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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

The Great Snowy Owl Irruption

10626824625_5a69c27fb3_bPhoto Credit: FannyBanny1 via Compfight cc

Snowy owls are popping up all over the eastern United States and Canada. One even made it to Bermuda.

Biologists aren’t sure why. Perhaps a summer lemming boom fed many more snowy owlets than usual?

Whatever the reason, remarkable numbers of Hedwig’s kin have come south. If you’d like to see one in the wild, now is the time. Keep an eye out at airports, the beach, fields, and other open areas that remind owls of the tundra. But they could show up anywhere, like this one at a Maryland McDonald’s.

For more info, check out this e-Bird summary and a zoomable map of reported sightings.

P.S. I took a little break from blogging for an exciting personal project. Hope to do more in the new year.

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Emptying-the-Skies-600

My friend Roger Kass recently gave me a chance to review an early cut of Emptying the Skies, his new film with brother Doug and novelist Jonathan Franzen. The documentary makes it U.S debut at the Hamptons International Film Festival next weekend. I highly recommend it as tale of both birds and people. Here’s a brief description:

Based on a New Yorker article by best-selling writer Jonathan Franzen, EMPTYING THE SKIES chronicles the poaching of migratory birds in southern Europe and introduces us to the intrepid volunteer squad of bird-lovers trying to stop it. Trapped at “pinch points” near the Mediterranean, these globetrotting songbirds are considered culinary delicacies and reap big bucks on the black market, yet many species are endangered and some face extinction. Directors Douglas and Roger Kass skillfully translate the spirit of Franzen’s words onto the screen and deservedly win this year’s Zelda Penzel Giving Voice to the Voiceless Award.

And here’s the trailer:

For more about the film, check out its Facebook page.

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The world’s most fascinating insects live, of all places, in the eastern United States. Periodical cicadas spend most of their lives underground, sucking up nutrients from tree and shrub roots. But every 13 or 17 years, they emerge en masse to reproduce. If you are in the right spot (some would say the wrong spot), you can see thousands or tens of thousands all at once. (For information on Brood II, which is emerging this year, see magicicada.org.)

Film-maker Samuel Orr is making a full-length documentary of their remarkable lives. But I have to say, his Kickstarter promotion video is an outstanding documentary in its own right:

P.S. Another insect favorite: The Greatest Insect Story Ever

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b95-moonbird

(c) Phillip Hoose

B95, aka Moonbird, has again touched down in Delaware. After refueling on the eggs of spawning horseshoe crabs, he will head north to the Canadian arctic for at least his 21st breeding season. Remarkable for a four-ounce red knot whose normal lifespan is just four or five years and whose annual migration begins and ends way down in Tierra del Fuego.

B95 has logged at least 340,000 miles over the years, probably more. That’s enough to go to the moon and halfway back, hence his nickname.

He’s even got a biography by Phillip Hoose, who took the lovely portrait above.

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Case Western Law Professor Jonathan Adler just released an interesting paper setting out a conservative case for environmental protection. Here’s his abstract:

The existing environmental regulatory architecture, largely erected in the 1970s, is outdated and ill-suited to address contemporary environmental concerns. Any debate on the future of environmental protection, if it is to be meaningful, must span the political spectrum. Yet there is little engagement in the substance of environmental policy from the political right. Conservatives have largely failed to consider how the nation’s environmental goals may be best achieved. Perhaps as a consequence, the general premises underlying existing environmental laws have gone unchallenged and few meaningful reforms have proposed, let alone adopted. This essay, prepared for the Duke Law School conference on “Conservative Visions of Our Environmental Future,” represents a small effort to fill this void. Specifically, this essay briefly outlines a conservative alternative to the conventional environmental paradigm. After surveying contemporary conservative approaches to environmental policies, it briefly sketches some problems with the conventional environmental paradigm, particularly its emphasis on prescriptive regulation and the centralization of regulatory authority in the hands of the federal government. The essay then concludes with a summary of several environmental principles that could provide the basis for a conservative alternative to conventional environmental policies.

One example of what he thinks ought to be a conservative approach to resource protection: property rights in fisheries (footnotes omitted):

The benefits of property rights at promoting both economic efficiency and environmental stewardship can be seen in the context of fisheries. For decades, fishery economists have argued that the creation of property rights in ocean fisheries, such as through the recognition of “catch-shares,” would eliminate the tragedy of the commons and avoid the pathologies of traditional fishery regulation. The imposition of limits on entry, gear, total catches, or fishing seasons has not proven particularly effective. Property-based management systems, on the other hand, have been shown to increase the efficiency and sustainability of the fisheries by aligning the interests of fishers with the underlying resource. A recent study in Science, for example, looked at over 11,000 fisheries over a fifty-year period and found clear evidence that the adoption of property-based management regimes prevents fishery collapse. Other research has confirmed both the economic and ecological benefits of property-based fishery management. The recognition of property rights in marine resources can also make it easier to adopt additional conservation measures. For instance, the adoption of catch-shares can reduce the incremental burden from the imposition of by-catch limits or the creation of marine reserves. A shift to catch-shares would have fiscal benefits as well. Yet in recent years, the greatest opposition to the adoption of such property-based management regimes has not come from progressive environmentalist groups, but from Republicans in Congress.

He also endorses a carbon tax, which combines responsibility (the polluter pays principle) with a move toward consumption taxation.

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Sea Turtles of Oaxaca

Back to economics soon. In the meantime, please enjoy this remarkable video of thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles congregating on Oaxaca’s beaches to lay their eggs (ht: Deep Sea News):

 

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Another Lovely Murmuration

Via Collosal, an especially beautiful video of starlings flocking. Filmed by Neels Castillon in Marseilles. Best viewed in full screen:

For another lovely murmuration, see this post.

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