The Anthropause in Venice

Photo by Pawel Kalisinski on

In case you need a moment of zen, check out the jellyfish spotted this summer swimming through Venice’s canals in this video. The Anthropause, a period in the Anthropocene during the pandemic when low human activity meant more freedom for wildlife, has created some interesting moments.

The Pandemic and Birdwatching

Backyard in South Dakota

It’s no secret the pandemic changed the way we spend our days, but one interesting affect was the rise in backyard bird watching this year. Audubon has created a web site celebrating the attention we have spent on our backyards, their beauty and biodiversity. Sometimes a problem is an opportunity, and this has become a time for some to focus on ourselves and our homes.

Diversity and Conservation

Artist Unknown

People of color have historically (and in recent times) been excluded or made to feel unwelcome in public parks and in public lands.

For six years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I worked for Portland Parks & Recreation in Oregon, and for many of those years, Charles Jordan was our director. He was the first African American city commissioner and parks director for Portland, which is an accomplishment in a city and state that had excluded African Americans from residing there until 1922, and that legacy continues today.

One of his favorite quotes was:

“What people don’t understand, they won’t value; what they don’t value, they won’t protect; and what they don’t protect, they will lose.” 

How can we fight environmental issues in our society if critical members are not included in the conversation?

To further illuminate this issue, I found this article enlightening.

Urban Conservation

The rooftop biome

Urban areas are important for nighthawks and for many other creatures. As natural habitats dwindle, our backyards, roofs, ponds, puddles, parks and ditches (to name a few) can provide a refuge for wildlife. In many cases we can coexist peacefully with these animals. Increasingly, how we can support urban, suburban and exurban areas is becoming subject of research for ecologists, as evidenced by this story.

Rain, rain, go away (and take your microplastics with you)

Geologic periods of South Dakota and Nebraska and their fossil assemblages

We think of this time we are living in as the Anthropocene, an era as earth shattering as entire geologic periods of time, but we have another term now, the Plastocene, the age of plastics. Reducing plastic use can become a full-time obsession, believe me. Researchers have seen microplastics in our water and flying insects that hatch from water. Now there is news that dust in the air carries microplastics.

How to save aerial insectivores

Nighthawk at night — sounds like a cheesy ’80s song, right?

There are many ways we can help aerial insectivores, the most quickly declining guild of birds, many of which are detailed in this paper, that include:

  • Conserving wetland, forest and grassland for insect and insectivore habitat
  • Examine the effects of pesticides on non-target species of insects and birds
  • Address climate change which affects habitat and phenology mismatch between insects and aerial insectivores
  • Control roaming house cats
  • Conserve gravel rooftops, chimney roosts for swifts, nest sites for barn and bank swallows
  • Control access to bat roosting sites to minimize the spread of white nose syndrome
  • Promote communication to property owners, especially as it relates to ecosystem services aerial insectivores provide in agricultural and residential areas
  • Reduce building strikes with building design and other efforts
  • Reduce light pollution to reduce risk to insects and birds and bats vulnerable to collisions
  • Preserve urban, suburban and exurban green areas
  • Prevent the flow of microplastics into the aquatic ecosystem (that are now found in flying insects)
  • Participate in citizen science (e.g. Nightjar Survey Network, Breeding Bird Survey, state bird atlases, swift watches, Canadian Nightjar Survey, purple martin nest watches)

Fostering nighthawk chicks

Rooftop nighthawks in South Dakota

It isn’t easy keeping up with a chick that needs to eat its weight in insects everyday, but that’s what my friends at Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital are doing in southern Wisconsin. Check out this video of a rehabilitator at the hospital feeding a nighthawk chick with a mealworm coated in vitamins and other essentials a growing chick would need. Other things nighthawks chick need? A nighthawk buddy, courtesy of Sherman, their resident unreleasable nighthawk, to show them what to look for when they get released.