This Thing Called Courage

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Boogie Birdie: Animals Shown to Dance to Music


By MALCOLM RITTER, AP
NEW YORK – They wouldn't blow away the competition on "Dancing with the Stars," but it turns out that some birds got rhythm. After studying a cockatoo that grooves to the Backstreet Boys and about 1,000 YouTube videos, scientists say they've documented for the first time that some animals "dance" to a musical beat.
The results support a theory for why the human brain is wired for dancing.
In lab studies of two parrots and close review of the YouTube videos, scientists looked for signs that animals were actually feeling the beat of music they heard.
The verdict: Some parrots did, and maybe an occasional elephant. But researchers found no evidence of that for dogs and cats, despite long exposure to people and music, nor for chimps, our closest living relatives.
Why? The truly boppin' animals shared with people some ability to mimic sounds they hear, the researchers say. (Even elephants can do that). The brain circuitry for that ability lets people learn to talk, and evidently also to dance or tap their toes to music, suggests Aniruddh Patel of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. He proposed the music connection in 2006.
He also led a study of Snowball that was published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology.
A separate YouTube study, also published Thursday by the journal, was led by Adena Schachner, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard. In sum, the new research "definitely gives us a bit of insight into why and how humans became able to dance," Schachner said.
A video of Snowball bobbing his head and kicking like a little Rockette to music has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube since it was posted in 2007. Patel saw it after a colleague pointed it out.
"I was very impressed," Patel said. So he collaborated with Snowball's owner in Indiana for a more formal test. That showed Snowball wasn't just mimicking the movements of somebody off-camera. And Snowball's movements followed the beat of his favorite Backstreet Boys song, "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" even when researchers sped up the tune and slowed it down.
Actually, Snowball drifted in and out of following the beat, just as a child does, Patel said. But statistical analysis of his head bobs showed they really were related to the tempo.
Schachner and colleagues, meanwhile, found that videos of Snowball passed their own tests for following a beat. They also tested an African gray parrot named Alex, whose mental abilities had been studied for many years, earning him a measure of scientific fame, but who hadn't been trained to respond to music.
"We had no idea he would do anything in response to the musical beat," Schachner said. But when the music started, "to our surprise, Alex started to dance." Analysis showed Alex's head bobbing tracked the musical beat.
(Alex died in 2007, shortly after the study. He starred in a recent book, "Alex & Me," by researcher Irene Pepperberg, a co-author of Schachner's paper).
To cast a wider net in the animal kingdom, Schachner and colleagues searched YouTube for videos of dancing animals. Out of about 1,000 such videos, they found 49 that appeared worthy of a detailed analysis; 33 videos showed convincing evidence of animals following a musical beat.
Those animals were 14 species of parrot and one species of elephant — all known to be able to mimic sounds they hear, a result that supports Patel's theory.
Schachner, who pointed out that elephants are often trained performers and that little is known about the elephant videos, said it will take further work before she's convinced that elephants really move to a beat on their own.
When researchers contacted the owners of some parrots in the videos, they were told that the birds' response to music had been a surprise, indicating a natural ability.
Still, not every parrot will dance to music, and so the brain circuitry for so-called "vocal mimicry" apparently isn't enough by itself to make an animal boogie, Schachner said.
In a Current Biology commentary, W. Tecumseh Fitch of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland said the new work topples the claim that only people can move to a musical beat.
It would make sense to study dolphins for that ability, and it's too early to rule out apes, he said.
___
On the Net:
Video of Snowball: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/ap/ap_on_sc/storytext/us_sci_dancing_parrots/31851440/SIG=10k2blgcs/*http://sn.im/h2j6m
Snowball's homepage: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/ap/ap_on_sc/storytext/us_sci_dancing_parrots/31851440/SIG=11g5ol4r1/*http://www.birdloversonly.org/blsnowball.shtml
Sample of bird videos: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/ap/ap_on_sc/storytext/us_sci_dancing_parrots/31851440/SIG=10ku4sahi/*http://sn.im/h2jca
Current Biology: http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/ap/ap_on_sc/storytext/us_sci_dancing_parrots/31851440/SIG=115agb1ta/*http://www.cell.com/current-biology

Baby Bunny in Boston


This is funny because Fionn and I saw a bunny last night around midnight down at the South School playground, right down the street...this came in from one of my birding groups:


At about 9am this morning I exited Route 93 South at the Purchase St exit opposite James Hook Lobsters.

As I reached this very busy intersection the lights turned red and a tiny little baby bunny, no more than 4 inches tall, came hopping quite leisurely across the road in front of the stopped traffic.

It then disappeared into the shrubbery on the Rose Kennedy Greenway!!
First time I have ever seen a bunny in a major city.

Just thought I’d share…

Seamus
Somerville

Thursday 30th April ‘09

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day


I CAN THINK of no better way to honor earth day (other than volunteering to do some good green thing) than to go out for a long walk, and find a meadow, and bury your face in the new grass, and put your fingers on the earth, and feel the throb of spring. Me and Fionn just did that, and lucky us, we did it while the sun was still shining. So the next best thing I can think of to honor Earth Day is to post a poem by Mary Oliver. Happy Earth Day everyone.


Messenger

By Mary Oliver


My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect?

Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

astonished. The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.


Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren,

to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tom Dispatch: Let's Not Recover

(an interesting and thought-provoking article from the ever-prescient Tom Dispatch)
Tomgram: Chip Ward, Let's Not Recover
It's natural, whether as a website or an individual, to get caught up in issues that are immediate and urgent. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been the focus of so many TomDispatch columns are happening right now. People are dying now. The economy is melting down now. The foreclosed and homeless are waking up now in ever-growing numbers. Unemployment lines are getting longer as you read this. Children are hungry this very minute, and the anxiety of a middle-class in freefall is palpable right now almost anywhere you go.
But now and then, it's also useful to take a step back and ask some longer term questions. Even if we could stop the wars, put people back to work (and back into their homes), even if we could get consumers spending again, there's always the "what-for" question. What have we accomplished if all we've done is reset the clock on the next war, the next bubble, the next bust... and if, all the while, the ice is melting and the globe warming?
Chip Ward, a TomDispatch contributor since 2003, spent 16 years confronting corporations that pollute and run, leaving sickness and suffering in their wake. He was focused on urgent and immediate tasks that made a difference right away (and, while he was at it, running a library system in Salt Lake City that was slowly filling up with homeless people). Recently, he took a break and retreated to the remote canyons of southern Utah where he's been reflecting on that bigger picture and, as it happens, on the nature of bigness itself at a moment when "too big to fail" is the phrase du jour. Tom
Too Big to FailEcological Ignorance and Economic CollapseBy Chip Ward
"Too big to fail." It's been the mantra of our economic meltdown. Although meant to emphasize the overwhelming importance of this bank or that corporation, the phrase also unwittingly expresses a shared delusion that may be at the root of our current crises -- both economic and ecological.
In nature, nothing is too big to fail. In fact, big is bound to fail. To understand why that's so means stepping away from a prevailing set of beliefs that holds us in its sway, especially the deep conviction that we operate apart from nature's limits and rules.
Here's the heart of the matter: We are ecologically illiterate -- not just unfamiliar with the necessary scientific vocabulary and concepts, but spectacularly, catastrophically, tragically dumb. Oh yes, some of us now understand that draining those wetlands, clear-cutting the rainforests, and pumping all that CO2 into the atmosphere are self-destructively idiotic behaviors. But when it comes down to how nature itself behaves, we remain remarkably clueless.
The Adaptive Cycle from Google to GM
Science tells us that complex adaptive systems, like economies or ecosystems, tend to go through basic phases, however varied they may be. In the adaptive cycle, first comes a growth phase characterized by open opportunity. The system is weaving itself together and so there are all sorts of niches to be filled, paths to take, partnerships to be made, all involving seemingly endless possibilities and potential. Think of Google.
As niches are filled and the system sorts out, establishing strong interdependent relationships, the various players become less diverse and are bound together in ways that are ever more constricting. This is the consolidation phase that follows growth. As the system matures, it may look ever bigger and more indestructible, but it is actually growing ever more vulnerable. Think of General Motors.
The hidden weakness that underlies big systems is inherent in the consolidation phase. When every player gets woven ever more tightly into every other, a seemingly small change in a remote corner of the system can cascade catastrophically through the whole of it. Think of a lighted match at the edge of a dry forest. Think of Bear Stearns.
As global capitalism is melting down around us, we are experiencing just how, in an overly mature system, disruptions that start small can grow exponentially. So, for example, unemployment goes up another percent or two, just enough to make those of us with jobs save our cash, fearing we might be next. As we buy less, stocks pile up, production lags, more people are fired, more fear spreads, and consumption contracts further.
The above scenario, as familiar as can be, also provides an example of how easy it is to cross thresholds -- even just that slim percent or two can do the trick -- and fall into self-reinforcing feedback loops. Big consolidated systems are particularly vulnerable to such runaway scenarios. Think of the domino effect within the densely connected global economy that led to Bear Stearns, then Lehman, Merrill Lynch, AIG…
The third phase in the typical adaptive cycle is collapse. If you want to know what that's like, turn on the TV, look out your window, or knock on your neighbor's door, assuming that you still have a window or your neighbor still has a door. Since everything's connected, when an overgrown system spirals out of control, collapse tends to feel like an avalanche rather than erosion.
It may be hard to notice during the turmoil and confusion, but enormous amounts of energy are released in the collapse phase of an adaptive cycle and that leads to the final phase: regeneration. After seeds are cracked open by a forest fire, seedlings bloom in the nutrient-rich ashes of the former forest. They soak up newly available sunlight where the forest canopy has been opened. Then, as those open spaces start to fill, the growth phase begins anew. Hopefully, in our world, those empty auto-making factories will soon house a blooming business in wind turbines and mass transit.
It is important, however, to recognize that sometimes the collapse phase leads to renewal and sometimes to an entirely different and unwanted regime. Fire, for example, can renew a forest by clearing debris, opening niche space, and resetting the successional clock, or, if combined with a prolonged drought, it can set the stage for desertification. In human systems, we can influence whether the outcome is positive or negative by setting goals, providing incentives, and creating policies designed to reach them.
Building an Economy in Thin Air
Once you tune in to the phases of an adaptive cycle, you see them unfolding all around you. They may seem overwhelmingly complex, especially when compared to the neater, more linear models that shape our conventional ways of seeing the world, but ignoring that cycle as you build an economy is akin to denying gravity as you build a skyscraper.
Bigness is a warning signal that tells us to take a second look and consider whether the seemingly solid thing in front of us is far closer to collapse than it looks and, if so, to ask what can be done about it. If we were ecologically savvy, the conventional wisdom would be: If it ain't broke but it sure is big, then fix it. We do that by breaking it up and creating space for new niches and for the more dynamic diversity that naturally flows into such a system.
It's easy to attribute the creative fervor of the growth phase to an absence of regulation, rather than seeing it as the natural process of niche-filling in a system with lots of available space. As is now plain, freeing an already big corporate system of almost all regulation so that it can grow even bigger does not, in fact, encourage creativity; it just hastens the consolidation phase. So, to offer but one example, letting GM off the hook on fuel efficiency during the Bush era didn't make the company more creative. It only added to its long-term vulnerability.
It was surely no coincidence that, after the mammoth AT&T monopoly was broken up in the 1980's, cell phone technology emerged explosively starting in the 1990's. In a sense, cell phones were the technological equivalent of a new species emerging after the collapse and regeneration phases of an ecosystem. In the same way, it wasn't giant IBM which generated the revolutionary development of personal computers and the Internet. The next breakthrough in solar technology may be more likely to start in your neighbor's garage than in Chevron's lab.
Driving Off Cliffs
Our ignorance of the adaptive cycle is just one example of our ecological illiteracy. We are similarly inept at reading all sorts of natural signs. Take, for example, thresholds, those critical points where seemingly minor changes can tip an economy into recession or a climate into a new regime of monster storms and epic droughts.
Thresholds are like the doors between the phases in the adaptive cycle, except that they are often one-way -- once you stumble through them, you can't get back to the other side -- so it is crucially important to understand where they are. Although we recognize that there are such things as "tipping points" and we recognize, belatedly, that we have already crossed too many of them, we're lousy at seeing, let alone avoiding, thresholds before we reach them.
Understanding exactly where a threshold is located may be difficult, but we can at least look for such boundaries, and deliberately try not to cross them when the unintended consequences of doing so can be dire. There are, after all, usually warnings: the reservoir level is lower every year; the colors in the coral reef are fading away; mercury levels in the lake increase; you are more dependent than ever on imported oil...
Once you have driven off a cliff, it does you little good to realize that you are falling. The time to practice water conservation is before your well runs dry. Our culture's ability to deal with thresholds has proven only slightly better than my dog's ability to solve algebra problems.
Regeneration, Not Recovery
Still, if we really were attentive to the natural cycles unfolding around us, we wouldn't be attracted to growth like moths to a flame. We wouldn't equate bigness with success, but with risk, with enervation awaiting collapse. We certainly wouldn't be aiming today to rebuild yesterday's busted economy so that, tomorrow, we can resume our unlimited looting of nature's storehouse.
Believing that we are unbounded by nature's limits or rules, we built an economy where faster, cheaper, bigger, and more added up to the winning hand. Then -- until the recent global meltdown at least -- we acted as if our eventual triumph over anything from resource scarcity to those melting icebergs was a foregone conclusion. Facing problems (or thresholds) where the red lights were visibly blinking, we simply told ourselves that we'd figure out how to tweak the engineering a bit, and make room for a few more passengers.
We got it wrong. A capitalist economy based on constant, unlimited growth is a reckless fantasy because ecosystems are not limitless -- there are just so many pollinators, so many aquifers, so much fertile soil. In nature, unchecked rapid growth is the ideology of the invasive species and the cancer cell. Growth as an end in itself is ultimately self-destructive. A (globally warming) rising sea may lift all boats, as capitalists like to point out, but it may also inundate the coastline and drown the people living there.
If "recovery" from economic meltdown is just another word for a return to business as usual, we will be squandering a crucial chance to begin to build an economy that could be viable over the long run, without overloading the Earth's carrying capacity and courting catastrophe. We don't have to go big.
Remember that regeneration phase of the adaptive cycle? Here's where that comes in. Yes, collapse is a nightmare, but it also presents opportunities. If we were more aware of the thresholds we've already crossed, we might think differently about the next iteration of the economy. We could always cross a threshold of our own making and decide to live differently. Unrestrained growth, after all, was never a prerequisite for health, happiness, and justice. It's not written into the Constitution.
What would an end to separation from nature and from each other feel like? How might it be expressed day to day? The regeneration phase that is now upon us begs us to answer those questions.
This much is clear. If we want to avoid endless darkness and hardship, we have to become ecologically literate -- deeply so. The future is, you might say, too big to fail.
Chip Ward is a political activist and author of Canaries on the Rim (Verso) and Hope's Horizon (Island Press). He writes from Torrey, Utah, a small village that refuses to go big.
Copyright 2009 Chip Ward


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Climate Change Isn't Imminent-- It's Happening Already, as Indigenous People Report

WASHINGTON - Alaskan Inuits, Australian aborigines and Pygmies from Cameroon have a message for a warming world: native traditions can be a potent weapon against climate change.
At a summit starting Monday in Anchorage, Alaska, some 400 indigenous people from 80 nations are gathering to hone this message in the hope that it can be a key part of international climate negotiations.
"We don't want to be seen just as the powerless victims of climate change," said Patricia Cochran, an Inupiat native of Nome, Alaska, who is chairing the Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change.
"Our conference is really stirred by our wanting to become leaders ... on climate change because we have the ability to bring information from our communities to the rest of the world," Cochran said in a telephone interview from Anchorage.
Indigenous traditions are hardly static, she said, noting that native people have always adapted to their changing and often harsh environments.
For instance, Cochran said, Inuit people in Alaska are reverting to traditional dogsleds instead of modern snow machines as the icy region warms.
"People go out on their snow machines, fall through the ice and are never seen again," she said. "But our sled dogs will tell you when the ice is not safe ... and they're a lot easier to feed than (to pay) the gas prices that we have, $10 a gallon in many of our villages."
The summit is taking place about 500 miles (800 km) from the Alaskan village of Newtok, where intensifying river flow and melting permafrost are forcing 320 residents to resettle on a higher site some 9 miles (15 km) away in a new consequence of climate change, known as climigration.
Newtok is the first official Arctic casualty of climate change. A US Army Corps of Engineers study indicates 26 other Alaskan villages are in immediate danger, with an additional 60 considered under threat in the next decade, Cochran said.
USING FIRE TO CUT GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS
Climigration is also threatening the Carteret Islands in the South Pacific, where rising seas are forcing 3,000 islanders to relocate to Papua-New Guinea, said Sam Johnson of United Nations University, a summit co-sponsor.
While indigenous people are expected to feel the impact of climate change first and hardest, and have contributed the least to it, they have traditional knowledge that helps them cope with the change, Johnston said by telephone from Melbourne, Australia.
In Western Arnhem Land in Australia's Northern Territory, aborigines have used traditional fire control practices -- setting small fires throughout the year rather than letting huge stocks of fuel for bush fires build up -- reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a result.
This has enabled them to sell $17 million worth of carbon credits to industry, Johnston said.
In Africa, Baka Pygmies of Cameroon and Bambendzele of Congo have developed new fishing and hunting techniques to adapt to decreased rainfall and more forest fires.
Because indigenous people are often on the front lines of climate change, they are expected to report to the summit on changes affecting them now.
For example, Dayak villagers in Borneo see climate change in observations of bird species, rising water levels and the loss of plants traditionally used for medicine.
In the Andes, temperature changes have hit farming and health hard, with more respiratory illnesses and a shortened growing season.
The summit ends Friday, and participants plan to craft a declaration that will call for world governments to include indigenous people -- as many as 350 million people, or about 6 percent of the world's population -- in any new international climate pact.
Climate negotiators are gathering in Copenhagen in December to forge a new agreement to succeed the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol.
(Editing by Todd Eastham)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Friday, April 10, 2009

Full Moon Hike and Turkeys





THE FRIENDS OF THE MIDDLESEX FELLS, an organization I belong to, holds about a dozen or so hikes each month. Some of these hikes are led by volunteers, while others are led by Park Rangers from the DCR (the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the old MDC). Last night's hike was something special, a Full Moon Hike out of the Long Pond area in the southwestern corner of the Fells, a section I'm not too familiar with. My friend Dan from drumming came with. This was a Ranger-led hike, and one couldn't have asked for a more pleasant evening for it: clear and about 50 degrees. Everyone was to meet at the Long Pond Parking Lot, right off South Border Road in Winchester, at 7:30. (The Fells incorporates parts of Winchester, Medford, Stoneham, Melrose, and Malden.) The Ranger, a tall, young and gangly (and friendly) drink of water, said he was expecting maybe five to ten people for the hike-- when we finally set off shortly after 7:30, there were 32 adults, seven children, and two dogs (one of them being Fionn)! Hardly conducive to a hushed and reverent night hike, but one has to go with the flow, and it was nice, if a bit chaotic, to see so many people interested in such an undertaking.


I've recently been of the opinion that we've lost our groove, as it were, for the night. Until fairly recently (from an historical point of view) people were not only diurnal, but nocturnal as well: we hunted and fished at night, we traveled by night, we held spiritual rituals at night. Now we've entirely banished the night (and the stars with them) from our lives, flooding things with noise and neon and that ghastly orange sodium vapor that bathes everything in a very unlovely brownish-orange blob. Yuck. We hardly know the night anymore, except maybe for a few heart-pounding seconds when we're hurrying through a dark parking lot in a dubious part of town. But I think something in us rejoices at the mystery of the dark night, its numinousness and magic-- and that thing has atrophied as a result of modern living. (I take particular exception to those 'nosy lights,' as I call them, motion detector lights that flood on as one is walking along a quiet street and maybe taking a little look-see at someone's garden-- or swiping their lilacs for a loved one. Such a thing happened to me last year, on a lovely mid-May evening: I was coming up Main Street when the unmistakable aroma of lilacs wafted my way. Several yards further along I identified the source, an old bush absolutely thick with blossoms-- err, clearly many more than the owners could use, I rationalized. I know someone who loves them, so I leaned slightly into the yard, and was just about to liberate a yank or two, or three, when nosy lights blared on and in their garish wake a very large and rather uncordial woman of a certain age appeared. "What are you doin'?" she demanded. "Ahhh...I was just going to smell your beautiful lilacs," I stammered. "Smell all you want, but don't take any," she answered immediately.)


But I digress. There is something wonderful, humbling, overpowering, a little frightening, and more than a little magical about real night in the woods. For one thing, you'll see the stars (and the further away from big cities the better) as the original artist originally intended. One's senses spring to life, and something inside that's a little wild and primitive wakes, and stirs. You instinctively fall silent, and jump at any little stir-- for there are many stirrings in the woods at night-- owls, coyotes, fisher cats, raccoons, deer, bats, moths, and the like. (Of course it helps if you don't have 39 people with you. This has the effect of turning a rocky woodland path into a main concourse at the Burlington Mall.) So Dan and I fell further and further behind from the throng, on purpose. A few bratty kids bringing up the rear of the main group kept shining their flashlights on us, until finally I told them to cut it out.


The peepers and wood frogs were everywhere, for it seemed there was almost always a small pond on either our right, or our left. We came to one little waterway and there was just one peeper in there, peeping his little heart out-- but when he heard us he up and stopped, and even though we stood still and silent for some minutes, he didn't continue with his song until we were far away again. We climbed a ridge, and there in the distance, blurring through a hill of high hemlocks, was an enormous bright yellow smudge shining behind-- the full April Moon was lifting herself out of the Atlantic ocean some seven miles to the eastward. Heaven!


The hike took about an hour-- I suppose we went two miles or less-- and then we rejoined the larger party, just as the Friendly Ranger was heading back in our direction, thinking we had lost our way. An adventurous subset of about seven people (and one dog) decided they would do the hike all over again, sans Friendly Ranger and thirty other people, and I was a little envious-- but I had other plans, as I decided to head about a mile down South Border Road and check out the woodcock fields at a secret place I call 'Woodcock Hill,' as sometimes woodcocks will go all night long when the moon is at the full. I told the Friendly Ranger of my plans, and he assured me he wouldn't give me a ticket (there's no parking after dark in any of the lots around the Fells). So I said goodbye to Dan and off I went. This time I left Fionn in the car, climbed the hill, and entered the woods, which were awash with that light that is really no color at all, but, rather, color-robbing. But alas, if there were any woodcocks, I didn't hear or see them. Yet still I lingered-- the thing is, once one wakes that Night Gene, one hates to go back inside. But being in the woods alone at night is quite different than being in the woods with 37 other people. It's quite different from being in the woods with one other person. For my hearing is suspect, and one's imagination begins to make merry-- was that a neighborhood dog? Or a wolf-like coyote, signalling his brethren that a juicy human has been scented? Is that black thing over there just the shadow of a tree? Or a deranged human, standing absolutely still and staring at me? I looked around and reached for a thick stick. Don't be ridiculous, I told myself-- one always does. And don't start imagining things, or there'll be simply no end to it.


This evening around 7, while I was finishing up my writing for the day, I heard some funny sound through my partially-open window right in front of me. It sounded similar to a Mourning Dove, but not quite-- it was more duck-like. When I heard it again, and then again, I got up and went out into the kitchen, then opened the kitchen door and stepped out onto the little porch. Imagine my surprise when, twenty feet below me (I have really high back stairs) I saw four turkeys, waddling down the driveway! They were heading towards the woods out back, away from Main Street, so they must had just crossed the busy four-lane highway-- I'm glad people stopped for them. At any rate I hastened back into the kitchen, and grabbed my bag of cracked corn. I threw down a few handfuls when I got back outside, and they seemed to appreciate this. Then I grabbed the camera and took the pic above, as I kind of shooed them into the woods behind the house (one of them had half a notion of heading back out onto Main Street, but this I discouraged.) A big fat white cat was watching from the other side of the yard (maybe a feral one?) but I tried to shoo it away. At any rate the turkeys headed into the woods out back, which would be a great home for them. We did have a family of turkeys living out there about five years ago, but I haven't seen any since. The hens will be laying their eggs soon, and perhaps in May we'll see the new family members, if they decide to stick around. Exciting!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Love and Sorrow on a Paris Road






















This came in from a member of the Arlington Birders' Group. This may serve as a reminder of the care we must take when driving upon our roads-- especially in wooded and conservation areas.





Photo # 1: Here his wife is injured and the condition is fatal.
She was hit by a car as she swooped low across the road.

Photo # 2: Here he brought her food and attended to her with love and compassion.

Photo # 3: He brought her food again but was shocked to find her dead. He tried to move her....a rarely-seen effort for swallows!

Photo # 4: Aware that his mate is dead and will never come back to him again,
he cries with adoring love.
Photo #5: He stood beside her, saddened of her death.

Photo # 6: Finally aware that she would never return to him, he stood beside her body with sadness and sorrow.
Millions of people cried after watching this picture in America and Europe and India . It is said that the photographer sold these pictures for a nominal fee to the most famous newspaper in France . All copies of that newspaper were sold out on the day these pictures were published. And many people think animals don't have a brain or feelings?

Safety Team Warns of Catastrophic Witing in Iraq after Electrocutions

So Halliburton, Kellogg, KPR, and other corporate friends of former Vice President Cheney and President Bush make billions and billions in Iraq, after having 'won' no-bid contracts-- and this is the result.

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – A military team sent to evaluate electrical problems at U.S. facilities in Iraq determined there was a high risk that flawed wiring could cause further "catastrophic results" — namely, the electrocutions of U.S. soldiers.
The team said the use of a required device, commonly found in American houses to prevent electrical shocks, was "patchy at best" near showers and latrines in U.S. military facilities. There also was widespread use of uncertified electrical devices and "incomplete application" of U.S. electrical codes in buildings throughout the war-torn country, the team found.
At least three U.S. service members have been electrocuted in Iraq while taking showers in the six years since the U.S.-led invasion of the country.
The highest-profile death was that of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, a Green Beret from Pittsburgh who was electrocuted while showering in his barracks early last year. Other troops and contractors have died or have been seriously injured in other electrical incidents.
A copy of the team's Sept. 8 report to the then-commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, was obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Since this report to Petraeus, Task Force SAFE in Iraq, which was created to deal with the electrical problems, began extensive inspections and repairs of wiring in about 90,000 U.S.-maintained facilities in Iraq. The Associated Press has reported previously that about a third of the inspections so far have turned up major electrical problems. Half of those problems have since been fixed, but about 65,000 facilities still must be inspected, the military has said.
The military has said it could be November before all the inspections are complete.
In a statement e-mailed to the AP, Dave Foster, an Army spokesman, said the service is committed to improving safety for U.S. troops.
"Even in austere, combat environments, the Army must focus on promoting a 'culture of safety' for all soldiers ... civilians and contractors," Foster said.
The safety team, based at the Army's Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., was sent to Iraq late last summer. In addition to the use of uncertified electrical parts, the team cited "inconsistent enforcement of any standard, inconsistent and inadequate standards for using electrical devices, incomplete application of electrical codes and lack of thorough contractor oversight."
The result, the team concluded, was "unmitigated electrical-related hazards" throughout Iraq, with improper bonding a "most pervasive" problem.
The report notes that ground fault circuit interrupters, commonly used in American homes, weren't found in a large number of the facilities the team inspected. The interrupters are required in places where electrical circuits are in proximity to water sources. They are designed to measure electrical currents and shut off power to the circuit if necessary.
The report says the inconsistent use of the interrupters can lead to electrocution "when a ground fault occurs in the system and a human being comes into contact with that circuit."
"Based upon past accident statistics, the team assessed the probability of this event occurring as 'seldom,' but when the event does occur, it is often with 'catastrophic' results," the report said. "Therefore the team assessed the present risk as 'high.'"
The problems described in the report went beyond shoddy wiring. The team said "ammunition, dirty laundry and other combustibles touching or in close proximity to potential electrical fire sources" created a high risk for troops in their living quarters.
It noted that contact with low-hanging and exposed wires has caused eight electrocutions. It recommended developing and implementing training that would help soldiers avoid this danger.
The report does not specifically name any military contractors but does say more oversight of contractors is needed. A majority of the U.S. facilities are maintained by Houston-based KBR Inc. Heather Browne, a KBR spokeswoman, said in a statement that safety is the company's top priority.
"We have pledged full cooperation with the government on this issue and that will continue," she said.
The other two U.S. service members identified as dying from electrocution while showering are Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Cedergren, 25, of South St. Paul, Minn., and Army Cpl. Marcos Nolasco, 34, of Chino, Calif.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Taunton River Wins Federal Protection

(from this morning's Boston Globe)

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
The Taunton River's new hard-won federal designation of "wild and scenic" may seem odd to some. The river has a rich industrial history and people still refer to nearby waterways as Bleachery Pond or "tannery" lagoons.
Seagulls fishing for herring at Oliver Mill Park in Middleboro (Photo courtesy of Kerry Crisley, TNC)
Yet the 40-mile long waterway is getting cleaner all the time and remains the longest undammed coastal river in New England, winding from headwaters in the mysterious Hockomock Swamp to Mount Hope Bay near Fall River. Known to early human settlers at “Great River” or “Tetequet”, the Taunton River watershed supports the largest herring run in New England (up to two million fish will be swimming the river and its tributaries over the next 2-3 weeks) and rainbow smelt that striped bass and bluefish enter the river to feed upon. Dozens of species call the river home, including the rare Northern redbelly cooter turtle and rare bridle shiner fish, river otters and seven freshwater mussel species.
The designation, given to 11,000 miles of rivers in the country since 1968, will require the Taunton to be preserved in free-flowing condition and prohibits the federal government from funding or issuing permits for water withdrawal or other projects that could have a “direct and adverse impact”.
Officials have been trying for years to better protect the river from increasing pressures related to development.
According to one projection, the watershed is supposed to undergo a 16 percent population growth by 2025. Analysts predict that the water requirements of the area's roughly 177,000 new would exceed 12 million gallons a day.
Recently, the developer of a proposed Fall River liquefied natural gas terminal that wanted to have gas tankers use the Taunton River was turned down by the Coast Guard.
“The Taunton River is the cornerstone of a 562 square mile freshwater system, providing essential services like water filtration, flood protection and recreation to 38 towns,” said Wayne Klockner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
It "is a major milestone in our campaign to save the Taunton River and its watershed,” said Carolyn LaMarre, Executive Director of the Taunton River Watershed Alliance. “In taking this action, Congress has ensured that the river will remain free flowing in perpetuity, and will be protected now and in the future.”

Friday, April 03, 2009

Jasmine, the Once-Abandoned Surrogate Mom











THIS WAS SENT ON by my dear friend Diana,a fellow lover of animals.
In 2003, police in Warwickshire, England, opened a garden shed and found a whimpering, cowering dog. It had been locked in the shed and abandoned. It was dirty and malnourished, and had clearly been abused. In an act of kindness, the police took the dog, which was a Greyhound female, to the nearby Nuneaton Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, run by a man named Geoff Grewcock and known as a willing haven for Animals abandoned, orphaned or otherwise in need.

Geoff and the other sanctuary staff went to work with two aims: to restore the dog to full health, and to win her trust. It took several weeks, but eventually both goals were achieved.They named her Jasmine, and they started to think about finding her an adoptive home. But Jasmine had other ideas. No one remembers now how it began, but she started welcoming all animal arrivals at the sanctuary. It wouldn't matter if it was a puppy, a fox cub, a rabbit or, any other lost or hurting animal-- Jasmine would peer into the box or cage and, where possible, deliver a welcoming lick.

Geoff relates one of the early incidents. "We had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line. One was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross. They were tiny when they arrived at the centre and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee. Then she fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them."
"But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits. She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but to settle into their new surroundings.

"She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose."
Jasmine, the timid, abused, deserted waif, became the animal sanctuary's resident surrogate mother, a role for which she might have been born. The list of orphaned and abandoned youngsters she has cared for comprises five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and 15 rabbits.
And one roe deer fawn. Tiny Bramble, 11 weeks old, was found semi-conscious in a field. Upon arrival at the sanctuary, Jasmine cuddled up to her to keep her warm, and then went into the full foster mum role. Jasmine the greyhound showers Bramble the Roe deer with affection and makes sure nothing is matted.

"They are inseparable," says Geoff "Bramble walks between her legs and they keep kissing each other. They walk together round the sanctuary.
It's a real treat to see them."

Jasmine will continue to care for Bramble until she is old enough to be returned to woodland life. When that happens, Jasmine will not be lonely. She will be too busy showering love and affection on the next Orphan or victim of abuse.

From left in top picture, Toby, a stray Lakeland dog; Bramble, orphaned Roe deer; Buster, a stray Jack Russell; a dumped rabbit; Sky, an injured barn owl; and Jasmine with a Mothers heart doing best what a caring Mother would do.... Such is the order of God's Creation.