Friday, June 04, 2010

Watching Nests

Yesterday I finally managed to get back to the Red-shouldered Hawks' nest on Louetta. Unfortunately (for me), it was empty. So the two chicks fledged and moved out while I was out of action. I'm sorry to have missed seeing them as they left but no doubt they are now safe and well somewhere in the area, so perhaps I'll see them again.

It was some consolation to see action at the Western Kingbirds' nest on the CyFair campus, although the position of the nest made it hard to see exactly what was going on. In the morning I spotted one adult apparently feeding one almost invisible chick before leaving the nest with a chunk of eggshell in its beak.

Later in the day I arr
ived to see one adult sitting in the nest and the other perched a few inches above it. As I watched, the first adult flew off the nest and the other hopped down onto it.

The adult that left sp
ent a few minutes preening on a nearby fence.

When it returned to the nest, it displaced the other adult, which flew up to perch on the roof of the basketball court.

So it's clear that the adults are sharing parenting duties. Now I'm looking forward to seeing how many chicks they raise. Last year they successfully raised four. However, all the construction work on the campus has significantly reduced the amount of hunting habitat available to the birds. If this has reduced the number of insects available as prey, the Kingbirds may raise fewer young this time around.

The BP Oil Disaster

Last night CNN showed heartbreaking images of gulls and pelicans covered in oil along Louisiana's coast and we are no doubt going to see many more such images over the coming weeks and months. However, what we see will only be a small part of the real effect of the oil on the bird population. Most of the affected sea birds will suffer and die out on the Gulf far away from the media's cameras. Meanwhile large numbers of rails, Least Bitterns and wading birds must already be dead or dying unseen in the sections of marshland that the oil has reached.

Like most people, I am outraged by BP's conduct. However, BP isn't the only guilty party. At the local level, Louisiana's politicians are guilty of having allowed and encouraged oil companies and developers to erode the state's wetlands over the past decades. At the national level, politicians of both parties are guilty of accepting campaign contributions in return for not regulating drilling operations as strictly as such operations are regulated in Europe. (This is just one small part of Ronald Reagan's legacy!) At the national level, too, we are all guilty for having developed such a voracious appetite for oil and turning a blind eye to the inevitable consequences of our obscene level of energy consumption.

It would be consoling to think that the current disaster will change attitudes about energy consumption and lead to meaningful restrictions on drilling. However, it won't. Congress will no doubt pass some new laws but, as usual, our politicians will cooperate with lobbyists to fill these laws with loopholes that insure corporations can go on despoiling the environment at will. And we, the media and the politicians will be filled with self-righteous outrage when the next disaster strikes.



Birdwoman said...

I couldn't agree more with your statement about the BP oil spill situation. The only way to ensure that such catastrophes don't continue to happen, despoiling the earth beyond its capacity to recover, is for us to finally wean ourselves of our dependence on these fossil fuels. But in order to do that we need effective legislation and in order to get it, we have to wean politicians from THEIR dependence on corporate money. That will be the hardest task of all.

Jeff said...

I don't see any possibility of lessening politicians' dependence on corporate money in the near future. In fact, until the Supreme Court changes from being so dominated by rightwing activist judges, I think the stranglehold of corporations on our political system will only increase.