Monday, May 20, 2013

Buntings and bathrooms: Joe Neal's report from Buffalo River visit

Yesterday morning I photographed an Indigo Bunting x Lazuli Bunting hybrid, a stunning study in deep blue and sharp white, much like the one in Big Sibley, page 470. This bird was on the creek side of Arkansas Game and Fish's interesting and educational Elk Education Center in Ponca, in the valley of the Buffalo National River. I also saw regular Indigo Buntings.

Louisiana Waterthrushes were acting like they were probably feeding young on the lower part of the hillside across the creek in the same area. We watched also watched a fledgling Eastern Phoebe being fed.

My visit to Ponca yesterday was to lead a field trip for a group of folks who made financial contributions to Ozark Natural Science Center, now battling to stay alive after 20 productive years. You would think no such battle to just keep the doors open would be required considering our society's vast wealth and the natural world upon which this wealth is based.

One of yesterday's stops was at the Ponca low water bridge over the Buffalo River, an easy place to view birds and native flowers in the river's riparian zone, and a very popular swimming hole. Grandparents often bring their kids here, just because the water is clean and the place is so stunningly beautiful. From the bridge you can see typical fish in clear water.

I was shocked that even the basic vault toilet there is locked because of Congress flat-lining Park Service budgets. Toilets are locked, even with a record-shattering Wall Street boom and a reported 37 trillion dollars stashed in tax-evading Cayman Island bank accounts.

I'm assuming not too many who visited the park yesterday felt bereft for not having seen the Indigo x Lazuli hybrid at Ponca, but I’ll bet there have been some choice words about the bathrooms. I certainly had a few, and I would like to have heard grandma when one of her grandkids needed to go potty and tried pulling that locked door open in their National Park.
It is about Congress folks, not the Park Service. It is about where we want to go as a society.b