Species: Cardinalis cardinalis Order: Passeriformes
Chrissy Bowker of Texas asks, “What’s this animal?”
The bird in the picture above is none other than a young Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis. This one in particular is very young, presumably a recent fledgling from the nest. Hatchlings leave the nest about 10 days after hatching and look similar in coloration to adult females, with the exception of having a dull colored beak. The Northern Cardinal is a primarily granivorous (though they will eat insects), passerine bird thats range extends from Canada, the eastern half of the US, down to Texas, and parts of Mexico. Its most identifiable characteristics are its vibrant red coloration in males, black mask, visible crest, and its notable cheer-cheer-cheer song. It’s primarily a woodland bird and a common backyard bird. Fun Fact: They used to be a popular caged pet until the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was put into effect.
Listen to a Northern Cardinal call and song here:
All the way from Texas, Patti Nelson asks, “What’s this animal?”
Well Patti, it looks like you’ve got an early flyer there! That’s the Spotted Apatelodes, Apatelodes torrefacta, a beautiful moth of the Bombycidae (Silkworm Moths) family which is commonly mistaken for the somewhat similar looking Sphinx Moth. I say early flyer because they are most commonly in flight between May and August. These fellas go through 3 generations per year, 2 in the south and 1 in the north.
Any more questions? Feel free to ask!
Spring is finally here. The earth thaws and plants awaken. Life returns as the snow melts to reveal…actual tons of garbage. I haven’t quite figured out what it is yet. Is the garbage flood of spring because people litter more in the winter because snow is likely to cover their tracks, or is it merely an accumulation of nasty? Either way, it’s a mess.
The Eco-Challenge in April will be focusing on waste. As I was brainstorming articles and videos, I had an idea. Why not organize a neighborhood clean-up for April 1st to kick off the month? I live in an apartment community on the edge of a creek that drains into the river. So, any garbage eventually finds itself clogging up the stream, caught in the tangled branches of trees and bushes, or rolling on down to the river. I emailed my apartment manager to tell him my idea and was met with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. He printed the signs for and bought the bags. Things were looking good.
This past Saturday was April 1st, 60 degrees and sunny. It was an absolutely beautiful day. 1 o’clock rolled around, the clean-up start time, and my fears proved reality: no one showed up. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect it. I’d also be lying if I said I wouldn’t rather have been exploring the trails of a nearby state park with my wife and son, enjoying the blue sky and spring breeze, but I put on my yellow-leather gloves and got to work.
I started at the front of the property, along a main roadway, picking up your standard roadside litter: cigarettes, fast food bags and wrappers, 32 oz gas station fountain drinks, and yes, the occasional presumably pee filled bottle. Once I was done there, I made my way into the woods, mentally dividing the hillside into individual quadrants that I would work through one-by-one, up-and-down the slope. If I had to estimate the total area, I’d say it was about an acre. It was amazing just how much garbage I came across. Perhaps more amazing, or just plainly unfortunate, was that an easy majority of what I came across were items which are easily recyclable. Had I had the energy, motivation, time, and dedication, I would have cleaned of recyclable items and sorted them separately, but I didn’t. Among the most peculiar items I found were a leather jacket, a car battery, a computer monitor, two sweaters, and three individual children sized shoes. I’ll admit, on more than one occasion I feared I’d come across a body, seeing a sleeve sticking out from a tangled mess of debris, damming up the creek.
While I was down there, birds filled the trees around me. Looking up at them was a sight to see. Spring was truly here. Sadly, looking down meant seeing the harsh reality of what people are all-to-capable of, and enormously successful at doing: unwittingly degrading their natural surroundings. I worked my way through the remainder of the hillside and waterway, up to the parking lot, around the buildings and playgrounds, back down to the roadside, and I was done. The clean-up was scheduled from 1-3 pm and I had been out for the whole two hours. All-in-all, I filled 6 jumbo trash bags with 200 lbs of garbage, a feat that I am incredibly proud of.
200 lbs. Think about it for a moment. 200 lbs in two hours. If we all took the time to clean-up after ourselves and our neighbors, imagine what we could accomplish. I understand not having two hours to commit to doing something that no one really wants to do, but do you have 15 minutes? Let’s assume that you could pick up trash for 15 minutes a week. That’s 25 pounds based on my numbers. If just one person were to do that for a year, they would clean up 1,300 pounds of garbage in just one year. That’s unbelievable.
Now, I’m not asking you to go out right now and devote your life to picking up litter, but what about bringing a bag with you the next time you go on a walk or to the park just to pick up what some of what you might come across? What’s the harm?
By now, you’ve probably figured out that I am on a mission to become a person who truly practices what they preach. So, here’s my challenge to myself for the month of April: whenever I go out on a walk or hike, I will bring a bag so that I can help in the fight against litter. Here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m going to keep weighing what I pick up and tally it up over the course of the rest of the month to see just how much waste I can tackle.
Species: Tachycineta bicolor Order: Passeriformes
Chrissy Bowker of Texas (who, yes, also happens to be my mother) asks, “What’s this animal?”
The bird in the picture above is none other than the Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor. The Tree Swallow is an insectivorous, migratory passerine bird that breeds in North America and spends its winters in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Its most identifiable characteristics are its deep-blue, iridescent backs in stark contrast to their snow white front-sides, pointed wings, and split-notched tail. You’ll see them in fields and wetlands, chasing after insects and fellow swallows in a manner reminiscent of fighter jets in a dog fight.
Listen to a Tree Swallow call here:
Tree Swallow song:
I am new at all of this. Eco-Challenges, well, this whole site really, have been something that I have wanted to do for years. It is only now that I have finally found the time to give it my all. Though probably needless to say, there is a lot of self-consciousness, doubt, and self-criticism that comes along with trying to see your dreams become reality. The first Eco-Challenge was a trial by fire to say the least. It felt a lot like staring at a map without a key. All-in-all, it ended a success with 24 participants, 3.5 thousand pounds of CO2 saved, 162 pounds of waste diverted, and 6.3 thousand gallons of water saved. At the time the challenge ended, there were only 9 members in ‘The Wild Life’ community.
Now, the Energy Saver Eco-Challenge has come to an end and I am genuinely excited about the results. First things first, congratulations to Chloe Lazarus for being this month’s challenge and prize winner. This is actually the second month in a row that she has come out on top. Let’s give her a virtual round of applause, shall we? Since the first challenge ended, ‘The Wild Life’community has grown to 53 members, with 36 people participating in the Energy Saver challenge!
Seriously, good job everyone. Your efforts helped prevent 4,514 lbs of CO2 from being released. To put that into perspective, that is the same amount released by powering 3 homes for a month, keeping a fridge cold for 1,390 days, baking 3,965 frozen pizzas, or powering a hot tub for 400 hours.
This Eco-Challenge certain had its own hiccups along the way as I continued to find my footing. That’s why I am excited to say that this next challenge will be the best so far.
Here’s where it will be a different and better challenge compared to the past. The Wild Life will have far more content in relation to this month’s theme aimed to help you along, share ideas, and push you to reflect. I’m kicking of the month by hosting a neighborhood clean-up in, well, my neighborhood on April 1st and sharing the results and how to host your own event. Aprils Book Club read is Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. The book is over a decade old but is just as relevant today as it was upon its release. I’ll also be starting up my compost bin again using the vermiculture method and sharing the DIY instructions and everything you need to know to be successful with your own. My wife and I will be taking on the Mason Jar Challenge where we compete with each other to see if we can fit a week’s worth of personal trash in a mason jar, and challenging you all to give it your best shot. There will be articles and videos showcasing developments in waste reduction, new technologies, and much more. I’m truly excited for the future of this project and to see what we can accomplish as a community. As always, be happy, be healthy, be the source of change, and live a wild life.
Using your bathrooms vent fan can do a few things for you: it can keep humidity levels down throughout your home, keep condensation down on your windows in the wintertime, and give your A/C a break. When your A/C has the added job of removing the heat and moisture added by your shower, it takes a lot more energy than if you were to just turn on your bathrooms vent fan for 20 minutes.
Doing this will save 42 lbs of CO2 per year! That’s preventing the same annual impact as powering a hot tub for 4 hours, charging 6813 batteries, or charging a cell phone 7630 times. (JouleBug)
The organization Defenders of Wildlife has a trending petition on Change.org asking Secretary Tom Vilsack of the USDA to help end unnecessary wolf killing in Idaho.
“Wildlife Services has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Idaho Governor Butch Otter’s Wolf Depredation Control Board to help carry out the state’s relentless wolf killing program. The goal: to artificially boost elk numbers for sport hunters and outfitters.
It is simply shocking for Secretary Vilsack to allow his Wildlife Services employees to contract themselves out as sharpshooters to kill wolves from the air, especially on Forest Service lands. It is equally shocking for the Forest Service, which is also under the control of Secretary Vilsack, to stand by and allow their Wildlife Service colleagues to kill wolves on our national forest lands.
Please take immediate action and tell the Secretary of Agriculture to order Wildlife Services to stop killing wolves on U.S. Forest Service lands!”