Sunday, April 25, 2010

Environmental Advocacy 101

Okay. You have written your check, and mailed the contribution to your favorite conservation group. You smile, satisfied with yourself, knowing you have taken a step towards protecting the environment.

But, did you know that there is so much more you can do? Yes, conservation groups desperately need your money. But don’t stop there. As important a tool as your wallet is, your voice and your physical presence are just as vital.

Offshore drilling for oil. The assault on wolves and other carnivores. Declining species of birds worldwide. Climate change. Habitat destruction. More than ever the conservation movement needs you. And it has never been so easy to be an environmental activist. Every major organization has a website with a “take action” page or link. It is as simple as entering your personal information and checking the “remember me” button. Next, click on tabs and links that will automatically send your letter, fax or email to the proper government official. It literally takes under a minute to do this. You can request action alerts to be sent to your e-mail inbox, to keep you abreast of the hot issues. Reaching your representative is just a mouse click away, but in order to truly be effective, please remember to take a minute and personalize the subject heading and the first couple lines of your email This will ensure that it stands apart from the hundreds or thousands of other similar messages that legislators will get on the same subject. Online petitions are also signed in this way. Several years ago, when drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (“ANWR”) first came to the table, environmental groups gathered over a million electronic signatures. Your signature on these letters and petitions is an extremely powerful tool. If you would rather take the time to write a hand-written letter, just remember that since 9-11 the mail system in DC has changed and regular mail is neither timely nor assured to get there at all, so please either fax your letter to the appropriate office in DC or mail it to your legislator’s district office in your area. That way someone will surely get it and your voice will be heard.

Set up an appointment to meet with your local representative in his or her home office. You will probably meet with their staff, rather than the actual representative, but your message will find its way to its destination.

You can take part in marches and rallies. The energy at these events is almost indescribable; and the air is crackling with this energy, born from a common, united cause. Check the websites of your favorite organizations for information, including carpooling options.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Politicians pay attention to what their constituents’ opinions are on important issues and this is yet another way for your voice to be heard. Join a Facebook Cause or fan page or follow an organization on Twitter. Sign on-line petitions (Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon started an on-line petition to help prevent the deaths of raptors at landfills across the country. As the number of signatures rose to almost 5,000, industry reps started contacting us, willing to address the issue!).

In addition, you can also volunteer your time and effort. Help the organizations you belong to with local events and issues. Staff a table at festivals, hand out flyers or volunteer to mail out newsletters. Volunteer to pull out invasive species at your local preserves, monitor nest boxes or other such activities. Join in with other like minded folks and have fun while making a difference!!! Check the websites of your favorite organizations for volunteer opportunities.

Perhaps the most important tool you possess is your ability to vote. Vote for politicians who share your ideals. The League for Conservation Voters has a wonderful website that contains the pro-environmental voting records of your representatives. This will help you with your choice of which candidate best represents your concerns. Remember to vote at a local level also, since these are the candidates who will ultimately decide the fate of the environment right on your doorstep.

Many people do not take these extra steps. One standard reason is time constraints. With the ease of the internet, there is no excuse for that now.

The next time you are debating whether or not to make the extra effort and write a letter, sign a petition, volunteer for a local group or attend a rally, remember that in today’s world of modern technology, it has never been easier to make your voice heard. And then, think about what Margaret Mead once said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Indeed, YOU can change the world.

Spring Birding @ Sunken Meadow

A pleasant hike at Sunken Meadow State Park yesterday(4-24-10) from 7:45am-11:00am got me my FOS Yellow warbler and Common Yellowthroat; the former was singing at the edge of the forest and marsh along the Inner Marsh trail at the western end of the park. Calling from the phragmites in the marsh were 2 Common Yellowthroats. The only other warbler species seen included 74 Yellow-rumped warblers and 14 Palm warblers. Down at the cove near the footbridge(Field 3), 3 Northern Shovelers, 3 Green-winged Teal, and 2 Ruddy ducks were the only transient waterfowl besides the resident Gadwall, American Black ducks, and Mallards.

A quick look on the LI Sound produced 3 Common Loons, 2 Horned Grebes, 36 Brant, and 11 Red-breasted Mergansers. The passerines observed were high in numbers but not in diversity. The majority of migrant songbirds consisted of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers, Hermit thrush, and the four warbler species named above. The breeding birds are establishing territory and were quite easy to find: 6 Brown Thrashers, Eastern Towhees, and 5 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, two pairs which are most likely to nest. Foraging at the terminus of the Nissequogue River a ways East of Field 3 were 7 Great Egrets, 11 Snowy Egrets, Greater Yellowlegs, and from another observer, a Spotted sandpiper. 2 Savannah sparrows were feeding on the shoulder of the park road, only noticed after they started singing.

Other fauna present: Mourning Cloak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Muskrat, Painted turtles, and Eastern Chipmunks

Some pics of yesterday's outing...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunken Meadow SP- Spring Migrants

My early morning hike from 7:30am-10:30am today at Sunken Meadow State Park got me a few FOY birds. Highlights from this morning included 2 Northern Harrier (Gray Ghost and female) coursing over the Creek at the Western end of the park, a Wild Turkey foraging along the shoulder of the road, 12 Palm Warblers, 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (also singing), and Barn Swallows gliding above the marsh. Other notable sightings were a Cooper's Hawk hunting above the canopy along the Inner Marsh trail, 6 Osprey, several Wood Ducks, 1 Hermit Thrush, 4 Great Egrets, 2 Snowy Egrets, 1 Northern Shoveler, and 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets. During this past week I had an exceptional encounter with a Red Fox along the Inner Marsh trail. The complete bird list is below.

Great Blue Herons
Great Egret- 4 on tidal flats at Eastern end of park
Snowy Egret- 2 on tidal flats at Eastern end of park
Wood Duck-11
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler- 1 drake dabbling in Creek at Eastern end of park
Osprey- 6
Northern Harrier- 2, Gray Ghost and female
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Wild Turkey- 1
Great Horned Owl- 2
Belted Kingfisher
Tree Swallows- several dozen
Barn Swallows- FOY, several
Fish Crows
Golden-crowned Kinglets- 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglets- FOY, 4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher- FOY, 3
Hermit Thrush- 1
Gray Catbird- 7
Palm Warbler- 12
Yellow-rumped Warbler- 81
Eastern Towhee
Song sparrow
Swamp sparrow- 6
White-throated sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird

Other fauna present included several Spring Azures, White-tailed Deer, Red Fox, Eastern Chipmunks, and breeding Alewives

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Birding @ Sunken Meadow SP

My trip to Sunken Meadow SP(Suffolk County) rewarded me my first of the year Red-shouldered Hawk. This particular bird was an immature and was perched along the stream down in the backwater of Sunken Meadow Creek. Pine warblers had a good flight last night. I had a total of seven individuals and the majority of them were singing too. The only other warbler species I could find was Yellow-rumped warbler, several throughout the park. Also in the backwater of the Creek I had 9 Wood ducks, 6 Green-winged Teal, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, 5 Eastern Phoebes, several Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Hermit thrush, and 5 Swamp sparrows. The expansive thicketed area a half mile in on the Inner Marsh trail produced a Brown Thrasher and only a few Eastern towhees.
The waterfowl that were on Sunken Meadow Creek seemed to have moved out since my last trip on Thursday. The only species on the Creek included Gadwall, 4 Common Merganser hens, American Coot, and a handful of Ring-necked ducks and Bufflehead.

I scoped the Long Island Sound from Field 3(eastern end of park) and saw 2 breeding-plumaged Common Loons and about 25 or so Brant. Feeding on the mudflats also at the eastern end of the park were 3 Great Egrets, 2 Great Blue Herons, and two dozen Tree Swallows. The Ospreys were very vocal today and on several occasions were seen bringing nice-sized catches back to the nest. Also doing good for themselves were the 5 Belted Kingfishers hunting on the Sound and in the marsh.

Other fauna present included 2 Mourning Cloaks, Spring Peepers, White-tailed Deer, Painted Turtles, and Eastern Chipmunks.

*All photos were taken today except for the Great Horned Owl which was captured on April 1, 2010