Buoy the population of the soul
Toward their destination before they drown
~ Robert Pinsky
June 2022
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Thursday, 14. June 2007

News From Atlanta Airport

Sitting in Atlanta airport, for a flight that keeps getting delayed by the minute, I found myself scanning the Google News aggregator, where I read this story on the decline of common bird populations in USA. Few highlights:

"• 20 common birds have lost more than half their populations in the past 40 years • Birds in decline: Northern bobwhite, field sparrow and boreal chickadee • Factors: Agriculture, habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species, global warming • Health of a bird population often a harbinger of health of other wildlife, humans"

This story comes to my attention on an evening where I spent discussing the shore birds, including two kinds of ducks, I saw on a walkabout last weekend in the Upper New York Bay, with my friend Tom, who had taught me much about North American birds. It also makes me reflect on the ecological transition that my childhood neighborhood in India went through as it got increasingly urbanized. I now realize that the times of idyll in those years of my childhood and youth roughly ended around the time when the common sparrows stopped nesting in the skylight vents, the cawing of crows was rarely heard, and the sight of squadrons of green parrots in flight become less and less common.

Even though the agonist in me wants to believe that absence of bird calls to embroider childhoods will lead to a diminishment of their magic, the cynic in me chimes in to say, "Who the hell notices birds anyway? Not the kids with their eyes glued to video game consoles!!" That said, if you are a home owner, please follow this suggestion vis-a-vis your totally useless and expensive lawn:

"You don't have to have a lot of land, just a corner of your back yard for native plants," he said.

The berries on native dogwoods, for example, provide a food source for migratory birds. And he suggested that bird lovers not cut down flowers in the fall, instead leaving them up as groundcover for birds in the winter and as a source of seeds. Introducing just a few native plants to perfectly manicured, sterile back yards can make a huge difference, Butcher said.


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