Category Archives: Environment

While you were attending to other matters …

Crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River coats a flock of Canada Geese.Melania Trumps jacket was, one must admit, a bit tacky. She wore it to see the refugee kids, but her jacket said she didn’t really care – didn’t care about what was left unclear. But she definitely made an impression. The First Lady and her sartorial splendor had starring roles on at least two days news cycles, plus late night television comedy and talk shows.

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Build it, and the storms will wash it away

Storm clouds sliding over southern PA farmland.Build it and they will come.”

Daughter rendered the verdict upon discovering our back yard is home to a family of Eastern Bluebirds, another of English House Sparrows, and a third of House wrens. And those are only the ones occupying houses we have set out for their use. There also are American Robins and Northern Cardinals, a ton of blue jays and an equal number of Goldfinches. We also have hung several feeders, which we keep supplied with mixed birdseed, and another screened version filled with thistle seed.

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Smoke on the mountain

Naturally or manmade, fires will happen.On a recent wander through a portion of Michaux State Forest, I found the road winding around a large parcel of blackened ground and trees. The question arose what good the burn, clearly a controlled burn of which I had read, would do for the wildlife that lived there. So I asked Fire Forester Philip Bietsch to explain the process.

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On backroads driving slowly

Still hidden after all these yeas.Another week has passed and Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird are still hanging around. He has built a new nest, in a different bluebird house mounted about 12 feet from my window. I presume it’s the same pair that nested in the house farther out – before the English House Sparrow evicted the Blues family. The Blues have yet to lay any more eggs.

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The world is alive …

Daddy cardinal feeds his son.Every spring I sit mesmerized as, in the space of just a few days, the mass of quarter-inch buds inexorably spread their petals in a real-time slow motion exposition of pink and white four-petaled flowers, each bloom more than two inches across.

The petals will shortly fall off, leaving behind next years buds, and life goes on.

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A Hope-ful story

On becoming a scientist.I sometimes receive emails, and now and then a letter, from readers who say they like what I write. Recently, a reader sent a book that was extra special because it related a story near to my heart.

“Lab Girl: A story of trees, science and love,” by Hope Jahren, is a memoir of a woman who became a scientist before women could be scientists. She was born into a scientific family. Her dad taught introductory physics and earth science in a community college in Minnesota. Hope got to hang out in her father’s laboratory, where she “played beneath the chemical benches until I was tall enough to play on them.”

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Who will clean up after us?

Great Blue Heron and Canada Geese like the river, but parts are becoming risky for life.I watched a movie Tuesday night, along with more than 100 of my closest friends, many of whom I’d never previously met. It was about global warming, and about a preacher and his daughter and their disagreement over whether our home planet really is getting dangerously warmer.

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Why?

Observations on the human condition.Tuesday morning a young woman walked onto the YouTube campus in San Bruno, Calif., and shot three people before turning her 9mm pistol on herself. If one has been paying any attention to the news the past few weeks, two points should have stuck out.

The weapon was a pistol.

The shooter was a woman.

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Go outside and play

A Red-winged blackbird sings for his lovin' at the edge of a swamp.A male Northern Cardinal is snacking at the window feeder. It’s fun watching him chase off the House Sparrows. I dislike them, strongly, for the way they force every other species away. They don’t, mostly, actively attack interlopers. Mostly, they just crowd out any species that isn’t House Sparrow.

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How cold was it?

An old friend stands more than 8,000 feet tall.It snowed a couple nights ago. Road crews were out trying to make the roads unslippery. I met a former co-worker grocery shopping and mentioned I hadn’t yet pulled out my snowthrower or even a snow shovel. Where he lives, he said, a borough ordinance requires him to shovel snow – even when the wind would blow it away quicker and cleaner – from his sidewalk.

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