Interesting weather this winter, wasn’t it? Last December brought tornadoes to the south and a blizzard to west Texas. Locally, we set some near-records for daily high temperatures in late December and again in January and February.
Coming on the heels of the Paris Climate Change conference – which resulted in an agreement for nearly every nation in the world to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide through energy efficiency, reforestation, transition to renewable energy sources, and many other means – my first instinct was to attribute the extreme weather to climate change.
Well, I wasn’t entirely wrong.
I remember the first time I heard a loon. My husband, Tom, and I were camping one summer in northern Wisconsin near a small lake. That first night, we heard an eerie sound that I didn’t recognize.
“What is that?” I whispered. “That’s a loon,” reassured Tom.
Loons called from the lake each evening, providing a memorable soundtrack for what was a very relaxing vacation. The calls we heard were a “wail,” which is the sound a loon makes in the evening when it is looking for its mate.
If you’ve never heard one, take a moment to find a sample “loon wail” on the Internet. The sound is like some ghostly wolf howling, but spookier. You can listen to a variety of loon calls by clicking here.
Governor Rauner officially declared October to be OAKtober this year to help raise awareness of Illinois’ oak legacy.
The white oak, Quercus alba, is the state tree because of the tree’s importance to the natural heritage and economy of Illinois. White oaks occur in every county in the state.
The wood from these tall, sturdy trees was used by early settlers for furniture, fence posts, barrels and flooring. Native Americans used white oak bark and roots to make medicines to treat a variety of ailments ranging from mouth sores to asthma.
Have you driven through Iowa? The roadsides are beautiful. Native wildflowers and grasses line the roads throughout much of the state, offering habitat for wildlife, especially birds and insects. (Iowa roadside in photo on left)
Further, Iowa state law prohibits the mowing of roadside meadows until after July 15 except under very specific circumstances. The delay in mowing allows for birds that nest in the grasses to finish raising their chicks before the mowers destroy the nests.
The highway prairie program applies to all public roads in the state, and approximately 50,000 acres of roadsides have been planted with native grasses and wildflowers. Not only does wildlife benefit, but so do the tax payers as fewer resources are spent mowing roadsides.
It is iconic. The American lawn: green, neatly cut and free of any plant but grass. No violets. No clover. Definitely no dandelions!
It ranks right up there with motherhood, baseball and apple pie as a symbol of America. Think of those lush, green golf courses in the deserts out west, or the photos of Phoenix transplants from the Midwest with lawns. The American lawn is more than a stereotype – it is an expensive addiction.
When conservation groups burn natural land, does it disturb wildlife species? Simply put, yes.
Then why do we do it, and how can we call it “ecological fire” if it may harm some species?
Historically, fire was a natural part of the ecology of the Midwest before the land was settled by European-Americans 200 or more years ago. As settlers moved into the area, they did their best to suppress wildfires. After all, fire is dangerous and destructive, especially to human settlements that might be in the path of a fast-moving inferno.
With Earth Day on April 22 and Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, this month is all about life on our home planet. (Check out those salamanders in the photo! Nothing says spring like a handful of baby salamanders!)
Earth Day was the brainchild of US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. After seeing the destruction caused by an oil spill in California in 1969, Nelson recognized the need for a national, grassroots movement focused on the issues of air and water pollution. He built bi-partisan support for the effort, and recruited an organizer to pull Earth Day together for April 22, 1970.
It has been a couple of years since I mentioned "The Big Three." With Earth month (April) starting on Wednesday, it seemed like a good time to refresh our collective memories!
The Big Three are the three things - in some combination - that all life needs to survive: air, water and food.
I admit it. I love cats. I also love songbirds. And, while my home cats are 100% indoor cats, my work cats are indoor-outdoor cats - in part because they keep the mouse and vole populations under control. (That's Remley doing his best panther imitation to the left.)
The work cats wear collars with bells, but that doesn't keep them from catching the occasional songbird. And it breaks my heart every time I see a dead goldfinch lying in the yard, because I know one of my cats killed it. So, I might as well say that I killed the bird since I let the cat outside.
Well, there is a new product available that was designed by people who love their cats, let them roam outdoors, AND also love songbirds: Birdsbesafe collars.
Change is hard. And, every change is for better or worse, depending upon your perspective. Change is particularly hard when it happens quickly. I’m sorry, but telling me “it’s easier if you just rip the bandage off real quick” doesn’t lessen the pain.
I have no doubt the 400 acres of trees and shrubs bulldozed and left burning in giant brush piles looked “worse” to the hundreds of neighbors on the north side of Woodstock a couple of weeks ago.