This Thing Called Courage

Friday, May 23, 2008

Local Wildlife News Update

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals... We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far beneath ourselves. And therein we err, we greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complex than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not breathren, thay are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

-Harry Beston

I love that quote by Beston-- though I'm not sure I agree at all with his speciesism when he speaks about animals having taken form so far beneath us. I've never glimpsed an animal in the wild without being aware of a great dignity, a completeness-- certainly the Native Americans knew this, and elevated, or relagated, animals to the position of spirit-helpers-- equal strands in the web of life. This is my monthly (more or less) animal update, and it's a good time to do it, as Fionn and I just returned from a four mile evening walk, near the end of which you were drenched with the sound of howling coyotes. This doesn't happen very often-- certainly not enough to diminish the magic, though I'm not sure this kind of magic could ever be diminished-- I know I never am not rendered breathless, for example, when glancing the surprise of a massive full moon, appearing out of nowhere. I can't think of a sound in nature that embodies the wild so much as a coyote or wolf howl. The cry of Canadian geese flying just overhead is, to my mind, a close second, while the chant of peepers, and crickets, is so otherworldly that it seems of a different realm. And bird song breaks one's heart with its plaintive sweetness. But the coyote and wolf howls-- you just can't hear them without something wild within waking and answering back, if only silently.

We tend to hear them around the same two places, both on the northern shores of Spot Pond. And it has nothing to do with the phase of the moon! It's always wonderful, too, to watch little Fionn's reaction-- he stops cold, the ears go up like telescopes, his posture leaps to a noble erectness-- and a light of wildness shines in his eyes. If only he could tell me what these calls mean! I suppose his answer would be very similar to my first Irish Language professor's answer, when I asked him how to pronounce the Irish word for night, oiche. "Just like it's written," he answered, with a smile. The pronunciation is actually 'EE-ha;' which is, indeed, just as it's written-- if one were reading this arrangement of letters as an Irish speaker would. I suppose the coyotes are saying just what one hears-- if one speaks Canid.

There's more wildlife news: there are four acres of woods behind the barn behind my house, which you'd never believe if you stood at the front of my house and watched four-lane Main Street (aka State Route 28) roaring by. While heading out to the car the other day, Fionn dragged me to the edge of these woods, hot on a sniff-trail. When we got there I saw something grayish-brown and small-dog size, down in the valley, very intent on its business. I'm fairly sure it was a woodchuck. Once he saw us, he bolted.
More: the Friends of the Fells' quarterly newsletter arrived this week, and in it there is wonderful news: for the first time in memory, beavers have taken up residence in Happy Land, and have built a dam and pond. Sad to say, their dam has twice been broken and dismantled by vandals; both times the beavers have repaired it. Shortly after the creation of their pond, a pair of wood ducks was seen there-- beavers are so good are bringing a variety of wildlife to their habitats. We, on the other hand, chase them out or kill them. As E.O. Wilson wonders, in The Future of Life, "Why, our descendants will ask, by needlessly extinguishing the lives of other species, did we permanently impoverish our own?"
There was also an article in the Friends of the Fells newsletter about a somewhat well-known secret: the fact that great blue herons have been nesting on Great Island, in the middle of Spot Pond, for several years now. Great blue herons tend to be communal nesters, and these locales are known as rookeries. Rookeries tend to be quite isolated and inaccessible-- they don't like human encrouchment, and people tramping around beneath their tree-top nests will cause them to panic, often sending the chicks plummeting out of the nest-- which is the end of the chicks. Last year it was my delight to watch the herons-- there were seven pair nesting on Great Island last May-- flying back and forth, bringing food to their chicks. There's a wonderful, free boating program on Spot Pond, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but I was concerned, as some of the boaters dock at Great Island for a little visit. I stopped in at the ranger's office to let them know this, and that perhaps they should forbid people access to Great Island until after the chicks had flown the coop. They knew about the nests, and said that they thought such a restriction would actually bring more people in to disturb the herons-- out of curiosity at best, and something far nastier at worst.

To read the Friends fo the Fells newsletter, go to the home page at then scroll down to where it says Spring Newsletter, click here.

Lastly, the much bally-hooed and highly anticipated Black Bear Exhibit opens this weekend at the Walter Stone Zoo (formerly the Middlesex Fells Zoo) which is about 300 yards from my house. Here is the release from the Zoo New England website, after one final thought:

A human being is part of the whole, called by us the universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty… ~Albert Einstein~

Black bears coming to Stone Zoo!
Bears are expected to make their exhibit debut Memorial Day weekend

Stone Zoo is excited to announce the construction of a black bear exhibit, which will be the new home to two adolescent black bears from Tennessee. The exhibit, which is being designed to replicate the bear’s natural habitat, is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend. Zoo New England’s Stone Zoo is entering a period of dramatic growth – one that will build on this beloved institution’s rich history, while transforming this “local gem” into a leading example of what a modern zoo can, and should, be. Stone Zoo is taking a big step forward toward reaching this goal with the new black bear exhibit.
The exhibit will be located on the same site that was previously home to Stone Zoo’s beloved polar bear, Major, who passed away in 2000. Zoo New England is building a naturalistic habitat for the black bears – using the foundation of Major’s former home, filling in the moats and creating an engaging and stimulating space for the bears. The exhibit is located within the zoo’s Yukon Creek section, an area of the zoo highlighting North American animals including bald eagles, Canada lynx, gray fox and porcupine.
The bears are two-year-old brothers that join Stone Zoo from the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) in Tennessee.
The bears’ care is being managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), which oversees the permit of ABR for rehabilitating bears for release back into the wild. Both bears were confiscated as cubs in the state of Georgia in 2006. Soon after arriving at ABR, it was determined that the bears could not be rehabilitated for release back into the wild. If a suitable home had not been found for the two bears, they would have been euthanized.
The two bears, which weigh approximately 250 pounds, are part of a species whose overall wild population is stable at this time. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Bear Taxon Advisory Group, a moratorium has been issued on all captive breeding of the black bear species in AZA facilities in order to encourage zoos to accept “rescued” bears in place of expanding the captive-born population. The highest priority in placing bears is given to orphaned cubs held by appropriate government agencies, their designees or licensed wildlife rehabilitators.
Commodore Builders are the construction managers for the project, which is budgeted at $750,000. ZNE has already secured $500,000 in private funding. Lead donors to the project include ZNE Board of Directors Chair Grace Fey and her husband Ted, a bequest from the estate of longtime Stone Zoo visitor Ernestina Vinet, and another anonymous donor. Fundraising efforts are ongoing.
In celebration of this new exhibit, ZNE will present the wildly popular tasting event, A Wild Affair, on June 21. This will mark the fourth annual A Wild Affair – an event that attracts hundreds of attendees and Stone Zoo supporters from Stoneham and the surrounding communities.


Blogger Chico said...

A Memorandum to the Enemies of Mother Earth

"Mine and yours;
Mine, not yours.
Earth endures;
Stars abide -
Shine down in the old sea;
Old are the shores;
But where are old men?
I who have seen much,
Such have I never seen.
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . .
"They called me theirs,
Who so controlled me;
Yet every one
Wished to stay, and is gone.
How am I theirs,
If they cannot hold me,
But I hold them?"

When I heard the Earth-Song,
I was no longer brave;
My avarice cooled
Like lust in the chill of the grave.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Earth-Song" (excerpt)

1:26 AM  

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