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.”

Where to See Winter Wildlife in the U.S. – The New York Times

“Wolves, I learned from watching them in Yellowstone National Park, are clever team players. The pack of 10 that I spied several years ago in the Lamar Valley in the north of the park did diligent reconnaissance of a reddish baby bison, making repeated forays to come between the calf and its mother, at one point drawing a stampeding two-ton bull, which scattered them briefly. But they could only keep it up for so long before collapsing and resting, seemingly distracted, as if their lives did not depend on this kill. The drama went on and off like this until we could no longer see them in the dark. In the morning, a carcass, picked over and attracting ravens, indicated they had been successful.

Seeing an apex predator on its game in the nation’s oldest national park is a bit like watching a “Nature” documentary live — thrilling and sometimes gory — but without the edits between plot points. Patience is a virtue when it comes to wildlife-watching generally, and that is especially true of wolves.”

After Mounting a Comeback, Eagles Face a New Threat – The New York Times

“The bald eagle, whose resurgence is considered one of the great conservation success stories of the 21st century, is facing a serious threat: lead poisoning.

Researchers who tested the feathers, bones, livers and blood of 1,200 bald eagles and golden eagles, another bird of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, found that nearly half of them had been exposed repeatedly to lead, which can lead to death and slow population growth.

Scientists believe that the primary source of the lead is spent ammunition from hunters who shoot animals that eagles then scavenge, usually during the winter, according to the study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.”

DL: The solution exists. Hunters need only switch to copper bullets – lead free ammunition.

 

 

Opinion | The Cost of Cheap Chicken – The New York Times

Lucy King, Adam Westbrook and 

Ms. King is a reporter and producer with Opinion Video, where Mr. Westbrook is a producer and editor and Mr. Kessel is the deputy director.

“We’re Cooked” is an Opinion Video series about our broken food system and the three chances you get to help fix it — and save the planet — every day.


“The titans of the U.S. chicken industry want you to view their sector as a great American success story. In just a few decades, they will tell you, the industry has evolved from a fragmented, homespun business to a well-oiled engine of efficiency that produces wholesome, nutritious products at increasingly affordable prices. Chicken, they will point out, is now the most popular meat in the country.

But as the Opinion Video above reveals, these gains have come at extraordinary cost to the chickens themselves — and to the farmers who are contracted to raise them by the huge chicken corporations that now dominate the sector.”

Seeing 1,000 glorious fin whales back from near extinction is a rare glimmer of hope | Philip Hoare | The Guardian

“Good news doesn’t get any more in-your-face than this. One thousand fin whales, one of the world’s biggest animals, were seen last week swimming in the same seas in which they were driven to near-extinction last century due to whaling. It’s like humans never happened.

This vast assembly was spread over a five-mile-wide area between the South Orkney islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. A single whale is stupendous; imagine 1,000 of them, their misty forest of spouts, as tall as pine trees, the plosive sound of their blows, their hot breath condensing in the icy air. Their sharp dorsal fins and steel-grey bodies slide through the waves like a whale ballet, choreographed at the extreme south of our planet.

The sight has left whale scientists slack-jawed and frankly green-eyed in envy of Conor Ryan, who observed it from the polar cruiser, National Geographic Endurance. Messaging from the ship on a tricky connection, Ryan, an experienced zoologist and photographer, says this may be “one of the largest aggregations of fin whales ever documented”. His estimate of 1,000 animals is a conservative one, he says.”

Source: Seeing 1,000 glorious fin whales back from near extinction is a rare glimmer of hope | Philip Hoare | The Guardian

How to Catch a Polar Bear – By Anna Filipova and Emily Anthes – The New York Times

“From a helicopter, it can be hard to spot a polar bear against the frozen tundra. So when the polar bear biologist Jon Aars heads out for his annual research trips, he scans the landscape for flashes of movement or subtle variations in color — the slightly yellowish hue of the bears’ fur set off against the white snow.

“Also, very often, you see the footprints before you see the bear,” Dr. Aars said. “And the bear is usually where the footprints stop.”

Dr. Aars is one in a long line of polar bear researchers at the Norwegian Polar Institute, which has an outpost on Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago. Since 1987, the institute’s scientists have staged annual field trips into the icy wilderness to find and study Svalbard’s polar bears.

 
 

David Lindsay: And now for a few comments, including one by me in response to another.

Lauren

LaurenSt. Petersburg FL2h ago

WOW. Just wow. A sincere hat tip to these dedicated and wonderful researchers. I marveled at the photos and videos. My one hope is that the world wakes up before it’s too late. Thankful that these magnificent creatures are still roaming this earth in my lifetime. The future? Sad.

58 Recommended

Reuel

ReuelIndiana1h ago

I cringe seeing these beautiful animals chased by helicopters, shot, laid out on the ice, their fur flecked with blood. Yes, we ‘need to know’, always more, more research. But we already *know* that these beautiful animals desperately need our help to survive. They are extremely stressed in normal life and are only further stressed by such interventions. We need much less invasive ways to monitor these beautiful animals.4 Replies 28 Recommend

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David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT comment:

@Reuel I worried about this too, so I interviewed a polar bear the other day. She said, “yeah, its ugly, but everyone likes a check up with the doctor, even if that always raises your blood pressure. My pod thinks that the benefits out weigh the costs. We know, first hand, that climate change is an existential crisis, and the more you can broadcast our pleas for mercy and help, the bettter. I cry when I realize that it will be our extinction perhaps, that makes enough humans care to limit their carbon dioxide and green house gas emissions.”

David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net, and is the author of “the Tay Son Rebellion.”

Audubon at Sea |  Richard J. King – Hakai Magazine

by Richard J. King

“On the bustling docks of New Orleans, Louisiana, just before he boarded the merchant ship Delos and left to cross the Atlantic, John James Audubon purchased a baby alligator for a dollar. He likely thought the animal would be fun to draw, and the live specimen might impress the naturalists of Britain when he delivered his paper “Observations of the Natural History of the Alligator.” If his baby alligator, long hair, or French accent did not attract curious looks from the crew and fellow passengers, surely did his additional luggage of an enormous wooden portfolio, lined with tin to protect against shipboard rodents, which held over 300 drawings and paintings of birds. No one on deck at the time, including Audubon, could know that as a result of this voyage and that portfolio, he would go on to be a celebrity in his day and not only one of the most famous painters of wildlife in North American history, but the namesake, some two centuries later, of hundreds of birding societies and nature centers and a near synonym across the continent for environmental conservation.”

Source: Audubon at Sea | Hakai Magazine

Binyamin Appelbaum | Break Up Big Chicken – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.

“President Biden wants to lead a revival of antitrust enforcement, a campaign aimed most obviously at curbing the behavior of feral tech companies.

But Mr. Biden can’t achieve his goal of expanding fair competition in the United States solely by wrangling with Big Tech. To succeed, he’ll need to confront Big Chicken, too.

Most chicken that Americans eat is processed by a handful of big companies because, in recent decades, the government gave its blessing to the consolidation of poultry processing, along with a wide range of other industries. The unsurprising result: In recent years, the surviving companies took advantage of their market power to prop up the price of chicken, overcharging Americans by as much as 30 percent.

Evidence of the industry’s misconduct became so blatant — thanks in part to lawsuits filed by wholesale poultry buyers — that regulators were roused from complacency. Beginning in 2019, the government has filed a series of charges against the companies and their executives.”

Excellent piece, and also good comments, such as:

Jack Sonville
Florida9h ago

I’ve been in Corporate America board rooms for 35 years and much of that in older, more established industries. In general, they do not have the innovation DNA of an Amazon or an Apple or a Google. Over the years they have gutted their R&D functions to save money and essentially use a commodity business model–try to be a low cost provider, take higher-cost capacity (supply) out of the market, and charge as high a price as possible whenever possible. So in response to Wall Street pressure to significantly grow, they really only have one option: Buy their competitors and consolidate their industry. This allows them to find “synergies”, which in antitrust-speak is supposed to mean lower prices and other benefits to the consumer, but which really means reducing cost by firing employees made redundant by the merger of two companies, and then taking more capacity out of the market and/or using their now-greater market share to raise price. It’s been frustrating to watch, over virtually my entire career, the same story play out time and again. Companies tell the DOJ and FTC in their antitrust filings that consumers will benefit from these mergers, but they rarely if ever do. And government economists buy the story. These mergers generally reduce incentive for innovation, eliminate jobs, put downward pressure on industry compensation, and lead to higher prices through reduced capacity. Good for shareholders? Maybe. Good for consumers? Almost never.

3 Replies207 Recommended

Feeding Deer Does Much Harm, Little Good | The Outside Story

“Watching deer forage for whatever bits of food they can find through the cold months of winter, I can understand why some people feel an urge to feed them. Only supplemental feeding isn’t helpful at all to deer. Instead, it’s detrimental to their digestive health, and it pulls them away from safer, more nutritious food sources.

“Supplemental feeding has little or no benefit to the overall health of deer,” said Nick Fortin, Deer Project Leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “Interestingly, northern deer will lose weight in winter no matter what or how much they are fed, even in captivity.”

Like virtually all animals living in climates where winter is cold and snowy, deer use a variety of adaptations to adjust and survive. In the northern part of the Northeast, they often gather in deer yards, where softwood cover offers shelter from wind and cold as well as decreased snow depth. As deer move to and through their winter shelter, they pack down paths, allowing for easier travel to food and quicker escapes from predators.

In winter, deer reduce their energy expenditures by hunkering down during extended cold stretches; this way they can focus their activity during times when temperatures are warmer. Similar to animals that hibernate, deer store fat – it can constitute up to 20 percent of their body weight, said Fortin – and they can use that fat as a sort of energy savings account.

A deer’s digestive system also goes through changes to cope with less abundant – and different – food sources. Deer are ruminants, which means they have a four-chambered stomach, like cows and sheep. Each chamber contains microorganisms to help with digestion. These microbes become tuned in to a winter diet of twigs and buds, nuts, any fruits and berries that persist, and whatever grasses they can find. A sudden change in diet – say to supplemental corn or rich hay – can wreak havoc on this system.”

Source: Feeding Deer Does Much Harm, Little Good | The Outside Story