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.

6 MIN READ

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.”

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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
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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.”

(692) Queen of The Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? (Trailer) – YouTube

David Lindsay

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I learned about this film about international bee colony collapse, from my new FB friend Tim Mack’s page. I haven’t seen the whole film yet, but the trailer is horrible, I mean fantastic,

oh Blah and Fiddlesticks, I mean, bad news well presented.

The Number of Ants Worldwide Reaches Into the Quadrillions – Rebecca Dzombak – The New York Times

“Right now, ants are scurrying around every continent except Antarctica, doing the hard work of engineering ecosystems. They spread seeds, churn up soil and speed up decomposition. They forage and hunt and get eaten. You may not know how much you rely on them.

“Ants are the movers and shakers of ecosystems,” said Nate Sanders, an ecologist at the University of Michigan. “Knowing anything about them helps us understand how ecosystems are put together and how they work.”

“I would argue most ecosystems would simply collapse without ants,” said Patrick Schultheiss, an ecologist at the University of Hong Kong. As some naturalists worry about an insect apocalypse, scientists are racing to keep track of what’s at stake. But they didn’t know how many ants there are or where they live.”

David Lindsay: This article about estimating ant populations worldwide, reminds me to ask anyone reading this, one of my new research questions.
Edward O Wilson, the famous entomologist, wrote that if we do wipe out 50% of non-human species, as we are on trajectory to do, humans will not survive, because of the complex dependencies of species in ecosystems. I am looking for research on this topic. What research is this conclusion or hypothesis based on?  My email is daljr37at gmail dot com.

Margaret Renkl | Monarch Butterflies Are In Decline. I Wanted to Help. – The New York Times

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

“NASHVILLE — After all my blue false indigo was killed by a late frost, I went down to the garden center at the farmer’s market looking for more. Blue false indigo is a host plant of the clouded sulphur butterfly, and clouded sulphurs are the most reliable guests in my pollinator patch. I would hate to be caught short-handed when they returned in all their yellow glory. There have been so few butterflies lately.

Naturally I had to walk around the rest of the garden center, too, looking for other perennials that feed native pollinators, but the only ones on offer that day were flowers I already have in abundance. When I came upon a few pots of swamp milkweed tucked into a corner, I turned to leave. Milkweed is the host plant of the monarch butterfly, but I have plenty of milkweed.

As I was turning, something striped caught my eye. I looked closer. Monarch caterpillars were munching away on the leaves.

Reader, I screamed.”

A Complete Guide to Tick Identification and Prevention – The New York Times

The Ticks That Can Make You Sick

“Only two types of ticks — blacklegged ticks (sometimes called deer ticks) and Western blacklegged ticks — can transmit Lyme-causing bacteria. But these and other types of ticks can harbor other diseases that can cause illness, so it’s important to know how to identify them if you get bitten.

Here are six of the most common ticks you might come across in the United States, including those that are most likely to bite you, and what they look like in three of their life stages: larva, nymph and adult. For most species, adult female ticks are the most likely to feed on humans, but many nymphs can bite and cause illness too.”