Saturday, November 28, 2009

Just Say "No" to Bottled Water

Minimizing gasoline use is obviously just one way we birders can alter our personal habits and lessen our impact on the environment. Altogether avoiding the use of plastic water bottles is another way. I did some online research on this topic and found the following facts - some of which were obvious to me and some not:
1) Plastic water bottles are a significant contributor to landfills and litter. We consume over 20 billion plastic water bottles per year in this country and over 80% ends up in landfill. These plastic bottles take an estimated 1,000 years to biodegrade.
2) Plastic water bottles are part of the plastic pollution of the ocean which effects marine organisms such as pelagic birds, turtles, whales, seals and sea lions which swallow them. For example, it has been documented that Laysan Albatross chicks have died due to this plastic. One study found that 90% of Northern Fulmars in Europe died with plastic in their stomachs. Small pieces of plastic are effecting the lowest level of organisms in marine environment. They then work their way up the food chain in greater concentrations. There is now a patch of plastic debris in the ocean which is larger than the continental United Sates.
3) Bottled water is no safer or tastier than municipal tap water. Bottled water is often not subject to a comparable standards of purity, or enforcement of such standards. Blind taste tests have even have shown that tap water can be tastier than bottled water (e.g. the TV show "Good Morning America" had a taste test where New York city tap water was rated higher than several brands of bottled water, including Evian). The incidence of arsenic and other poisons and carcinogens is higher in bottled water than municipal tap water in this country.
4) Even if 100% of plastic water bottles were recycled, it is better to just not buy these bottles in the first place. It takes energy to transport recycled plastic, sort it and reuse it. Recycled plastic reportedly loses some of its strength and flexibility and so only a portion of plastic bottles can be made from recycled rather than virgin plastic.
5) The plastic in water bottles can potentially effect the safety of the water in those bottles. Studies have shown that potentially harmful chemicals can leach into water from plastic bottles. The use of non-colored plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2 and #4) and polypropylene (#5) may be safer than bottles that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6) and polycarbonate (#7), but in the long run glass and stainless steel bottles may be much safer bets.
I know I will refill my own non-plastic bottles with tap water in the future and encourage groups to which I belong to avoid the use of plastic water bottles. I would also support legislation to reduce their use. (An exception to avoiding plastic water bottles might occur in certain areas of the world where tap water is not safe to drink.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vagrant Species From Morning Neighborhood Walks

White-winged Dove and Eastern Phoebe

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green Birding Every Day

"I have to walk the dog", was how I initially justified getting up a half hour early to my wife. Thanks to my dog, I started my daily 30-40 minute walks in my neighborhood about 3 years ago. I now look forward to this morning walk as a relaxing and uplifting way to start my day and a good therapy for the stress from my job as a criminal defense attorney. While my dog does get her walk, I also use this opportunity to bird, photograph, or just enjoy the new moon, the sun coming up from behind the clouds, or the fog draped around Morro Rock. I appreciate the fact that I live about 2 blocks from Morro Bay.
I have been rewarded with the goal of most birders - rarities - on my walks. I have found White-winged Dove, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Bell's and Blue-headed Vireos, Prairie Warbler, Indigo Bunting, White-throated Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Orchard Oriole, etc. I enjoy finding birds which are out of range for this part of California, but I savor the every day observations such as where common birds roost, what birds hang out together, and the behavior of common birds such as the Snowy Egret (shaking one leg at a time to stir up sediment and find treats) or the Great Blue Heron (sitting motionless for longer than I have the patience to time), or the Blue-winged Teal (moving its bill through the sediment at low tide). I also watch the affects of the tides, the amount of daylight, and the weather, on the birds. Each year, I look forward to the arrival of the first Allen's Hummingbirds in February, the first migrant passerines in March and April, the arrival of the first shorebirds (after their summer absence) in early July, the arrival of migrant passerines from August through October, the return of the ducks in September, and last (but not least) are the Brant in early November.
A considerable part of my green birding involves these daily walks from home. They are a great way to observe birds, but perhaps more important is the positive effect they have on my piece of mind.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Elfin Forest Big Sit List

All Time Elfin Forest Big Sit List (2009 = x):

_x_ 1) Red-throated Loon, ___ 2) Pacific Loon, ___ 3) Common Loon, _x_ 4) Pied-billed Grebe,_x_ 5) Eared Grebe, _x_ 6) Western Grebe, ___ 7) Clark’s Grebe, _x_ 8) White Pelican, _x_ 9) Brown Pelican, _x_ 10) Double-crested Cormorant, _x_ 11) Brandt’s Cormorant, _x_ 12) Pelagic Cormorant, _x_ 13) Great Blue Heron, _x_ 14) Great Egret, _x_ 15) Snowy Egret, _x_ 16) Black-crowned Night Heron, ___ 17) White-faced Ibis, ___ 18) Snow Goose, ___ 19) Cackling Goose,___ 20) Canada Goose, ___ 21) Brant, ___ 22) Gadwall, ___ 23) Wood Duck, _x_ 24) Green-winged Teal, _x_ 25) Mallard, _x_ 26) Northern Pintail, _x_ 27) Blue-winged Teal, _x_ 28) Cinnamon Teal, ___ 29) Canvasback, _x_ 30) Northern Shoveler, _x_ 31) American Wigeon, ___ 32) Eurasian Wigeon, ___ 33) Ring-necked Duck, ___ 34) Greater Scaup, ___ 35) Lesser Scaup, ___ 36) Surf Scoter, _x_ 37) Ruddy Duck, ___ 38) Red-breasted Merganser, ___ 39) Bufflehead, _x_ 40) Turkey Vulture, _x_ 41) Osprey, _x_ 42) White-tailed Kite, _x_ 43) Northern Harrier, _x_ 44) Golden Eagle, _x_ 45) Sharp-shinned Hawk, _x_ 46) Cooper’s Hawk, _x_ 47) Red-shouldered Hawk, _x_ 48) Red-tailed Hawk, ___ 49) Ferruginous Hawk, _x_ 50) American Kestrel, _x_ 51) Merlin, ___ 52) Prairie Falcon, _x_ 53) Peregrine Falcon, _x_ 54) California Quail, _x_ 55) Virginia Rail, _x_ 56) Sora, ___ 57) Black Rail, _x_ 58) American Coot, _x_ 59) Black-bellied Plover, ___ 60) Pacific Golden Plover, _x_ 61) Semipalmated Plover, _x_ 62) Killdeer, _x_ 63) American Avocet, _x_ 64) Greater Yellowlegs, _x_ 65) Lesser Yellowlegs, _x_ 66) Willet, ___ 67) Whimbrel, _x_ 68) Long-billed Curlew, _x_ 69) Marbled Godwit, ___ 70) Ruddy Turnstone, _x_ 71) Red Knot, ___ 72) Sanderling, _x_ 73) Western Sandpiper, _x_ 74) Least Sandpiper, _x_ 75) Dunlin, _x_ 76) Short-billed Dowitcher, _x_ 77) Long-billed Dowitcher, _x_ 78) Wilson’s Snipe, ___ 79) Red-necked Phalarope, ___ 80) Pectoral Sandpiper, ___ 81) Parasitic Jaeger, ___ 82) Pomerine Jaeger, _x_ 83) Heerman’s Gull, ___ 84) Bonaparte’s Gull, _x_ 85) Ring-billed Gull, _x_ 86) California Gull, _x_ 87) Western Gull, ___ 88) Glaucous-winged Gull, ___ 89) Sabine’s Gull, ___ 90) Herring Gull, _x_ 91) Caspian Tern, _x_ 92) Royal Tern, _x_ 93) Elegant Tern, ___ 94) Common Tern, _x_ 95) Forster’s Tern, ___ 96) Black Skimmer, ___ 97) Band-tailed Pigeon, _x_ 98) Rock Pigeon , _x_ 99) Mourning Dove, ___ 100) White-winged Dove, _x_ 101) Eurasian Collared Dove, ___ 102) Barn Owl, ___ 103) Short-eared Owl, _x_ 104) Great Horned Owl, ___ 105) Burrowing Owl, ___ 106) Vaux’s Swift, _x_ 107) Anna’s Hummingbird, _x_ 108) White-throated Swift, _x_ 109) Belted Kingfisher, ___ 110) Acorn Woodpecker, _x_ 111) Northern Flicker, _x_ 112) Downy Woodpecker, ___ 113) Nuttall’s Woodpecker, ___ 114) Pacific-slope Flycatcher, _x_ 115) Black Phoebe, _x_ 116) Say’s Phoebe, ___ 117) Loggerhead Shrike, _x_ 118) Tree Swallow, ___ 119) Cliff Swallow, ___ 120) Violet-green Swallow, ___ 121) Barn Swallow, ___ 122) Steller’s Jay, _x_ 123) Western Scrub Jay, _x_ 124) American Crow, _x_ 125) Chest.-backed Chickadee, _x_ 126) Wrentit, ___ 127) Oak Titmouse, _x_ 128) Bushtit, _x_ 129) House Wren, _x_ 130) Bewick’s Wren, _x_ 131) Marsh Wren, _x_ 132) Ruby-crowned Kinglet, _x_ 133) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, ___ 134) Western Bluebird, _x_ 135) Hermit Thrush, _x_ 136) Northern Mockingbird, _x_ 137) California Thrasher, _x_ 138) American Pipit, ___ 139) Red-throated Pipit, ___ 140) Cedar Waxwing, _x_ 141) European Starling, ___ 142) Warbling Vireo, _x_ 143) Hutton’s Vireo, _x_ 144) Orange-crowned Warbler, ___ 145) Blackpoll Warbler, _x_ 146) Yellow-rumped Warbler, ___ 147) Palm Warbler, ___ 148) Black-throated Gray Warbler, ___ 149) Townsend’s Warbler, _x_ 150) Common Yellowthroat, ___ 151) Yellow Warbler, _x_ 152) Spotted Towhee, _x_ 153) California Towhee, _x_ 154) Fox Sparrow, ___ 155) Savannah Sparrow, _x_ 156) Lincoln’s Sparrow, _x_ 157) Song Sparrow, ___ 158) Chipping Sparrow, _x_ 159) Golden-crowned Sparrow, _x_ 160) White-crowned Sparrow, _x_ 161) Western Meadowlark, _x_ 162) Red-winged Blackbird, _x_ 163) Brewer’s Blackbird, ___ 164) Great-tailed Grackle, _x_ 165) Brown-headed Cowbird, _x_ 166) House Sparrow, _x_ 167) House Finch, ___ 168) Purple Finch, ___ 169) Pine Siskin, ___ 170) Lawrence’s Goldfinch, _x_ 171) American Goldfinch, _x_ 172) Lesser Goldfinch