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.
We The People have a long history of preserving public land for the enjoyment and education of all of us, and for, we have been lately learning, the health of this whirling blob of mud we call home. Yet, we are destroying indigenous families and forests to make room to grow quinoa in South America, and palm oil in Asia.
Here at home, the Republican platform calls for the federal government to get out of the business of owning public lands. There is profit in those forests and canyons – oil, natural gas, coal and lumber are waiting to be harvested by industries that have little concern for the health of our grandkids. (I wonder whether those folks might be interested in giving up the thousands of military reservations we non-military peeps are not allowed to visit. I would love to visit that cave dug into the rock a few miles from my home.)
Nearby, a long-needle pine catches my eye, not for the needles – they are common enough – but for the pine cones protruding from the trunk, That is not something I’ve previously noticed. Later, down at the Michaux State Forest office, Forestry Technician Mike Rothrock tells me it is common for young Pitch Pine to have cones growing from the trunk, as well as the more common configuration, growing from the ends of branches.
I’ve captured some amazing specimens while out bird hunting (with the Nikon camera), but when I looked at the images of the mostly tawny body, crested head and black bandit mask I’d captured the other day on South Mountain, I darn near danced. I’d always had a sneaking suspicion Cedar waxwings existed only in the Hallmark store, like the ornament my sister sent me as a tree decoration one recent Christmas. Until the other day, on South Mountain.
Cedar waxwings live in Pennsylvania year-round, but their population thins as one looks southerly on a map. According to my bird book, they can be found in winter as far south as Georgia, and seem to favor small mountains and berry bushes. I found them at nearly 1,900 feet above sea level, in a spot where a nearly non-existent breeze was made stronger and cooler as it channeled up a dent in the ridge. That breeze and the blueberry barrens near where I found them was what drew them.
The Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website still claims about 85,000 acres, but I think that does not include 2,500 acres purchased from Glatfelter’s paper company circa 2008 and donated to the state.
A few years ago, a friend and I took a week in Colorado, driving through the back roads of the Rockies, generally following one of our favorite country music artists – and premiere writer of environmental songs – on what we termed “The Ultimate San Juan Oddysey.” The trip took us above the tree line, to long defunct silver mines, historic avalanche sites, Silverton (via the Durango and Rio Grande narrow gauge railroad), and Black Bear Road, (“You don’t have to be crazy to drive this here road, but it helps.”).