Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Joe Neal forwards email from Donna and Kelly of Still on the Hill

Dear Friends,

I am forwarding something with a recommendation you take a look and see if this sort of activity works for you. Kelly and Donna are my just up the street neighbors here in Fayetteville, are friends, fellow birders (they both teach at the Halberg camp) and their music and the content of their songs is extraordinary and meaningful. So when they propose something like this, I consider it worth taking a look. I know their song "Too much information" and agree with what Donna says, but we have to do something, don't we. What Donna is proposing is something and may be a fit for some of you. -- Joe

From: Kelly and Donna [still@stillonthehill.com]
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2013 9:29 PM
To: Still on the Hill
Subject: The Obama Letters- My Blog

Remember our TMI song?  Too Much Information? (visit the YOUTUBE link on our website www.stillonthehill.com to hear us singing it at RADIO SHACK...what irony)

We dislike technology for the most part and don't even have a TV or smart phone...BUT computers can be a good tool, even I have to admit. So kicking and screaming I figured out how to do a BLOG for my Obama Letters.

I am attempting to create a COLLAGE and LETTER to President Obama about Climate Change...SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK and actually MAIL them! I have sent off 3 so far. I wanted to create a BLOG to save them and make them easily accessible to check view.

The top page right now (altho it will move down the line as I post more) is WHY I AM DOING THIS...and how YOU can be part of it, if you SO desire! (NO PRESSURE)

So I hope this works for you, I am new at this, so there will be a learning curve!~

Here is the link to paste in your browser


Let me know if it worked or post a comment on the site.  BUT if your world is too full of emails and blogs already...as MOST of us are buried in this stuff....then simply IGNORE THIS!!!  (I won't cry too hard)

Donna Stjerna

Monday, February 25, 2013

Volunteer for Saturday morning conservation work, suggests Joe Neal

If you have enjoyed the big nature show at the Important Bird Area called Eagle Watch Nature Trail, this upcoming Saturday March 2 is a chance to donate a little bit of time and a little effort to move the project forward. Saturday March 2, 8:30-12:30, at Eagle Watch, 1 mile west of Gentry off highway 12. Activities during the morning: removal of woody plants from prairie restoration area, butterfly garden maintenance, removal of a section of barbed wire fence, possible rescue and translocation of prairie plants from an area that may be impacted by development in Gentry. Tools to bring if you have them: garden tools, chain saw, loppers, leather gloves. Food and drink will be provided by SWEPCO.  This is a Together Green project lead by Audubon Arkansas, with several partners including Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society. If you know you can come, you may preregister by sending a message to:mviney@audubon.org. The overall project at Eagle Watch is directed by Terry Stanfill. If you have questions, you can contact him:tstanfill@wildblue.net or by phone: 479-752-3578. Finally, you do not have to leave your binoculars at home. NWAAS is a 100% invested partner here and I will be glad to answer questions as well and I will join in with my saw and my wire cutters.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Removing invasive plants from glade at Ninestone Land Trust brings out the philosopher in Joe Neal

CHAINSAWS RUNNING midst an old glade on Ninestone Land Trust in Carroll County, magnificent gushing waterfall in back, for me a Top Ten hit of Best Sound so far, category Conservation-In-Action, in this Year of Our Lord, 2013.

Thank goodness for chainsaws and volunteers from Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society, Audubon Arkansas, Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association, and otherwise, willing to run them, to pull brush into piles, wear rough leather gloves to protect against thorns, generally initiate the process of natural glade renewal in the Ozarks. 

For a few hours to put down binoculars, cameras, and field guides. To get sweaty, dirty, sometimes even a little torn from inch-long and longer thorns on robust invading locusts.

Glade in question, under a blue sky, Bald Eagles soaring over, 18 folks from as far away as Little Rock and Jacksonville, 6 saws singing as they are cutting through what obstructs the old glade and its native plants, common and rare. Singing for stunted and gnarled trees covered with mosses and lichens. Singing for Prairie Warblers, Eastern Towhees, and Field Sparrows that nest here.

How ironic that chainsaws bring justice to glades. How the saw cuts through BS to the heartwood business of restoring to Ozark glade creatures open space justice they require. How they cut through widely disseminated moving targets alternatively mislabeled Left or Right,  Democrat or Republican. 

How there's no way to do the futile exercise called finger-pointing, because your finger is on the trigger of a chainsaw, or perhaps well occupied with a big pair of limb loppers, or an herbicide sprayer, or firmly grasped on some limbs dragged to a pile.

Shutting down the saw, taking a break, under a thoughtful sky, I am reminded how around northwest Arkansas, Siloam Springs to Lake Fayetteville, folks have taken up saws and gloves to uncover our inner prairie. How Master Naturalists donate to conservation-in-action, removing from Searle's Prairie trash blown in from the too-busy-for-life so-called and mislabeled "lifestyle".

How folks voted their values in 11 dump truck loads of trash and non-native plants removed from Lake Atalanta in Rogers, the cleanup of our nightmare trashaholism, blown into lakes and a streams. How folks work to create and nurture a human scale perch to view eagles and native plants adjacent a coal-fired electrical generating plant at Gentry. How they work to organize and realize the protection of an urban green space like Kessler Mountain. 

Ultimately it's not the acres, or spots, or the species that count. It's our spirits, and that's not confined to Sunday go to meeting, as all of you know quite well who attend Birdside Baptist and similar congregations. Our spirits can conquer, and will, if well nurtured.
Somewhere in the Ozarks I can at least metaphorically hear the old mountain boomers – eastern collared-lizards to you pointy-headed liberal environmentalists – snapping their jaws in praise. Prairie from below, among mosses, miniatures like sedum, in seeps over sandstones and thin to non-existent soils.  I think I even hear that rarity, Barbara's Buttons, pushing up through Ninestone's hilltops glades. I may be getting a little light-headed here, but you know, it's all of that clean mountain air around Ninestone, a local Rocky Mountain high.

Today, for me, it's not the waterfall pouring over rocks, though sublime it is. Not sudden appearance of Red Crossbills, Call Type 3, in the native shortleaf pines on Ninestone -- exciting and pleasurable as that is. Not the golden yellows of a Pine Warbler midst green needles, spring coming. 

It's the saws and their songs, taking back glades. It's the joy of cutting through BS. The vision of what is to come. The thought we've only just begun.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Joe Neal stays home and rereads a book: Silent Spring

Ice and snow of the past few days brings a gift. I have been rereading Silent Spring by Rachael Carson (1962). Like every proto-environmentalist in their enthusiastic 20s, I first read it as manifesto.

In chapter 10, she recounted the spraying fire ants in the South that resulted in mass bird killing. Just one example: in one area 13 coveys of Northern Bobwhites (121 birds) were reduced to zero. Fire ants kept marching.

American Robins disappeared over wide areas. Imagine spring without robins -- silent spring. Fire ants kept marching.

Bald Eagles were disappearing everywhere in the lower 48 states. Fire ants kept marching.

So the book has been in print for half a century and everything has been fixed? Better hold on partner. Take the Silent Spring 1962 model, and substitute chapter by chapter, some chemicals, some application techniques. Get it all updated to 2013. 

Then, as now, companies and their allies in government assure us it's all safe. Maybe yes? Maybe no? Then as now, we are guinea pigs. Toxic products are on open shelves and sold in smiley-face containers that have been sorta of tested and sorta of reviewed by industry and government. We are the ultimate test.

In the early 1960s, Carson was attacked as a Communist. Today, the same folks aggravated by her questions would curse her as an Environmentalist, or worse, a Liberal follower of Al Gore.

But the truth is, she was not against the use of chemicals and she did not see any evil plots behind what was happening. She just thought we ought to get our brains in gear, slow down and be careful. Like E. B. White, she thought "We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially." 

My dad would have probably put it this way: Use your head for something besides a hat rack.

When I first read Silent Spring, I thought the charm came from all those marshaled facts. Carson was, after all, a trained biologist. But now by page 297, I see much of the charm derives from her writing style. Working in complexity doesn't muddy her effort. She is just a damn good writer.

She chose our planet and the future – us – as her concern.   On a snowy day in 2013, her prose flows free and clear of the years and we are better for her effort.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Woodcock wooing potential mates: Joe Neal and David Krementz lead outing at dusk on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

Sunday  evening, at 6:15, 12 folks on a Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society field trip stand around at the end of a graded road in the Ozark NF waiting on American Woodcocks. Sun is down, sky clear with moonrise. Woodcock expert David Krementz from UA-Fayetteville tells us to listen for beeps from the master cock advertising his availability to females.

When will this happen? “When we see the first star,” Krementz says.

Well-armed with binoculars and cameras, we get the woodcock biology rundown adjacent an open field where years ago folks grew spinach. Leaning against a car in fading light, Dr Krementz presents illustrations from books and his own technical articles.
Master cock is the male who mates with many females. The old spinach field is his lek where he hopes for females.

Some of our fellow citizens come out here but just to dump. Who’d have thought the place was really our future?

It’s 6:25. Spring peepers fire up. A Barred Owl calls east of us. To our north, a few yodels then a chorus, yodels and yips. Coyotes start their rounds around first star time. So far away you can barely hear, Great Horned Owls, including a male and deep-voiced female.

Krementz shows us special sound-producing feathers and a skull with long bill. Orbits that hold the eyes are amazingly huge. NWAAS president Doug James, who has taught ornithology since the 1950s, sits in the circle and chimes in that with those big eyes woodcocks can see almost full circle. Krementz laughs and admits he’s shot a few trees while trying for woodcocks that saw him coming from behind.
Up in the sky, the moon waxes brilliant, and then the first star. It’s Jupiter, with four moons easily seen. 6:25.

In gathering dark, we are listening and listening. 6:35.

Then, first buzzy beeps. It’s beeps then silence, then wind as whirls pushed through tiny feathers. Up up flies master cock, chip-chip-chip, over us, owner of the all but dark.

We strain to see. We hear chirping, then he’s back on the ground, in the old spinach patch. This time we are ready. We receive his fresh round of advertisements, heard well even by those of us who’ve lost part of their hearing.

And not so far away, another master cock, at the same work.

The birder in us, our inner photographer, wants the better look, in full light, that perfect image of master cock in flight. BUT, those big, light-gathering eyes are not about camera-ready daylight. You get beeps, a lucky view of a bird in the air, the memory of a night.

7:15. Our string of cars, now with headlights, heads back to the highway, and Monday, leaving to woodcocks an old spinach patch.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Audubon's Great American Bird Count today through Monday

The Great Backyard Bird Count Starts Now!
February 15-18

Get outside and start counting the birds in your community. With tens of thousands of bird watchers around the world participating in the GBBC, our observations inform scientists and conservationists on how best to protect bird populations. It takes as little as 15 minutes, or you can count all weekend long.
Click here to send a Great Backyard Bird Count eCard to your friends & family. Spread the word! Birds are counting on you. 

Joe Neal and friends continue to document habits of Red Crossbills in northwest Arkansas

While Edie Calaway and I were at Fayetteville Country Club February 11, she collected an image of two Red Crossbills on the ground in a bare spot at the base of a small tree. While almost all of the golf course is grass – of course – there are scattered bare areas at the bases of some trees, plus sand traps associated with the course.  Consumption by crossbills of grit and/or minerals is well-documented behavior in the literature. 

If the crossbills are getting into sand traps, I haven’t seen it. Edie’s photograph shows a female crossbill with her tongue extended to the sandy soil formed from brown sandstone rubble typical of the flat topped mountains in the Fayetteville area. This kind of sandy soil was once famous for growing watermelons, now maybe serves the needs of visiting crossbills?

Has anyone else photographed them up there on sandy soil? I would like to see such images. 

As for other behaviors: All of us who have been going up there have seen crossbills foraging in pines and also watched them obviously drinking, either at ponds, run-off from ponds, and in shallow ephemeral pools formed when trees were removed by stump grinding. We also saw them consuming algae on broad flats formed during low water at the biggest pond.

I was up there yesterday on a fine warm, sunny February morning and found several small flocks. On the lookout for nesting.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Joe Neal and David Oakley visit Kessler Mountain again

View Spotted Salamander Kessler Mountain Feb 7, 2013-1-r.jpg in slide show
Download spring peepers and leopard frogs Kessler Feb 16, 2013-30 seconds.mp3 (302.0 KB)
spring pe...mp3
Download(302.0 KB)
Hi Frank and all,

David Oakley and I went up on Kessler Mountain last night in the rain. Once again we found spotted salamanders going to the little roadside pond. There was a vigorous chorus of spring peepers and the start of a leopard frog chorus. Quite a night on Kessler, all in all.

The tenants in the house your son built have been very friendly as we clump around in the rain with flashlights.

I have attached a spotted salamander picture, plus a short file with the spring peeper chorus, from last night. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Birding activities Feb. 15, 17 and 23

Joe Neal reports:

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) starts Friday Feb 15.

On Saturday, Feb 16, Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society partners with Devil’s Den State Park for GBBC. Meet us at the lower Devil's Den Trailhead by Lee Creek bridge at 9 am. This is a great way to see a bunch of birds and a particularly beautiful area of the Boston Mountains and also to participate in Citizen’s Science.Easy walking.

On Sunday Feb 17, American Woodcock expert David Krementz (UA-Fayetteville) will lead a woodcock expedition in theWedington unit of the Ozark National Forest. As in the past, we will meet at the intersection of Kincheloe Road and Forest Service 1754 at 5:30 PM. If you arrive late, drive 1754 & find us – we will be less than a mile away on the road. Bring a flashlight because this usually runs until slightly after dark.

On Saturday Feb 23, NWAAS and Audubon Arkansas partner with Ninestone Land Trust for a Together Green project at Ninestone. Meet at 9 AM at Ninestone or come later if you can’t make 9. Primary job: glade restoration. Bring gloves, limb loppers, a chainsaw if you have one. There will be suitable activity for everyone who shows. Lunch provided by Audubon Arkansas. Red Crossbills and many other winter finches are currently at Ninestone and may well be there on the 23rd. Yes, we will take time to bird watch!

For directions and more details about Devil’s Den, Wedington, and Ninestone, try:

Joe Neal and Mitchell Pruitt on birding in Arkansas

Video clips and photos by Aubrey James Shepherd 4 Feb. 2013

Dr. Doug James and a few of his fans after the presentation.

Joe Neal and Mitchell Pruitt's presentation on Arkansas birding recorded February 4, 2013, at Old Main's Giffels Auditorium at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Nine clips posted in reverse order. I had to use two cameras because of battery overheating.
View at this live link. Start viewing from this link.

Hope to get all clips listed in order as time permits.