Opinion | Three Years After a Fateful Day in Central Park, Birding Continues to Change My Life – The New York Times

The author of the forthcoming book “Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World,” from which this essay is adapted.

“Early in the morning of May 25, 2020, I biked from my apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to Central Park to go birding in the Ramble. Despite the uncertainties of the time — New Yorkers were living in a hot spot of the raging Covid pandemic, with no vaccine in sight — I strove to start this warm, sunlit Memorial Day on a happy note by wandering my favorite urban woodlands in search of migrating songbirds.

I was focused on the end-of-season hunt for a mourning warbler, a small yellow and gray skulking bird that’s difficult to spot and relatively rare. I hadn’t yet seen one that year.

Visiting the park in the morning to look for birds has long been a springtime routine for me. I wake before sunrise and grab my Swarovski binoculars — a 50th-birthday present from my father — and head out the door.”

Mosquito Bucket of Doom – Sidewalk Nature

Sidewalk Nature

Everyday wonders in everyday habitat loss / Jo Brichetto

“Mosquito season is here! Instead of spraying pesticides onto our entire yards—and onto fireflies, ladybugs, bumblebees, and butterflies—why not just kill mosquitoes?

But wait, first: let’s PREVENT mosquitos from breeding in our yards. Here’s an infographic (link) from the CDC to remind us of the free and easy common-sense ways to do this, like removing standing water in toys, saucers and gutters.

And THEN, why not try a Mosquito Bucket of Doom?
It’s cheap, it’s safe, it works.

“Mosquito Bucket of Doom” is my name for the old BTi bucket trick, which I’ve known about for years.
I finally made one last spring, after I watched a 1-minute video from Doug Tallamy on his website HomeGrownNationalPark.org. (link)
In addition to the “catchy” name, I’ve added a crucial element: a stick, which I’ll explain in a moment.

A Mosquito Bucket of Doom is just
a bucket of water +
handful of grass +
a stick +
a BTi dunk.

How it works:
The grass in the water rots and attracts mosquitos ready to lay eggs, but the BTi dunk in the water kills the larvae after they hatch. No adult Mosquitoes will emerge.

BTi is a larvicide targeted for mosquitos. It kills the larval stage (not the egg or pupal or adult stages).

“It kills the babies!” said a neighbor, who is now making a Mosquito Bucket of Doom of her own.

BTi will not harm anyone else. Lightning bugs, birds, butterflies, frogs, mammals, etc. are safe.

Source: Mosquito Bucket of Doom – Sidewalk Nature

Margaret Renkl | Long Live the Fireflies (and the Wildflowers and Mosquitoes, Too) – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — The day we moved into this house, 28 years ago next month, a thunderstorm knocked out the power late in the day. My husband was returning the rental van. Our 3-year-old was safely tucked into his old bed in his new room. As night began to fall in the silent house, I sat down on the sofa to cry.

At a routine appointment earlier in the day, I’d learned that the baby I was carrying had no heartbeat. There had been a heartbeat once, but there was no heartbeat now. All I could do was wait for my body — still puffy and tender, still so sensitive to the smell of any kind of food — to catch up. For 10 weeks I had been growing a new life. Suddenly I wasn’t growing anything at all. My body just didn’t know it yet.

Surrendering to tears after a day like that feels like a gift, but the real gift is what happened while I wept. As darkness gathered under the maple trees in our new yard, tiny lights began to wink on and off just above the ground. I got up from the sofa to look. Just beyond the picture window, there were hundreds of lights, thousands of lights, lifting up from the damp grass and rising into the black branches. Lightning bugs!”

A 90-Year-Old Tortoise Named Mr. Pickles Is a New Dad of Three – The New York Times


The oldest animal at the Houston Zoo, a radiated tortoise born nearly a century ago, is finally a father.

The zoo announced last week that Mr. Pickles and Mrs. Pickles welcomed three tortoise hatchlings: Dill, Gherkin and Jalapeño. (All three names are comfortably in the family of pickle preserves.)

It was an astounding feat, zoo officials said, not only because Mr. Pickles is 90 years old, but also because the critically endangered species rarely produces offspring.

Mr. Pickles has been a resident of the zoo for 36 years and partnered with Mrs. Pickles, now 53, since her arrival in 1996. While radiated tortoises can live for up to 150 years, exactly how long they can reproduce is unknown, said Jessica Reyes, a zoo spokeswoman.

Are Butterflies Wildlife? Depends Where You Live in the U.S. – The New York Times

March 4, 2023

“It’s tough being an insect. They get swatted, stomped and sprayed without a thought. Their mere presence can provoke irrational panic. Even everyday language disparages them: “Stop bugging me,” we say.

To make matters worse for insects, they have also been sidelined legally in some states, with unintended but serious repercussions. The reason? According to many state statutes, insects are not considered wildlife.

A close-up shot of a white butterfly with green blotches on its wigs. It sits on a cluster of yellow flowers.
The large marble butterfly is now locally extinct in some places. Rick and Nora Bowers/Alamy

Bees, butterflies and beetles pollinate plants, enrich soils and provide a critical protein source for species up the food chain. The United States Forest Service puts it simply: “Without pollinators, the human race and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive.”

Ecologically they are “the little things that run the world,” in the words of the biologist E.O. Wilson

But those little things are increasingly threatened. Scientists are reporting alarming declines in many species. Some insects appear especially vulnerable to climate change’s supercharged droughts and heat, which hit them hard in addition to chronic pressures like disappearing habitat, widespread pesticides and light pollution.

At the same time, conservation officials in at least 12 states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming — have their hands tied, legally speaking, when it comes to protecting insects. The creatures are simply left out of state conservation statues, or their situation is ambiguous.

State agencies are really at the forefront of conservation for wildlife,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, a nonprofit group that advocates for insect conservation. “But in these states where they can’t work on insects, or in some cases any invertebrates, they don’t. So, you see things just languish.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  NYT comment: 

This is a big story, thank you Catrin Einhorn. “The current rapid rate of extinction leads scientists to call what is happening now with some poetic license the “Sixth Extinction.” (1) Edward O. Wilson, the famous Harvard entomologist, or bug scholar, who just died in late 2021, wrote that at our present course of human growth, we might lose 50 to 80% of the earth’s species in the next 80 to 100 years. (2) Inside of his forecast, one could say, we might lose 80% of the world’s species in the next 80 years.” from a book David Lindsay Jr is about publish, on species extinction.

Margaret Renkl | The Fate of the Okefenokee Swamp Is in Your Hands – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — I have a dim memory of being taken on a boat ride in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge when I was 4 or 5. I remember tea-dark water lapping at the boat, a white bird on stilt legs and a drifting log that startled me by turning into an alligator. That’s it. Years later, I had to consult my brother to be sure I hadn’t dreamed the whole thing up out of nothing but a word-besotted child’s delight in the swamp’s name.

Last fall, in a moving essay for The Bitter Southerner, the writer Janisse Ray called the Okefenokee “a gigantic, ethereal, god-touched swamp in southeast Georgia that’s like no other place on earth.” This is the kind of ecstatic language the refuge inevitably inspires. Some 700,000 people visit it each year, and I have always intended to return. Now I’m worried I won’t ever have the chance.

Twin Pines Minerals, an Alabama-based mining company, has applied to build a strip mine less than three miles from the wildlife refuge. The mining operation would target a geological formation called Trail Ridge, a raised area of land on the eastern border of the swamp. During prehistoric times, Trail Ridge was a barrier island. Today the ocean is some 45 miles away, and Trail Ridge functions as a low earthen dam that holds the Okefenokee in place. “Trail Ridge is not only ecologically important in and of itself,” notes the Georgia Conservancy, “but also serves as scaffolding for the health of the Okefenokee.”

But Trail Ridge contains titanium dioxide. Twin Pines proposes to extract the mineral by peeling off the topsoil, digging out the sand pits, separating the sand containing titanium and then returning the mineral-free sand to its approximate original location.”

Nicholas Kristof | Spy Cams Show What the Pork Industry Tries to Hide – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The hog industry hails the gas chambers in which pigs are prepared for slaughter as “animal friendly,” “stress free” and “painless.” That would be a good thing, since on average, four pigs are slaughtered each second in the United States.

But a California activist recently sneaked into a slaughterhouse at night and installed spy cams inside a gas chamber to record this supposedly humane process. The resulting videos are horrifying: They show the pigs squealing desperately, thrashing about and gasping for air before eventually succumbing.

“Everyone’s been lied to,” the activist, Raven Deerbrook, said. “It’s a massive consumer fraud.”

She may have a point. These gas chambers, which use carbon dioxide to render pigs unconscious, are how “animal friendly” modern meat plants across North America and Europe often prepare hogs to have their throats slit.”

Mark Elbroch | Cougars Are Heading East. We Should Welcome Them. – The New York Times

Dr. Elbroch is the director of the puma program at Panthera, a nonprofit group focused on protecting the world’s wild cats and the ecosystems they inhabit, and the author of “The Cougar Conundrum.”

“Numerous cougar sightings were reported east of the Mississippi River last fall, encounters that have become more frequent in recent years. A trail camera glimpsed one in northern Minnesota, for instance, while authorities captured another in Springfield, Ill., after it had made its way there from Nebraska. Yet another was fatally struck by a car on I-88 west of Chicago.

Cougars once had the run of the continent, ranging far and wide. But they were virtually eliminated in the Eastern United States by the early 1900s (except for a small population that survives in Florida), victims of bounty hunting and habitat loss. In recent decades, their numbers in the Western United States, where they were also once targeted for eradication, have rebounded, and now these big cats, also known as mountain lions, panthers and pumas, are slowly moving east.”

“. . . . .  Wary of humans, cougars feed mainly on deer and smaller prey. The risk of a cougar attack — on people or domestic animals — is extremely low, and almost zero with pragmatic precautions. Fewer than two dozen people have been killed by cougars in North America in the past 100 years. (Males range in size from 120 to 180 pounds, depending on where they live; females are much smaller, ranging from 70 to 110 pounds.) Scientists estimate a recolonization of the Eastern United States by cougars could reduce deer-vehicle collisions by 22 percent over 30 years, averting 21,400 human injuries, 155 human fatalities and over $2 billion in costs. The return of cougars to South Dakota in the 1990s, for example, reduced costs of deer-vehicle collisions by an estimated $1.1 million annually.”

David Lindsay: Bring them back, I say.  Here is the top comment, I endorsed:

New York City8h ago

in 2021, the USDA’s Wildlife Services killed 1.75 million animals, including cougars, wolves, bald eagles and other protected species to protect livestock producers raising cattle and sheep on public — not private — land. How long will we let a government agency like the USDA, and its handmaiden, the Bureau of Land Management continue protecting subsidized ranchers on public lands at taxpayer expense over the cougars and other species who belong on that land, can restore that precious but damaged land…and the public, who owns it? More cougars, please!

8 Replies461 Recommended

The Health Benefits of Bird-Watching – The New York Times

Erik Vance learned to bird-watch in college, during the winter near St. Louis. Since then, he has spotted hundreds of species around the world.


Tammah Watts remembers the exact moment she became a bird-watcher.

It was April of 2007. She was stuck in her house, struggling with chronic pain resulting from complications after a surgery. The pain had become so debilitating that Ms. Watts, formerly an avid biker and hiker, couldn’t hold a pencil or pick up a cup at times. It had forced her to leave her job as a therapist and confined her to her home, where she had sunk into a deep depression.

Then one day, she looked out her kitchen window.

“There’s a tree that has a branch that tends to grow down. And there was this bright yellow bird there,” she said.

She didn’t know that it was called a yellow warbler, or really anything about birds at all, but she was entranced. Every day she watched it jump from branch to branch, barely discernible from the yellow blossoms of the tipu tree. And over time, this bird led her to others in her yard and brought Ms. Watts out of her pain and sadness and back into the world.

She started keeping track of the birds she saw, joined a local Audubon Society chapter and traveled the state looking for new birds. She now sits on the Audubon California board of directors. In short, she said, birding changed her life.

“It’s contagious. It’s addicting,” said Ms. Watts, who is writing a book called “Keep Looking Up: Your Guide to the Powerful Healing of Birdwatching.” “Birding really does cross over into so many areas of wellness, health and fitness.”


Four people, including Kim Ehn, president of the Dunes Calumet Audubon Society, are bundled up against the cold inside a building, hold binoculars up to their eyes while looking outside.
Kim Ehn, front center, president of the Dunes Calumet Audubon Society, leading a group of winter bird-watchers on the shores of Lake Michigan at the Indiana Dunes National Park in Portage, Ind.Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

A red-bellied woodpecker, which actually has far more red on its head than its belly, perches on a tree trunk and looks off to one side.
A red-bellied woodpecker perching on a tree in Willow Springs, Ill. This species is rarely seen any time of year, but it is easier to spot in the winter.Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

Starting on Dec. 14, bird-watchers across the country will begin the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a 123-year-old tradition where people gather and help to catalog species in their area. Novices and serious birders alike walk through parks, forests and fields, looking for birds and listening for bird song; someone shouts “another yellow one!” and somebody else writes down “goldfinch.” “

They Fought the Lawn. And the Lawn Lost. – The New York Times

“COLUMBIA, Md. — Janet and Jeff Crouch do not know which flower or plant may have pushed their longtime next door neighbor over the edge, prompting him to pen complaint after complaint about the state of their yard.

Perhaps it was the scarlet bee balm that drew hummingbirds in darting, whirring droves. Or the swamp milkweed that Monarch butterflies feasted upon before laying their eggs. Or maybe it was the native sunflowers that fed bumblebees and goldfinches.

Whatever it was, their neighbor’s mounting resentment burst to the fore in the fall of 2017, in the form of a letter from a lawyer for their homeowner association that ordered the Crouches to rip out their native plant beds, and replace them with grass.

The couple were stunned. They’d lived on their quiet cul-de-sac harmoniously with their neighbors for years, and chose native plants to help insects, birds and wildlife thrive. Now the association was telling them that their plantings not only violated the bylaws, but were eyesores that hurt property values. “Your yard is not the place for such a habitat,” the letter read.”