Raising the Bar

It is a rare occasion when words fail me. I cannot find enough superlatives to describe the March issue of Audubon. How about . . . Wow! Matching the information, inspiration, and breathtaking photography of this issue will be a herculean task. I will pass this issue around to my naturalist cohorts and eagerly await the next. Thanks for a superb issue.

Jack Lewnes
Port Republic, MD

Your magazine is always very good, but the current issue is the greatest. All of the articles—butterflies, loons, cacti, especially barn owls—are just wonderful. But best of all are the photos of the barn owl on the cover and on page 79. They are superb! I will keep this issue, safely, forever.

Jean Croushore
Fayette City, PA


A Bone to Pick

In regard to barn owls controlling rodents on farms [“The Proof Is in the Pellet,” March]: Be careful with your conclusions. I am unaware of any study worldwide that demonstrates a reduced field rodent population when barn owls are introduced or encouraged. True, barn owls in California eat pocket gophers. And pocket gophers cause millions of dollars in agricultural losses in California. But the bone piles below nest boxes do not translate into a reduction in losses. You can “argue with the bone pile.” Barn-owl management is a stewardship function of wildlife management on the farm or ranch. It is not rodent control. It is time to put this particular myth out to pasture.

Robert H. Schmidt
Department of Environment and Society
Utah State University, Logan
Logan, UT

Kenneth Brower responds:
Robert Schmidt needs to be careful of his own conclusions. An absence of studies demonstrating barn-owl reduction of rodent populations does not mean that such reduction is a myth. The world is full of truths not yet corroborated by studies. No farmer I interviewed doubts the owls are effective.


I enjoyed your recent barn-owl article. We have had barn owls nesting in our neighborhood for years, and we recently put a webcam inside their box (www.theowlcam.com). The high-quality video camera is in color during the day and switches to infrared night vision as it gets dark. Everyone loves the cam, as it brings us all closer to our feathered friends. Plus, the footage of these reclusive hunters is rare and helpful in studying their behavior.

Scott Zoog
Benicia, CA


Fuel for the Fire

In his evocative piece on the wholesale ravaging of the San Juan Basin in New Mexico [“The Mad Gas Rush,” Incite, March], Ted Williams unfortunately mentions renewable energy only once. If we are to have a chance at mitigating the despoliation of numerous other pristine places—such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—as well as the widespread consequences of climate change and air pollution, we need to invest wholeheartedly in renewables now.

That is why it is so puzzling that the Massachusetts Audubon Society [which is independent from the national organization] has been trying to delay authorization of the Cape Wind Farm in Nantucket Sound to further study the project's potential effects on bird populations. I don't advocate a willy-nilly review process, but we must keep in mind the costs of inaction, too. Every day we delay, a tragedy far worse than a bird or two being killed occurs.

Erik Gehring
Jamaica Plain, MA

Ted Williams responds:
Mr. Gehring found little in my piece about renewable energy because my topic was gas drilling. Renewable energy (hydropower, for example) can have horrendous impacts on fish and wildlife. But I can think of no proposed project more devastating to fish, wildlife, and the local economy than plunking a wind farm in the middle of Nantucket Sound.


Well Versed

Lord Byron was able to give the following apostrophe to the sea in his Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. "Roll on, thou dark and deep-blue Ocean, roll! / Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin, his control / Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain / The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain / A shadow of man's ravage… / Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow; / Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now." After reading “Policing the High Seas” [Field Notes, March], it's painfully obvious that Byron couldn't have written these lines today—not even with the benefit of poetic license.

William Dauenhauer
Willowick, OH

Window Pain

I too have felt a mix of sadness and wonder at the avian imprints on our freshly washed windows [“Clear & Present Danger,” March]. I have found that if we leave the impressions on the window, it goes a long way toward reducing the incidents. I have also noticed that if the birds can see sky through the house, the incidents increase. The room with the highest number of impressions has large double-sliding mirrors that reflect the sky behind the incoming bird. I hope these observations might help diminish this danger to our hollow-boned friends.

Roberts Leinau
Haleiwa, HI

Following publication of “Pet Offensive” [Incite, December 2003], Alan Green informed Audubon that some of the information I'd used from his excellent and exhaustive study—underwritten by the public-supported Center for Public Integrity—was not easily available elsewhere. Since it's Audubon's policy to cite exclusive sources, the book is Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species, by Alan Green and the Center for Public Integrity: 1999 (www.publicintegrity.org/).

—Ted Williams


Don't Forget to Write
Send letters to Letters to the Editor, Audubon, 225 Varick St. 7th Floor, New York, NY 10014 or editor@audubon.org. Include your name, address, and daytime phone. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.
To see more letters, and letters on previous issues of Audubon, go to "Sound Off!"


© 2004 National Audubon Society

Sound off! Send a letter to the editor about this piece.

Enjoy Audubon on-line? Check out our print edition!