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.
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.
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
Kenneth Brower responds:
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.
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.
Ted Williams responds:
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.
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.
Don't Forget to Write
© 2004 National Audubon Society