“The songs of unseen birds—the shrill whistling of ospreys, the big buzz of tiny palm warblers—fill the still air,” writes Chris Cox in his ode to mangroves (“Stepping Out”). “Only shards of sunlight penetrate the ancient canopy’s tangle of limbs and roots.” Few publications besides Audubon would plumb the depths of “the stinking anaerobic mud and fuggy heat and clouds of mosquitoes” through Chris’s vivid prose and Diane Cook and Len Jenshel’s eerie photos.
Mangrove wetlands are, like the coyotes profiled in this issue, some of the planet’s unsung ecological heroes (“Ghost Dogs”). The animals’ comeback in cities nationwide is testament to their intelligence, resourcefulness, and sheer will. They “scale fences—one somehow made its way into a Chicago prison yard, over three 20-foot chain-link fences topped with razor wire,” writes articles editor Alisa Opar. One scientist notes that people “consistently underestimate how adaptable coyotes are—how quickly these animals can learn.” Besides being sleek and beautiful, in their inimitable way, coyotes also fill a huge ecological niche, Alisa explains, keeping a check on deer, which ravage the vegetation where ground-nesting birds live, and feral cats, another enemy of birds.
For a less resilient predator at the top of this country’s food chain, the news is mixed. Amid southern Florida’s inexorable sprawl, writes Mel White, “a seemingly incongruous partnership of environmentalists and ranchers protects some of the best of wild Florida, including the threatened Florida scrub-jay, rare endemic plants, and an isolated black bear population” (“Bear Essentials”). The key to the bears’ survival, as well as that of the endangered Florida panther, is a proposed wildlife corridor blazed through both public and private land. Many ranchers are already preserving habitat, but public pressure must be kept up to continue achieving progress on public lands.
It’s also high time to demand that lawmakers stop the gun lobby from enabling sportsmen to use poisonous lead ammunition and fishing gear (“Bad Shot”). Ted Williams describes a scientist’s freezer in Washington State containing 4,000 pounds of trumpeter and tundra swans, all victims of the “tens of thousands of tons of lead shot piling up on land each year.” The lethal impact on imperiled condors in California and Arizona is equally sickening.
If anyone needs a jolt from their complacency, consider a cup of bird-friendly espresso from a shade-grown-coffee plantation in Nicaragua (“Gold Standard”). Among the 280 bird species found there is the golden-winged warbler, which migrates south in the winter, 1,500 miles from where contributing editor Eddie Nickens lives in North Carolina. Behold the rare and resplendent songbird photographer Jen Judge captured. “For a moment I imagine that bird back home,” Eddie writes, “flitting through the highbush blueberries of the southern Appalachians, yellow epaulets golden in the rising sun.” This spring Eddie can raise a cup of coffee to the warblers and the melody of other migrants, and so can you.
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