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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Existential Extinction

Mrs. Flicker's lovely breast feathers... I thought these were just polka dots, until I got a closer look.
     I was born in a small suburb outside of Toronto called Ajax. It was back in the day when kids could go out into the streets all day with little or no adult supervision, and after a long day of tearing around the neighbourhood, we would end up safely home in time for dinner. As the town grew and became more populated, my parents felt the draw to the country. We moved out of this small town and I grew up in an even smaller one, surrounded by nature and farms.
She flew out all by herself to get fed!
     At Lockhart Public School, one of the things we were were schooled on that I learned about and retained some vague knowledge of, was dinosaurs. We were taught about extinction caused by dramatic world events known as Natural Disasters. Meteors, Ice Ages, Flash Floods, Volcanos... pretty much anything could happen to us at any given time to wipe us all out, we were told - but not to worry - because it would all be over before we knew it, and in the blink of an eye - if that ever happened during our lifetime. Still, these doubtful inklings would creep in just before dozing off to sleep... what if?
     The brainwashing continued when they petitioned for, built and activated Nuclear Reactors on the very big & beautiful, Lake Ontario. Don't worry, it's perfectly safe. They stated. No chance of an accident or they wouldn't build it in the first place, our parents convinced themselves, and us. One minute they were teaching us how to hide under our desks and where to go in the event of a Nuclear Disaster, the next minute they were telling us it was impossible and to just continue to carry on living our day to day lives.
     It is only recently that I started to look at these teachings to see how they made me not see reality the way it is in it's natural state. Catastrophic events caused extinction, we were told. Huge, rumbling, sky blazing, smoke filled events that the whole world would witness. Not just hurricanes or tornados, but entire planet threateners.
     I was not taught in any school that extinction was happening each and every day at an alarming rate. Extinction of races of humans, of types of birds, fish, entire species of mammals. Each day. Every day. I wasn't informed of this, it isn't on the six o'clock news. I had to look for this information, I have had to open my own eyes to these realities.
     The Northern Flickers that were nesting in the Birch tree outside my window have been gone for 2 weeks exactly. I started bird watching because of the mating dance between the two females and one male that lasted upwards of a month. We were delighted to see hatchlings squawking for food from mama and daddy. We wondered where the male went, and assume he was killed somewhere around June 7th. I found the mother, dead in my back alley on the 10th and took her 8 nestlings to the Night Owl Bird Hospital where 6 survived the night. In the morning they were prepared for a trip to Gibson's Wildlife Rehab Centre to fight for survival under the gentle care of the good folks there...
     A few weeks ago, I was in put touch with a doctor of ornithology from UBC who told me that Northern Flickers had a very low survival rate. Northern Flickers only have a 46% survival rate. Forty. Six. I am not a wiz at the math, but this statistic tells me these wonderful woodpeckers are heading toward extinction. Fast. I didn't post the statistic before because I didn't want to jinx anyone who might be trying to raise a Flicker family just outside my window. I had high hopes for everyone in the birch tree. This brutal statistic was validated this past week in the loss of another four of the original eight Northern Flicker nestlings that we rescued from the birch cavity. If I include the father and mother, that's eight of ten, dead and gone. I can only hope that one of the original two females that was mating with the male is still alive somewhere. I have no way of knowing. There is one female up another back alley that calls out sometimes when we are walking the dogs. I can only hope it's her.
After lunch she flew up onto her feeder's head to show off!
     I have looked at nature all my life with admiration and awe, and I  have also looked away with great respect. It's fleeting and though full of passion, nature can seem clearly devoid of emotion. The strongest will survive and that's how it works when evolution is the momentum fueling the journey. Really sad moments will be justified during tragic events by humans, but people think that animals seem to just push through tragedy without reaction.
     Today,  only two female nestlings are surviving at the Gibson's Rehab Centre. I went there with Jill & the dogs on Thursday. They have no idea what was caused four of the nestlings to die. There were no warning signs, just little dead Flickers in the bottom of the cage. The first one died within the first two days, it was the weakest bird, but not the smallest. Last Sunday when they went in for the morning feeding they found two males dead, the following day one more male. They were tested repeatedly for parasites, and still found no apparent cause for their passing. It devastated the caring folks who love them and feed them everyday, and their sadness was made harder by having to tell me, and ultimately everyone who reads this that all but two of the six brought to them have perished.
Two little females perch on a log in their cage at GWRC.
     It was a nice visit, and really busy at the centre so we didn't stay long. The fine and wonderful people who take care of these creatures are the only ones on the coast, so they get pretty busy at this time of year. People cutting down trees, re-roofing their homes, clearing out their bushes and sheds disrupt a great deal of nestlings. There is little or no care taken to give birds and other small creatures a fighting chance. On the farm, trees are removed in the fall or very early spring long before there is any chance for babies to be disturbed or essentially killed.
     When I was a kid, in that small town of Ajax, we used to watch movies down the street at the Tarjan's house. We saw stuff hat we normally wouldn't be allowed to watch at home. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? scared the bejesus out of us. We sang, "the worms crawl in the worms crawl out" after seeing Picture Mommy Dead even though the song itself gave me nightmares until I was 12. When we saw The Blob, we laughed that that actually frightened people. Clips of people running from old movie houses represented the very best of scary movies back then. We heard War Of the Worlds and were told that it caused major hysteria in it's day. Sent people into a state of panic, jammed phone lines created grid locked traffic from believers fleeing for their lives.
Mrs. Northern Flicker feeding 2 of her 8 hatched nestlings before she was hit by a car & killed on June 10, 2011.
     I am afraid that most people are waiting for this type of dramatic display to take action against the slow poisoning of our fresh water sources. It's rapid in reality, but what if the daily decline of our wildlife isn't fast enough for everyone to care in the timely manner that we need it to take place. When folks went to see The Awful Truth, Al Gore's movie about the climate crisis, no one left the theatre running, for the first time I felt like it. Does everyone have to wake up to no birds singing to notice we have a serious problem? Because it'll be way too late then, and the credits will be rolling...
     There are things we can do to wake people up faster. I think putting a stop to the coal mine in the watershed on Vancouver Island near Parksville in the Comox Valley would be a great way to show people all over the planet that we have a real crisis that needs to be addressed. People look to the west for sound advice. We lead the way in North America for natural healthcare services for ourselves and for our pets.  We know the right way to do things here, and have the capacity to make the right decisions. It's time to make the changes we need to make. Ending the production of coal in Canada is just one...
     We parked the car in the shade of some nice trees to let the ferry traffic pass and die down. I heard the familiar PEER! of the Northern Flicker through our open windows. I looked up into the tree behind the car and saw a knot had been hollowed out about 20 feet up into the tree...

Young male Northern Flicker waiting for mama to feed him.
    I thought it was pretty great, we saw a female getting fed, and moments later, her brother appeared for his gullet to be filled. His red cheeks just filling in against his light grey head.
    He peeked his head out and shouted at his mom to bring him more food. A mother mule deer walked right behind me escorting her two spotty backed baby fawns. She startled when she saw me, but didn't run into the traffic, she carefully guided her babies to safety behind the tree line next to the chain link fence that surrounded a hydro station.
    I know that even though four of those little Northern Flickers we brought in didn't make it back to nature, they died with full bellies, safe and warm and cared for. They didn't merely starve to death in the cavity of the birch over a period of time that would have been cold and lonely and a stark contrast to the love and care they got right up to the end. Intention takes a back seat to nature's master plan and that's the way it should be. That's why we need to stop doing things that go against nature. Like mining coal.
     It's Sunday June 26th, 2011. CLICK here to: STOP A COAL MINE!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rescuing Nestling Northern Flickers

The Flicker Nestling Rescue


Last few photos of Mrs. Flicker, landing and feeding...
     Friday was now history, and Saturday sunrise was met without the chirping of the Northern Flicker family of West Eleventh Avenue. We had a few things to organize before the trip to West Vancouver, and then across on a ferry to the sunshine coast to the Gibson's Wildlife Rescue Centre. We wanted to walk the dogs early so they would be comfortable for the trip. I loaded them into the car and walked around to the driver's side. There were some feathers swirling around on the grass beside the alley next to the parking spot. Feathers I missed when i gathered Mrs. Flicker from the alley. I picked them up now...
     A small detail that comes only from a sort of intimate study of a Northern Flicker, like when they aren't alive anymore. I felt like I was let in on a kind of secret. The spotted chest or Mrs. Flicker isn't polka dots at all. Blowing across the grass near where I found her body were tiny cream coloured feathers, each one with a little black heart where I had expected to see a polka dot. I was glad to know it and sadder for knowing it at the same time. Somehow it made me even more determined to save these little nestlings from the unrelenting city.
Landing with a gullet full of food... second last time.
      And- can I just say, that I understand that sometimes animals are struck by cars and it is completely unavoidable-save for never driving a car- but this rare woodpecker, with 8 babies, was hit in a back alley next to a curb. If the driver were paying attention, not speeding carelessly, Mrs. Flicker would still be with her offspring. The nestlings wouldn't be in a cage in a Vet clinic on West Broadway waiting for us to drive them a hundred miles away to give them a fighting chance at survival.
     And to the advice of those who don't think that people should interfere with nature that quickly or drastically, downtown Vancouver isn't nature. A city park, isn't nature - it's landscaping. Nature is where people don't come first, or second or even third. There are ways we can help nature succeed to include us so we can evolve with it, but it means Everyone putting effort towards controlling corporations and governments to force them into behaving the way we expect them to, and by NOT PUTTING PROFIT FIRST ANYMORE. If you are confused, or not convinced, go see a Michael Moore documentary, or watch The Corporation, check out the David Suzuki Foundation, talk to Leonardo Dicaprio or Ed Begley Jr. if you don't feel like figuring it out for yourself.
     And folks, you can't expect a bunch of famous people to sing a song or hold a benefit and fix things. Each person has to make a little effort. Okay, no more lecture. I am just saying... wake UP, look  around. Slow DOWN notice things. Pay attention to your surroundings... do SOMETHING!
Now, back to the Flickers...
     We went to the Night Owl Bird Hospital and collected 6 baby Northern Flickers to deliver to GWRC. 2 of the nestlings did not survive the night. It seems that Mrs. Flicker was already having a hard time keeping up with all the babies as it was. 4 were really healthy, 2 noticeably smaller ones would require a little more attention but were doing really well, but the two that perished were an indication that she was just barely keeping up. The doctor mentioned she was surprised she even had enough food to feed all these little ones. Eliza mentioned our suet paddles and Dr. MacDonald thought that could have been what was keeping everyone alive.
6 nestlings packed up and ready for travel...
     Night Owl had fed and readied the babies for the journey, so we didn't even have to lift the towel that covered their cages until we presented them to GWRC. The trip and ferry ride were uneventful and pleasant. The babies made weird noises that perked our dogs ears the entire ride...The kind folks who run GWRC were excited to have this cheeky species back in their folds, they had raised two before and successfully released them in back into nature. We were lucky to have rescued them so fast that they didn't really suffer a great deal of trauma. They didn't really need to recover from anything or be nursed back to health, they were lively and alert and HUNGRY!
This is the Northern Flicker's fresh nest at GWRC.
     Immediately expert hands of the lady of the house went into action. She had each bird fed in mere moments, using a plastic coffee stirrer, and a special formula developed by the Ornithological Society of America.
Because the babies are eager to eat and open up for feedings, they won't require too much handling and won't become too trusting of humans. This makes their chances of survival so much higher. Being wary of people makes them nest further from poisons, urban encroachment, cats and of course, traffic.
     We got the grand tour of the Rehab Centre. It's just a wonderful place operating out of the goodness of these people's hearts. Please donate generously through their website if you can contribute to the caring of some really wonderful creatures, including the Flickers!
off the front of the ferry to GRWC
Ferry to Sunshine Coast with Flickers.
looking out the side of the ferry


6 fed nestlings, ready to nap...
     In my neighbourhood we would learn to adjust to the amputated Birch across the street, and now that  the nestling Northern Flickers are in the right hands, they will live and be released back into nature! With any luck there is something in them that migrates them back to Gibson's or somewhere else safe on the Sunshine Coast, and not back here into downtown chaos.
     I talk to GWRC every day. Progress is the only thing to report! the runt is the boldest, demanding food first, and last - most are perching on the lip of the cage and waiting to be fed, the other 2 are on a cloth still a little small to perch on their own. But no one needs to have their beak pried apart & held open for feeding! They are all eager eaters and that makes them even more likely to survive to adulthood! We are going to visit them tomorrow.
This could be a Flicker home...

... and look how remote! 

Paradise for any woodpecker, right there in Gibson's on the Sunshine Coast.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tragedy on West Eleventh...

Dedicated to the Flickers of West 11th & Hemlock...
Beautiful Mrs. Flicker feeds her nestlings dutifully.
     In an attempt to keep this Flicker Report as accurate and true as possible, I will install each day of this past weekend as it unfolded, and as an individual posting instead of trying to tell it all on one page, in one sitting. So, without further explanation and with a total broken heart, I have to tell you that a devastating tragedy has befallen our dear Flicker family and extreme measures had to be taken in order to save the babies.
Mrs. Flicker keeps the nest clean after feeding her nestlings.
Here are the events.
Friday June 10 6:45AM
     Eliza and I woke up and the first thing Eliza saw through a crack in the curtain, while still lying in bed with our dogs & cats, was Mrs. Flicker feeding on the suet paddle on our back porch. She fed for a while before filling her gullet and flying across the street to the Birch cavity that housed her nestlings. I watched her feed  a few eager gaping beaks before getting up and dressed and heading out with my dog for my morning cuppa coffee.
There is a little white knob on either side of the lower beak.
     When I came back, Mrs. Flicker was on Jill's suet paddle pecking away. I came into the house and got my camera ready. I saw her make another trip to the nest and go inside. she made a few trips to clean out the mess the babies had made in the night.
     The suet paddles were getting low and I was planning on a trip to the bird store to replenish her paddles. I mentioned to Eliza that we hadn't seen Mr. Flicker since the 6th or at the latest 7th of June. We weren't sure if he had another family, or what became of him these last few days but we weren't totally worried - just wondering when/if we'd see him again.
     It was now 8:30 AM and I was waiting to get my morning photos, so I was pretty glued on the nest, expecting her to come back at any moment.  An hour passed.  Two hours passed.
     Two and a half hours passed and the babies had now been up to the hole a few times and their shouts for mama continued to go unanswered. I have rescued quite a few baby animals and I  grew up an a small farm so I know that babies need constant care, feeding & warmth. Especially the little ones that can't feed themselves, like naked baby woodpeckers in a tree cavity. I asked Eliza to keep an eye on the nest while I walked to the store with Sparrow & Hawksley to get the suet.
     We walked up an alley and looked for Mrs. or Mr. Flicker. No sign of them. Silence. We got back home and Eli said she was worried too, that there was still no sign of her. We decided to go looking for her. Maybe she got caught somewhere, she couldn't be far. We walked around each of the four blocks that we know they travel and hunt for food. We checked the back alleys and listened. Nothing.
The babies were now leaning out of the hole with regularity, squawking for their mama to bring food. I started to feel really uneasy. This was not good. She should be here for sure by now. Eliza stayed by the nest, watching. The babies had attracted the attention of the crows. Even they were aware the babies were left alone too long.
     Eliza and I walked around the back and saw 5 or 6 crows sitting on Jill's porch. Motionless. Sombre. It was eerie. I chased them off gently and took Sparrow with me for another look. This time I did what I do when I really need to find something or someone. I walked a block from the house in no particular direction. I tried to clear my mind from worry, from guessing. I need to find her, I rolled those words across my brain to clear it from my thoughts of what ifs... I need to find her so I know what to do. I need to find her so I know the right thing to do for the babies.
     I am telling you the honest to goodness truth when I tell you that then next thing that happened was I  heard a Flicker's call. PEER! My heart started to pound... okay, call again, I heard you-... PEER! PEER! PEER! Sparrow and I trotted south towards the call and turned down the back alley... listening... listening... nothing. We waited. Nothing. We continued in the direction we had come to be facing and ended up in the alley that runs off of my parking lot. I was across the street and looked down my own alley.
     My heart sunk in my chest without me even knowing why yet. Heart pounding walking, Sparrow  beside me tucked up, squinting at me, worried and not trotting ahead with his tail all pompous. We crossed Hemlock street and I could clearly see 2 wings jutting up from the ground at an impossible angle. The word no caught in my throat, and Sparrow's tail tucked under him. He looked up at me and then his nose scented the air with great concern. He stayed close beside me, monitoring my reaction.
     I got up to whatever it was that I was reacting to and my brain tried to make sense of the muddle I was looking at. My eyes scanned the little slip of feathers and body tangled in a little arc. under one wing, tucked I finally saw her beautiful head and black beak. It was odd. No blood, not messy, just entirely ironed out into nothing but feathers.
I came into the house and told Eliza that we had an emergency. I told her I found her and that she was gone. I couldn't say the word dead about that bird. I grabbed my gloves and gathered Mrs. Flicker's little empty body as best I could. By the look of the scene, she had been busy focused on an ant hill next to the curb in the alley and some careless driver ran her over. Then the next person, and the next person for probably the whole three hours we had searched for her. This is not a small bird. This was careless, thoughtless driving.
Hungry babies call for mama Northern Flicker.
When I get into these situations, which seem to be a reoccurring theme in my life oddly, I go into auto pilot. Once I had her gathered, I went for her babies.
Ladder. Box to put them in. Suet to try to lure them up to the hole. The first ladder I was going to climb was about a hundred years old. Wooden. Eliza made me get down off of it before I was even half way up. There was a huge aluminum ladder in the other basement, pain in the ass but I got it out with Eli's help. I climbed up but the babies were naturally scared and deep into the cavity. My hand could fit in, but with a bird in it I doubted I could pull it back out. Eliza climbed up. Her arm went in deep, but not deep enough to catch anyone. We tried a little suet, and she caught the first baby. I climbed up behind her and took him and gently placed him into a dark box. We tried for about half an hour to get another one of the four babies we knew were in there but no one else came close enough to grab.
Eliza up the ladder reaching in for the nestling Flickers.
    It wasn't working, and we didn't have time to wait. I also didn't want to try a whole bunch of things that would upset them and compromise the stressed little ones any more than they were. We made the hard decision to put the baby we had, back into the nest so he would at least be with his brothers and sisters. I ran down to the fire station. Eliza called her good friend and fellow animal advocate, Alisen, who would rush right over after walking her pup.
     The fire truck at Fire Station number 4 on West 10th Avenue a block from my house was out at the moment. The fire fighter who answered the door when I rang heard me and told me I could ask the Captain, but he couldn't say either way whether or not they could help. Could I come back in half an hour, of course. I went to the landlord of the building that actually housed the Birch tree and the cavity of babies. I rang him up and explained the dire situation. He thought about it and asked for more details. I took him out to the tree and showed him what I planned to make happen. The fire department will do it if I have his permission I told him... he agreed if I was sure this was the only way to save the babies.
     I walked home and turned the corner to see firetruck #4 parked down on the corner in front of Rangoli, a great restaurant for lunch. I waited until I saw the guys around the truck and I ran down. I explained that there was a nest - that they were woodpeckers and they were rare birds and they were going to die if they didn't help us. I also completely understand if they can't help us. It's not their duty to risk their lives for birds. They run into buildings,when everyone else is running out. They are important members of our community and to ask this of them was a lot, if anything happened to them or if it all went terribly wrong their intervening could be really awful fro them.
Where? They asked... I ran to the tree a hundred yards away. You want to do this? the Captain asked his crew? They were already suiting up and cracking out the chainsaw. A small crowd gathered.
Ladder up to the tree. Secured. One guy climbs it and makes sure it's safe.
Eliza passed up my old undershirt and he crams it into the cavity to act like a plug to keep the babies low, block out some of the horrific noise, and keep it dark.
He climbs down. Suited up firefighter climbs up with chainsaw and slices the top off of the limb like butter. He climbs down with saw. First guy scoots back up the ladder and straddles himself over the branch and looks in. He pulls out my undershirt and drops it to his guy below. Ready? Here we go.
Fireman that helped rescue the Northern Flicker Nestlings.
He reaches in, One.
Two.
Three.
Four. We're going to need a bigger box.
Five.
Six.
Seven. There is some concern about seven and eight. EIGHT!?
     They passed Eliza the empty Hepa filter box full of 8 baby Flickers. Took down the ladder. Put away the chainsaw. Smiled and let us thank them briefly, and left. These big strong wonderful firemen were pleased to help us do something that was in their minds, a happy thing. They saved a bunch of rare birds!  How great is that? They asked us to let them know how they were doing, I promised I would. And will.
     So now we had a little hot box of birdies. Alisen had been on the phone the entire hour she was here, investigating and researching where we could take this precious cargo, and had all the answers. We jumped into her car and drove only a few blocks to the Night Owl Bird Hospital on West Broadway. They were waiting for us and took us right in to an exam room. The most wonderful calm angel walked quietly into the room and asked us what we had brought her. 8 baby Flickers we said, Dr. Anne Macdonald dropped her jeweler's magnifying goggles down and peered into the little box. She immediately told us to stay there and she took the nestlings into the back exam room.
    She came back a 10 minutes later and asked me for the whole story. (Read my previous posts for the back story I told this superb human being.) She asked us what our involvement was going to be. I explained that I was here to see this through and do what ever had to be done to rescue, raise and rehabilitate these guys, that after all the joy I got from their moms & dad, it was the very least I could do. She knew of a place that had successfully raised Flickers before, but it was quite a ways away, could we drive them? We could borrow Jill's car, and take them across to the sunshine coast tomorrow morning- first thing!
    We got home and not fifteen minutes later the phone rang. The Gibson's Wildlife Rehab Centre was calling. Irene was on the phone, with a sage Scottish lilt. I have that loyalty coursing through my veins as well, the familiarity was comforting. She described their setting and gave me directions. I would see her tomorrow at half past noon, and deliver a passel of baby Northern Flickers for her to nurture back to nature.
     Eliza & I went to bed knowing that things would most likely be okay after a really sad, tragic day. I looked out at the lopped off  Birch and it looked exactly as empty and quiet as I felt. Amputated. Death sucks so badly for those of us left living to feel it's sting. In my mind, I recited the things that Dr. Anne MacDonald told me.
     She explained that Mrs. Flicker was doing a good job, but clearly struggling over the loss of Mr. Flicker who had disappeared 3 days before. Six of the babies were pretty clean and fed, but two might not make it though the night. These two were the least developed, and probably couldn't make it up to the hole for feeding like the rest, so they would only got fed when mama could get past the others to get to the bottom of the cavity.
     The doctor told us that the other six would for sure thrive in the care of a rehab centre and instead of all perishing in the city because of everyone running them over in cars, poisoning them with crap to make flowers grow, weeds die and grass greener they have a better chance of surviving to full maturity in Gibson's, than in downtown Vancouver. She said that because they were brought in relatively healthy, the care giver would have less to deal with. These were all good things. Eliza set the alarm clock for 6AM, we passed out, exhausted...                  to be continued.
The empty cavity the nestlings were taken from...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

FLICKER UPDATE! BABY FOOTAGE!

And that means they are big enough to reach the hole!
She can reach in to feed them without going inside today!

We counted four beaks so far. The mama is so busy feeding them.

They look like they are kept in the dark, all ghostly looking.
Today the Northern Flicker baby birds in the cavity of the Birch tree across the street are big enough to be seen during feeding time! Look at this video of the Mother Northern Flicker feeding a bunch of babies! I won't get into a long description of it, the pictures say it all...

They squawk & sound exactly like the parents sound, only tiny.
Almost all, except that the sound is hard to hear over the traffic of the city, and really surprisingly loud! They sound just like their parent's mating call, except they sound really tiny. But you can recognize the Flicker call coming out of the cavity of the Birch tree.

Baby waits for his mama to begin the jack hammer feeding.

After feeding female Northern Flicker leaves the cavity.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Canary in a Coal Mine

photo by ralphhocken@shaw.ca
A year or so ago Eliza and I took a trip to Courtenay, which is up the coast on Vancouver Island. We do it often because her mom lives there. On that particular ferry over, is where I first read about some albino Ravens that have been living in Parksville since the 1970's. Okay not totally albino, they have blue eyes, but close enough for me, they're totally white. I really wanted to see an albino Raven, I love Crows, and Ravens are even more magical and full of lore and mystique. Their blackness is such a part of who they are, so a white one with blue eyes would be pretty incredible to see. We stopped but didn't really know where they were typically sighted, so I have yet to find them and lay my own eyes and lens upon them. You, like me will have to settle on this great shot by Ralph Hocken, and on these photos from the local paper.
     We got to Judy's and she mentioned that she had to attend a local meeting about a proposed coal mine in the Comox Valley. I thought maybe they were trying to figure out what to do with an old mine. There are all sorts of old mines around BC open for tourism, not for mining of course. We all know how dangerous mining is, how poison it is for the environment, that's what we learn on these guided tours. But what Judy said next really caught my attention. She said that a company wants to start mining coal out of the Comox valley watershed, from Parksville to Courtenay...
rare old growth,  each tree an eco system.


totem poles combine people and animals.
     They aren't using the coal in Canada, because we all know how harmful it is to burn coal. They plan on selling it to some other planet, called China. At least I assume it's another planet, because I am pretty sure that the China here on Earth has enough pollution problems, without adding to them, and also for the obvious reason that we share the same planet. If China is polluting, I am inhaling it and wiping it off of my bookcases, my pets lick it off their paws... Also, we live in BC! We are ahead of the environmental game here- oh... we're not? Oh. Okay, well someone else will stop it. It'll totally be stopped before they need my help.
precious and rare clean fresh water... we are all waterkeepers.
Ravens lives jeopardized by Raven Coal Mine.
      Okay so, it's been around a year since Judy first mentioned the coal mine. They are still talking about mining that coal! There are surveys and talks and all that bulls*&$t! They are going to sell the poisonous fossil fuel, to China- the country here on Earth! And that effects our entire planet- not just the obvious rape our precious watershed! There is an organized force trying to stop this from happening and, once again for some reason, the good guys need help to stop the bad guys from f*&*&ing us into an early extinction. This force is small, and they need everyone's help. I know, I still can hardly wrap my head around it. Ruin a watershed when the world is facing a clean water crisis? How is it legal to profit off of natural resources at such a rate of speed that nature can't even replenish itself?
     There is an excellent letter circulating around written about this proposed coal mine, it is by a wonderful and prolific Canadian writer named Anne Cameron. I will try to get her permission to post her open letter here.
     In this letter Anne Cameron speaks of the obvious ugly truths behind mining - and points out that there are not sufficient safety standards in place to protect the miners, not matter how much money they tempt the miners with. She knows from the past, that the land can not take the beating that mining gives it, the waters are poisoned and the earth perishes for hundreds of seasons, sometimes hundreds of years... because of the mess humans have caused taking things that are meant to be left alone.
     And we have history. We can benefit from prior knowledge. We have men who have worked in coal mines and earned that pay check -was it worth it? When the Chilean miners were trapped all those days that led into weeks, under there in the deep dark earth, was it worth it then? Okay, thank goodness they survived, but how many haven't? Did these Coal Companies see Margaret's Museum? Apparently not, and perhaps they should.And after the coal is mined, and sold to China to operate their pollution spewing industries, how does that NOT effect me? We know we can't burn the coal in Canada because it is BAD to burn coal... but somehow they can sell it? TO BURN?!
     The totem poles that were carved hundreds of years ago represent an obvious relationship between humans and animals. A linear free standing structure, each character depending on the other for support. I am not going say, we need to get that back. We have that coursing through our veins, too. We are being deprived of it by corporations and by our own governments because they profit off of the corporations. Look around you if you need proof that people care about nature.
poppy garden... on public property.
succulent garden with glass beads and paper weights...
     People all over the country/world are reclaiming property and planting sustainable gardens on that property. Vacant lots-in this case an unused railroad track that stretches for miles... turned into beautiful flower gardens and raised vegetable plots. It spreads across this city for everyone to enjoy. No one pilfers the flowers, property is respected, vegetables are not stolen. Some may be eaten by those who need it, but there is always a harvest for the gardener. People love and respect nature. Jammed into tiny apartments we need to get our hands dirty in clean dirt, and this is how we do it. In turn bees, birds and bugs can live and procreate and find a home in some sort of wilderness in the middle of a busy city.

public garden on unused railroad tracks...
Cosmos in a public Garden
I think this is a pretty clear indication that people respect the land and love and worship nature. I think the majority of us do not want a coal mine to go in and rip through some of the most beautiful nature the world has left. Home to a rare albino Raven. Home to Bald Eagles, deer, wolves, coyotes, bears, cougars and every species of bird the province has to offer, about 119 in all. I am pretty sure that no one wants China to continue to burn coal, and that selling China coal to burn is total bulls*^t and quite simply stupid. I am sure that basically the ones raping the land for profit have not heard, clearly from nice folks like us, that this isn't going to happen, because money just isn't enough of an excuse anymore. We actually can't live with no water and no air, so money isn't all that huge of an incentive anymore.
     Yes, money may buy elite billionaire you and your family a seat on a spaceship that can grow vegetables, heck money might even buy you a ticket to another planet. But there are a bunch of us who love earth. We love the blue skies, we love drinking water from a stream on a hike - okay we loved that ten years ago, now we love the thought of doing that again, so you see where I am going with this...we are the fun ones that the rich ones need so they can dream about who they want to be. Me, who walks my dogs each day and feeds the birds from my the palm of my hand... I am living the dream that money can't buy. There's plenty to go around, too.
     We need to stop a coal mine folks. We need to stop it dead from ever happening in North America. That is something we can control, because we are here, and frankly have nothing better to do. Not that there isn't a lot to do and we have nothing, but this is the BEST thing to do right now to make a huge immediate difference in our futures.
    Let's stop the Raven Mine now, before it gets some momentum and gets even harder to stop later, like after they've hired a bunch of unemployed folks from all over the country to work there...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Feeding time...

Male Northern Flicker rests outside his nest after feeding.
His toes are so sweet!
So, it started last season when we saw the Northern Flickers return to a cavity nest in the birch tree across the street. The previous year we had watched them carve the nest out of a dead limb on the tree, and were amazed at how many people walked right past this display without even noticing! Birch shavings spewing out of the little hole left a little blond pile on the green grass below, and when the birds themselves flew around, it was quite a distraction...
A brown bird, just smaller than a small crow and from the woodpecker family, with the brightest orange undercarriage I have ever seen. The first time I have ever seen a Flicker feather, I was riding my bike up Manitoba street and there were a few blowing across the street. I thought they were dyed orange feathers and wondered why they were there... I got off my bike to gather them up, when I found him in the street at the side of the road. His long black beak had blood on it so i knew he was dead. He was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen in real life. I picked him up and put him in my basket and buried him under the lilac tree in the backyard of the little house we were living in at the time.
Now I see them everywhere. I have learned they do tend to get killed by urban encroachment, but are really fighting to adapt. They feed on the ground, so they get hit by cars, and poisoned by all the crap people thoughtlessly use around the house and in the garden and on the lawn. Some reports say that domestic cats are to blame for a decrease in the bird population. I say bull*^$t. Every cat everyone has ever known could have gone out and killed birds all day long, and the numbers would still be billions less than what humans have done! Don't blame cats- it's just stupid.
Female Northern Flicker: photo of her moving her own egg.
     One afternoon last year, we were coming home from walking the dogs when we saw the female move 5 eggs, from this cavity to another one east of here a block. After that, we only saw them occasionally- almost like this was a tree for respite and peace from at least 5 baby hatchlings... all jammed into one cavity!
     This year I kept my camera at the ready, caught the mating rituals, nest claiming and breeding take place. A few days after we saw the breeding, we caught the birds moving their eggs!

video
... and then another mating ritual! We watched and knew they must be laying more inside this cavity nest too. There was always one of the birds in the cavity nest at all times before they moved the eggs, and now again.. One would fly up and roost on the entry, the other would leave just after one landed. As you saw if you watched the above video....
Male landing on entrance to cavity...
      Two weeks later they are now busier than ever gathering food and going in and out of the nest with great regularity. Now there's still almost always someone around, but not always inside the cavity like when they were first sitting. The mama sits outside the cavity and has a long bath in the sun in the middle of the afternoon. She fluffs up her polkadot feathers and preens each one. It's adorable. They are such beautiful birds... we really have to think about what we are doing to nature.
Male Flicker returning to the nest.
Their are just so pretty to watch, and hard working...

There is serious talk about a coal mine starting on Vancouver Island in pristine wilderness. Yes, a coal mine, starting up - and no, it's not 1911. It's a hundred years later and we have alternatives, but who needs those? 
Instead, at the Raven Mine, they want to mine the coal, disturbing all that is sacred, destroying water and ecosystems for profit. This is a very serious problem for us. Not because it's cold up here in Canada and we need it to keep everyone cosy after hockey on the pond... no - someone is selling that coal to China. That's right to China, because $$ doesn't give a shit about the planet in China. Poor China, barely seems to care about China. 
   This is a very serious for everyone on the planet. British Columbia has a duty to the rest of the planet to set an example, and we are about to f*&@k it up on a global level. For money that will never line the pockets of anyone who will use it for any good. Not out of desperation or as a last resort. Just because that's how corporations roll....
 Readers, we need to stop this mine, and I am pretty sure we can, for once stop the big fat greedy wheel of disillusionment from cutting through our part of the rainforest.
     Who's with me?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jericho walkabout...

Totem photo by jillC of chris'cookies!
Vancouver is a great place to meet all sorts of people. On a sunny day, after seven or eight months of rain, we are so grateful to the burning orange god that we take to nature one and all... sea to sky to bask in the glory. I really liked the documentary Zeitgeist. I really liked how it explained the things I have always thought, like how the Son and the Sun are one in the same. It's terrible that there are wars over religion and over territories. We are all one. Period, the negotiating is over. You kill this planet, you kill yourself and all of us - it's a house of cards. Like how money is bullshit but you need it to survive or do serious good in the world, like Oprah. Well, it's easier to reach a wider audience - I am very aware that little folks have made great changes since jeebus himself walked among the lepers and the whores.
Today we planned on focusing on the dogs for the morning and having a good romp and play. We left early because we knew it was going to be a hot one. I always bring my camera and got a few pictures in along the way... today we met a stranger. He was quite a character. He told us his name is Daniel and that he is from America. I asked him if I could take a photo of his drum, because it has a beautiful painting on it and he agreed.
Then I got he rest of his story as I took photos of him and his drum. Apparently he is just visiting here from the States, not sure where. He painted and made this drum and stick. He is used to riding around on horseback where he's from and said it takes him forever to get anywhere without a horse under him. He was a really nice, and interesting person. I am glad we chatted. In spite of his intoxication, he was charming and had a really wonderful energy... 
T


     I love that the first nations people communicate through storytelling and art that is all encompassing of nature and mother earth. It feels right to worship the planet and the universe and to respect it.
     I think that there is so much that we need to get back to in order to move forward. We spend a lot of time walking the dogs or out riding our bikes. We interact with people and talk to our neighbours, and often to strangers. Eliza calls it yellow dogging. It brings us closer together, and closer to nature.
     I don't think the birds would land on our hands the way they do without the piece of mind that we have and the gentleness we feel for them. 
     Eliza and I both grew up with horses & ponies on small farms. You learn about animals pretty fast from horses because you have no choice. They are big. To get it done your way, you have to first understand their nature, their way. Dogs adapt to people for the most part, but horses need to be understood and respected on a different level of intimacy.
     I asked Daniel if he had a dog, he does. He couldn't travel with it so he left it with a good friend. He said it was the only one he missed. I knew he was not talking about the friend, he was talking about the dog. People with pets seem to be more connected to each other and the planet. Animal lovers already have learned to care about something other than themselves. Something that requires their patience and actually depends on them for survival for their whole lives. Kids can grow up and in most case can live an independent life. A pet needs you forever. It's a commitment that literally means forever... you are forced to be a better person just because of that.
     Yesterday a young Page named Brigette Marcelle stood up during the Throne Speech and walked through the room carrying a stop sign that said, STOP HARPER. She was escorted from the House, and subsequently lost her job.  I saw many tweets when it happened, politicians saying she can kiss her career goodbye. Later CTV, a national news station caught up with her for a statement.
     Kiss it goodbye? I say she can kiss a big champagne bottle to celebrate the birth of her already established career as a champion for the people, and for Canada. 
I send her love and light and good energy. I hope she is the inspiration that ignites this country, then this continent into Stopping. We all need to chill out and get back to nature and have a walkabout. Like Daniel. There's a famous quote, I actually have a sticker of it on the front of my desktop. It says, "Well behaved women rarely make history."(Laurel Thatcher Ulrich)  
Brigette Depape proved that wrong. She is a very well behaved young woman. And I am proud of her. I bet she has pets. I bet she grew up with a dog.