will make Independence Oaks, at 1,274 acres the largest park in their system.  The properties connect tip to tip through pristine wetlands with the possibilty of a hiker's boardwalk connector trail creating dry foot passage for humans. More good news: down the road plans include exploration for a trail along the ITC Transmission Corridor as a north/south connector for  our growing county wide trail network, Oak Routes. Stencil also said, "We are beyond pleased to add this jewel to our system and to be able to preserve it for generations to come." So would  have land ethics conservationist Aldo Leopold, author of the Sand County Almanac, who penned, "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic  community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
Oakland County Parks got this thing right. 
For more info on Oakland County Parks visit:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Supplemental Feeding: For Lions (A Valentine's Day Fleshy Treat)

Supplemental feeding, the practice of feeding species during winter or drought is not uncommon in the USA. Hay bales for elk for example. But when it comes to aiding toothy predators--the squimish squirm: not so in East Africa. Exreme drought has hit Kenya and parts of Tanzania, something I witnessed first hand in Octobor.  Lions of Kenya's Amboseli National Park are now in trouble. The drought decimated their diet (that included to a large part zebras) and the lions began the dangerous trend of looking at cattle, goats.... and people as an alernative food source.  With tourism and lion viewing a major source of income, Kenyan wildlife officials came up with a dramatic solution: the great zebra (and wildebeest) round up. Rangers in fatigues - with the assitance of  thumping blades of low flying helicopters - are herding zebras in an area of  abundence into trucks. Close to 4,000 zebras are participating in this forced migration and are then released at Amboseli to breed---- and become dinner. The lions are grateful, toursim continues and conflict with farmers that struggle for their survival  and way of life has been averted. Messing with nature's way? No more than you and I feeding the birds. (I photographed these zebras - who are not program particpants-  in the shadow of Kilimanjaro.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

DNR plus E makes DNRE

The abbreviation  DNRE is going to take some getting used to, for as  of January 17 - in an event that made little news - the Michigan Department of Natural Resources merged with the  Department of Environmental Quaility making the often used abbreviation DNR obsolete.  Rebbeca Humphries has been appointed the director of the new  Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Gov. Granholm announced,  "The Deparment of Natural Resources and Environment ushers in a bold, fresh approach to the way Michigan manages and protects our state's treasured environmental and natural resources." Let us hope so, for with shrinking dollars and asian carp at our Great Lake's door steps that task alone is enormous and needed.. A "bold fresh approach" alone wont be enough. Effort and creativity and money will be needed.  And as a writer--I must remember that the E always follow the R when writing about the DNR and E.